Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Something from Lewis

Here's something I came across from Mere Christianity:
Men ought to be unselfish, ought to be fair. Not that men are unselfish, not that they like being unselfish, but that they ought to be. The Moral Law, or Law of Human Nature, is not simply a fact about human behaviour in the same way as the Law of Gravitation is, or may be, simply a fact about how heavy objects behave. On the other hand, it is not a mere fancy, for we cannot get rid of the idea, and most of the things we say and think about men would be reduced to nonsense if we did. And it is not simply a statement about how we should like men to behave for our own convenience; for the behaviour we call bad or unfair is not exactly the same as the behaviour we find inconvenient, and may even be the opposite. Consequently, this Rule of Right and Wrong, or Law of Human Nature, or whatever you call it, must somehow or other be a real thing - a thing that is really there, not made up by ourselves. And yet it is not a fact in the ordinary sense, in the same way as our actual behaviour is a fact. It begins to look as if we shall have to admit that there is more than one kind of reality; that, in this particular case, there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men's behaviour, and yet quite definitely real - a real law, which none of us made, but which we find pressing on us.


Blogger ty said...

Ah, good ol' Lewy, He's a smart man. he has this way of saying those things that perhaps, as Christians, we deep down knew, but that we didn't know we knew, and if we did, we didn't know how to say it. thanks for sharing.


2:56 AM  
Anonymous sarah said...

Lewis makes a good point, but it's really fascinating to see how quickly and completely cultural flux can metamorphose concepts of 'right' or 'wrong' which we thought were absolute. All you have to do is live cross-culturally to see that. Of course, things like murder are still illegal in most cultures and in most circumstances (i say most to accomodate for such things as shari'a law, which can accomodate honour killing if strictly adhered to). But rationalization has become somewhat of an international sport to find loopholes to make wrong things less wrong. Absolutes are only absolutes as long as people believe they are, after all, at least if they are going to have any relevance or impact on a culture.

10:26 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I think that Lewis would say that this Law of Right and Wrong would be applicable even to people who do not believe in absolutes. Like gravity, these rules still apply to you even if you don't believe in them. If I say that the law of gravity is relative, that will not change the fact that I am bound by it, regardless of whether I believe in it or not. Lewis says earlier in the book that a: Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it, and b: That [humans] do not in fact behave that way.
Lewis' Moral Law basically says that humans know how to behave - but they don't always do it. And - if they break that standard, they know it - which is why they rationalize.

11:05 PM  
Anonymous sarah said...

the thing is, the 'ought to behave in a certain way' internal 'conscience' is so different from culture to culture. Sure, everyone's got some sort of conscience or sense of good behaviour. Culture does that to people. Lewis' "moral law" is nothing more than common sense to anyone who's studied cultural anthropology in any context... the question is whether or not it's at all relevant to his desire to build a substantial apologetic for the a) existence of God and b) truth of the Christian Faith.

6:43 PM  

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