Monday, August 30, 2010

C.S. Lewis' Transcendental Argument

I am unaware if C.S. Lewis was familiar with Cornelius Van Til's apologetic work. Nevertheless, Lewis' realization of the futility of his objection to Christianity is a concise example of a transcendental critique that is at the core of the presuppositional defense of Christianity.  The transcendental critique of antiChristian philosophies is that they are all self-destructive -- and thus, there is no philosophical standoff between Christianity and antitheistic and antiChristian philosophies such as atheism, agnosticism and other religions.  C.S. Lewis saw that the presupposition of evil and injustice did not comport with his atheism, and thus his attack on Christianity was, in actuality, a fatal self-inflicted wound to his atheism.  Here is his argument in Mere Christianity:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such a violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet.  Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too--for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus, in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist - in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless - I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality - namely my idea of justice - was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.  If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never have known it was dark. Dark would be without meaning. [Mere Christianity, pp.38-9.]