Anscombe’s international reputation as a debater had early roots. At Oxford in 1948, at age 29, she took on — and trounced — C.S. Lewis in a debate that is still discussed now, more than six decades later. Their debate focused on the third chapter of Lewis’s book Miracles. Everyone present — including Lewis — recognized that the young woman’s critique had completely unraveled his arguments. Yet she didn’t disagree with Lewis’s conclusions; she just thought his arguments were too loose, too easy to pull apart. She wanted a more rigorously tough-minded defense of miracles.
Incidentally, she and Lewis remained on friendly terms, and Lewis rewrote the disputed chapter, taking her criticism into account. Anscombe considered this an act of admirable intellectual honesty.
Dave also sends along this:
Walter Hooper wrote a letter to The Telegraph in which he points out that:
In her [book] Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Mind, she wrote: "The fact that Lewis rewrote that chapter . . . shows his honesty and seriousness. The meeting of the Socratic Club at which I read my paper has been described by several of his friends as a horrible and shocking experience . . .
"My own recollection is that it was an occasion of sober discussion of certain quite definite criticisms, which Lewis' rethinking and rewriting showed he thought were accurate. I am inclined to construe the odd accounts of the matter by some of his friends . . . as an interesting example of the phenomenon called 'projection'."
And Jenny Teichman in her "Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe, 1919-2001" for the Proceedings of the British Academy (v115, pages 31-50) quotes Anscombe:
"The meeting ... has been described by several of his friends as a horrible and shocking experience which upset him very much. Neither Dr Havard (who had Lewis and me to dinner a few weeks later) nor Professor Jack Bennett remembered any such feelings on Lewis's part. My own recollection is that it was an occasion of sober discussion of certain quite definite criticisms ... some of his friends seem not to have been interested in the actual arguments or the subject matter." (page 44)