Monday, December 08, 2008

C. S. Lewis: Some excerpts for your evening's enjoyment

From Scientific Integrity, we have an essay by mid-twentieth century British writer C. S. Lewis on why not everybody is unhappy with the idea that there really isn't a mind or a self:
Now the trouble about this conclusion is not simply that it is unwelcome to our emotions. It is not unwelcome at all times or in all people. This philosophy, like every other, has its pleasures. And it will, I fancy, prove very congenial to government. The old "liberty-talk" was very much mixed up with the idea that , as inside the ruler, so inside the subject, there was a whole world, to him the centre of all worlds, capacious of endless suffering and delight. But now, of course, he has no "inside", except the sort you can find by cutting him open. If I had to burn a man alive, I think I should find this doctrine comfortable. The real difficulty for most of us is more like a physical difficulty: we find it impossible to keep our minds, even for ten seconds at a stretch, twisted into the shape that this philosophy demands.
Also, why you must go to the people who really live an experience for expertise:
The mathematician sits thinking, and to him it seems that he is contemplating timeless and spaceless truths about quantity. But the cerebral physiologist, if he could look inside the mathematician's head, would find nothing timeless and spaceless there - only tiny movements in the grey matter. (From "Meditation in a Toolshed, 1945")
Oh, and there is also this excerpt from his essay on transposition at the Dangerous Idea blog:
But I submit that a one-for-one relation is probably quite unnecessary. All our examples suggest that the brain can respond—in a sense, adequately and exquisitely respond—to the seemingly infinite variety of consciousness without providing one singly physical modification for each single modification of consciousness.

C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, Transposition, pp. 63-4.
Well, the brain is not, after all, a machine. More like an ocean, I like to say.


How NOT to build a multicultural society ...

According to this story in Britian's Daily Trelegraph (December 8, 2008),
Words associated with Christianity and British history taken out of children's dictionary

Words associated with Christianity, the monarchy and British history have been dropped from a leading dictionary for children.

Oxford University Press has removed words like "aisle", "bishop", "chapel", "empire" and "monarch" from its Junior Dictionary and replaced them with words like "blog", "broadband" and "celebrity". Dozens of words related to the countryside have also been culled.

The publisher claims the changes have been made to reflect the fact that Britain is a modern, multicultural, multifaith society.

But academics and head teachers said that the changes to the 10,000 word Junior Dictionary could mean that children lose touch with Britain's heritage.

Of course it could. And some people will find that very convenient, because kids can be told any nonsense about government in Britain or Christianity, and they'll believe it. That latter situation is already a problem, thanks to some energetic nineteenth century propagandists. (And go here for more.)

By the way, people don't usually need definitions of the words that are in common use.

For example, here in Toronto, who needs a definition right now of "mitt," "boot," "snow shovel,"or "sidewalk salt"? A picture, sure, but a definition, no. It's not like people have any trouble figuring out what all that stuff is for.

But "bishop" or "monarch", now those terms - like "mullah" or "caliph" - do require some explanation.

Pictured above is a typical scene in downtown Toronto today. It features a bag of sidewalk salt, a pair of boots, a pair of mitts, and a boot cat. The boot cat keeps the boots from falling over. But if you saw it up close, you would not need me to explain that, would you?

Hat tip: Kathy Shaidle at Five Feet of Fury.