C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity
Book I, Part 2 – Some Objections
In this chapter, Lewis addresses objections to his assertion that the Moral Law is a law that exists in real time and space with universal application, much as the Multiplication Table. What 2 objections did his listeners pose to this assertion?
The herd instinct prompts actions that insure survival, such as fleeing from a forest fire. How do we explain the risk humans take when they attempt to rescue other creatures from the fire? Lewis uses the example of a person who attempts to rescue a drowning man.
Lewis argues that impulses to do the opposite of the herd point to the reality of a universal Moral Law or what he calls “Real Morality.” How does distinguishing between “civilized morality” or Buddhist or Nazi morality and saying that one is better than another reinforce Lewis’ argument?
If the Moral Law is a social convention reinforced through education, why do we not regard it as fixed and universal in the same way we recognize the Multiplication Table to be fixed and universally true?
What 2 reasons does Lewis give to support his position that the Moral Law is fixed and universal?
For Lewis, Real Morality is like a yardstick against which we measure human actions. The Ten Commandments is one expression of the yardstick, specific to the ancient Hebrews. What expression of the yardstick did Jesus Christ give to His Disciples? (He calls it the “New Law.”)
In small groups develop your best argument to support your view and prepare to present it to the class. Begin by posing a question. Answer the question. Provide examples, illustrations, analogies and/or metaphors that clearly convey your viewpoint. Anticipate the counter arguments of the other teams and prepare to refute their points.
Group 1: The Moral Law is merely another name for the herd instinct.
Group 2: The Moral Law is merely a social convention reinforced by education.
Group 3: The Moral Law is a fixed and universal aspect of the created order.
Having different mental images of something does not mean that the entity has no real existence. Lewis uses the example of New York City (NYC). The fact that different people have different mental images of NYC does not negate the existence of NYC in real time and space. The very fact that we each have an idea “NYC” is evidence of its existence.
That which has no existence cannot be conceived mentally. Recall the homework assignment: Describe an entity that does not exist.
Students often think of the mythological unicorn. This is not valid because the image of the unicorn consists of constituent parts that exist, ie. horns and horses. Further, unicorn horses did exist, according to Marco Polo. According to Polo the unicorn breed of horses were exclusively bred in Badakshan, part of ancient Persia. They had a single a horn on their forehead. This breed was the exclusive property of a single member of the Badakshan royal family. This ruler refused to grant the king ownership of some of these remarkable horses and was executed. In revenge his infuriated daughter destroyed the entire herd, thus bringing the unicorn to extinction. See The Travels of Marco Polo (Penguin, 1958).
Related reading: Mere Christianity Discussion Questions, Part 1; Natural Law: The Outside Standard