Taste and judgment

From C.S. Lewis, "The Seeing Eye," an essay on the difficulty of separating moral judgments from aesthetic or natural preferences:
Being fallen creatures we tend to resent offences against our taste, at least as much as, or even more than, offence against our conscience or reason; and we would dearly like to be able--if only we can find any plausible argument for doing so--to inflict upon the man whose writing (perhaps for reasons utterly unconnected with good and evil) has afflicted us like a bad smell, the same kind of condemnation which we can inflict on him who has uttered the false and the evil. The tendency is easily observed among children; friendship wavers when you discover that a hitherto trusted playmate actually likes prunes. But even for adults it is 'sweet, sweet, sweet poison' to feel able to imply 'thus saith the Lord' at the end of every expression of our pet aversions. To avoid this horrible danger we must perpetually try to distinguish, however closely they get entwined both by the subtle nature of the facts and by the secret importunity of our passions, those attitudes in a writer which we can honestly and confidently condemn as real evils, and those qualities in his writing which simply annoy and offend us as men of taste. This is difficult, beause the latter are often so much more obvious and provoke such a very violent response. The only safe course seems to me to be this: to reserve our condemnation of attitudes for attitudes univerally acknowledged to be bad by the Christian conscience speaking in agreement with Scripture and ecumenical tradition.... For our passions are always urging us in the opposite direction, and if we are not careful criticism may become a mere excuse for taking revenge on books whose smell we dislike by erecting our temperamental antipathies into pseudo-moral judgements.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

I have not seen this essay before. Thank you very much.

Texan99 said...

I thought you might like it.

But you mean to say you don't own a complete set of C.S. Lewis's works yet? I think I've owned them all at some point during the last 45 years, but I don't seem to have them all now. Of course, they're pretty much all online.