Tag Archives: C.S. Lewis

Constructing Illustrative Parallels

In my last post, I claimed that there are three typical ways we use analogies: basic comparisons, ordered-pairs, and illustrative parallels. In this post I will explain how to construct an illustrative parallel, which is a powerful means of proof.

The Pattern

An illustrative parallel reasons from a particular example (the source) to a particular conclusion (the target). The process combines inductive reasoning (from the particular example to a general statement) and deductive reasoning (from the general statement to the particular conclusion) as shown:

I am fascinated by the inductive-deductive process that the mind goes through when reasoning by analogy, such as in the parables. For example, Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:14-15, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” The source (“no one lights a lamp to put it under a basket, but to give light to the house”) inductively implies the general intermediate conclusion that what is meant to illuminate something should not be covered, and that it is uncovered not in order to display itself, but something else. So when he deductively makes the particular conclusion in verse 16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven,” we understand that we should do good works, not to shine a light on ourselves, but that men might glorify God.

Construction

Inventing good analogies can be difficult, but we can be helped using the pattern above. Say that you want to use an analogy to respond to this challenge: “Why study formal logic? Everyone can already reason!” You could argue that the study of formal logic helps to improve our reasoning skills by providing standards to distinguish between good and bad reasoning. This is your target. It can be deduced from the general statement that studying a language art can provide standards by which we distinguish between the proper and improper use of that art. Given this, we must then invent a source, a different example of the general statement, and one that is preferably more familiar that the target. What familiar language art provides us with such standards? English is a good example; the study of English helps us improve our speaking and writing skills by providing standards to distinguish proper English from improper. The basic analogy could then be simply stated: “‘Why study formal logic? Everyone can reason.’ That’s like arguing, ‘Why study formal English? Everyone can speak!’”

Imitating the Masters

Jesus is, of course, the Master of analogies, as of all other forms of argument. But there are also many lesser masters from whom we can learn this art. My favorites include C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Mark Twain, and Doug Wilson. Here are some of my favorites:

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen; not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” ― C. S. Lewis

“The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” ― G.K. Chesterton

“Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment.” ― Mark Twain

“We have no structure any more. We have no shared creed. We do not know what we are here for. It makes no sense to speak of our inherited ‘shared values,’ or better yet, ‘core values.’ If they are arbitrary, shared values are worthless. If they are arbitrary, core values are simply located where our intestines are, and are full of the same thing.” ― Doug Wilson

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ― Anne Bradstreet

What are some of your favorite analogies? Leave a comment!

Limitations of Logic

Limitations of Logic

“Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism… In battle is is not syllogisms that will keep the reluctant nerves and muscles to their post in the third hour of bombardment. The crudest sentimentalism (such as  Gaius and Titius would wince at) about a flag or a country or a regiment will be of more use. We were told it all long ago by Plato. As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the ‘spirited element.’ The head rules the belly through the chest.” — C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

 

 

A “100 Cupboards” Story

My students and I are having a lot of fun in Good Books I . We finished The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis, and are now reading N.D. Wilson’s 100 Cupboards. Later we will read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, and Watership Down by Richard Adams. One way to appreciate a story is to enter into it, trying the think the author’s thoughts after him. So I thought you might enjoy the writing assignments I am giving my students after each book:

The Horse and His Boy
Write a story about an adventure from your own life, and make your story imitate the style of Aravis’ story in chapter 3. The story should be true, though you may embellish it slightly.

100 Cupboards
In chapter 12, Henry and Richard have been to Tempore, Carnassus, Badon Hill, and perhaps other places we are not told about. I want you to write a short story about Henry and Richard going through another cupboard looking for Henrietta. Make your story consistent with the rest of the story, the characters, and the cryptic description of the place from Grandfather’s journal.

The Hobbit
After the Battle of the Five Armies we are told that, on his return home, Bilbo had many adventures (the wild was, after all, still the wild), but he was never in any real danger because the orcs were scattered or destroyed, and he was with Beorn and Gandalf most of the way. Write a story about an adventure Bilbo had on his trip home.

Watership Down
Throughout this classic, the rabbits tell stories about their folk hero, El-ahrairah: “The Blessing of El-ahrairah,” “The King’s Lettuce,” “The Trial of El-ahrairah,” “The Black Rabbit of Inle,” and “Rowsby Woof and the Fairy Wogdog.” Write another tale of El-ahrairah.

 

Dilemmas in Stories

Great stories often owe their greatness in part to dilemmas that confront the protagonist, who must make some difficult choice. Below, I have summarized several example dilemmas from stories I love. As you read through them, try to figure out which method is (or could be) used to escape the dilemma in the story: going between the horns, grasping the horns, or rebutting the horns with a counter-dilemma.

The Odyssey
If Odysseus sails close to the rocks then he will lose some men to Scylla, but if he sails close to the whirlpool then he will lose his entire ship to Charybdis. He must either sail close to the rocks or close to the whirlpool. Thus he will either lose some of his men to Scylla or lose the entire ship to Charybdis.

The Aeneid
If Aeneas stays in Carthage then he will not fulfill his destiny to found Rome, and if he flees to Italy then he will lose the pleasures of a kingdom. He will either stay or flee, therefore he will either lose Rome or lose Carthage.

The Fellowship of the Ring
If Frodo goes to Mordor alone, then he will likely fail in his quest, but if he goes to Mordor with the fellowship then he endangers his friends. He will either go alone or with the fellowship. Therefore he will either endanger his friends or he will likely fail in his quest.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
If the Narnians release the traitor Edmund to the Witch then he will be killed, and if they do not let the Witch have him as her rightful kill for treachery then Narnia will perish in fire and water. The Narnians must either release Edmund, or not let the Witch have her rightful kill. Therefore either Edmund will be killed, or Narnia will perish.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
If Tom Sawyer confesses that Injun Joe killed Dr. Robinson, then Injun Joe will kill him. If he doesn’t confess, then Muff Potter will be falsely accused. He will either confess or he won’t. Hence, either Injun Joe will kill him, or Muff Potter will be falsely accused.

Watership Down
If Hazel and his rabbits again ask the Efrafans for some does then they will be imprisoned. If they try to fight the Efrafans then they will lose. They either ask them or fight them. Therefore they will either be imprisoned or defeated in battle.

The Princess Bride
If Westley and Buttercup enter the Fire Swamp then they will be killed by flame, quicksand, or R.O.U.S. If they do not enter the Fire Swamp then they will be captured by Humperdinck. They enter the Fire Swamp or they do not, so they will either be killed or captured.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
If Harry seeks the Sorcerer’s Stone then he will be expelled, but if he does not seek the Stone then Voldemort will return. Harry will either seek the Sorcerer’s Stone or he will not, so he will either be expelled or Voldemort will return.

Can you think of dilemmas that the protagonists face in other stories you have read?

Genus & Species Bonus

Lessons about genus and species charts often emphasize the capability of these charts to show relationships between terms (i.e. this is a kind of that). This is one benefit, but we should also note the benefit they provide in helping to develop arguments. Two classic examples should help to demonstrate this.

In C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Susan and Peter are concerned with Lucy, who insists that she has gotten into the land of Narnia through a magic wardrobe. The Professor proceeds to develop an argument based off of this genus and species chart: Continue reading Genus & Species Bonus