For background on why I believe that this reader’s guide might be helpful, please see the posts immediately prior to this one. This guide pertains specifically to the story “Antony Flew Goes to Heaven” but the principles it discusses will likely be useful for the other stories, and interpreting literature in general.
Reader’s Guide to “Antony Flew Goes to Heaven.”
According to Mortimer J. Adler in How to Read a Book, there are 3 general maxims of intellectual etiquette. As calls for civility in public discourse abound today, it is good to see what qualifies in the mind of this rather apolitical, secular scholar and philosopher. Then to apply these maxims in the private conversations we have with an author in our own minds, or in the semi -public conversations we engage in blogs and forums is an art that elevates the reader to an intellectual high ground. This can be especially helpful in cases where the reader disagrees with the author in important ways. In the end, Dr. Adler states that if a reader does not take the time to understand, and cannot show wherein the author is uninformed, misinformed or illogical, then following the evidence wherever it leads makes an uncomfortable demand upon the reader. “Failing in all of these, you must agree at least in part, although you may suspend judgment on the whole in light of the last point. “(pg 164)
General Maxims of Intellectual Etiquette
1. Do not say you disagree, agree, or suspend judgment until you can say you understand.
2. Do not disagree disputatiously or contentiously.
3. Demonstrate that you recognize the difference between knowledge and mere personal opinion by presenting good reasons for any critical judgment you make.
Special Criteria for Points of Criticism
1. Show wherein the author is uninformed.
2. Show wherein the author is misinformed.
3. Show wherein the author is illogical.
4. Show wherein the author’s analysis or account is incomplete.
Dr. Flew Goes To Heaven
1. Why does this story take place in a garden?
2. Why do you, as the reader, believe it takes place in a garden?
3. What is the character’s primary method of acquiring knowledge?
4. How does your answer to #2 compare/contrast with your answer to #3?
5. What next steps does the character take in trying to think through his position?
6. Is he being reasonable?
7. Does the character make any logical mistakes while reasoning?
8. What is the character’s guiding principle regarding evidence? Is it a good one?
9. In ordinary matters, is it better to bring a certain sort of presumption to the table or to bring none and wait to see where the evidence leads? Which does the character conclude? Why?
10. What causes the character’s resistance to going with the Man?
11. According to the story, why does the Gardener not come and settle the matter once and for all?
12. Is the author uninformed about Dr. Flew’s arguments against the existence of God?
13. According to the text, does Dr. Flew eventually go to heaven?
14. Why do you think the author ends it in the way he does?
15. How might your answer to that help you understand the ‘point’ of the story?