North Western Winds

Contemplating it all from the great Pacific Northwest

Miracles as basics

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C.S. Lewis is amazing. The following is from his essay Miracles, taken from the collection God in the Dock (and not from his book Miracles):

The experience of a miracle in fact requires two conditions. First we must believe in a normal stability of nature, which means we must recognize that the data offered by our senses recur in regular patterns. Secondly, we must believe in some reality beyond Nature. When both beliefs are held, and not till then, we can approach with an open mind the various reports which claim that this super- or extra-natural reality has sometimes invaded and disturbed the sensuous content of space and time which makes our ‘natural’ world. The belief in such a supernatural reality can neither be proved or disproved by experience. The arguments for its existence are metaphysical, and to me conclusive. They turn on the fact that even to think and act in the natural world we have to assume something beyond it and even to assume that we partly belong to that something. In order to think we must claim for our own reasoning a validity which is not credible if our thought is merely a byproduct of irrational physical processes. In order to act, above the level of mere impulse, we must claim validity for our judgments of good and evil. In both cases we get the same disquieting result. The concept of nature itself is one we have reached only tacitly by claiming a sort of super natural status for ourselves.

That is a very concise rendering of what has become know as the argument from reason. I think it a pretty able demonstration that little miracles are going on around us all of the time. We can think, we can act, and while we operate under constraints we are not constrained. The regularity of the world gives us a frame on which we can act; without it we are not more free, rather, we are not at all. Complete freedom, if we define it as such, would be synonymous with nonbeing.

I coming more and more to place these abilities – rational thought and free will – as basics that we intuit correctly and question only as overly confident adults. That is, as adults who think these things can be questioned and found wanting in a way that does not silence the meaning and seriousness of the questioning and the questioner. There seems to me to be something proud, irrational and almost unhealthy about the pursuit of such threads in the face of these huge obstacles.

Not everyone agrees. See Jim Ryan’s latest at The Conservative Philosopher, where he sketches something he calls Naturalistic Conservatism. My own comments would match William Tanksley’s in the comment thread pretty closely.


Written by Curt

February 10, 2005 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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