Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mere Christianity: Book 3 (Christian Behavoir); Chapter 1 (The Three Parts of Morality)

The Human Machine and Ship

This chapter of Lewis features one of my favorite examples of morality, the human person as part of a fleet of ships.  I used this to teach the concept of Virtue back in my Totus Tuus years, and so I was excited to revisit it, and wasn't disappointed when I started seeing it in a new light.

The Human Person is like a ship, and Mankind like a fleet, all sailing on the ocean to a common mission (death). Now in order to complete this mission successfully, three things must happen.  1) You must not collide or damage other ships, 2) You must keep your ship in working condition, and 3) you must know your mission, where you're going, and how to get there.
Therefore, Morality consists of three parts: 1) The external relationship between man and man (Social Justice), 2) The internal ordering of the human person (Personal Virtue), and 3) the Purpose or end goal of the morality itself (Holiness). To be a "moral individual" one must cultivate all three parts.

1) Social Justice--This is the first and most obvious form of Morality, the sphere in which it is most easy to conceive of objectiveness.  There are few who will disagree that, in essence, we should not harm another, and that in fact it is our duty to "make right" wrongs that are done to others.  This is why we have charities, welfare, homeless shelters, and free clinics.  However, if you only focus on this aspect of morality you may say, "as long as my actions don't hurt another person they are fine for me to do". This statement does not take into account the second rule of the human fleet.

2) Personal Virtue--There is no point in not colliding with other ships if your own ship can't complete its mission because of "faulty equipment".  This is the second purpose of morality, to keep US in working order.  Humans were made to work in a certain way, in accordance with love, free-will, and right reason.  Morality are instructions for proper operation of the human machine.  If we try to operate outside our normal parameters our machine breaks down and fails to work in love, free-will, and right reason.  Once this happens
we fail to control our collisions with others.  Simply put, our lack of interior morality will cause us to lead others astray.  Personal sin leads to social sin.  If you want to live by the first rule, you must abide by the second.

3) Holiness--Intrinsic and external morality are all fine and good, but it is important to remember that we are on a mission--to reach Heaven.  This reminds us that the rules we are following are objective--since we are all humans, we all have the same ultimate end, and thus we must play by the same rules.  Morality is not a cultural subjectivism, it is not a democratic design, it is a product of a universal human nature.  Because of this, we can all KNOW the rules, and thus because our morality as a whole in part depends on the ability of others to be moral, we have a responsibility to both impart and enforce those rules to the other members of our fleet.

Happy Sailing.

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