Views of Morals by C.S. Lewis. For simple Simon.

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Stan4d, Jul 25, 2010.

  1. Stan4d

    Stan4d New Member

    Every one has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely
    unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to
    the kind of things they say. They say things like this: "How'd you like it if anyone did the same to
    you?"—"That's my seat, I was there first"—"Leave him alone, he isn't doing you any harm"— "Why
    should you shove in first?"—"Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine"—"Come on, you
    promised." People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children
    as well as grown-ups.
    Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying
    that the other man's behaviour does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard
    of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies:
    "To **** with your standard." Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not
    really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some
    special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that
    things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that something has turned up which
    lets him off keeping his promise.
    It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or
    decent behaviour or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they
    have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human
    sense of the word. Quarrelling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there
    would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right
    and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless
    there was some agreement about the rules of football.
    Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature. Nowadays, when
    we talk of the "laws of nature" we usually mean things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of
    chemistry. But when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong "the Law of Nature," they
    really meant the Law of Human Nature. The idea was that, just as all bodies are governed by the law
    of gravitation and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law—with this
    great difference, that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a
    man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.
    We may put this in another way. Each man is at every moment subjected to several different sets of
    law but there is only one of these which he is free to disobey. As a body, he is subjected to gravitation
    and cannot disobey it; if you leave him unsupported in mid-air, he has no more choice about falling
    than a stone has. As an organism, he is subjected to various biological laws which he cannot disobey
    any more than an animal can. That is, he cannot disobey those laws which he shares with other things;
    but the law which is peculiar to his human nature, the law he does not share with animals or vegetables
    or inorganic things, is the one he can disobey if he chooses.
    This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and
    did not need to be taught it. They did not mean, of course, that you might not find an odd individual
    here and there who did not know it, just as you find a few people who are colour-blind or have no ear
    for a tune. But taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behaviour was
    obvious to every one. And I believe they were right. If they were not, then all the things we said about
    the war were nonsense. What was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong unless Right is a
    real thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have practised? If they had
    had no notion of what we mean by right, then, though we might still have had to fight them, we could
    no more have blamed them for that than for the colour of their hair.
    I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behaviour known to all men is
    unsound, because different civilisations and different ages have had quite different moralities.
    But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never
    amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral
    teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will
    really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some of the evidence for
    this I have put together in the appendix of another book called The Abolition of Man; but for our
    present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think
    of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of
    double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him.
    You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as
    regards what people you ought to be unselfish to—whether it was only your own family, or your
    fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first.
    Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or
    four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.
    But the most remarkable thing is this. Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real
    Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his
    promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining "It's not fair" before you can
    say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter, but then, next minute, they spoil their case
    by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter,
    and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong— in other words, if there is no Law of Nature—what
    is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and
    shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?
    It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may be sometimes mistaken
    about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and
    opinion any more than the multiplication table. Now if we are agreed about that, I go on to my next
    point, which is this. None of us are really keeping the Law of Nature. If there are any exceptions
    among you, I apologise to them. They had much better read some other work, for nothing I am going
    to say concerns them. And now, turning to the ordinary human beings who are left:
    I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say. I am not preaching, and Heaven knows I do
    not pretend to be better than anyone else. I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this
    year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of
    behaviour we expect from other people. There may be all sorts of excuses for us. That time you were
    so unfair to the children was when you were very tired. That slightly shady business about the
    money—the one you have almost forgotten—came when you were very hard up. And what you
    promised to do for old So-and-so and have never done—well, you never would have promised if you
    had known how frightfully busy you were going to be. And as for your behaviour to your wife (or
    husband) or sister (or brother) if I knew how irritating they could be, I would not wonder at it—and
    who the ****ens am I, anyway? I am just the same.
    That is to say, I do not succeed in keeping the Law of Nature very well, and the moment anyone tells
    me I am not keeping it, there starts up in my mind a string of excuses as long as your arm. The
    question at the moment is not whether they are good excuses. The point is that they are one more proof
    of how deeply, whether we like it or not, we believe in the Law of Nature. If we do not believe in
    decent behaviour, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently?
    The truth is, we believe in decency so much—we feel the Rule or Law pressing on us so— that we
    cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility.
    For you notice that it is only for our bad behaviour that we find all these explanations.
    It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good
    temper down to ourselves. These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that 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. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they
    break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we
    live in.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2010

  2. GearNut

    GearNut Active Member

    I actually read all of that, and I agree with it very much so.
  3. professor

    professor Active Member

    It is no wonder that wisdom like the above is NEVER taught in government schools.
    Of course, Lewis lived a long time ago and we know how outmoded those people were.

    One other comment.
    Whenever wicked men seek to dominate or destroy others, the beginning is, they seek to show that the victims are somehow not really human.

    What Hitler did follows the pattern- he taught Jews are sub-human. Therefore, we can do what we want to them.
    What the Mohammedians are doing now to Jews is the same thing.

    Or the slave trade across the world 200 years ago (and currently practiced in Islam- especially on Blacks).

    Or listen to the lies of the "Rev." Wright and people of his ilk- the Black supremists.

    Or the White Supremists.

    Or today- on the unborn.

    The devil does not come except to steal, kill and to destroy.
    If you ever wonder if he is real, or wonder who his disciples are- look for his family traits.
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