Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A layman examines the Lewis-Anscombe controversy

I am redating this post for the benefit of BDK, who asked about the texts on which the Lewis-Anscombe exchange is based.

This is a philosophical layperson, obviously well-disposed toward Lewis, who has attempted to analyze and reconstruct the Lewis-Anscombe controversy. Please see "notes" and "appendices."

He is not a fan of mine, as can be seen by these comments from "notes."

Reppert, 59-60. This book is certainly not the “gem” perceived by one reviewer who was perhaps describing what he and I hoped to see rather than what actually lay before him. The title is clever and the opening chapter is inviting; and I guess there is an important truth in the assertion that Lewis is not a provider of finished philosophical products but, rather, of ideas which deserve further devel­op­ment in view of his “outstanding philosophical instincts”. The book contains a couple of useful ideas and distinctions; and it is my abiding impression that the author has the kind of brains and training required for the job and which I lack. Yet I cannot doubt that this book will for most of its readers turn out to be an exercise in “finding out what the author says in spite of all the author does to prevent you” – as C. S. Lewis once described another book whose author had “no order, no power of exposition, no care for the reader”. At any rate, the chapter about the Anscombe affair is a botched job; it was in fact what made me decide to make an attempt myself.


The appendices are very valuable, since they include the original Anscombe critique, and the first edition chapter 3 argument, which are not the easiest things in the world to get a hold of.


Trav said...

I'm fairly sure you've quoted that on this blog before, yes?

Anonymous said...

Bob Prokop writing:

Reminds me of the one and only comment a professor of mine wrote at the end of a research project I had turned in as part of my work towards my masters degree. After almost 25 years, I can still quote it verbatim: "A perfect example of an undergraduate term paper". Ouch, indeed!

Victor Reppert said...

I did a few months back, and it got no attention. But this guy has the original Lewis chapter, the original Anscombe paper, the immediate Lewis reply, and the Anscombe response to the revision in the appendices. It's a worthwhile exercise for any student of the AFR, layman or professional.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read Smilde's paper, yet. I just wanted to say that I was very impressed by Victor Reppert's book, which I thought was an excellent attempt at illuminating Lewis's argument. I bought a couple of extra copies and passed them on to friends of mine. -- Bilbo

Anonymous said...

Also, I remember when all one could get hold of was Lewis's original argument. I had to special order the revised book from England (which had an exquisite cover). -- Bilbo

Anonymous said...


Like CS Lewis, perhaps (not really a philosopher anyway, certainly not the analytical sort).

Anonymous said...

Miss Anscombe also presents a skewed, biased view of Hume. Let's agree Hume the person was not exactly a role model. Neither was, say, Bertrand Russsell. That does not diminish the force of his arguments in the least.

Hume's points contra-miracles are quite easy to grasp and based on the uniformity of experience--no more "sophistical" than say the curriculum at the medical school at State University X. You have never witnessed a ghost, nor seen the dead come back to life. Here is an old book saying those sorts of supernatural events occur. The reasonable person (rather than the dogmatist) thinks it is far more likely to think they did not occur, given his own experience.

Hume does not say those supposed supernatural events are impossible, but highly unlikely. There are many alternative explanations as well--mistaken testimony , etc. No need for the phony probabilities crunching (which is far less than 1% anyway). For that matter, a presumed "miracle"--say a ghost-- in itself however bizarre and unlikely does not establish .... monotheism, or the inerrancy of scripture (which was Hume's real target, which the founding fathers realized as well: Jefferson rejects miracles, and considered the Book of Revelation the ravings of a lunatic)

Now, one might choose to believe, or read Scripture metaphorically, but actually claiming the events occurred (and insisting others believe too) would be a grand leap of irrational faith. The sophists are the dogmatic believers (like Miss Anscombe).

Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks for the ref, VIctor I look forward to reading it.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Seems to assume quite a bit of familiarity with the arguments. Haven't looked at the appendices yet.