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This was originally a post but I thought the discussion would be best in a thread of its own.

I started reading "Mere Christianity" (thanks Walty) last night and, although I can see a lot of logic to what Lewis says, I'm not quite sold on his argument for the Natural Law. I can see it makes sense but I can also see how the idea of morals as a social construct makes sense. I don't really see a universal "moral law".  Moral archetypes, like "thou shalt not murder", could come from a sense of empathy rather than a law infused into the hearts of men by God as Lewis argues.

Also regarding the natural law I'm not yet sure on how a "can" equals a "must". I'll use the example of contraception. We can observe that sex leads to children and, Lewis points out, this "law", unlike the laws of gravity etc., can be obeyed or disobeyed. I'm a bit confused on how an observation turns into a binding law or if scientific laws which are evident from observation can be compared to natural "laws" which aren't' so evident.

The reproductive organs primary use is to procreate.
Contraceptives inhibit this function.
Thus contraceptive sex is wrong.

See, that makes sense to me. But then I start applying the same principle to our other faculties and it just seems absurd.

The lungs primary use is to breath.
Smoking inhibits this function.
Thus smoking is wrong.

The eye's primary purpose is to see.
Wearing a blind fold inhibits this function.
Thus wearing a blindfold is wrong.
Have you read the entire first book of Mere Christianity?  He addresses a lot of the issues you raise here, primarily, that it is a social or biological construct.
(02-17-2010, 09:57 PM)Walty Wrote: [ -> ]Have you read the entire first book of Mere Christianity?  He addresses a lot of the issues you raise here, primarily, that it is a social or biological construct.

Yes. I can't say I found it very convincing. There's:

"The first is, as I said in the first chapter, that though there are differences between the moral ideas of one time or country and those of another, the differences are not really very great-not nearly so great as most people imagine-and you can recognise the same law running through them all: whereas mere conventions, like the rule of the road or the kind of clothes people wear, may differ to any extent."

Which I personally think is a cop out. I'd say that the morality of different cultures is extremely different. Anything from the fundamental understanding of family, when it is and isn't appropriate to kill someone, how animals should be treated, how women should be treated etc. Perhaps the wide spread dissent from the Natural Law in 2010 is evidence that rather than being innate it was just a human construct dependent on various social factors.

The other reason he gives is: "When you think about these differences between the morality of one people and another, do you think that the morality of one people is ever better or worse than that of another? "

This I think appeals to our bias and subjective taste. I think chocolate better than vanilla, Europe better than America but at the same time these are merely my preferences. I think with this question Lewis invites one answer, yes. Because everyone has their preferences. However I'm not so sure if these preferences cross over into an objective order. I haven't finished the book yet so I hope he addresses my questions about the can = must thing.
Hmm. No takers?
Name one successful, longstanding culture in which lying, cheating, disloyalty, murder, jealousy, adultery, dishonor, cursing God and parents, etc., were looked on as good things to be encouraged and cultivated.  It might also be a good idea to distinguish between the peak of a culture and its decline, when some or all of these things are looked at as, if not quite good, at least more acceptable.  Either way, I think the impossibility of finding such a hypothetical culture as that above strongly vindicates Natural Law.
(02-19-2010, 09:26 PM)JonW Wrote: [ -> ]Name one successful, longstanding culture in which lying, cheating, disloyalty, murder, jealousy, adultery, dishonor, cursing God and parents, etc., were looked on as good things to be encouraged and cultivated.  It might also be a good idea to distinguish between the peak of a culture and its decline, when some or all of these things are looked at as, if not quite good, at least more acceptable.  Either way, I think the impossibility of finding such a hypothetical culture as that above strongly vindicates Natural Law.

I will have to do some more reading, but I was more concerned with this:

The reproductive organs primary use is to procreate.
Contraceptives inhibit this function.
Thus contraceptive sex is wrong.

See, that makes sense to me. But then I start applying the same principle to our other faculties and it just seems absurd.

The lungs primary use is to breath.
Smoking inhibits this function.
Thus smoking is wrong.

The eye's primary purpose is to see.
Wearing a blind fold inhibits this function.
Thus wearing a blindfold is wrong.
(02-19-2010, 09:31 PM)Servus_Maria Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-19-2010, 09:26 PM)JonW Wrote: [ -> ]Name one successful, longstanding culture in which lying, cheating, disloyalty, murder, jealousy, adultery, dishonor, cursing God and parents, etc., were looked on as good things to be encouraged and cultivated.  It might also be a good idea to distinguish between the peak of a culture and its decline, when some or all of these things are looked at as, if not quite good, at least more acceptable.  Either way, I think the impossibility of finding such a hypothetical culture as that above strongly vindicates Natural Law.

I will have to do some more reading, but I was more concerned with this:

The reproductive organs primary use is to procreate.
Contraceptives inhibit this function.
Thus contraceptive sex is wrong.

See, that makes sense to me. But then I start applying the same principle to our other faculties and it just seems absurd.

The lungs primary use is to breath.
Smoking inhibits this function.
Thus smoking is wrong.

The eye's primary purpose is to see.
Wearing a blind fold inhibits this function.
Thus wearing a blindfold is wrong.

I'm confused what you are getting at here Servus.  Neither of those things are wrong.  Smoking only inhibits your ability to breathe if you do it in a disorderly amount.  The same can be said for something like eating deep fried candy bars.  There's nothing inherently wrong in it, but if you do it too much your heart will turn to blubber.

And seeing isn't necessary for every single practice.  It's a fun game to play pin the tail on the donkey and inhibit sight.  It would be wrong to blindfold yourself if you were driving or doing something else important.

The difference between this and sex is that sex is a different sort of thing than seeing and breathing.  Firstly, it's voluntary.  Secondly, reducing your ability to procreate goes against a natural law which promotes life.  To inhibit sex is to make a morally wrong action about life just as is blind folding yourself while driving or not breathing so long that you hurt yourself.  There are situations in which putting on a blindfold really affects nothing morally.  The same cannot be said of contraception.
(02-19-2010, 10:29 PM)Walty Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-19-2010, 09:31 PM)Servus_Maria Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-19-2010, 09:26 PM)JonW Wrote: [ -> ]Name one successful, longstanding culture in which lying, cheating, disloyalty, murder, jealousy, adultery, dishonor, cursing God and parents, etc., were looked on as good things to be encouraged and cultivated.  It might also be a good idea to distinguish between the peak of a culture and its decline, when some or all of these things are looked at as, if not quite good, at least more acceptable.  Either way, I think the impossibility of finding such a hypothetical culture as that above strongly vindicates Natural Law.

I will have to do some more reading, but I was more concerned with this:

The reproductive organs primary use is to procreate.
Contraceptives inhibit this function.
Thus contraceptive sex is wrong.

See, that makes sense to me. But then I start applying the same principle to our other faculties and it just seems absurd.

The lungs primary use is to breath.
Smoking inhibits this function.
Thus smoking is wrong.

The eye's primary purpose is to see.
Wearing a blind fold inhibits this function.
Thus wearing a blindfold is wrong.

I'm confused what you are getting at here Servus.  Neither of those things are wrong.  Smoking only inhibits your ability to breathe if you do it in a disorderly amount.  The same can be said for something like eating deep fried candy bars.  There's nothing inherently wrong in it, but if you do it too much your heart will turn to blubber.

And seeing isn't necessary for every single practice.  It's a fun game to play pin the tail on the donkey and inhibit sight.  It would be wrong to blindfold yourself if you were driving or doing something else important.

The difference between this and sex is that sex is a different sort of thing than seeing and breathing.  Firstly, it's voluntary.  Secondly, reducing your ability to procreate goes against a natural law which promotes life.  To inhibit sex is to make a morally wrong action about life just as is blind folding yourself while driving or not breathing so long that you hurt yourself.  There are situations in which putting on a blindfold really affects nothing morally.  The same cannot be said of contraception.

That clears it up a bit. Just to clarify I'm not denying anything the Church teaches, but when I'm trying to understand an argument it helps to look at it from the other side and clear up any objections. Lewis mentions a moral law that runs through every single society and culture, but I can't really think of many moral archetypes other than not hurting another human being and even that isn't evident in most of human history. Can you think of any more? Most societies seem to have differing attitudes to fornication, contraception, homosexuality, religious equality, women, poverty, war, suicide etc. Has the Church actually defined what falls under the natural law?
(02-19-2010, 10:54 PM)Servus_Maria Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-19-2010, 10:29 PM)Walty Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-19-2010, 09:31 PM)Servus_Maria Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-19-2010, 09:26 PM)JonW Wrote: [ -> ]Name one successful, longstanding culture in which lying, cheating, disloyalty, murder, jealousy, adultery, dishonor, cursing God and parents, etc., were looked on as good things to be encouraged and cultivated.  It might also be a good idea to distinguish between the peak of a culture and its decline, when some or all of these things are looked at as, if not quite good, at least more acceptable.  Either way, I think the impossibility of finding such a hypothetical culture as that above strongly vindicates Natural Law.

I will have to do some more reading, but I was more concerned with this:

The reproductive organs primary use is to procreate.
Contraceptives inhibit this function.
Thus contraceptive sex is wrong.

See, that makes sense to me. But then I start applying the same principle to our other faculties and it just seems absurd.

The lungs primary use is to breath.
Smoking inhibits this function.
Thus smoking is wrong.

The eye's primary purpose is to see.
Wearing a blind fold inhibits this function.
Thus wearing a blindfold is wrong.

I'm confused what you are getting at here Servus.  Neither of those things are wrong.  Smoking only inhibits your ability to breathe if you do it in a disorderly amount.  The same can be said for something like eating deep fried candy bars.  There's nothing inherently wrong in it, but if you do it too much your heart will turn to blubber.

And seeing isn't necessary for every single practice.  It's a fun game to play pin the tail on the donkey and inhibit sight.  It would be wrong to blindfold yourself if you were driving or doing something else important.

The difference between this and sex is that sex is a different sort of thing than seeing and breathing.  Firstly, it's voluntary.  Secondly, reducing your ability to procreate goes against a natural law which promotes life.  To inhibit sex is to make a morally wrong action about life just as is blind folding yourself while driving or not breathing so long that you hurt yourself.  There are situations in which putting on a blindfold really affects nothing morally.  The same cannot be said of contraception.

That clears it up a bit. Just to clarify I'm not denying anything the Church teaches, but when I'm trying to understand an argument it helps to look at it from the other side and clear up any objections. Lewis mentions a moral law that runs through every single society and culture, but I can't really think of many moral archetypes other than not hurting another human being and even that isn't evident in most of human history. Can you think of any more? Most societies seem to have differing attitudes to fornication, contraception, homosexuality, religious equality, women, poverty, war, suicide etc. Has the Church actually defined what falls under the natural law?

To my knowledge, the Church has never officially said anything on the matter, but certain philosophers (and some theologians) certainly have.  In fact, Lewis writes a decent amount about it in The Abolition of Man.  That book is more about modern philosophy turning to usurp the Natural Law and replace it with something artificial (Darwinism, Marxism etc.) but it also talks quite a bit about it and contains a short list of tenets of the Natural Law taken from many of the major world's religions.  Have you ever given that book a look?  I'll see if I can dig up any of that list on the internet.
(02-19-2010, 11:49 PM)Walty Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-19-2010, 10:54 PM)Servus_Maria Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-19-2010, 10:29 PM)Walty Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-19-2010, 09:31 PM)Servus_Maria Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-19-2010, 09:26 PM)JonW Wrote: [ -> ]Name one successful, longstanding culture in which lying, cheating, disloyalty, murder, jealousy, adultery, dishonor, cursing God and parents, etc., were looked on as good things to be encouraged and cultivated.  It might also be a good idea to distinguish between the peak of a culture and its decline, when some or all of these things are looked at as, if not quite good, at least more acceptable.  Either way, I think the impossibility of finding such a hypothetical culture as that above strongly vindicates Natural Law.

I will have to do some more reading, but I was more concerned with this:

The reproductive organs primary use is to procreate.
Contraceptives inhibit this function.
Thus contraceptive sex is wrong.

See, that makes sense to me. But then I start applying the same principle to our other faculties and it just seems absurd.

The lungs primary use is to breath.
Smoking inhibits this function.
Thus smoking is wrong.

The eye's primary purpose is to see.
Wearing a blind fold inhibits this function.
Thus wearing a blindfold is wrong.

I'm confused what you are getting at here Servus.  Neither of those things are wrong.  Smoking only inhibits your ability to breathe if you do it in a disorderly amount.  The same can be said for something like eating deep fried candy bars.  There's nothing inherently wrong in it, but if you do it too much your heart will turn to blubber.

And seeing isn't necessary for every single practice.  It's a fun game to play pin the tail on the donkey and inhibit sight.  It would be wrong to blindfold yourself if you were driving or doing something else important.

The difference between this and sex is that sex is a different sort of thing than seeing and breathing.  Firstly, it's voluntary.  Secondly, reducing your ability to procreate goes against a natural law which promotes life.  To inhibit sex is to make a morally wrong action about life just as is blind folding yourself while driving or not breathing so long that you hurt yourself.  There are situations in which putting on a blindfold really affects nothing morally.  The same cannot be said of contraception.

That clears it up a bit. Just to clarify I'm not denying anything the Church teaches, but when I'm trying to understand an argument it helps to look at it from the other side and clear up any objections. Lewis mentions a moral law that runs through every single society and culture, but I can't really think of many moral archetypes other than not hurting another human being and even that isn't evident in most of human history. Can you think of any more? Most societies seem to have differing attitudes to fornication, contraception, homosexuality, religious equality, women, poverty, war, suicide etc. Has the Church actually defined what falls under the natural law?

To my knowledge, the Church has never officially said anything on the matter, but certain philosophers (and some theologians) certainly have.  In fact, Lewis writes a decent amount about it in The Abolition of Man.  That book is more about modern philosophy turning to usurp the Natural Law and replace it with something artificial (Darwinism, Marxism etc.) but it also talks quite a bit about it and contains a short list of tenets of the Natural Law taken from many of the major world's religions.  Have you ever given that book a look?  I'll see if I can dig up any of that list on the internet.

I have the book on my bedside table. I'll have another look.
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