Saturday, August 06, 2011

John Who Saw

From Adrian Green-Armytage, John Who Saw (1952)

There is a world -- I do not say a world in which all scholars live but one at any rate into which all of them sometimes stray, and which some of them seem permanently to inhabit -- which is not the world in which I live.

In my world, if The Times and The Telegraph both tell one story in somewhat different terms, nobody concludes that one of them must have copied the other, nor that the variations in the story have some esoteric significance. But in that world of which I am speaking this would be taken for granted. There, no story is ever derived from the facts but always from somebody else's version of the same story.

In my world, almost every book, except some of those produced by Government departments, is written by one author. In that world almost every book is produced by a committee, and some of them by a whole series of committees.

In my world, if I read that Mr. Churchill, in 1935, said that Europe was heading for a disastrous war, I applaud his foresight. In that world no prophecy, however vaguely worded, is ever made except after the fact.

In my world we say, "The first world-war took place in 1914–1918." In that world they say, "The world-war narrative took shape in the third decade of the twentieth century."

In my world men and women live for a considerable time -- seventy, eighty, even a hundred years -- and they are equipped with a thing called memory. In that world (it would appear) they come into being, write a book, and forthwith perish, all in a flash, and it is noted of them with astonishment that they "preserve traces of primitive tradition" about things which happened well within their own adult lifetime.

HT: Esteemed Husband


Alex said...

I'd never heard of Adrian Green-Armytage - whose name I googled without learning much. Was he a mentor or pupil of Ronald Knox?

It has long been understood that some scholars inhabit ivory towers (of intellectual isolation) where they are protected from the tedium of 'reality'. I put 'reality' in quotes because I've noticed that modern philosophers usually live in a world of inverted commas - where nothing is as it seems.

As Roger Scruton observed: There is a "philosophy of inverted commas" - if unsophisticated people can have beliefs, values, and meanings, all such most be placed in inverted commas by the philosopher.

Lydia McGrew said...

Alex, we haven't been able to learn a whole lot about him either. He appears to have been a friend of Knox, and Knox wrote an introduction to his book on Luke. In the introduction to _John Who Saw_, Green-Armytage presents himself as not being a scholar of New Testament studies and presents this as an advantage. I might guess from some of the things he says there that he was a lawyer.

In this case, the idea is that the ivory tower has literally messed up the sense of evidence--that is, that the scholars are not evaluating evidence correctly, because they are not using their common sense and treating the people who wrote the gospels as people in the real world. Dorothy Sayers makes a similar point in her essay "A Debt to Cyrus."