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TWHF and the trilemma

Comprising most of Lewis' writings.

TWHF and the trilemma

Postby Steve » 19 Sep 2006, 06:42

One of the thoughts I had about Till We Have Faces, part of my suspicion that Lewis let his imagination go too far in this story, is this:

Lewis the author of TWHF, provides a counter-argument to Lewis the apologist's most known argument, that we must conclude that Jesus is who He says He is, or else conclude He is a horrible liar or a madman.

But the trilemma logic fails in the world of TWHF. Trilemma logic says we have three options, either Psyche is who she says she is, the wife of the god of the mountain, a liar, or a lunatic. And in the story, both liar and lunatic options are explicitly denied because Orual sees the god of the mountain as well. But I as a reader of TWHF find a fourth option -- the being that Psyche and Orual percieve as the god of the mountain, is a real supernatural being, but is not the god of the mountain, and is not really Psyche's husband. I assume Lewis meant to portray an angel of God, coming to meet Psyche (and eventually Orual too) in their need, but choosing not to reveal to them, or being unable to convince them, that he was not who their traditions and presuppositions told them he was, the god of the mountain.

Or I just had another radical thought about TWHF this morning. Maybe Lewis intended it as an Alternate Theology? (Like Alternate History, where one imagines say that the South won the Civil War, Lewis thought 'imagine the Greek/Near Eastern gods really existed'). I don't think this is what Lewis intended, though.

So any thoughts, anyone?
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re: TWHF and the trilemma

Postby mgton » 19 Sep 2006, 19:42

If I remember correctly, Orual considered all three options. She thought "could it really be true", and then " cruel psyche, stop playing this game", and finally "she's completely lost it"... so that's lord (or truth in this case), liar, and lunatic.
You said, "both liar and lunatic options are explicitly denied because Orual sees the god of the mountain." Well, after Psyche snuck a peak at the god of the mountain (causing him to erupt in anger), Orual saw him; but she didn't deny that she saw him did she? Or are you talking about before Psyche snuck in and tried to see the god, when Orual was getting a drink by the river and she thought she saw him?

By the way, I think that Orual really saw the god (while she was getting a drink), and she knows that she really saw him. But she does't want to see the god of the mountain, so she writes things like "tell me, did I really see the god or did I imagine that I did" (that was a rough paraphrase). Remember that Orual is writing the book that we are reading.

I think the whole thing between Psyche, Orual, and the god of the mountain is similar to the situation in real life where one person becomes a believer in God and the other person doesn't. I think this was the point Lewis was trying to make. (That's if you believe he was trying to make a "point" at all; I sometimes wonder if readers [myself included] try to pull too many "points" out of fictional books.) The speech that Orual makes to the gods at the end, when she is finally saying (or the gods are finally making her say) what she "really means", seems to go along with this.
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Re: TWHF and the trilemma

Postby rusmeister » 19 Sep 2006, 23:00

Steve wrote:One of the thoughts I had about Till We Have Faces, part of my suspicion that Lewis let his imagination go too far in this story, is this:

Lewis the author of TWHF, provides a counter-argument to Lewis the apologist's most known argument, that we must conclude that Jesus is who He says He is, or else conclude He is a horrible liar or a madman.

But the trilemma logic fails in the world of TWHF. Trilemma logic says we have three options, either Psyche is who she says she is, the wife of the god of the mountain, a liar, or a lunatic. And in the story, both liar and lunatic options are explicitly denied because Orual sees the god of the mountain as well. But I as a reader of TWHF find a fourth option -- the being that Psyche and Orual percieve as the god of the mountain, is a real supernatural being, but is not the god of the mountain, and is not really Psyche's husband. I assume Lewis meant to portray an angel of God, coming to meet Psyche (and eventually Orual too) in their need, but choosing not to reveal to them, or being unable to convince them, that he was not who their traditions and presuppositions told them he was, the god of the mountain.

Or I just had another radical thought about TWHF this morning. Maybe Lewis intended it as an Alternate Theology? (Like Alternate History, where one imagines say that the South won the Civil War, Lewis thought 'imagine the Greek/Near Eastern gods really existed'). I don't think this is what Lewis intended, though.

So any thoughts, anyone?


I think mgton is largely right on.
I just don't see the conclusion of a false god giving himself out to be someone he is not as terribly logical here. Lewis's trilemma includes reasonable possibilities, but not unreasonable ones. I could make up any number of unreasonable possibilities, but they would not be worth considering.
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re: TWHF and the trilemma

Postby Steve » 21 Sep 2006, 06:18

I think y'all are right, the story is about Orual being jealous of Psyche's relationship with the god, but it is also about the god managing in the end to have a relationship with Orual as well, overcoming her jealousy.

Like Christ, when we were still sinners, dying for us.
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re: TWHF and the trilemma

Postby Robert » 21 Sep 2006, 08:53

Not really. THere are many (g)ods, but just one (G)od. Since Psyche was supposedly a (g)od she could have been any one of them. But, if one claims to be (G)od, and since there can be only one of this sort, then the trilemma is still in tact and we can find Lewis, although not always, consistent.
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Postby gameld » 02 Nov 2006, 03:27

i think the main thing you are missing is that lewis was not writing into a christian context as he was with almost, if not actually, every other piece he wrote. instead he was showing what it would look like to have an altar engraved with 'agnosto theo' ('to the unknown god,' acts 17). here he really actually gives an argument for how a person who has never heard of Christ may actually come to faith.
the lord, liar, luny argument is not going to work in a world where they do not exist. he works it in somewhat, as people have shown on this thread, but that argument was not meant for the world of twhf.
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Re: TWHF and the trilemma

Postby archenland_knight » 26 Aug 2010, 17:23

It is important to remember that Lewis' Trillema argument was NOT meant to prove that Jesus or God existed. It was meant to counter one very specific philosophy, namely that Jesus was a "good moral teacher" or "great man", but not The Son of The Living God. Many an atheist has claimed that there is a "fourth option; that he did not exist at all". But this option is unavailable to those who claim Jesus was a great moral teacher, as He must have existed to be a teacher of any sort.

Also, comparing the Trillema to Psyche fails in another way. Psyche is making her claims about another being. Thus the possibility that she is simply misinformed as to the nature of that being is a very real possibility.

Jesus, however, made His claims about Himself. If He claims to be God, but is not, then He is clearly a devil's own liar or a complete madman. For if you truly believe you are God, and if you are not, then you're clearly in need of psychiatric care.

So, in these ways the "Trillema" is inapplicable to the situation in TWHF.

The TWHF situation is somewhat similar to Lucy Pevensie's situation in LWW. The siblings of both Lucy and Orual must consider three possibilities: 1. She is lying, which they know she does not do. 2. She is crazy, which they know she is not. 3. She is telling the truth.

Of course, that still leaves Orual with an option the Pevensies did not have, which is that Psyche was misled. Still, I don't think the Trillema option directly applies.
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