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Adapted from The

Law of Human Nature

By C.S. Lewis

Every one has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds 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 !"ow#d you like it if anyone did the same to you$!%!That#s my seat, I was there first!%!&eave him alone, he isn#t doing you any harm!% !'ome on, you promised.! (eople say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown% ups. )ow what interests me about these remarks is that the man who makes them is appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour which he e*pects the other man to know about. +nd the other man very seldom replies !I re,ect your standard.! )early always he tries to say that what he did does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special e*cuse. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of &aw or -ule of fair play or decent behaviour or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. +nd they have. .uarrelling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. +nd there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what -ight and /rong are; ,ust 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. )ow this &aw or -ule about -ight and /rong used to be called the &aw of )ature. )owadays, when we talk of the !laws of nature! we usually mean things like gravity, or heredity, or chemistry. 0ut when the older thinkers called the &aw of -ight and /rong !the &aw of )ature,! they really meant the &aw of "uman )ature. The idea was that, ,ust as every ob,ect is governed by the law of gravity and every organism is governed by biological laws, so the creature called man also has his law%with this great difference, that an ob,ect could not choose whether or not it obeyed the law of gravity, but a man could choose either to obey the &aw of "uman )ature or to disobey it. This law was called the &aw of )ature because people thought that every one knew it by nature1 , they thought that the human idea of decent behaviour was obvious to everyone. +nd I believe they were right. I know that some people say the idea of a &aw of )ature or decent behaviour known to all men is unsound, because different civilisations and different ages have had quite different moralities. 0ut this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of the ancient Egyptians, "indus, 'hinese, 2reeks and -omans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double%crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. 3ou might ,ust as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. 4en have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to%whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. 0ut they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself

first. Selfishness has never been admired. 4en have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. 0ut they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked. 0ut the most remarkable thing is this. /henever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real -ight and /rong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. "e may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining !It#s not fair!. + nation may say treaties do not matter, but then, ne*t minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. 0ut if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as -ight and /rong, what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one$ "ave they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the &aw of )ature ,ust like anyone else$ It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real -ight and /rong. (eople may be sometimes mistaken about them, ,ust as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table. )ow if we are agreed about that, I go on to my ne*t point, which is this. )one of us are really keeping the &aw of )ature. I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say. I do not pretend to be better than anyone else. I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year, or this month, or this very day, we have failed to practice the kind of behaviour we e*pect from other people. There may be all sorts of e*cuses for us we were too tired, or we were broke, or we were too busy to do the right thing. The question at the moment is not whether they are good e*cuses. The point is that they are one more proof of how deeply we believe in the &aw of )ature. If we do not believe in decent behaviour, why should we be so an*ious to make e*cuses for not having behaved decently$ The truth is, we believe in decency so much%we feel the -ule or &aw pressing on us so% that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. 5or you notice that it is only for our bad behaviour that we find all these e*planations. It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves. These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. 5irst, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the &aw of )ature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.

COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS 1. the Law of right and wrong beha ior used to be !a""ed a. the "aw of nature b. the "aw of gra ity !. !u"tura" mora"ity #. $ne differen!e between natura" "aws% "i&e the "aw of gra ity% and the "aw of human nature is that a. we !an !hoose to brea& the "aw of gra ity b. we !an !hoose to brea& the "aw of human nature !. these two "aws are not rea"% but !reations of !u"ture '. (f somebody studies the mora" tea!hing of the an!ient )gyptians% Hindus% Chinese% *ree&s and +omans% he wi"" find that they are a. ery different b. identi!a" !. surprising"y simi"ar ,. +egarding se"fishness% different !u"tures tea!h that a. in no !ase is se"fish beha ior a!!eptab"e b. se"fish beha ior is norma" and a!!eptab"e !. se"fish peop"e are not admired -. .eop"e who deny that there is a standard for +ight or /rong% a. wi"" !omp"ain if they are not treated fair"y. b. do not be"ie e in any mora"ity. !. "i e immora" "i es. 0. The author says that rea" mora" standards are a. as un!ertain as an!ient phi"osophy b. as !ertain as the mu"tip"i!ation tab"es !. on"y &nown through using !riti!a" thin&ing s&i""s. 1. $n!e we agree that there is a mora" "aw within human nature% we must admit that a. most peop"e "i e mora" "i es. b. nobody "i es a !omp"ete"y mora" "ife. !. most peop"e a!!ept responsibi"ity when they brea& mora" "aws. 2. .eop"e usua""y a. b"ame their bad beha ior on e3!uses "i&e tiredness or a bad temper. b. a!!ept that both good and bad beha ior are part of their !hara!ter. !. a!!ept that the !ause of good and bad beha ior is not !hara!ter but !ir!umstan!es. 4. The author gi es two e iden!es that a"" peop"e be"ie e in the "aw of human nature 5Choose 2 answers6 a. we a"" agree that 7uarre"ing is wrong b. we 7uarre" about who is right and who is wrong !. we ma&e e3!uses for ourse" es when we do something we &now is wrong d. some peop"e ne er brea& the "aw of human nature 18. This arti!"e asserts that three of these statements are true. /hi!h $N) is N$T true9 a. a"" humans ha e a sense of right and wrong. b. the basi! mora" standards of different !u"tures are surprising"y simi"ar. !. mora"ity is rea""y :ust a !reation of the !u"ture we grow up in. d. nobody "i es up to the mora" standards.