The Lewis and Anscombe Debate

C S Lewis helped found the Socratic Society at Oxford which hosted some of the liveliest debates of the post-WWII era.  Lewis was not just a popular author and public speaker, but was a distinguished academic who was happy to engage in a cross-disciplinary manner with his philosophical peers.  Elizabeth Anscombe was first a student, and then an authority on Wittgenstein, and was also a Catholic philosopher.  She dissected C S Lewis’ argument for God from Miracles and was regarded as having effectively shown its shortcomings.  However, the Anscombe–Lewis debate is the subject of much misrepresentation which suggested that Anscombe had so decimated Lewis during the debate that he had shrunk back to his quarters at Oxford never to write any philosophy or apologetic work again, preferring to write children’s books.  In fact, Lewis did respond to Anscombe and Anscombe complimented Lewis’ revised argument, even stating that for some of the questions he posed, ‘we still await an answer’.  John Beversluis, who had previously made much of this alleged event to criticize Lewis’ inadequacy as a philosophical apologist, allowed himself to be corrected and wrote an extensive retraction in review of another critical intellectual biography of Lewis (Beversluis, 1992).  The most comprehensive account regarding this incident and of Lewis’ work in apologetics is found in Reppert (2003).  Reppert himself has taken on and tidied Lewis’ argument.

Further Reading

Beversluis, J. (1992). Surprised by Freud: A Critical Appraisal of A.N. Wilson’s Biography of C.S. Lewis. Christianity and Literature, 41(2), 179-195.

Reppert, V. (2003). C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea. Downers Grove: IVP.

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