Monday, 26 May 2008

Uncommon Sense

"Serious magical and scientific endeavor are twins:
One was sickly and died, the other still thrives - but they are twins.
They were born of the same impulse". C S Lewis.

How concepts change. Take a few once popular expressions:
Acting for the common good, promoting common decency, propagating common sense.
How would such values be defined today? And why have the core imperatives of such realms changed so much?

In the Abolition of Man, Lewis really touches the heart of this:
"For the wise men of old, the problem was how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution was knowledge (correspondence with the transcendent) and composure (change and virtue) as a result. For magic and applied science alike, the problem is how to subdue such reality to the wishes of men. The solution is method or technique, the application of which allows the practice of things regarded hitherto disgusting or impious".

The problem we currently face is not the employment of the techniques of Scientific inquiry - it is the suppositions - the 'dreams of power' - that so commonly accompany the use of these techniques, which have become as accepted as the desire of Midas.
The 'common confidence' abroad today is that via a world view uncluttered from the tethers of the past, we can control the physical world - that the mentors of technology and progress have freed us to become more than we were, but such liberty comes at a very heavy price to ourselves and the world around us - we must suppress the truth concerning ourselves and reality (as Paul notes in Romans chapter 1) to host such a culture.

It is popular in our age to dismiss the dreams and practices of those who have sought to use 'superstitious' means to gain enlightenment, but these same 'dark gods' have merely donned a more respectable guise in order to appeal to the present 'common good'.
The serpent is never far from the tree which promises a wisdom divorced from the higher reality of our existence.


Steve said...

You have packed a lot of truth in a small case. Much of the scientific community feels the need to give their truths room to breath.

Howard said...

To quote from a review of Lewis' "The Abolition of Man":

"Suppose that the 'subjectivists' succeed and they destroy very the concept of objective value. What will they erect in its place? The answer of course must be that whoever wields temporal power at any given moment will get to define and impose their own version of "morality". It is the appeal to such 'Law' that enables us to convict Nazi war criminals even though they were "following orders." We understand that it is possible for a legal order to be "unlawful". This is because we, all of us regardless of our rhetoric, believe in the 'rightness' of such objective values. When we truly stop believing, then it will be up to the state, as the only power left, to both pass laws and define morality. The state itself will "Condition" behavior. At that point, ALL orders will be lawful. All actions of the state will be permissible. All that remains to be determined is the character of the state and what behavior it will mandate:

Man's final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man.

Having abandoned objective values, men leave themselves prey to the diktats of other, more powerful, men, thereby ceasing to be Man at all. They are no longer made in God's image, but in the image of whomever rules them at that moment. One needn't be religious to see the tragic nature of this turn of events.

This rise of subjectivism or moral relativism is the single most important trend in Modern Times. Virtually all of our other problems stem from this rotten seed".

Steve said...

Lewis was a genius.