Tag Archives: reductionism

CS Lewis and the reductionists

Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smok...
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A reader sent me this comment:

someone said that rose represents a woman and worm that eats rose is a man, and I had similar idea at that time I remember. Now I notice that ideas of Freud has influenced on people’s consciousness much more than we expect and it became like common sense.

I mentioned a lecture that C.S. Lewis gave in 1942 concerning psycho-analysis and the ideas of Freud. Lewis had read Freud. He disagreed with Freudian psycho-analysis of literature. Specifically, he disagreed with the idea that everything in literature, as in dreams, has a sexual meaning. He agreed that the sexual meaning is part of the literary meaning; but only part of it, not the whole thing. In addition, the psycho-analytic view can hide the

Reductionism is the term often used to describe the psychoanalysis that Lewis was arguing against: the idea that, for example, a garden in a story only means the female body, that it has no further meaning or value.

Other writers and thinkers have also argued strongly against reductionism: Ayn Rand was one. In Atlas Shrugged, a character called the Wet Nurse is someone who has been educated in the ideas of reductionism: that the human being is only a bundle of cells and chemicals, and that human life, therefore, has little or no meaning (to quote Shakespeare, “It is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing”). Through working and talking with Hank Rearden, the Wet Nurse comes to understand that a human being is so much more than that. Rand expressed herself angrily in other writing, too, about the terrible effect such ideas can have on young people, when their minds, ideas and values are still forming.

If the commenter is correct and Freudian ideas have become accepted as “common sense”, then perhaps the reductionist ideas have also become accepted, without examination. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” 吟味されざる生に、生きる価値なし。

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