from C.S. Lewis’ The Discarded Image

What a great book. I’d read Allegory of Love years ago, some of the apologetics, and the novel ‘Til We Have Faces, but I’d never read this before. Education, as Henry Adams said, goes on forever. Now that I think about it, Lewis here offers a much more well rounded view of some of the topics Adams takes on in the Education, as well as Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres. In any case, here’s Lewis in his Epilogue:

The nineteenth century still held belief that by inferences from our sense-experience (improved by instruments) we could ‘know’ the ultimate physical reality more or less as, by maps, pictures, and travel-books, a man can “know” a country he has not visited; that in both cases the “truth’ would be a sort of mental replica of the thing itself. Philosophers might have disquieting comments to make on this conception; but scientists and plain men did not much attend to them.

Already, to be sure, mathematics were the idiom in which many of the sciences spoke. But I do not think it was doubted that there was a concerete reality about whch the mathematics held good; distinguishable from the mathematics as a heap of apples is from the process of counting them.

Prof. Dawkins, not to mention Darrell Dawkins (aka “Chocolate Thunder”, as well as an alien from planet Lovetron specializing in “interplanetary funkmanship” … man, the 1970s … we’ll never see the likes of them again). Where was I?

Oh yeah – In the course of reading this book, it occurred to me that W.H. Auden must have read Lewis pretty thoroughly, to the extent that essays such as these and the aforementioned Allegory had a tremendous effect on the poet’s prose style, as evident in The Dyer’s Hand.

Anyway, those Dawkins guys, like W.H. Auden, could learn a lot from reading C.S. Lewis. So could you, if you haven’t already.


  1. The Discarded Image is a wonderful book, certainly among Lewis’ best. I found it endlessly fascinating.

    Interesting that Lewis uses “mathematics” as a plural. I’ve not seen that before, but if anyone would know the correct usage, it would be him.

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