I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Regulations

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The question at once arises whether medieval thinkers really believed that what we now call inanimate objects were sentient and purposive. The answer in general is undoubtedly no. I say ‘in general’, because they attributed life and even intelligence to one privileged class of objects (the stars) which we hold to be inorganic. . . .

If we could ask the medieval scientist ‘Why, then, do you talk as if they did,’ he might (for he was always a dialectician) retort with the counter-question, ‘But do you intend your language about laws and obedience any more literally than I intend mine about kindly enclyning? Do you really believe that a falling stone is aware of a directive issued to it by some legislator and feels either a moral or a prudential obligation to conform? We should then have to admit that both ways of expressing the facts are metaphorical. The odd thing is that ours is the more anthropomorphic of the two. To talk as if inanimate bodies had a homing instinct is to bring them no nearer to us than the pigeons; to talk as if they could ‘obey laws’ is to treat them like men and even like citizens.

But though neither statement can be taken literally, it does not follow that it makes no difference which is used. On the imaginative and emotional level it makes a great difference whether, with the medievals, we project upon the universe our strivings and desires, or with the moderns, our police-system and our traffic regulations.

C. S. Lewis, The Discarded Image, 93-94

Written by Scott Moonen

April 26, 2020 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Quotations

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