Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis: Notes
The contents of the book were first given on air and published into several parts: The Case for Christianity (1943)
Christian Behavior (1943)
Beyond Personality (1945)
Book 1: Right and Wrong As A Clue To The Meaning Of The Universe
I. The Law of Human Nature
Both parties had in mind some king of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behavior or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. 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. Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of 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. Man cannot disobey laws, which he shared 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 thought that the human idea of decent behavior was obvious to everyone If this is not true, what was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong unless Right is a real things which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have practiced? If they 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 color of their hair. For the case of different civilizations and different ages having different moralities: the differences between moralities have never amounted to anything like a total difference. (e.g. 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.) 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!”) If there is no such thing as treaties or Right and Wrong or Law of Nature, what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one? We are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong.
People may be 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. None of us are really keeping the Law of Nature
We have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people The moment anyone tells you you are not following the Law of Nature a string of excuses comes up. 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 behavior, 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 o us so—that we can’t bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. Summary: Firstly, human beings 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. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves, and the universe we live in. II. Some Objections
“Isn’t what you call the Moral Law simply our herd instinct and hasn’t it been developed just like all our other instincts?” We all know what it feels like to be...
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