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Through the Shadowlands: Platonism in the works of C.S. Lewis

Moate, Lisa (2015) Through the Shadowlands: Platonism in the works of C.S. Lewis. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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In this thesis, I examine the influence of Platonism on C.S. Lewis. I argue that this influence is principally reflected in changes to Lewis’s views as to what constitutes morality. Lewis’s conversion to Christianity, in particular, represents a fundamental change in the way he approached a Platonist interpretation of morality. I argue that Platonism was central to Lewis’s conversion.

I will examine work written prior to his conversion to establish that Lewis struggled to come to terms with concepts of theism. I will also explore the ways in which Platonism influenced this struggle to show the extent of Plato’s influence on Lewis’s conversion to Christianity. Through this exploration, I seek to establish that Platonism was central to Lewis’s conversion to Christianity. Furthermore, I will also explore the extent to which this Christian Platonism influences Lewis’s developing views of universal morality in the popular works written after his conversion. I will seek to show that Lewis’s embracing of Platonism, leading on to his conversion to Christianity, influenced his acceptance of the distinction between the empirically observable “sensible” illusion of reality and the true intelligible reality and that one must also manifest this knowledge in practice through engaging in virtuous acts.

In order to illustrate the manner in which Lewis changes his approach to morality after his conversion, I will first examine the poetry he wrote prior to converting to Christianity, which depicts the ability to recognise and accept the intelligible nature of reality as being fundamental to morality. I will also emphasise the idea that indulgence in materialism results in negative consequences in its departure from virtue.

This examination will provide a standard against which Lewis’s post-conversion works can be compared. These post-conversion works reflect the increased significance that Lewis placed on Christian Platonism. This is done by drawing on the experiences of the people and characters depicted in those works in order to show ways in which Lewis suggests that virtue can be resulted in.

Publication Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Supervisor: Cook, Ian
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