Saturday, August 13, 2011

C.S. Lewis on the Value of Philosophy

In a letter to his father Albert,
"I have come to think that if I had the mind, I have not the brain and nerves for a life of pure philosophy. A continued search among the abstract roots of things, a perpetual questioning of all that plain men take for granted, a chewing the cud for fifty years over inevitable ignorance and a constant frontier watch on the little tidy lighted conventional world of science and daily life--is this the best life for temperaments such as ours? Is it the way of health or even of sanity? There is a certain type of man, bull necked and self satisfied in his 'pot bellied equanimity' who urgently needs that bleak questioning atmosphere. But what is a tonic to the Saxon may be a debauch to us Celts."

Later in the letter,
"If the air on the heights did not suit me, still I have brought back something of value. It will be a comfort to me all my life to know that the scientist and the materialist have not the last word: that Darwin and Spencer undermining ancestral beliefs stand themselves on a foundation of sand; of gigantic assumptions and irreconcilable contradictions an inch below the surface. It leaves the whole thing rich in possibilities: and if it dashes the shall optimisms it does the same for the shallow pessimisms."

From Alan Jacobs, The Narnian, 119-120.