School of the Arts, Media + Culture SAMC Interdisciplinary

Bios + Abstracts

Thursday, September 29 | 1:15-2:25 pm


TALKING BACK
 | Room 210 (Instrumental Hall)


Why Philosophy Needs Literature: The ‘Pure Play of Musement’ of C.S. Peirce’s ‘Neglected Argument for the Reality of God’ in C.S. Lewis’s ‘Argument from Reason’
Christopher S. Morrissey

This paper builds on Michael Ward’s discussion in Chapter Ten of Planet Narnia about C.S. Lewis being motivated by his debate with Elizabeth Anscombe. He wrote The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe after her criticism at the Oxford Socratic Club of his argument in Miracles. Her challenge to Lewis’s “argument from reason” (in which he argues naturalism must be false) suggests why philosophy needs literature. This paper argues Lewis’s “argument from reason” describes that same process of thought C.S. Peirce describes in his “Neglected Argument for the Reality of God” which leads to belief in a benevolent God. Peirce identifies this process of thought as the “Pure Play of Musement” that for any “normal” person warrants belief in God from its paradigmatic instance of the abductive power of reason being able to know truth. Literature is best suited to entertain this distinctively human process of thought, different from philosophy’s argumentations.

Reppert’s studies of the “argument from reason” show the argument admits of many formulations, suggesting what Lewis has discovered is not one argument but several. Peirce’s distinction between argument and argumentation distinguishes between argumentation as rigorously “proceeding upon definitely formulated premisses” but argument as characterized by the humble play of musement of which any normal person is capable. Literary inspiration may be traced to musement’s liberty and testifies to its character, but philosophy’s argumentations usually neglect this abductive origin when formulating their deductions. In dialogue with Clanton’s recent study of the structure of Peirce’s “Neglected Argument,” this paper deepens our appreciation of Lewis’s argument by detailing how it originates in musement’s “literary” perception of the beautiful, the good, and the true. It also advances understanding of the structure of Peirce’s argument by showing how musement may grow into traditional philosophical argumentations about primary causality, theodicy, and per se causality.

---

C.S. Morrissey is a member of the Inklings Institute of Canada. He teaches Biblical Greek and Ecclesiastical Latin at the Seminary of Christ the King at Westminster Abbey in Mission, British Columbia. He also lectures in logic and philosophy at Trinity Western University. He studied Ancient Greek and Latin at the University of British Columbia and taught classical mythology, history, and languages at Simon Fraser University, where he wrote his PhD dissertation on René Girard. His book of Hesiod’s poetry, Theogony / Works and Days, is published by Talonbooks. He is the Managing Editor of The American Journal of Semiotics.

Back to Schedule


Lewis, Milton, Creatureliness, and Literary Creation
Norm Klassen

In this paper, I take up C.S. Lewis’s explanation in A Preface to Paradise Lost as to why Milton is not of the devil’s party, without knowing it, as Blake claimed. Lewis writes that “Satan attempts to maintain the heresy which is at the root of his whole predicament – the doctrine that he is a self-existent being, not a derived being, a creature.” Lewis’s explication of Satan’s error as a created being reflects classical Christian reflection on the nature of creaturely freedom. This understanding runs through Augustine and Aquinas. It significantly marks the theory of literary creativity not only of Lewis, but of fellow Inklings Dorothy Sayers and J.R.R. Tolkien, and of their older contemporary G.K. Chesterton too. For all of them, the Christian understanding of freedom makes it possible for created beings – including the characters created by a literary author – to “talk back” to their creator. (To take just one example, Chesterton sees the way the Host responds to Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales as a joke that “has in it all the mystery of the relation of the maker with things made.”) This understanding of creation resurfaces in the writings of Rowan Williams. There it bolsters a Christian apologetic in terms of human freedom and divine dependency, and the argument for “the making of the Christian imagination” (to borrow a book series title for which Williams wrote the series introduction) as a significant form of Christian theology. Lewis is undertaking some of his most profound apologetical work in his chapter on Satan in his reading of Paradise Lost.

---

Norm Klassen’s book The Fellowship of the Beatific Vision, a theological reading of The Canterbury Tales in the Veritas series published by Cascade Books, is due out in October. Norm is also the author of Chaucer on Love, Knowledge, and Sight (1995)and coauthor of The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education (2006). Norm is Associate Professor of English Literature at St Jerome’s in the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario (https://www.sju.ca/staff/norm-klassen).

Back to Schedule

back to top