Saturday, June 04, 2005

Red Beef and Strong Beer

If ever a man came near to being a purely logical entity, that man was Kirk*. Born a little later, he would have been a Logical Positivist. The idea that human beings should exercise their vocal organs for any purpose except that of communicating or discovering truth was to him preposterous. The most casual remark was taken as a summons to disputation. I soon came to know the differing values of his three openings. The loud cry of "Stop!" was flung in to arrest a torrent of verbiage which could not be endured a moment longer; not because it fretted his patience (he never thought of that) but because it was wasting time, darkening counsel. The hastier and quieter "Excuse!" (i.e., "excuse me") ushered in a correction or distinction merely parenthetical and betokened that, thus set right, you remark might still, without absurdity, be allowed to reach completion. The most encouraging of all was, "I hear you." This meant that your remark was significant and only required refutation; it had risen to the dignity of error. Refutation (when we got so far) always followed the same lines. Had I read this? Had I studied that? Had I any statistical evidence? Had I any evidence in my own experience? And so to the almost inevitable conclusion, "Do you not see then that you had no right, etc."

Some boys would not have liked it; to me it was red beef and strong beer.
~C.S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy, "The Great Knock" (1955)

*William Kirkpatrick, Lewis's tutor

On this day:

1954 Lewis accepts the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University.

1916 J. R. R. Tolkien received embarkation orders for London and France.

Bonus quotation of the day:

In a letter to Lewis's father, William Kirkpatrick wrote:
"Clive is altogether an exceptional boy. The maturity of his literary judgements is remarkable, he follows his own instinct and is not to be imposed upon by the mere weight of authority. In literary power he is outside the range of ordinary schoolboys altogether, and it would be unfair to herd him with 'Narrow foreheads vacant of his glorious gains'. "
~from the Memoirs of the Lewis Family (1850 - 1930)

2 Comment(s):

At Sat Jun 04, 05:42:00 PM EST, Blogger MrKimi said...

I must read 'Surprised by Joy' again now that I know what 'Logical Positivism' is (or I think I do...). Interesting how much Kirkpatrick is like Diggory Kirk.
Kirkpatrick's rigorous (and maddening, I suspect) approach to reason is easy to see in Professor Kirk's 'It's all in Plato' etc.

The quote from Kirkpatrick nicely tells the other side of the story. They obviously got on well.

At Sun Jun 05, 08:15:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Many of Lewis's students felt that he was too tough and argumentative. Sounds like Lewis felt that Kirkpatrick's style of tutoring was the way to handle his own students.


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