READING TO KNOW: "Mere Christianity #1 [The Law Of Human Nature] " -C.S.Lewis



Book I - 


Right And Wrong As A Clue To The Meaning Of The Universe

1. The Law Of Human Nature

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 diem 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 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 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

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