The Law of Human Nature

CS Lewis’ first chapter in Mere Christianity (Book 1, Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe) is all about the moral center we all operate from. He argues that we all recognize the existence of right and wrong, specifically when it applies to human actions and behavior. Lewis speaks of the Law of Human Nature as an ingrained understanding that there are social and societal norms that are to be adhered to. We all have expectations for how we desire to be treated, and therefore expect others to hold to those same standards and beliefs. He draws a nice parallel to a soccer player who commits a foul. No one would call a penalty on him unless there was some clearly defined rule that he had violated. Though Lewis wrote this nearly 70 years ago, and Post-Modernism has taken a firm grip on society (and some would say we are beyond even that), there are many elements that still ring true today.

Just this past fall I taught a multi-part series on adolescent culture. A portion of that series was an exploration of Post-Modernity – what it is and how it affects adolescent behavior today. One of the prevailing tenants of Post-Modernity seems to be relativism – a disbelief in absolutes that rule over all individuals. This is a radical simplification, but the logic stands. Within relativism, what is right for me may not be right for someone else. This extends even to morality, as what is moral behavior for me may not be expected for you. But at our core all humans do still hold to this Law of Human Nature. Even if it is only because of our own selfish nature, that we desire others to treat us as we would treat ourselves. We all seek some sort of absolute.

Lewis successfully argues this point. Aside from Nazi sympathizers (modern or historical) I cannot think of one individual who would argue that the Nazis were right, that would defend their right to commit genocide in the name of themselves. Lewis draws this point, that if we were not ingrained with this Law of Human Nature we could not blame them for their actions any more than we could blame them for the color of their hair. We expect others to behave in a manner that is beneficial to the world, to ourselves. We want them to do so, and we are upset and angry when they do not. Even when someone has declared that there are no absolutes, they will go back on their word and cry foul when they themselves are wronged. (Seriously, spend 5 minutes on YouTube and look for absolute truth debates). Corner someone who has declared there are no absolute expectations for human behavior and you will get them to fall all over themselves to explain their stance.

We all in some part believe that there are good actions and bad actions, right choices and wrong ones. If we did not, we would not make excuses for our bad behavior and blame it on things like lack of sleep or a rough day at work. And we would not take credit for our good choices and actions. Think about it. When was the last time you blamed your good actions and attitude on a lack of sleep or something else negative? Though he does not come straight out and say it, I believe that Lewis is arguing that the Law of Human Nature (the only law of nature we can break) is set inside us by our Creator, God. I believe this as well. Humans are far too flawed as a species to have come up with this by themselves.

What do you think?

Bonus: Fun Video of Someone Who Argues For Moral Relativism