Friday, May 25, 2018

With pugnacity but without animus

...Lewis would not allow disagreement to become personal. He could always distinguish the man from the man’s opinion, and he knew the difference between an argument and a quarrel. He would not allow himself to be betrayed into aggression, but would, where necessary, draw rein on a dispute with a wry smile and an agreement to disagree. ....

Watson again: “His twin passions...were people and arguments, but he did not often make the mistake of confusing them. Good people can believe in wicked things...like race war and class war. Lewis could be polite, even friendly, to such people. What aroused his trenchancy was evil opinion. A capitalistic robber baron, he once told J. B. S. Haldane, the Communist scientist who had acclaimed the Soviet Union for abolishing Mammon, is at least better than an Inquisitor, since greed is easier to satisfy than dogmatic certainty.... He had once lived unhappily as a school boarder, he told Haldane, in ‘a world from which Mammon was banished’ and where favours were gained by cringing servility or brute force. ‘It was the most wicked and miserable I have yet known.’ The analogy between communism and an unreformed boarding school is instructive, but the point is potent without being offensive; it is about communism, not about a Communist called Haldane.”

Lewis reviled many dogmas but seldom...those who held them. He had “vigour without venom; he was generous.” ....