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Mary Midgley on C. S. Lewis

The man. The myth.

Mary Midgley on C. S. Lewis

Postby Arend Smilde » 13 Apr 2008, 19:23

Ever heard of Mary Midgley? She was born in 1919 the daughter of an Anglican curate and began studying in Oxford in 1938. She married in 1950, raised a family, and for many years taught moral philosophy at the University of Newcastle. Her first book was published in 1978 when she was 59. Her autobiography The Owl of Minerva appeared in 2005. Her writing is a marvel of readability.

Years ago I wrote to ask her for possible reminiscences of C. S. Lewis. The result was far from disappointing. The letters are now posted on my website at http://www.solcon.nl/arendsmilde/cslewis/reflections/e-marymidgley.htm.
Last edited by Arend Smilde on 19 Apr 2008, 21:49, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby A#minor » 13 Apr 2008, 22:38

Thank you for posting the link! I found the letters very interesting, although I admit that I only skimmed through them.
I wish I had time right now to read them more thoroughly. :blush:
"My brain and this world don't fit each other, and there's an end of it!" - G.K. Chesterton
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Postby kbrowne » 15 Apr 2008, 11:37

Thanks Arend. I have been interested in Midgley's work for a long time and I enjoyed reading those letters.

She says that she is sending you an article on Intelligent Design. Has that been published? Or is it online? I would love to read what she has to say about it.
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Mary Midgley on C. S. Lewis

Postby Arend Smilde » 15 Apr 2008, 13:34

Yes, that piece is now online:
http://www.philosophynow.org/issue64/64midgley.htm.
I found this through the "Selected Articles" list following the Wikipedia item on MM.
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Postby Mornche Geddick » 20 May 2008, 11:53

Excellent indeed. For the first time I really understood American religious zeal.
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Postby postodave » 17 Aug 2008, 16:10

There was a short piece by Midgley on reason and its limmits in New Scientist a couple of weeks ago. I read this thread and then found 'The Ethical Primate' in my local Oxfam. I have been reading it and find it very good. She touches on issues that remind me of Polanyi (all knowledge is personal knowledge) and Dooyeweerd (her anti-reductionist epistemology fits well with his anti-reductionist ontology). Interesting too to note her criticisms of Skinner since Skinner saw himself as such a firm opponent of Lewis and responded to Lewis by saying 'to man qua man we readily say good riddance. I would be interested to discuss the ideas in the ethical primate if anyone is interested. But I'm still part way through it so it could be a slow discussion.
So I drew my sword and got ready
But the lamb ran away with the crown
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Postby postodave » 29 Aug 2008, 21:13

I've finished 'The Ethical Primate' She raises some very good points especially the one about abstraction being necessarily relative or partial truth. Her point about the various enlightenment views of ethics involving a dualism placing one aspect of human nature considered as an abstraction over and against our supposedly causally determined animal nature is also very much to the point. However I'm left wondering if she is still not reductive in her own view of ethics in that she reduces it to the affective. That is she regards ethics as a quest for psychological harmony, as a way of finding inner peace in the midst of conflicting desires. This raises the question why ought we to seek this kind of peace. Can we get beyond the purely descriptive and in some measure determined desire to do so? Is the ethical choice sometimes the most upsetting?

I would also like to see how she would fit her ideas in with forms of therapy more recent than Freud. A comparison with Carl Rogers would be very interesting.
So I drew my sword and got ready
But the lamb ran away with the crown
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