The Eagle and Child: S1E13 – “The Three Parts of Morality”



Today in Mere Christianity, we begin Book III! This new book is entitled “Christian Behaviour”. In this chapter, in addition to learning about the qualities of my ideal woman(!), we discover what C.S. Lewis regarded as “the three parts of morality”. To illustrate these different parts, Jack uses the analogy of a convoy of ships.

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Episode 13: “The Three Parts of Morality” (Download)


— Show Notes —

• My outline for this chapter is available here. Also, we finally have a C.S. Lewis doodle again!

• From now on, Matt will be offering us a quotation each week related to the topic at hand. This week’s quotation comes from a later chapter in Mere Christianity:

Really great moral teachers never do introduce new moralities: it is quacks and cranks who do that” (Mere Christianity)

• The Beer-of-the-week was Franziskaner.

• I read the Collect from the Episcopal Church for the anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death:

“O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty,
we give thee thanks for Clive Staples Lewis,
whose sanctified imagination lighteth fires of faith in young and old alike;
Surprise us also with thy joy
and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus,
who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen”

• A schoolboy is asked to describe what God is like and he says that God is “…the sort of person who is always snooping round to see if anyone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it.” Many people think that morality is there to impede fun, but Lewis explains that morality is there to ensure the successful running of “the human machine”. Matt and I share some analogies related to this: me teaching salsa dancing, Matt’s soccer practice in High School and my failed attempts at CrossFit.

• We discuss Ideals and Idealism vs. Rules and Morality. We explain that Jack thinks it’s unhelpful to speak about “moral ideals” because it implies that these ideals are simply a private taste and therefore not binding on all people.

• We discuss my ideal woman, Amy Farrah Fowler, long-suffering girlfriend of Sheldon Cooper on the TV show, “The Big Bang Theory”. Matt, painfully predictable as always, prefers Penny.

• The other problem with speaking of moral ideals is that it can foster Pride.

• We explain human morality by looking at Lewis’ convoy analogy. In order for the fleet to have a successful voyage, they must have…

1. Group Integrity
The ships must not crash into each other

2. Interior Integrity
The ships must each be in good working order

3. Correct destination
They must all end up at their intended destination

I give each of these areas names:

1. Exterior Dimension
The relationships between humans.

2. Interior Dimension
Each person’s “interior life”

3. Teleological Dimension
Our ultimate purpose. Our purpose depends, quite obviously, on whether or not there is a Creator who made us.

• We look at Jack’s other analogy of a music band:

1. Exterior Dimension
Each instrument must come in at the right time to form a tune, harmonies etc.

2. Interior Dimension
Each person’s instrument is in tune.

3. Teleological Dimension
The right kind of music must be played. Remember Jack’s comment in Book 1 that “The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys”?

• Modern society only focusses on the Exterior Dimension, since it is the most obvious and the area in which we more generally agree. The trouble is that if we stop there we’ll still end up in problems. The “Interior Dimension” will leak out into our Exterior life. Recently there have been a flurry of Hollywood celebrities being charged with sexual misconduct. I explained this by pointing out that for generations society has taught us to pollute our Interior lives with pornography, teaching us to reduce people to objects and the drain the sexual union of all meaning. Are the results of this really that surprising?

• Likewise, we set ourselves up for failure if we ignore the Teleological Dimension. Religion is statement about fact and it makes a big difference whether they’re true or false. If Christianity is true, we are going to live forever…

• Matt mentions the book The Road to Character by David Brooks.

• I’m rather proud I didn’t giggle when Matt spoke about having “duties”. I must be growing up…

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