Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What Lewis means by "supernatural"

A redated post.

To call the act of knowing--the act, not of remembering that something was so in the past, but of 'seeing' that it must be so always and in any possible world--to call this act 'supernatural', is some violence to our ordinary linguistic usage. But of course we do not mean by this that it is spooky, or sensational, or even (in any religious sense) 'spiritual'. We mean only that it 'won't fit in'; that such an act, to be what it claims to be--and if it is not, all our thinking is discredited--cannot be merely the exhibition at a particular place and time of that total, and largely mindless, system of events called 'Nature'. It must break sufficiently free from that universal chain in order to be determined by what it knows.

From Miracles, Chapter 3.


Micah Tillman said...

I don't know how it's possible not to love C.S. Lewis.

What he seems to be getting at here (it's been a long time since I've read miracles, though I look forward to reading your book) is similar in spirit to the phenomenologist's view of intentionality.

Without the ontological rupture that is a mind reaching beyond itself (or standing outside itself and its "world" to know itself and its world), there can be no knowing. The attempt to reduce what is "Other" to what is "Same," (to "totalize" in Levinas' terms) is a blatant falsification of reality.

In short, monism simply cannot work.

Thanks for the stimulating post!

William said...

Interesting that Oderberg in the paper referred to in the blog entry just before this one says:

For it is at least plausible to claim that there is also a phenomenology of psychology as much as of conscious experience, and the typical responses to such a claim look, as they do in respect of conscious experience, to be question-begging.

Not sure about this though. Is Lewis referring here to the phenomenology of reasoning as much as its results?

Gregory said...

"Amen" to Lewis.

I think any reflective person ought to understand that the act of "thinking" stands in stark contrast to the repetitive machinations of the material universe.

It is also true to say that we think new thoughts, ex nihilo. It seems that this is peculiarly true when we have a "eureka" moment in our understanding of some subject that was previously impenetrable to our faculty of insight. In these sorts of cases, it is not simply a matter of connecting two previously held beliefs....sometimes a belief or idea just appears out of nowhere and presents us with an insight we hitherto lacked. Perhaps this is true of all beliefs. After all, "beliefs" are not the sorts of things that float around in space; nor are they scientifically quantifiable. How could someone quantify his/her act of quantification without disrupting the act, anyway?