Saturday, May 15, 2010

Reflections on C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity: Book 1 Chapter 3

The Reality of the Law

The Law of Nature as applied to stones or trees means only what nature does, but the Law of Human Nature does not mean what humans do. When dealing with humans, something comes in over and above the facts. In all the rest of the universe there need not be anything but the facts. C.S. Lewis found this distinction very odd. He says that it is so peculiar that we are often tempted to explain it away. Below are two of the most common arguments against the reality of the Law of Human Nature and C.S. Lewis’ refute to these faulty explanations of human behavior.

1.) When someone does something we say he ought not to do, he is doing something inconvenient to you like a rock that it not perfectly shaped so that it does not provide shade from the shining sun.

C.S. Lewis easily refutes this explanation because sometimes the behavior we call bad is not at all inconvenient to us. The example he gives is how we view a man who trips you accidentally versus a man who tries to trip you but is unsuccessful. We are not upset at the man who accidentally trips us, but we take more offense to the man who tried to trip us even though he was unsuccessful. The man who tripped you inconvenienced you, but you do not consider his action bad. However, the man who tried to trip you did not inconvenience you because he was unsuccessful, but we consider his action wrong. C.S. Lewis also points out that it is the same when we are talking about what we consider good. What we call good may not always be useful to us.

2.) Some say that it may not benefit you personally, but if it benefits society.

C.S. Lewis says that is all well and good, but why should you care about the benefits of society if it doesn’t benefit you personally? A person could argue that if something benefits society then it will also benefit you personally at least indirectly. However, when you ask how something can help you indirectly you will find that there is sometimes no explanation as to how it will help us personally either directly or indirectly. If the person argues that doing something good for society will benefit you because it will make you feel good about helping someone else, you can respond by saying why would that make us feel good? The very fact that being unselfish can provide us pleasure is only further proof that there is something over and above the facts when it comes to humans. There is something that is not observable or seen that tells us how we ought to act.

The Law of Human Nature is not simply a fact about Human behavior. Two humans in the same situation can and will make opposite decisions. Two humans could also make the same decision but for different reasons. Two humans could do the same exact thing, but one we could consider good and the other bad. A rock does not have the capability to make decisions. A rock does not have the ability to fall in a place so as to avoid injuring a person, it simply falls where nature forces it to fall. The Law of Human Nature is not a mere fancy, for we cannot get rid of the idea. There is a right and a wrong way to behave, and the right thing to do will not always benefit us personally. Nothing else in the universe behaves the way humans do and nothing else in the universe is as unique as the human person.

God bless!

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