Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Lewis' thoughts

I read these two great passages last night in the Letters of C.S. Lewis. At 26 years old, he had just received a fellowship at Oxford University to lecture in English and Philosophy. On arriving, he learned that he would in fact not be teaching philosophy, simply focusing on English. These are his thoughts on the subject and profession of philosophy:
I have come to think that if I had the mind, I have not the brain and nerves for a life of pure philosophy. A continued search among the abstract roots of things, a perpetual questioning of all that plain men take for granted, a chewing the cud for fifty years over inevitable ignorance and a constant frontier watch on the little tidy lighted conventional world of science and daily life - is this the best life for temperaments such as [mine]?"
I had never considered what souls philosophers possess, what lives they must lead. Imagine to always be questioning lifestyle and existence, never to be at peace with your life. It must indeed be lonely and frustrating and certainly full of turmoil. Here is a second excerpt that made me laugh out loud at the truth of it.
At any rate I escape with joy from one definite drawback of philosophy - its solitude. I was beginning to feel that your first year carries you out of the reach of all save other professionals. No one sympathises with your adventures in that subject because no one understands them: and if you struck treasure trove no one would be able to use it."
I chuckled at the apparent uselessness of the profession - work as hard as you want, no one understands what you are doing. And even when you do finally (if ever) land upon an enlightening concept, no one can actually put it to any use. I guess the vast majority of people are happiest to be going about in their day to day lives and never really thinking past their own front door. But I should end here, or risk venturing into that uncertain and lonely realm of philosophy myself.

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