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C. S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law
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Book description

Conventional wisdom holds that C. S. Lewis was uninterested in politics and public affairs. The conventional wisdom is wrong. As Justin Buckley Dyer and Micah J. Watson show in this groundbreaking work, Lewis was deeply interested in the fundamental truths and falsehoods about human nature and how these conceptions manifest themselves in the contested and turbulent public square. Ranging from the depths of Lewis' philosophical treatments of epistemology and moral pedagogy to practical considerations of morals legislation and responsible citizenship, this book explores the contours of Lewis' multi-faceted Christian engagement with political philosophy generally and the natural-law tradition in particular. Drawing from the full range of Lewis' corpus and situating his thought in relationship to both ancient and modern seminal thinkers, C. S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law offers an unprecedented look at politics and political thought from the perspective of one of the twentieth century's most influential writers.

Reviews

'… Justin Buckley Dyer and Micah J. Watson, associate professors at the University of Missouri and Calvin College, show in their groundbreaking new book, C. S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law, Lewis’s understanding of truth and human nature, of what constitutes the good life and the good society, had significant political implications … Professors Dyer and Watson write that Lewis had 'a very limited view of government’s role and warrant,' was skeptical of its capacity to inculcate virtue and worried about its paternalistic tendencies. The duty of government was to restrain wrongdoing. Because he believed in the fallen nature of humanity, Lewis was concerned by the concentration of political power.'

Peter Wehner Source: The New York Times

'While it is true that [Dyer and Watson] cover much well-trodden ground along the way, they provide a clear, concise, and informative treatment of an aspect of Lewis’ thought that has been less studied.'

Gilbert Meilaender Source: First Things

'Justin Buckley Dyer and Micah J. Watson’s new Cambridge University Press book, C. S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law, is one of the first book-length treatments of Lewis’ political thought. In their opening chapter Dyer and Watson provide some biographical background and attribute this dearth of scholarship to a widespread assumption that Lewis was apolitical, and their book operates in part as an extended rebuttal of this view.'

Kian Hudson Source: Library of Law and Liberty (www.libertylawsite.org)

'While many consider Lewis apolitical, a new and very good book, C. S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law, by Justin Buckley Dyer and Micah J. Watson, makes the case that Lewis, though he was largely uninterested in elections and political parties, ‘spent his life wrestling’ with the fundamental questions of the polis. He may have avoided the ‘hurly-burly maelstrom’ of the hustings and Parliament, but as a moral realist and natural law theorist he knew more than most about human flourishing and the various social disorders threatening ‘the word of man.'

R. J. Snell Source: The Witherspoon Institute: Public Discourse

'Justin Buckley Dyer and Micah J. Watson, associate professors at the University of Missouri and Calvin College, show in their groundbreaking new book, C. S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law, Lewis's understanding of truth and human nature, of what constitutes the good life and the good society, had significant political implications … Lewis had 'a very limited view of government's role and warrant,' was skeptical of its capacity to inculcate virtue and worried about its paternalistic tendencies. The duty of government was to restrain wrongdoing.'

Micah Mattix Source: The Weekly Standard

'Lewis’s political views have not attracted much interest, in large part because there has been a sense that Lewis was, in fact, not interested in politics and had little to say about the subject. As Justin Dyer and Micah Watson suggest in their excellent new book, however, that is a serious mistake. Not only was Lewis interested in what we might think of as ordinary politics, but his apologetic, scholarly, and imaginative works also offered important and interesting claims regarding how natural law relates to democratic politics in a largely secular and morally skeptical social order. Dyer and Watson do us a favour in surveying the full range of Lewis’s writing to show how the body of his work provides a defense of natural law politics.'

Bryan McGraw Source: VII: Journal of the Marion E. Wade Center

'Dyer and Watson's book is groundbreaking because they have shown Lewis as a thinker who used storytelling to help human beings lead the best life they can.'

Ian Lindquist Source: Washington Free Beacon

'Through a close analysis of Lewis’ extensive works and letters, Dyer, associate professor of political science and director of the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri, and Watson, 2015–16 William Spoelhof Teacher-Scholar Chair and associate professor of political science at Calvin College, demonstrate that Lewis not only had much to say about politics, but that what he said needs to be heeded by those of us who live half a century after his death.'

Louis Markos Source: The Federalist

'C. S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law belongs on the shelf of every Lewis enthusiast, Christian political thinker, and person responsible for the intellectual formation of Christian congregations.'

Joshua Bowman Source: Anamnesis

'Literally millions of readers, from Evangelical Christians to Leo Strauss, have appreciated the writings of Clive Staples Lewis. Lewis (1898–1963) was one of the most-read authors of the twentieth century, and he continues to be read with avidity in the twenty-first. A full-length book on this major author’s contributions to natural law and political thinking is a welcome addition to the study of political theory.'

Christopher James Wolfe Source: The Review of Politics

'This volume presents Lewis fairly and thoroughly and it makes it clear how Lewis can be helpful for Christians. … The more Lewis I read, the more I find him helpful. Dyer and Watson's book both supports that sentiment and deepens it. They have done excellent work in producing a readable volume that is both illuminating and applicable.'

Andrew J. Spencer Source: Ethics and Culture blog (www.ethicsandculture.com)

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Contents

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