The triple enigma: Fact, truth, and myth as the key to C.S. Lewis's epistemological thinking.

No Thumbnail Available
Starr, Charlie
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
C. S. Lewis's complex epistemology has drawn much critical interest. Unfortunately, Lewis never produced a definitive epistemological essay or book; rather, his thoughts on how we know are scattered throughout his writings. The result is critical confusion about such key issues as Lewis's definition of myth, his view of reality, and whether or not he believed the imagination to be a truth-bearing faculty. A sentence in Perelandra provides the framework for this systematic study of Lewis's epistemology: "Lang since on Mars, and more strongly since he came to Perelandra, Ransom had been perceiving that the triple distinction of truth from myth and of both from fact was purely terrestrial---was part and parcel of that unhappy division between soul and body which resulted from the Fall" (143--44, emphasis added). This dissertation investigates this "triple distinction" and examines Lewis's use of "truth," "myth," "fact," and related words throughout his works.
Lewis views "reality" as "sacramental" and multi-leveled. God is the independent, uncreated "Fact," and all created reality/fact depends entirely on Him. "Truth" is defined contextually according to this hierarchy of being: In the higher reality of heaven, truth is reality; in the lower reality of earth, truth is an abstraction corresponding to reality. "Myth" in heaven is "What Really Is," the "I Am," palpably real and utterly factual. On earth, "myth" reveals a glimpse of heavenly reality perceived in imaginative form. At Christ's Incarnation, heavenly myth became earthly fact. Working together, reason and imagination can apprehend a clear and true vision of reality (heavenly and earthly).
The introductory chapter reviews Lewis criticism; chapter two investigates Lewis's view of "fact" and "reality"; chapter three examines Lewis's view of "truth"; chapter four analyzes "myth" and "mythopoeisis"; chapter five considers "reason" and "imagination"; and chapter six synthesizes the study into a Lewisian epistemology.
Adviser: Theodore J. Sherman.