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C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason [Paperback]

By Victor Reppert (Author)
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Item description for C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason by Victor Reppert...

Who ought to hold claim to the more dangerous idea - Darwin or C.S. Lewis? Daniel Dennett argues for Darwin. Victor Repport champions C.S. Lewis. Darwinists attempt to use science to show that our world and its inhabitants can be fully explained as the product of a mindless, purposeless system of physics and chemistry. Lewis claimed in his argument from reason that if such materialism or naturalism were true, then scientific reasoning itself could not be trusted. Claiming that Lewis's arguments have often been too easily dismissed, Reppert revisits the debate between Lewis and the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe and demonstrates that the basic trust of the argument from reason can bear up under the weight of the most serious philosophical attacks. Charging dismissive critics, Christian and not, with ad hominem arguments, Reppert's own rigorous reformulation shows that the greatness of Lewis's mind is best measured not by his ability to do our thinking for us but by his capacity to provide sound direction for taking our own thought further up and further in.

Publishers Description
Who ought to hold claim to the more dangerous idea--Charles Darwin or C. S. Lewis? Daniel Dennett argued for Darwin in Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Touchstone Books, 1996). In this book Victor Reppert champions C. S. Lewis. Darwinists attempt to use science to show that our world and its inhabitants can be fully explained as the product of a mindless, purposeless system of physics and chemistry. But Lewis claimed in his argument from reason that if such materialism or naturalism were true then scientific reasoning itself could not be trusted. Victor Reppert believes that Lewis's arguments have been too often dismissed. In C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea Reppert offers careful, able development of Lewis's thought and demonstrates that the basic thrust of Lewis's argument from reason can bear up under the weight of the most serious philosophical attacks. Charging dismissive critics, Christian and not, with ad hominem arguments, Reppert also revisits the debate and subsequent interaction between Lewis and the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe. And addressing those who might be afflicted with philosophical snobbery, Reppert demonstrates that Lewis's powerful philosophical instincts perhaps ought to place him among those other thinkers who, by contemporary standards, were also amateurs: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke and Hume. But even more than this, Reppert's work exemplifies the truth that the greatness of Lewis's mind is best measured, not by his ability to do our thinking for us, but by his capacity to provide sound direction for taking our own thought further up and further in.

Citations And Professional Reviews
C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason by Victor Reppert has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Booklist - 10/01/2003 page 287

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Item Specifications...

Studio: IVP Academic
Pages   132
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.48" Width: 5.3" Height: 0.45"
Weight:   0.4 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 19, 2003
Publisher   IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN  0830827323  
ISBN13  9780830827329  

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More About Victor Reppert

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Reppert (Ph. D., University of Illinois) is adjunct professor of philosophy at Glendale Community College in Glendale, Arizona. He is active in several C. S. Lewis societies, and he has written articles on Lewis's apologetics for such journals as The Christian Scholar's Review, Philosophia Christi and the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion.

Victor Reppert was born in 1953.

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Reviews - What do customers think about C.S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason?

The Argument from Reason   Mar 8, 2006
Victor Reppert does a fine job in countering several myths and arguements, most notably that naturalism is reasonable while religious propositions are not and that, although a minor point, C.S.Lewis. gave up on apologetic work after the fame Lewis/Anscombe debate for the Socratic club in the mid-1940s.

The title of his book is a play on the recent popular book by Daniel Dennett, "Darwin's Dangerous Idea." Dennett argues, of course, for naturalism and that faith belief systems ultimately fail the reason test. Reppert easily defeats Dennett's proposition (actually Dennett's rubbuish, but I don't want to be too hard on Dennett because unlike other text of this elk, it is well written and presented with very little over the top polemics, although unfairly stacked and with much circular reason).

Reppert is honest in his dialogue with the reader, showing the strengths and weakness in Lewis' work, while defending Lewis' overall argument. He also views Anscombe's criticism's of Lewis' first version of Miracles and where her position had strengths and weaknesses, and he dispells the long standing myth that Lewis was thoroughly demolished in the debate (the debate made Lewis revise a chapter, but Anscombe remembers an even debate).

Ultimately, the naturalism is the only reasonable position is debunked. I liked Reppert's use of syllogism in the text. Many who have studied logic will like this format and it makes it more acceptable for the layperson (although, one argument in itself does not demolish naturalis objections, the overall content sways the scales for Lewis' argument from reason.

Written for both laypeople and people degreed or with in-depth informal study in philosophy/religion - yes, the layperson may have to work a little if they are not used to this type of book, but that is a good thing and it is not too difficult to discourage. Someone used to these types of text will find it to be an easy, yet reflecting and engaging read.
Excellent refutation of materialism  Dec 31, 2005
The title of Dr. Reppert's "C.S. Lewis' Dangerous Idea" was inspired by Daniel Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea."

Darwin's dangerous idea, according to Dennett (a philosopher of the materialist school) is that all things, in the final analysis, can be explained not by teleological principles of meaning and intelligence, but by mechanistic processes. Also, materialists hold that the physical world (which comprises all things) is causally closed. The existence of everything thing and the occurrence of every event is due to a prior physical cause. Mental states (which extreme materialists deny exist at all) are considered to be determined by the physical processes of the brain. Thus, materialism holds that we acquire knowledge of the world and of ourselves through science (all things in existence being governed by the laws of physics).

C. S. Lewis' "dangerous idea" is that scientists draw their conclusions from evidence through rational inference. But can materialism account for human reason itself? Lewis and Reppert argue convincingly that it cannot.

In the first two chapters, Reppert refutes what he calls the "Anscombe Legend." This refers to a public exchange at Oxford that Lewis had with Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe. Many of Lewis' critics such as A. N. Wilson, Humphrey Carpenter, and John Beversluis have written that Anscombe so devastatingly refuted Lewis' argument from reason published in his "Miracles" that he abandoned Christian apologetics for good and was reduced to writing children's stories.

Reppert argues that even if this were true (which it isn't) it would tell us nothing about the value of either of their theories. It certainly would not confirm that the arguement from reason is wrong, but this is precisely what his critics claim it does. As Reppert shows, the encounter itself has been hugely overblown. Lewis taught philosophy at Oxford and was quite familiar with professional philosophers. Others who attended the debate did not believe it was terribly dramatic. Anscombe herself provides a moderate account of its importance in her memoirs. Lewis himself revised his argument in the next edition of "Miracles." He did not abandon his position and this is evident in the subsequent articles and books he wrote.

One of Anscombe's criticism's was that Lewis was wrong to say that "If materialism is true it can be fully explained as the result of irrational causes." Lewis simply corrected the problem by substituting "nonrational" for "irrational". This doesn't seem like a big deal. More importantly, Anscombe argues that "reasons-explanations are not causal explanations and therefore cannot compete with causal explanations" [105].

Lewis' revised argument was [57-8]:

(1) No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes.

(2) If materialism is true, then all beliefs can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes.

(3) Therefore, if materialism is true, then no belief is rationally inferred.

(4) If any thesis entails the conclusion that no belief is rationally inferred, then it should be rejected and its denial accepted.

(5) Therefore materialism should be rejected and its denial accepted.

Anscombe (following Wittgenstein) argues that the claim that naturalistic causes exist for every event does not, as Lewis argues, mean that no belief can be rationally inferred. A person may still be rational and sincerely believe that X entails Y, regardless of causation. But the subject is rational inference. Through it, what we come to know is logical connection and a logical connection is not any particular spatio-temporal location [64]. Anscombe cannot severe reasons and causes in this way. The criticism is that materialism cannot provide an account of the role that convincing plays in cognition. If reasons cannot be a cause of our beliefs than we do not possess reason in any meaningful sense. But we do possess meaningful rational ability. Otherwise we could not be convinced, or fail to be convinced, on the persuasiveness or lacktherof of Anscombe's argument, that we do not possess it. This is the central problem for the materialist. Science depends on rational inference. Materialism is firmly committed to scientific explanation. But materialism denies rational inference.

In Chapter Four, Reppert offers several different formulations of the argument from reason:

(1) The Argument from Intentionality:

Thoughts are "about" things. But it makes no sense to say that one physical state is about another physical state. Rational inference implies the existence of "aboutness." Thus, materialism is false.

(2) The Argument from Truth:

We have the ability to discriminate between truth and falsity. But to talk about one physical state being true of another physical state makes no sense. Rational inference implies that states of a person can be true or false. Thus, materialism is false.

(3) The Argument from Mental Causation:

We rationally infer by way of mental causation. One mental state can cause another mental state in virtue of its propositional content. If, as materialists hold, mental causation does not exist, one could not, for instance, come to believe in Darwinism based on the persuasiveness of its premises. Rational inference implies that mental causation is real. Thus, materialism is false.

(4) The Argument from the Psychological Relevance of Logical Laws:

Rational inference involves the laws of logic. Unlike physical laws, these tell us what must be true not only in this physical universe, but any possible universe we can imagine, including one in which the laws of physics do not hold. But a materialist account of knowledge must hold that knowledge is gained through a causal interaction between the brain and the object of knowledge. But if we know or have insight into the laws of logic we must be in a physical relationship with the laws of logic. This makes no sense. Thus, materialism is false.

(5) The Argument from the Unity of Consciousness in Rational Inference:

If one infers P from Q, this means that one has a complex awarness of P, and of Q, and the logical connection between them, and thus concludes that since Q, then P. If materialism is true then each of these moments of awareness is a different brain process. But there must be a metaphysical unit that allows the simlutaneous awareness of all these moments. Our first-person experience of rational inference tells us this is so. Thus, materialism is false.

(6) The Argument from the Reliability of Our Rational Faculties:

Materialism holds that our faculties are the result of naturalistic evolution. Natural selection favors the development of reliable cognitive and rational abilities on to the extent that they help us cope with our environment. But there is no reason to believe that our advanced rational capacity is a reliable guide to the external world if materialism is true. Logical laws are knowledge we have nonempirically. But such knowledge does not help us find food, build shelters, or even produce a viable society. Survival requires effective response to the environment, not accurate knowledge of that environment. Evolution could select for something inaccurate in depicting the environment but efficient at producing the biologically correct response to the environment. Rational inference implies that logical laws do exist and have causal ability. Thus, materialism is false.

In Chapter Five, Reppert explains his theory of "Explanatory Dualism" by which he means that whlie some events can be explained in purely mechanistic terms, the elements of rational inference cannot. Human beings possess rational powers that are impossible for beings whose actions are governed only by physical laws [87].

In response to those that raise the issue of Cartesian mind-body dualism (which he quotes William Hasker as saying "may well hold the all-time record for overrated objections to philosophical positions")points out that Hume showed that we really don't know of any necessary connection in the causal relationships between physical objects. He argues that the soul may or may not have a spatial location (and thus may be a peculiar form of matter than exists outside of the normal causal chain. He also argues that dualism does not and should not require that the mind exist in radical independence from the physical brain. Thus, Charles Taliaferro writes about "integrative dualism", according to which a person is not identical to their body but the life of the mind is nonethless heavily dependent on the brain. But it is not determined by, or synomomous with, the brain.

All in all, this is a concise and effective argument against materialism and a defense of theism and rationality properly understood.

Rigorous But Accessible Text  Dec 13, 2005
This is a wonderful and philosophically rigorous text that brings life to Lewis's argument from reason. I would highly recommend this work if you are interested in not only the apologetic endeavors of C.S. Lewis, but of the philosophical contours of naturalism and its implications.

It seems to be a generally accepted belief that scientific and philosophical explanations that do not appeal to clearly physical causes are immediately either suspect or simply rejected out of hand. This text deftly defends the idea that there are some cases in which physicalist explanations may not even be logically possible. The specific burden of the book is to give a description of rational inference. Lewis's (and other's) basic idea is that if metaphysical naturalism is true, rational inference makes no sense. But we clearly know that rational inference works, so this is a good reason to reject naturalism.

Wonderful book-be prepared to engage on a fairly sophisticated philosophical level.
Utterly Fascinating Hypothesis & Theological Investigation!  Sep 15, 2005
If you love C.S. Lewis's works then this book is well worth taking the time to read. The author has taken a closer look at Lewis's defense and proposal that reason has a strong place in the Christian faith. I had not considered that before I read this book. This is a thoroughly researched and enlightening book, and will hopefully be pondered for years to come.
Reppert Carries Lewis to a New Generation  Aug 5, 2005
My only disappointment with Reppert's book is that it's too short. His multi-pronged Argument from Reason could benefit from further explanation and defense. (Much of this has already occurred in some journals since the publication of the book.) He marshals a powerful case against philosophical naturalism that could be even stronger, if more space was devoted to eliminating the ways naturalists could rebut his arguments.

But with all of that said, I have to recommend this book with the highest accolades I can muster. Reppert is a fine writer and represents the academic spirit of C. S. Lewis with accuracy and originality. In addition to the "dangerous idea," this book is worth buying for the historical analysis of C. S. Lewis's alleged "falling out" after his wife died of cancer. Reppert shows that this widely circulated story is an unsubstantiated myth. Also, the reader will benefit from some general advice on the adapting ideas from great thinkers of the past, like Lewis, and how we are to manifest their ideas in the contemporary marketplace of ideas.

The statements of the various Arguments from Reason are an excellent introduction to the overwhelming problems of naturalism. These problems are often ignored, but they show how naturalism fails to account for a capacity with which we are intimately acquainted and upon which we depend to reason. If naturalism cannot give a plausible account for rationality, then we should suspect it is an incomplete theory. Building upon the ideas developed primarily by C. S. Lewis in Miracles, Reppert lucidly instructs his reader in the fundamentals of a variety of metaphysical and epistemic problems with naturalism.

One of the strengths of Repperts book is its wide range of accessibility. Those untutored in advanced philosophy will find Reppert's style and exposition cogent and enlightening. Moreover, those well-versed in philosophy will discover that Reppert, much like C. S. Lewis, can present serious, challenging arguments that will give them plenty with which to grapple. I find myself returning to it frequently for clarification and inspiration. I gladly recommend it to those who wish to engage in a stimulating discussion about the place of mind in reality.

Two excellent books that can accompany Reppert's are William Hasker's The Emergent Self and Angus Menuge's Agents Under Fire.

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