The AmericanRevolution, Version 2.0

September 15, 2009

Morals and Party Bickering

Filed under: Quotes — Miss Abigail @ 4:59 pm

This morning I was reading from The Joyful Christian by C. S. Lewis, and one portion in particular struck me as being very applicable to politics.  I’m not sure, but it might also be something Lewis touched on in Mere Christianity or The Abolition of Man.  If so, please let me know!

I could have just quoted the part that struck me as applying to politics, but I decided that I needed to provide context.  So, I quoted the whole section, and bolded the parts that stuck out to me. 🙂

Right and Wrong

Everyone has heard people quarreling. 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 kinds 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 along, 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 this every day, educated 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 behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: “To hell 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 from keeping his promise.  It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kinds of Law or Rule of fair play, or decent behaviour, or morality, or whatever you life to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have.  If they had not, they might, or 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 choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.

Is it just me, or did Lewis really hit the nail on the head with this? Crazy Brit who disliked America, but excellent insight into human nature! (Disclaimer: I do love C.S.Lewis! :D)

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