Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

On the Accidental Paraphrasing of More Cogent Writers

The other day I was pointing out why it was important to read things from other time periods. Within a few hours of publishing the post, I stumbled upon this section of an essay by C. S. Lewis on that exact point:

Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.

This is from On the Reading of Old Books. Read the whole thing!™

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5 responses to “On the Accidental Paraphrasing of More Cogent Writers

  1. jlv61560 November 19, 2015 at 5:46 am

    Oh c’mon, Jeffro! C.S. Lewis was just some dead white guy who was part of the cisnormative, racist, homophobic white privilege class and WROTE CHRISTIAN stuff! He has nothing relevant to say to the young, hip, with-it geniuses at places like Missouri and Dartmouth! (/sarc)

    • jeffro November 19, 2015 at 6:37 am

      The thing that gets me is that we’ve gone from previous centuries being the thrust of this sort of argument to previous decades being more or less beyond the pale.

      • jlv61560 November 19, 2015 at 12:58 pm

        It seems to me that sometimes those who come after DO stand on the shoulders of the giants, and so see farther and make valuable contributions to life, or society, or science, or whatever. However we seem to be living in a brief, self-defeating period of history where those who have come after are taking an axe to the giants’ ankles. They don’t admire and seek to emulate, they envy and seek to destroy. Or they deny and seek to erase.

  2. Robert Eaglestone November 19, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Lewis’ God in the Dock is an excellent read…

  3. Pingback: SUPERVERSIVE: All of This Has Happened Before – castaliahouse.com

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