CS Lewis and the Problem of Evil

The concept of evil takes a central place in the writings of C.S. Lewis, from characters such as the Ice Queen in the Tales of Narnia to an exploration of the theological concepts of evil. In C.S. Lewis and the a Problem of Evil, Jerry Root investigates Lewis’s take on many aspects of evil. In Lewis’s view the greatest manifestation of the true nature of evil was subjectivism: the individual’s take on reality leads inevitably towards self-referentialism and utilitarianism.

What the book highlights is the fact that Lewis consistently used his novels, both the fantasy Narnia novels and other works, to discuss the nature of evil and the problems that it faced for the individual. Consistently employing his characters to fulfill and further his case, most if not all his villains are presented as subjectivists or entirely self-absorbed. Take the White Witch of Narnia as an example: incapable of understanding true love or human empathy, she is condemned to a life of perpetual isolation, trapped in a endless cylce of repitition  incapable of connecting with other beings – human and non-human alike. What I think Lewis was exploring was that the nature of evil is at its most insidious when their in an absence of love or human empathy: in order to achieve and understand one another, we must love and truly empathise with one another. This I think is Lewis’s message that is so vital to an understanding to his concept of evil.

What is unique about the ideas presented in this book is that the nature of evil is presented in an entirely new light and addressed in a entirley different manner. There has been considerable critical acclaim for the book; Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian: the Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis, describes how ‘few ideas were more central to Lewis’s thought than his critique of subjectivism. Particularly valuable in this study is Root’s insistence that Lewis considered fiction and poetry as key venue.’

C.S. Lewis and a Problem of Evil is available from James Clark & Co.

Blaise Fermor-Hesketh

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