The Understanding of Rationalism in C.S. Lewis and Michael Oakeshott: Tradition, Experience, and the Reading of Old Books

In Eric S. Kos (ed.), Oakeshott’s Skepticism, Politics, and Aesthetics. Springer Verlag. pp. 89-110 (2021)
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Abstract

C.S. Lewis was a major public intellectual in Britain, beginning from the late 1930s and continuing to his death in 1963. In both his non-fiction, especially The Abolition of Man, and his fiction, most importantly in That Hideous Strength, he offers a critique of rationalism and scientism that is often strikingly similar to those that Michael Oakeshott penned in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This essay examines the question to what extent this similarity is merely superficial, and to what extent the two writers shared a similar basis for their views. Furthermore, it examines whether there is an actual thread of influence: had Oakeshott been reading Lewis before writing his critique of rationalism, and if so, to what extent did Lewis’s work inform Oakeshott’s?

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Gene Callahan
State University of New York (SUNY)

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