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Time and Truth

The man. The myth.

Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby richard_dawkins » 04 Jan 2010, 10:01

AllanS wrote:A: Come in.
M: Ah, Is this the right room for an argument? ...


Turning to The Screwtape Letters, consider:

"They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can't touch and see. There have been sad cases among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology; don't let him get away from that invaluable "real life"."

Here is an analogy, since analogies seem to be something you relish. Behold a woman in a birka. One small slit revealing ... well, almost nothing. What can we say about her? Is she a wrinkled witch? Or a most gorgeous doll? You will never know.

Neither will you know how insects perceive ultra-violet. Or dolphins their audio-scape. We, as humans, perceive such a tiny slit of available radio and sound waves - we miss so much.

Do we assume, thus, that radio waves are simply a figment of a creative author's mind? Or do we count insect vision as trivial? Hardly. But for their vision, pollination, and plant life, and hence animal life, would almost disappear.

Lewis asserts that those who live only by what they touch and see lose so much. How ironic. So much, but all of it in natural world that we will never touch and feel. How trivial Lewis's "world outside of what we touch and see" ( ie. the supernatural) is, beside the vast expanse of what we actually can never touch and feel yet affects us intimately, that is so mysterious we struggle to conceive it even in first principles. How banal a supernatural fashioned on the template of human experience and emotion.

You may never get your friend to see red. He will never get you to see infra-red, that's for certain.

Oh, that an intellect as powerful and influential as Lewis had understood the oppressive birka on his own eyes, where the only worlds were "touch and feel" and "superworld".

Uncle Screwtape might better have written "Keep him positively fixed on the daily grind, where intuitive perceptions are enough and to gladly accept the dichotomy between experienced reality and supernatural, as this will save him from digging deeply into the complexity of his world."
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby jo » 04 Jan 2010, 20:12

Oh well, you did recommend that he find another forum so I will consider that I have carte blanche to post this ;)

http://europeforum.12.forumer.com/index.php

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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby rusmeister » 05 Jan 2010, 06:12

This is an actual problem. An unbeliever discovers the works of CS Lewis (who was no aesthete and was not interested merely in appreciating things), sees that he was a master debater and arguer and that for him, discussing the nature of truth was the most important thing, and so he, wanting to challenge Lewis's ideas, comes here - evidently a leading Lewis site, with an endorsement from Douglas Gresham, only to find that civil and courteous debate is actually discouraged, if not outright forbidden. In theory, it is allowed, but in practice it is not.

That's fine as site policy on a private website, and furthermore, the desire to exclude rancor and bile is strongly applauded. But it fails to "appreciate" something critical about CS Lewis - that he wasn't interested merely in appreciating things; that the question of truth is the most important thing and should be raised and encouraged, not discouraged. A topic he came to again and again was the avoidance of that question of truth. I think this crops up nearly everywhere in his works, from Screwtape to the Abolition of Man.

Lewis was a first-class example of charity and consideration when disagreeing with people. But he did believe, and very strongly, in disagreeing with people. There is probably nothing more Lewisian than polite and courteous disagreement, which, when taken seriously and examined, becomes debate. AFAIC, when Stanley Anderson left - a gentleman and giant of a poster in the very best tradition of Lewis - he took much of the spirit of the Wardrobe with him, and he couldn't stay in the face of an essential gag on that ability to courteously disagree. Thus, people like Patterner and Richard Dawkins, who are seriously interested in truth, will find that they will not be able to discover it here - to discover if and where they are in error or misunderstand something.

I said it before, if courteous debate is suppressed because of fears of that undesirable expression of hate - or truth without any love, if you prefer, then it becomes what GK Chesterton predicted in ch 1 of Heretics, a place where all topics under the sun may be discussed except one - the truth. http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/boo ... s/ch1.html
We are more and more to discuss details in art, politics, literature. A man's opinion on tramcars matters; his opinion on Botticelli matters; his opinion on all things does not matter. He may turn over and explore a million objects, but he must not find that strange object, the universe; for if he does he will have a religion, and be lost. Everything matters--except everything.


There is a solution, of course. Change the name and endorsements to non-Lewisian ones, and people who are seriously interested in the truth (a la GKC's "The Ball and the Cross") will not come here and bother folk who merely wish to have a good time and appreciate things. As long as this site is perceived to be connected to Lewis, though, they will come.
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby Theophilus » 05 Jan 2010, 16:27

Here is another good site where you can debate Christianity:

http://www.christiandoctrinediscussion.com
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Re: Time and Truth

Postby Sven » 05 Jan 2010, 21:47

Split this digression and moved here. Please keep the discussion referenced to C. S. Lewis. If it degenerates to a generalized debate this thread will be locked.
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby AllanS » 06 Jan 2010, 01:25

Hi Richard,

I can never doubt your revelation, your moments of epiphany, your insights or your enlightenment.

But are not all of these, at some time, destined to meet the "hard light of day"? So what tools do we have to consider whether this epiphany is something more than a rush of blood? I turn to science, because it is both systematic and honest and acknowledges, rather than trivialises, experience.

I submit that we should apply "strong" critiques to many of Lewis's statements, because some seem just a little too neat - too tidy to really properly refer to my experience and understanding of my world.

My problem with making some things "immune" from reason is that you give legitimacy to the suicide bomber. You say "That is your revelation and you are entitled to it." Certainly, let us not break the magic of the story - we must live Frodo's struggle with the ring in order to really bring the story alive. But I will not premise my judgement of your worthiness to be a citizen of my country on how many orcs you killed.

Tell me where you draw your line in applying reason. It will be interesting to read.


You might find the following ideas helpful, or interesting, or ridiculous. I have neither time, permission, nor inclination to debate them here. Treat them simply as a glimpse into my mind.

In my best moments, I agree with St. Gregory of Nyssa. "Being good, God entertains pity for fallen man; being wise, he is not ignorant of the means for his recovery." Here is the notion that irresistible grace will win all our hearts in the end. All things in heaven and earth will be reconciled to God. "For from him, and through him, and to him are all things." It can be argued (weighing one thing against another) that this is the view of the New Testament, and it certainly is the hope of all good-hearted people. To quote the Rosary: O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, take all souls to Heaven, and help especially those most in need of Your mercy. (If interested, see http://pantheon.yale.edu/~kd47/univ.htm The author is prof of philosophy at Yale.)

The bright hope that "All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well" tempers my impulse to beat people over the head with argument to wrestle them into the Kingdom. Besides, God is not to be found in ideas, but in obedience to what we believe in our hearts to be true. "God gives his Spirit to those who obey him." If the honest pursuit of truth leads you to reject God (or rather, some base concept of God), this step backwards paradoxically is a great stride forwards. To believe in no God is far more noble than to believe in an unworthy God.

An observation or two, if I may, in no particular order.

:The death of a worthy God would occasion profound grief, not celebration. My flirtations with atheism have been dark, angry and grievous. The evangelizing atheism I increasingly see is deeply incoherent unless it is one that rejects an unworthy God. Only the death of an unworthy God would be good news.

:The challenge now for the atheist is to discover that which is worthy of worship, or to cease being fully human. The impulse to worship is part of our humanity and won't go away. Many turn their gaze to the wonders of Nature, but neither the material world nor anything in it is worthy of worship. Nature isn't utterly lovely. Rather, she is in turn glorious, terrifying, pitiless and transient. It is hard to hug your mother's month-old corpse, or to love the screw-worm maggots that devour your child's eyes.

:It is no surprise that science, being by definition the study of the material world, cannot perceive the spiritual.

:It has been proved that there exists an infinite number of truths that cannot be proved or deduced, only discovered.

:No evidence can support the claim that "All truth must be supported by evidence." The scientific idea that evidence must be presented in order to establish truth is itself held by faith alone. A delicious irony.

:Reason cannot be justified without first assuming the validity of reason. We accept reason, not by reason but by faith alone. (The utilitarian reply that reason is justified because "it works" assumes again that we can reasonably assess the evidence.)

:The scientific study of what "is" cannot inform the spiritual perception of what "ought to be".

:Twice two is four, whether the material universe exists or not. Truth is immaterial and eternal.

:The worst thing imaginable would be the loss of the best thing imaginable. Therefore, earnestly seek the best thing imaginable, whether you are certain it exists or not.

Kind regards.
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Re: Time and Truth

Postby cyranorox » 04 Mar 2010, 00:20

If your topic is really epistemology, I would hope John does not clamp on the lid. Especially in a thread where I find myself in agreement with AK, except for the Platonizing idea of spirit-in-container.
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Re: Questions about The Screwtape Letters

Postby Nerd42 » 10 Mar 2010, 16:32

richard_dawkins wrote:Tell me where you draw your line in applying reason. It will be interesting to read.
There is no line. Lewis himself wrote in That Hideous Strength that, "when the goddess Reason, the divine clearness, is really enthroned in France, ...-why, then it will be spring."

It's not reason that has a limited scope, but science. Yes, science, like every other discipline, has a scope which does not include everything. The Abolition of Man deals with this.
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Re: Time and Truth

Postby postodave » 14 Mar 2010, 19:17

It's a while since I was a regular contributor here - since John closed down the Religion, Science and Philosophy forum I've felt that this site was missing something vital. There is only so far you can go in discussing Lewis before you get into stuff that is not about Lewis for the reasons which Rus has explained above. We never had many debates with atheists on this site but the ones we had were interesting and never as far as I can remember strayed into regions where the discussion could be called offensive or abusive. The debate that got RSP closed down was between two Orthodox Christians disagreeing about Orthodoxy. I don't think there is any significance that the Christians in question were Orthodox, they could have easily been Reformed or Catholic. The point is that which such debates take place people more or less accuse each other of not being Orthodox (or Reformed or Catholic or Biblical or whatever) enough. And these are often more fierce than debates between Christian on Atheist debates. After all we Christians expect atheists to disagree with us, we even expect different types of Christians to disagree to some extent but when it is someone who in theory shares the same position as us we feel undermined, as if our solution to the world's woes might not be THE solution after all. But perhaps there is a different psychology behind this the closer the perspective the fiercer the debate thing.

Anyway it was, in my opinion and after due reflection, a huge mistake by John to close down RSP. Debate between Christians and atheists (but not inter or intra denominational debate) was a vital part of what Lewis was about and it is not really possible to discus Lewis's ideas without straying into these broader debates about the limits of reason and science, about the nature of time (is Lewis's brand of neo-platonism valid? I think not because it tries to give positive content to the concept of God being outside time rather than treating that apophatically) and so on. I would like to join in such a discussion but not if it is in danger of being shut down at any moment because someone steps over a line visible only to John and Sven.
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Re: Time and Truth

Postby wondawomen » 14 Mar 2010, 22:47

Cool!
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Re: Time and Truth

Postby Nerd42 » 15 Mar 2010, 15:17

postodave wrote:It's a while since I was a regular contributor here - since John closed down the Religion, Science and Philosophy forum I've felt that this site was missing something vital. ... Anyway it was, in my opinion and after due reflection, a huge mistake by John to close down RSP.
You're probably right but I'm new so I don't know what it was like there.

postodave wrote:Debate between Christians and atheists (but not inter or intra denominational debate) was a vital part of what Lewis was about and it is not really possible to discus Lewis's ideas without straying into these broader debates about the limits of reason and science, about the nature of time (is Lewis's brand of neo-platonism valid? I think not because it tries to give positive content to the concept of God being outside time rather than treating that apophatically) and so on. I would like to join in such a discussion but not if it is in danger of being shut down at any moment because someone steps over a line visible only to John and Sven.
Hey, sometimes you have to speak apophatically. Christ Himself did sometimes. "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation." (Luke 17:20) Both "God is good" and "God is not bad" tell you something real and true about God.

Oh, wait a minute. I thought you were saying the speaking apophatically was somehow bad or invalid. You're saying the attempt to give positive content to it is invalid? Why? It seems to make alot of difference to me because only with this theory do we get a logical explanation for having sin and free will and God's power all in the same Universe.
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Re: Time and Truth

Postby john » 15 Mar 2010, 16:29

postodave wrote:I would like to join in such a discussion but not if it is in danger of being shut down at any moment because someone steps over a line visible only to John and Sven.


I do not wish to go far off-topic by discussing rules and administration in this thread, but I did want to briefly address your comment. The decision to limit the scope of discussion had nothing to do with the control of ideas -- it was about trying to maintain a basic standard of behavioral decency. I've already gone over all of this elsewhere, but suffice it to say that I've tried many times and in many ways to uphold our code of conduct, but there is that segment of the membership who feel that it's okay to forget the rules, forget that there are differing opinions, and make personal attacks. That argumentative, abusive, and biting tone is simply not welcome here, and it's not what C. S. Lewis was about either.

For years, we had no limits on what could be discussed -- and I rarely, if ever, needed to step in to remind people of our code of conduct. The tone here was one of intellectualism, respect for each other and each others' opinions, and community. People discussed things as they would around the dinner table. There was the sharing of ideas, even if there was disagreement, but not many hard feelings or contempt for other points of view. But in recent years, that caliber of interaction has clearly diminished -- and I don't really know why. Not with all debated topics, or those who participated, of course, but enough that it was affecting the general tone of the forums. After a couple more years of failed attempts to curb the situation, I felt it was necessary to do something rather drastic.

Truth be told, I don't really like the measures I've had to take any more than you do, but I really felt as though I had no choice. The other ideas that I had tried in the past never really addressed the problem -- and I recognize that the current solution still isn't such a great one. I realize that I have alienated some good people due to this decision, but the way things were before alienated even more. I know there's got to be a way of balancing things -- a way I've not considered before.

If I knew that people would remain civil, and discuss their ideas without resorting to lowly tactics, I would truly welcome the expansion of discussion here. I am open to ideas that will satisfy everybody. If you (or anybody) have ideas for my consideration, I'd appreciate a PM. Once I'm able to get out from under all that is currently on my plate, we can start a public discussion in the proper forum.
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Re: Time and Truth

Postby postodave » 15 Mar 2010, 19:37

Thanks for the reply John. I won't dwell on this because it will take us off topic. Briefly - it's hard to police a tone and it's hard to say at what point someone becomes abusive. I mean it really is hard even face to face; an outsider listens to a couple who have been together for years and he can see abuse that the people in the relationship cannot. Lewis did sometimes get carried away in debate and he felt it was fine to tell an opponent not to talk damned nonsense, which is pretty strong language. For myself I think the frustrating moment comes when something is clear to me and the person I'm debating with seems not to see it and then I want to push back further into the assumptions behind what my opponent is saying and at some point that triggers a response from the other person that implies they feel abused. I never feel I am being abusive just as the other person never feels they are. I thought the debate that lead to the closing of RSP had got a bit silly but I didn't find anything offensive about it. So it's difficult for me to come up with solutions because I never really saw there being a problem. If I felt someone was insulting me I'd probably back out of that discussion but I wouldn't get offended and I don't see why anyone reading the debate would get offended on my behalf.
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Re: Time and Truth

Postby postodave » 15 Mar 2010, 19:58

Hey nerd
If you want to know what it was like you can always look back in RSP. It could be frustrating though reading discussions you can't join in.
nerd said:
You're saying the attempt to give positive content to it is invalid? Why? It seems to make alot of difference to me because only with this theory do we get a logical explanation for having sin and free will and God's power all in the same Universe.

Ultimately I don't think you can have a logical explanation because although God's relations with us are at least in part logical and open to analysis God in himself transcends logic. When you look at God's relation to time we can say that God in himself is not temporal and that time is something he created. But if we try to give that positive content and say God sees all time in a single moment then we are still introducing temporality into God although we are seeing God's awareness of time as momentary rather than sequential. To speak apophatically we say God's consciousness is neither sequential, nor momentary nor eternal as we can conceive eternality. In Plato and the neo-platonists eternity is conceived of as a lack of sequence or temporal motion and time is seen as a moving picture of eternity. But God in himself is neither still nor moving even though we can only say that to be moving is not to be still and to be still is not to be moving so anything must be one or the other this does not apply to God (although even in physics these days you will find things that are not really either moving or stationary so that ought to make it easier).
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Re: Time and Truth

Postby john » 15 Mar 2010, 20:58

postodave wrote:For myself I think the frustrating moment comes when something is clear to me and the person I'm debating with seems not to see it and then I want to push back further into the assumptions behind what my opponent is saying and at some point that triggers a response from the other person that implies they feel abused. I never feel I am being abusive just as the other person never feels they are. I thought the debate that lead to the closing of RSP had got a bit silly but I didn't find anything offensive about it. So it's difficult for me to come up with solutions because I never really saw there being a problem. If I felt someone was insulting me I'd probably back out of that discussion but I wouldn't get offended and I don't see why anyone reading the debate would get offended on my behalf.


Perhaps part of the reason you can't see that there was a problem is because your concern is with wanting this to be a place that you can enjoy, while my concern is with providing a place that many people can enjoy. That's only natural, of course, since that's my responsibility, and not yours.

I couldn't help but notice your use of the word "opponent" in your reply. This is supposed to be place of friendly community, and I don't feel that anybody here should be one's opponent. There are surely other places online where people can debate with the aim of proving themselves right and others wrong. This isn't the place for that, and no matter what topics are allowed, it never should be. Ideas can and should be debated -- but the goal should be for mutual understanding (though not necessarily agreement), and not to wield some sort of moral or intellectual superiority over another.

As I said, I welcome other ideas that may be helpful for everybody, so that we may find a middle ground that satisfies everybody.

That's all I'll say in this thread, so as to not completely derail it. Feel free to PM me.
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