Lewis on Ethics

Let us very clearly understand that, in a certain sense, it is no more possible to invent a new ethics than to place a new sun in the sky. Some precept from traditional morality always has to be assumed. We never start from a tabula rasa*; if we did, we should end, ethically speaking, with a tabula rasa.
~ C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, "On Ethics" (1943)

Aristotle said that only those who have been well brought up can usefully study ethics: to the corrupted man, the man who stands outside the Tao, the very starting point of this science is invisible.
~C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, (1943)
*"blank slate" or "blank page"

I am currently in Wycliffe Hall in Oxford on their Summer School -- Apologetics with special concern for CS Lewis thought. Nice to be back here, and to be thinking about the great man again 'in situ'.

PS The Kilns was looking a bit worse for wear when I visited a couple of days ago.


Sørina Higgins said...

What is "the Tao"? I have an inkling from the context, but I'm not sure... The OED has:
1. a. In Taoism, an absolute entity which is the source of the universe; the way in which this absolute entity functions.
2. In Confucianism and in extended uses, the way to be followed, the right conduct; doctrine or method.
So, in typical Lewis fashion, he's adopting a word from another religion and using it to point to absolute truth, yes?

I'm also in Oxford for the summer, Lincoln College, greatly enjoying being the the place to be for Lewis studies. Is the course on apologetics with a focus on Lewis a regular part of studies offered at Wycliffe Hall? I'm having a hard time persuading any faculty here to work on his stuff with me....

The Kilns looked great to me a few weeks ago, but then it was my first visit.


Arborfield said...

"the Tao"... I think here Lewis is using the phrase to mean 'the knowledge' or 'the enlightenment'. What do you think?

The Wycliffe ASW is now over. Literally a week from the 8th July. Highlight for me was Michael Ward's two lectures... look out for his book "Planet Narnia" to be published by OUP (USA) in the Spring of 2007. It'll turn the world of Lewis Scholarship upside down!

Innocent said...

First, let me say, Great Blog! I wish you all success in continuing to maintain this smashing blog.

About the Tao, I think Prof. Lewis gave his clearest explanation about his use of that word to describe moral absolutes in his book The Abolition of Man A short and sweet book, if there ever was one!

With regards and prayers,