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Sunday, August 12, 2012

September 13th is Chesterton's Father Brown

In September we're going to read one of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories. Chesterton was a profound influence on C.S. Lewis who I think likely read everything Chesterton wrote. He certainly read "The Everlasting Man" and much more. In his autobiographical work "Surprised by Joy" Lewis said while still an atheist of Chesterton "... strange as it may seem, I liked him for his goodness." He also liked him for "...a general tone of flippancy and jocularity, but the humor which is not in any way separable from the argument but is rather (as Aristotle would say) the 'bloom' on dialectic itself."

Join us in September by reading the Father Brown story "The Chief Mourner of Marne" which can be found HERE. It is a quick and enjoyable read. If you do enjoy it you might consider getting one of the Father Brown complete collections which will provide much more enjoyment.

Monday, August 6, 2012

August 9th Discussion Questions

Jane will be leading our discussion on Thursday August 9th at Barnes and Noble in Harrisonburg on The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy, subtitled The Lion, The Witch, and The Worldview edited by Gregory Bassham and Jerry L. Walls.  Here are the discussion questions:

Narnia and the Enchantment of Philosophy
Part I. Farewell to Shadow Lands: Believing, Doubting and Knowing
Chapter 1. Aslan’s Voice: C.S. Lewis and the Magic of Sound
          On page 5, the last sentence under the subtitle “Sound Sense” states “Remarkably, Lewis gives sound, not sight, the fundamental role to play in the construction of knowledge.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?

Chapter 2. Virtue Epistemology: Why Uncle Andrew Couldn’t Hear the Animals Speak
          The author posits four intellectual virtues necessary to being a responsible seeker of truth:
                   1.)Valuing truth for its own sake
                   2.) Refusing to believe something just because one wants it to be true
                   3.) Not allowing one’s fears to dictate what one believes
                   4.) Recognizing one’s own limitations as a seeker of truth.
The author argues that Uncle Andrew is lacking in all 4 of these intellectual virtues. In which virtue is Uncle Andrew the most lacking? The least lacking?

Chapter 3. Trusting Lucy: Believing the incredible
          When Lucy first tells her siblings about her experiences in Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter and Susan conclude that Lucy is either lying or she has lost her mind. The professor suggests a third option to Peter and Susan: that Lucy is telling the truth. This turns out to be the case. Given their experiences, are Peter and Susan justified in not believing Lucy when she is able to see Aslan in Prince Caspian, but the rest cannot?

Chapter 4. Breaking the Spell of Skepticism: Puddleglum vs. the Green Witch
          What is it that we lose when we compare things that are similar? What do we gain?

Chapter 5. At Any Rate there’s No Humbug Here: Truth and Perspective
          “We find in Lewis a clear rejection of this search for certitude and objectivity. Three themes supporting this claim run through his Narnian stories. First, knowledge is perspectival; second, knowledge is value-laden; and finally, knowledge is personal.  We will consider each in turn.” (p.55)
The author states that the dichotomy between value-free objectivity and value-laden subjectivity is false. (Page 61.) Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Part II: The Tao in Narnia: Morality and the Good life
Chapter 6. Worth Dying For: Narnian lessons on Heroism and Altruism
          Garcia, the author, states, “ ‘Death before dishonor’ no longer sounds as compelling as it once did.” Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

          Garcia (p. 75) states, “We define ourselves to a great extent by our actions and that we often act in order to maintain our sense of identity…would such a desire explain the actions of Eustace, Shasta, Jill and Digory?

Chapter 7. Work, Vocation and the Good Life in Narnia
          “By having Eustace grow and develop from someone who at first cares only about his own pleasure, Lewis suggest that this pleasure seeking state is an immature one.” (page 83) What else is Lewis suggesting by the development of Eustace’s character?

Chapter 8. The Tao of Narnia
          How would you compare this chapter to the first chapter of “Mere Christianity?” On what points do they differ? How would you compare this chapter to “The Abolition of Man?” Is there on overall morality? A tao?

Chapter 9. Extreme Makeover:  Moral Education and the Encounter with Aslan
          “Narnia is the remedy for their (the children’s) moral shortcomings. And Lewis, drawing on a classical moral framework rooted on both ancient Greek philosophy and Christian principles, wants us to see that our own moral development needs what they found in Narnia.” (Page 106) What did the children find in Narnia that remedied their moral short comings? Who do the children meet who embodies a greater development of morality?

Chapter 10. Is it Good to be Bad?  Immoralism in Narnia
          What critiques does Lewis make of immoralism according to this chapter? Does Lewis use other critiques in the Chronicles not mentioned in this chapter?  If so, what are they?

Chapter 11. Narnia and the Moral Imagination
          Why are we fascinated with type 3 characters? The author states that we want to understand what makes these characters so bad. (Page 135) Is there more to it than that? What is it about Peter, Caspian and Reepicheep that make them so much more attractive than Rabadash, Uncle Andrew or Shift?

Chapter 12. Beasts, Heroes and Monsters: Configuring the Moral Imaginary
          “The tales that we share with our youngsters not only reflect our deepest cultural and ethical traditions; they also feed the mythic imagination of the young, and help to shape their value systems in ways that remain doggedly faithful to the traditional beliefs of the group.” (Page 143) Agree or disagree?

Chapter 13. No Longer a Friend of Narnia: Gender in Narnia
          Fry argues that the development of Susan’s character is a subtle attack on femininity. Could one not just as effectively argue that Lewis was a product of his time in regards to his treatment of the female characters?  What kind of adventure story could one get with the women all engaged in “feminine” activities? Name a classic adventure novel with a “feminine” protagonist.

Part III. Further Up and further In: Exploring the Deeper Nature of Reality
Chapter 14. Plato in Narnia
          Is Digory meant to be a figure out of one of Plato’s dialogues?
          Is the Professor in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” meant to be a Socrates figure?

Chapter 15. Different Worlds, Different Bodies: Personal Identity in Narnia
          What creates identity? Do you agree with the author’s postulation that identity involves a sense of “I”-ness? Does identity require a body?

Chapter 16. Why Eustace Almost Deserved His Name: Lewis’ Critique of Modern Secularism
          Mengue: Lewis argues that the secularization of education leads to a built-in bias against the transcendent. How might this bias have been influenced by Lewis’ own experience at school? (p 196)

          Mengue: By “liberating” human beings from God, modern secularism allows the strong to enslave the weak for amoral purposes. How does this fit in with ancient and more transcendent cultures using slaves? (p199)

Chapter 17. Time Keeps on ticking, Or Does It?  The Significance of Time in The Chronicles of Narnia
          How can everlastingness (God is through time in order to be a personal agent) and timelessness (God is not in Time. God experiences all history at once) be reconciled? How can the timelessness theory be reconciled with God as a personal agent?

Part IV. The Deepest Magic: Religion and the Transcendent
Chapter 18. Aslan the Terrible: Painful Encounters with Absolute Goodness
          Do goodness and terribleness lie at the core of all genuine religious experience?

Chapter 19.Worthy of a Better God: Religious Diversity and Salvation in the Chronicles of Narnia
Sennett argues that Lewis is an inclusivist which is defined as believing that there is only one true religion, but a person may be saved without explicitly practicing or even knowing about that religion.

Wouldn’t believing this cut down on what I view as the “marketing of Christianity”? The race to see how many people can get saved and pulled in the door of various churches. Worshiptainment would also come into play here. Maybe if so many Christians weren’t busy with marketing, they could actually experience growth themselves and disciple others.

Chapter 20. The Atonement in Narnia
          Taliaferro & Traughber address Lucas’ 4 major criticisms of the Ransom Theory. Lucas first criticizes the ransom theory as it requires a literal belief in Satan. Taliaferro & Traughber argue that “Satan” can be treated as a metaphor for the binding power of evil. Is this an effective argument to make the Ransom theory plausible?

          Lucas’ third objection is that there is something religiously and morally repugnant in picturing God working out a deal with Satan. (Page 256) Would the book of Job not refute this?

Chapter 21. The Green Witch and the Great Debate: Freeing Narnia from the Spell of the Lewis-Anscombe Legend
          Are The Chronicles of Narnia a departure from apologetics for Lewis or another way of saying the same things?

Chapter 22. Some Dogs Go to Heaven: Lewis on Animal Salvation
          Lewis argues that animals are “sentient” which he defines as capable of sensing and feeling, but not “conscious” defined as having a mind or a soul that is capable of experiencing their sensations and feelings as a connected series. (p281) Do you agree or disagree with this? Why?