C S Lewis

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C S Lewis

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1lukeasrodgers Primeira Mensagem
Jan 22, 2007, 10:04 pm

I just finished his Abolition of Man.

Despite generally spending more time reading continental philosophy than Christian writers, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

While I would rather understand the concept of "objective value" in a way similar to how Donald Davidson understands objectivity, I think that Lewis' points about speaking within vs. without a tradition, and the ultimate impossibility of grounding the precepts such as one finds in the Tao are pretty much spot on.

What do other people think?

Editado: Fev 28, 2007, 8:14 pm

Boy, it's been a long time since I read The Abolition of Man. I read it as a teenager, and several times after. I was at first very impressed, but then began to see problems.

I realized that I looked at the world of ethics in a way completely different than Lewis. People "did things" with their talk of ethics. They aimed to influence human behavior. Morality, I saw, was a toolkit. Moral notions were tools.

So I became the very thing Lewis hated most, a philosopher who embraced a modernist take on metaethics. I wasn't an emotivist, exactly, and certainly wasn't a numbskull emotivist like the two educators Lewis criticized, but I was, I realized, a prescriptivist. The primary meaning of ethical language was in the values expressed and in the commands and advice incorporated into often misleading idiomatic speech.

I don't see any way to get around this foundation for ethics.

Of course, JUSTIFYING any particular ethic is like "justifying" a tool. It's a matter, too, of values, and negotiations, and even economizing in a situation of scarcity.

So my metaethics is praxeological in nature, too, rather like economics is. (See Ludwig von Mises' Human Action.)

Ethics is more than that, of course. Like the tools we choose, we become attached to the ones that best serve us. We do need them, or some subset of them, to survive. Further, we can promote our tools and argue against (or ridicule) other toolsets, and make headway. And we have other means of influencing human behavior: law, lynching, etc. Needless to say, some methods are better than others.

Reality does present us with limits. And the reality of our similar natures means that many moral notions are indeed similar from time to time, place to place.

One can make a lot of this. Or not much.

I find this "Taoizing" aspect worth investigating.

The worst thing about the Lewis book is that he attacks the stupidest adherents of a doctrine he despises, and let's it go at that.

What would have happened had he taken on the work of philosophers Charles L. Stevenson or Patrick Nowell-Smith?

Though it is necessary to attack popular fools, one cannot rest one's case for an extreme position on that alone. One must answer your opponents who are, perhaps, even smarter and wiser than yourself!

Lewis couldn't do that. Or at least didn't.

Editado: Mar 3, 2007, 10:32 pm

Hi there,

I don't think I quite follow what you mean by "The primary meaning of ethical language was in the values expressed and in the commands and advice incorporated into often misleading idiomatic speech."

If I'm understanding correctly, how would you respond Alisdair MacIntyre's argument in After Virtue that some such sort of prescriptivist account of ethics provides a description of the *function* or *goal* of ethical propositions, but not their *meaning*?

That is to say, the goal/function of "murder is wrong" is something along the lines of "I disapprove of murder and urge you to do the same" but the meaning is quite a different thing.


Editado: Mar 3, 2007, 12:21 am

Yeah, I've read Alisdair MacIntyre. My views are closer to (though by no means identical with) those of J. L. Mackie: the "offical" meaning of ethical statements is (close to) error.

George Santayana gave a good indication of what's going on in ethics, with his title "Hypostatic Ethics" (in his critique of Bertran Russell's early philosophy). We (almost habitually) reify persuasive gambits to make them seem more objective, to give them more "weight." So many people are so scared of reasons for action that aren't written in stone, either literally (the near-worship of the Ten Commandments) or figuratively (trying to cook up complicated metaphysics for simple utility and passion, etc.).

What I'm saying is that people look for TOO MUCH meaning in the traditional arts of persuasion. They want to reify a toolset rather than realize what it really means to use a simple set of tools. And let it go at that.

But then, many people want not only reified Morality, they want a Deity to back it up. A Deity is the Biggest Stick you can throw at those recalcitrants who don't want to do what you say: "If you don't do this, or that, God will throw you into Hell and torture you forever."

I find this gambit completely understandable -- useful for crude minds, I guess -- but utterly without philosophical merit.

5McCaine Primeira Mensagem
Abr 16, 2007, 7:55 am

That's interesting. My economic views are the completely polar opposite of yours (I support Marxist political economics), but my views on ethics are largely like those of Mackie as well. I don't see how any objectivist (small o) view of ethics can survive the counterpoints Mackie makes.

I wouldn't say so much that ethics is a tool, though, as rather a matter of taste. Saying something is good or evil is, to me, much the same as saying Mozart is good music, or Gauguin good art, or that trance is bad music, and Von Stuck bad art.

Abr 16, 2007, 9:19 am

Interesting! I'm feeling the need to reread Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society by David Sloan Wilson, which regards ethics as codes of behavior that maximize group cooperation to more fully utilize available resources--and thus individuals' abilities to survive and reproduce. Some of these behaviors have universal applicability, but Wilson sees religions as providing refined guidance for specific situations.

Out 29, 2007, 3:00 am

C.S. Lewis says many thing that Plato says better.

Jan 27, 2008, 11:46 am

Iwpoe, would you give an example, in regard to what C.S. Lewis said was said better by Plato?

In which book of Lewis´ did he say, and I paraphrase for lack of better memory, "Between the idea and the creation lies the abyss."

Do you think Plato, in the allegory of the Cave, or the stages of reality, may have referred to the same in the way of 'illusions,' or what I (myself) see as a fact, which is that, for the most part, we (humans) live at the lowest level or reality, which is 'conjectures.'