Saturday, July 28, 2012

"Why don't they teach logic at these schools?"

In the course of an essay about Stephen Hawking's argument that the appearance of order in our universe could simply be result of an infinite number of universes, ours being the one—by chance—that is orderly, Charlie W. Starr, in "The Lion, the Witch and the Physicist" summarizes one of my favorite parts of the first Narnia tale [you'll have to go to the essay for the point he is making about Hawking]:
.... Early in LWW, Peter and Susan go to the old professor at whose house they’re staying because they’re troubled over their youngest sibling, Lucy, who claims to have walked through a wardrobe into a magical land called Narnia. They fear Lucy might be going mad. What they expect is that the professor will assume what they already have: that Narnia isn’t real and Lucy is either lying or disturbed. But the old professor doesn’t assume that at all. He first asks them whether or not Lucy is truthful. They reply that Lucy is very honest. Then they ask about madness. The professor replies that Lucy is clearly not mad. But the children don’t understand. How could a magical land through a wardrobe be real, especially when they looked at the wardrobe and found nothing? There couldn’t be a doorway there one minute and gone the next; it’s impossible. The professor disagrees completely, questioning the logic of their assumption. He concludes, on the contrary, that if Lucy is not lying, and not insane, then she must be telling the truth! ....
From The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe:
"How do you know," he asked, that your sister's story is not true?"

"Oh, but—" began Susan, and then stopped. Anyone could see from the old man's face that he was perfectly serious. Then Susan pulled herself together and said, "But Edmund said they had only been pretending."

"That is a point," said the Professor, "which certainly deserves consideration; very careful consideration. For instance—if you will excuse me for asking the question—does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the more reliable? I mean, which is the more truthful?"

"That's just the funny thing about it, sir," said Peter. "Up till now, I'd have said Lucy every time."
"And what do you think, my dear?" said the Professor, turning to Susan.

"Well," said Susan, "in general, I'd say the same as Peter, but this couldn't be true—all this about the wood and the Faun."

"That is more than I know," said the Professor, "and a charge of lying against someone whom you have always found truthful is a very serious thing; a very serious thing indeed."

"We were afraid it mightn't even be lying," said Susan; "we thought there might be something wrong with Lucy."

"Madness, you mean?" said the Professor quite coolly. "Oh, you can make your minds easy about that. One has only to look at her and talk to her to see that she is not mad."

"But then," said Susan, and stopped. She had never dreamed that a grown-up would talk like the Professor and didn't know what to think.

"Logic!" said the Professor half to himself. "Why don't they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth." .... C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
C. S. Lewis Blog: The Lion, the Witch and the Physicist