Sunday, September 26, 2004

The Reality of Trees

We do not look at trees either as Dryads or as beautiful objects while we cut them into beams: the first man who did so may have felt the price keenly, and the bleeding trees in Virgil and Spenser may be far-off echoes of that primeval sense of impiety. The stars lost their divinity as astronomy developed, and the Dying God has no place in chemical agriculture. To many, no doubt, this process is simply the gradual discovery that the real world is different from what we expected...But that is not the whole story. It is not the greatest of modern scientists who feel most sure that the object, stripped of its qualitative properties and reduced to mere quantity, is wholly real. Little scientists, and little unscientific followers of science, may think so. The great minds know very well that the object, so treated, is an artificial abstraction, that something of its reality has been lost.
~C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (1943)

1 Comment(s):

At Sun Sep 26, 06:53:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Does anyone have any insight into this quote as to his reference to Virgil and Spenser? I'm assuming he means "The Fairie Queene" by Spenser, and the Aenid by Virgil.

Lewis does make a point about the fact that man has moved beyond tree-worship and star-worship as our civilization and scientific knowledge has advanced to show the everyday-ness of trees and stars. But I like how he points out that we may know all there is to know scientifically, but that doesn't reveal the complete "truth" of a tree or a star...there is so much more to a tree and a star than its scientific properties.


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