Tuesday, November 08, 2011


Quoting Lewis

The Constructive Curmudgeon quotes C.S. Lewis:
Some people say that though decent conduct does not mean what pays each particular person at a particular moment, still, it means what pays the human race as a whole; and that consequently there is no mystery about it. Human beings, after all, have some sense; they see that you cannot have real safety or happiness except in a society where every one plays fair, and it is because they see this that they try to behave decently. Now, of course, it is perfectly true that safety and happiness can only come from individuals, classes, and nations being honest and fair and kind to each other. It is one of the most important truths in the world. But as an explanation of why we feel as we do about Right and Wrong it just misses the point If we ask: "Why ought I to be unselfish?" and you reply "Because it is good for society," we may then ask, "Why should I care what's good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?" and then you will have to say, "Because you ought to be unselfish"—which simply brings us back to where we started. You are saying what is true, but you are not getting any further. If a man asked what was the point of playing football, it would not be much good saying "in order to score goals," for trying to score goals is the game itself, not the reason for the game, and you would really only be saying that football was football—which is true, but not worth saying. In the same way, if a man asks what is the point of behaving decently, it is no good replying, "in order to benefit society," for trying to benefit society, in other words being unselfish (for "society" after all only means "other people"), is one of the things decent behaviour consists in; all you are really saying is that decent behaviour is decent behaviour. You would have said just as much if you had stopped at the statement, "Men ought to be unselfish."
Do I behave selfishly? Oh often, and in an ugly fashion. Do I want to do so? No! Why? Because I do not want others around me to behave selfishly. Nothing teaches better than a good example. But what is in it for you? Things really do work better when people behave unselfishly. From queuing to get a movie ticket to traffic to shopping. If everyone behaves unselfishly, everyone gets there aster, safer and better. But do I behave selfishly? Oh often, and in an ugly fashion.

Lewis uses this argument as apologia. I see it as motivation. Motivation to try and grow closer to God so I behave less selfishly and motivation to evangelism so that others might behave less selfishly too.

So what do we do to "reach out?" We cater to people's desires. Anyone see a problem here?

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