(The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!)
Y’all, I’m going to start this with some realness. While reading, most of the time, my thoughts were “so….what did I just read?” Two pages in I realized this was going to be a “have my dictionary app opened the whole time” kind of read.
Of the books I’ve read from Lewis, this one is by far the most philosophical (thus explaining my hurt brain by the time I was done ; ) and I would say that was his point. This book wasn’t about proving Christianity so much (although he does say he believes that, he also points out in the second chapter that “a supernatural origin for the Tao (traditional morality) is a question I am not here concerned with.”), but instead arguing against moral relativism. Did I mention my need of a dictionary for this book? ;). If you’re looking for apologetic/philosophical material, I definitely recommend Mere Christianity.
But this book isn’t without value. Far from it. I think C.S. Lewis speaks about relevant truths today. First, we are more than science and we aren’t meant to simply exist. He also spends the majority of the book speaking against that moral relativism stuff.
I’m not really sure how to go about this discussion, so that’s when I drop a bunch of quotes and hope for the best. So here we go and please feel free to include your thoughts on these quotes! (Emphasis are my own)
“Gains and Titius, while teaching him nothing about letters, have cut out of his soul, long before he is old enough to choose, the possibility of having certain experiences which thinkers of more authority than they have held to be generous, fruitful, and humane.”
“They see the world around them swayed by emotional propaganda – they have learned from tradition that youth is sentimental – and they conclude that the best thing they can do is to fortify the minds of young people against emotion. My own experience as a teacher tells an opposite take. For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments.”
“Men without Chests” are “not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardor to pursue her…it is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out.”
“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
“Telling us to obey Instinct is like telling us to obey ‘people.’ People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war. If it is held that the instinct for preserving the species should always be obeyed at the expense of other instincts, whence do we derive this rule of precedence?”
“The Innovator attacks traditional values (the Tao) in defence of what he at first supposes to be (in some special sense) ‘rational’ or ‘biological’ values. But as we have seen, all the values which he uses in attacking the Tao, and even claims to be substituting for it, are themselves derived from the Tao. If he had really started from scratch, from right outside the human tradition of value, no jugglery could have advanced him an inch towards the conception that a man should die for the community or work for posterity.”
“Whence comes the Innovator’s authority to pick and choose?”
“Since I can see no answer to these questions, I draw the following conclusions. This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgements. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world.”
“As soon as we take the final step of reducing our own species to the level of mere Nature, the whole process is stultified, for this time the being who stood to gain and the being who has been sacrificed are one and the same.”
I’ll close out with this one because THE TRUTH OF IT!
“But once our souls, that is, ourselves, have been given up, the power thus conferred will not belong to us. We shall in fact be the slaves and puppets of that to which we have given our souls.”
Discussion Prompts (Join in any, all or add your own!):
1. What are your overall thoughts of this book?
2. Do you think there was any significance to the names Lewis used to describe the teachers (Gaius, Titius and Orbilius)?
I researched the names, but didn’t come across anything that stuck out, but thought I’d throw the questions out there! I’m sure there was some genius reason behind it, but you know, Jack and I aren’t quite on the same level.
3. What quotes were meaningful to you?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!