The Three Parts of Morality
“It seems, then, that if we are to think about morality, we must think of all three departments; relations between man and man; things inside each man; and relations between man and the power that made him. We can all cooperate in the first one. Disagreements begin with the second and become more serious with the third.” (page 75)
CS Lewis sets out in this chapter to break down morality into three essential parts (which are summed up in the above quote). He makes it very simple, drawing extensively upon the idea of a fleet of sailing ships. Each one must be in working, sea-worthy order and must keep from colliding with the other ships around it. They must also all arrive at a singular destination in order for their journey to be termed a success. I love how Lewis makes this analogy work. Certainly an individual can do things that are not harmful to others around them, but what if those things damage the person inside? That person is no longer fully functional and could veer off-course and damage those around them. For instance, pornography. When consumed in secret, it is likely not damaging to the people around an individual. But after time it erodes that person’s view of human relationships and damages their ability to interact fairly and fully with others around them.
I also really enjoyed Lewis’ sarcastic bent at the beginning of the chapter when he explains that morality is an ideal that we should all strive for. Though perfect morality is not achievable for us, we still need to line ourselves up with these higher standards. But we should not be quick to praise ourselves for our efforts, lest we become like children who expect praise for simply trying to solve a math problem, and get credit even if the answer is wrong.
I find that the last line of Lewis’ quote above is very true in today’s culture. We are a society built upon “tolerance.” We want to agree that there are some morals that are universal, but once we get into personal liberties and differing religious viewpoints we cry out that those who think differently are “intolerant” of us and accuse them of hating us. But morality holds a remarkably high standard, and that means that there will be many who cannot measure up to how they are expected to live. I align my beliefs with Lewis, that God created us for very specific purposes and that He wants us to follow His plan. We were created for eternity, and we as individual Children of God are more important than the society which cries out that ALL must have an equal voice, regardless of how loopy they sound.
I believe that humans cannot create morals for themselves. They will always have back doors and loopholes for us to use to get out of following the moral code. Our morality has to come from God, for only then can we begin to live a life that is solid, worthy of recognition, and one that is truly concerned for real harmony in those around us. We have to take care of our “ships” because we did not create them. They are a gift from our Creator, and we are merely tenants.
What do you think about morality?