Log24

Friday, July 18, 2003

Friday July 18, 2003

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 4:09 PM

Hideous Strength

On a Report from London:

Assuming rather prematurely that the body found in Oxfordshire today is that of David Kelly, Ministry of Defence germ-warfare expert and alleged leaker of information to the press, the Financial Times has the following:

“Mr Kelly’s death has stunned all the players involved in this drama, resembling as it does a fictitious political thriller.”

Financial Times, July 18,
   2003, 19:06 London time

I feel it resembles rather a fictitious religious thriller… Namely, That Hideous Strength, by C. S. Lewis.  The use of the word “idea” in my entries’ headlines yesterday was not accidental.  It is related to an occurrence of the word in Understanding: On Death and Truth, a set of journal entries from May 9-12.  The relevant passage on “ideas” is quoted there, within commentary by an Oberlin professor:

“That the truth we understand must be a truth we stand under is brought out nicely in C. S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength when Mark Studdock gradually learns what an ‘Idea’ is. While Frost attempts to give Mark a ‘training in objectivity’ that will destroy in him any natural moral sense, and while Mark tries desperately to find a way out of the moral void into which he is being drawn, he discovers what it means to under-stand.

‘He had never before known what an Idea meant: he had always thought till now that they were things inside one’s own head. But now, when his head was continually attacked and often completely filled with the clinging corruption of the training, this Idea towered up above him-something which obviously existed quite independently of himself and had hard rock surfaces which would not give, surfaces he could cling to.’

This too, I fear, is seldom communicated in the classroom, where opinion reigns supreme. But it has important implications for the way we understand argument.”

— “On Bringing One’s Life to a Point,” by Gilbert Meilaender, First Things,  November 1994

The old philosophical conflict between realism and nominalism can, it seems, have life-and-death consequences.  I prefer Plato’s realism, with its “ideas,” such as the idea of seven-ness.  A reductio ad absurdum of nominalism may be found in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy under Realism:

“A certain kind of nominalist rejects the existence claim which the platonic realist makes: there are no abstract objects, so sentences such as ‘7 is prime’ are false….”

The claim that 7 is not prime is, regardless of its motives, dangerously stupid… A quality shared, it seems, by many in power these days.

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