A couple of choice points, made by C.S. Lewis and Ronald Knox 60+ years ago in a book quoted by His Excellency:
In a book written by a friend of mine about C.S. Lewis and Msgr. Ronald Knox, two great religious literary figures of the 20th century, the author characterizes their contributions in a broad framework of public commentary and criticism. He notes that, while popular writers in the 20th century were always saying that the western world had moved from the age of faith to the age of science, Ronald Knox responded that discussion of public issues had in fact entered into the age of assertion. The author explains Knox’s perspective in this way:
“…points of view are proclaimed forcefully, even stridently, but there is little real discussion. People simply assume that their position is self-evidently right and seek like-minded company. When contending parties meet, it is uncommon for the conversation to turn on matters of principle or substantive argumentation – rather, each side seeks to shout the other side down, resorting to ad hominem attacks and acrimonious remarks.1“
Of course, this is not an argument at all. Indeed, it simply suggests that many ideas in society are linked by underlying principles or assumptions. What such asserters fail to point out is that they may be linked in error just as easily as they are linked in truth.
Both C.S. Lewis and Msgr. Ronald Knox were equally prescient in seeing through the fallacy of relativism in relation to the truth. As my author-friend puts it, for Lewis and Knox:
“Relativism means the death of healthy argument: if truth is not something upon which minds can meet, why discuss anything? It is also intellectually dishonest. When someone says, ‘That may be true for you …’ what he really means is that it is not true at all (or he would affirm it) and that if you think that it is true there is no point in even discussing the matter with you. Knox and Lewis realized that if something is only true for some, then it is not true at all.”
It’s the old problem of premises that destroy the very possibility of rational discussion. The key step is to make sure that the best educated portion of the population supports rather than derides such stupidity. Thus, critical theory, for and eminent example, becomes not just ubiquitous in academia, but a sacred tenant to speak against which is heresy. (1)
TAC hopes to give its graduates the intellectual tools to defend their faith, and the concept of truth itself, against the Principalities and Powers of this earth. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, after all.
- The first time I heard critical theory explained, it called to mind an aphorism of Salvor Hardin, Mayor of Terminus: “An atom-blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways.” Anything you can create with critical theory can be easily destroyed by it – a truth it requires a small degree of studiously avoided intellectual clarity to see.