Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Was Tolkein Rational?
Apropos our unit on epistemology (as we consider relation of opinion to knowledge, and the defintion of knowledge), here's a quote from Humphrey Carpenter's Tolkien: The Authorized Biography, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1977:
"As Tolkein grew older, many of his characteristics became more deeply marked. The hasty way of talking, the bad articulation and the parenthetic sentences grew to be more pronounced. Attitudes long held, such as his dislike of French cooking, became absurd caricatures of themselves. What he once wrote of prejudices held by C.S. Lewis could have been said of himself in old age: 'He had several, some ineradicable, being based on ignorance but impenetrable by information." At the same time he had nothing like so many prejudices as Lewis, nor is 'prejudice' exactly the right word, for it implies that his actions were based upon these opinions, whereas in truth his stranger beliefs rarely had any bearing on his behavior. It was not so much a matter of prejudice as the habit...of making dogmatic assertions about things of which he knew very little."