(un)common ground

a commonplace book

The Dangers of In-group Thinking

To discount the voice of the peasant where it really ought to be discounted makes it easier to discount his voice when he cries out for justice or mercy. The partial deafness which is noble and necessary encourages the wholesale deafness which is arrogant and inhuman.

C.S. Lewis, “Friendship,” The Four Loves (1965)

This in discussing the potential dangers of Lewis’ concept of friendship, which necessarily involves a certain separation from the “herd.” His example here is of a group of knights known to history for their chivalric code of behavior, hence the iconography of the peasant-as-surrounding-consensus. (For Lewis, friendships necessarily incite suspicion from the larger group and especially from authority; a friendship, then, has the ability by virtue of its being a “real” friendship to disregard certain appeals from consensus in order to continue its relations in the spirit of its subject–what the friendship is “about.”)

The metaphor is striking because of its closeness to some perceived church dynamics (in the U.S.), particularly as regards [American] liberal, or left-of-center voices. Where the “noble and necessary” deafness begins from a place that rejects improper tolerance, say, or secular humanism, it may ultimately come to a wholesale deafness (or antagonism) against any liberal-sounding voice: the American’s liberal becomes the Pharisee’s tax collector.

The key consequence, for Lewis, has to do with how the circle of friends can thus become a coterie that no longer listens to any but its own members, hence losing its critical edge, and ultimately losing the subject of the original friendship. (Lewis’ notion of friendship requires it to be “about something.”) It can become essentially a micro-aristocracy, with all the social tyranny that implies.


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This entry was posted on August 3, 2015 by and tagged , .
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