The Four Loves – Chapter 2 (Part 2: “Love of nature”)

Four Loves 2

Four Loves 2

Continuing my notes on The Four Loves, this is the first of two posts which continue my summary of Chapter 2 (“Likings and Loves for the subhuman”). In this post we will be looking at the section which Lewis devotes to the love of nature.

1. Some people have a special love of nature

For some people, perhaps especially for Englishmen and Russians, what we call “the love of nature” is a permanent and serious sentiment. I mean here that love of nature which cannot be adequately classified simply as an instance of our love for beauty.

(a) This is more than simply an appreciation of beauty

Of course many natural objects – trees, flowers and animals – are beautiful.

(i) Either of individual objects…

But the nature-lovers whom I have in mind are not very much concerned with individual beautiful objects of that sort. The man who is distracts them. An enthusiastic botanist is for them a dreadful companion on a ramble. He is always stopping to draw their attention to particulars. N

(ii) …or of vistas

or are they looking for “views” or landscapes. Wordsworth, their spokesman, strongly deprecates this. It leads to “a comparison of scene with scene”, makes you “pamper” yourself with “meagre novelties of colour and proportion”.

(b) For these lovers of nature, it is about the “Spirit” of the place

While you are busying yourself with this critical and discriminating activity you lose what really matters – the “moods of time and season”, the “spirit” of the place. And of course Wordsworth is right. That is why, if you love nature in his fashion, a landscape painter is (out of doors) an even worse companion than a botanist. It is the “moods” or the “spirit” that matter.

(c) Which is why beauty itself per se is the focus

Nature-lovers want to receive as fully as possible whatever nature, at each particular time and place, is, so to speak, saying. The obvious richness, grace and harmony of some scenes are no more precious to them than the grimness, bleakness, terror, monotony, or “visionary dreariness” of others. The featureless itself gets from them a willing response. It is one more word uttered by nature. They lay themselves bare to the sheer quality of every countryside every hour of the day. They want to absorb it into themselves, to be coloured through and through by it.

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The Four Loves – Chapter 2 (“Likings And Loves For The Sub-Human”)

Four Loves 2

Four Loves 2

Continuing my notes on The Four Loves, in this chapter Jack examines the likings/loves we have for things things which are not human (which he calls “subhuman”). In particular, he focuses in on love of nature and love of country. We will not deal with these in this post. Due to the length of the chapter, these will be dealt with in subsequent posts.

Notes and Quotes

1. Before we get to loves, we need to look at likes, which means we need to look at pleasures

…there is a continuity between our elementary likings for things and our loves for people. Since “the highest does not stand without the lowest”* we had better begin at the bottom, with mere likings; and, since to “like” anything means to take some sort of pleasure in it, we must begin with pleasure.

* This is a quotation from “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis

2. We may divide pleasures into two kinds

Now it is a very old discovery that pleasures can be divided into two classes…

(a) Need Pleasures

…those [pleasures] which would not be pleasures at all unless they were preceded by desire… An example… would be a drink of water. This is a pleasure if you are thirsty and a great one if you are very thirsty. But probably no one in the world… ever poured himself out a glass of water and drank it just for the fun of the thing.

(b) Appreciative Pleasures

…[the other kind are] those which are pleasures in their own right and need no such preparation [of desire]. An example… would be the unsought and unexpected pleasures of smell – the breath from a bean-field or a row of sweet-peas meeting you on your morning walk. You were in want of nothing, completely contented, before it; the pleasure, which may be very great, is an unsolicited, super-added gift.

3. There can be complications with dividing up pleasures in this way

(a) You can have both pleasures at the same time

If you are given a coffee or beer where you expect (and would have been satisfied with) water, then of course you get a pleasure of the first kind (allaying of thirst) and one of the second (a nice taste) at the same time.

(b) Addiction can turn pleasure from appreciative-pleasure to need-pleasure

For the temperate man an occasional glass of wine is a treat like the smell of the bean-field. But to the alcoholic…no liquor gives any pleasure except that of relief from an unbearable craving. 

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Friday Frivolity: Progressive Criticizes Jesus

From one of my favourite satire sites…


Mere Christianity – Book III – Chapter 9 (“Charity”)



Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

Notes & Quotes

1. “Charity” has a broader meaning than its current usage.

“‘Charity’ now means simply what used to be called ‘alms’ – that is, giving to the poor. Originally it had a much wider meaning… Charity means “Love, in the Christian sense.” But love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people”

2. Charity is distinct from affection

“I pointed out in the chapter on Forgiveness that our love for ourselves does not mean that we like ourselves. It means that we wish our own good. In the same way Christian Love (or Charity) for our neighbours is quite a different thing from liking or affection”

(a) Affection can aid charity

“Natural liking or affection for people makes it easier to be “charitable” towards them. It is, therefore, normally a duty to encourage our affections – to “like” people as much as we can (just as it is often our duty to encourage our liking for exercise or wholesome food) – not because this liking is itself the virtue of charity, but because it is a help to it”

(b) However, affection can be an obstacle to charity

“…it is also necessary to keep a very sharp look-out for fear our liking for some one person makes us uncharitable, or even unfair, to someone else. There are even cases where our liking conflicts with our charity towards the person we like. For example, a doting mother may be tempted by natural affection to ‘spoil’ her child; that is, to gratify her own affectionate impulses at the expense of the child’s real happiness later on”

3. Feelings and actions are separate, but related

(a) Acts of charity nurture affection

“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did… When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him”

Our motivation will affect the result:

(i) Expecting Gratitude 

“If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his ‘gratitude,’ you will probably be disappointed….”

(ii) Loving another “self”

“But whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less”

(b) Acts of hate nurture hate

“This same spiritual law works terribly in the opposite direction. The Germans, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them: afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them. The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become-and so on in a vicious circle for ever”

3. Acts of love and hate have compound interest

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible”

4. What should we do if we don’t love God?

(a) Do it anyway

“[People] are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it”

(b) God does not mainly care about feelings, but our will

“Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him”

Discussion Questions

1. What is “charity”?

2. How is charity related to and distinct from affection?

3. Why does Jack say that love and hate have “compound interest”?

4. What should we do if we don’t have feelings of love towards God? Why?

C.S. Lewis Doodle

No doodle!

Loving Jesus More

A few days ago I shared a video of St. Teresa of Calcutta and so I thought I’d share a video of one of my other favourite Saints, St. Josemaria, the founder of the Opus Dei.

Wise Words on Wednesday: Love & Responsibility

Pope John-Paul II

The greater the [sense of] responsibility for the [other] person, the more true love is there

– Pope John-Paul II, Love and Responsibility

Wise Words on Wednesday: Wrapped In Love


“God is our clothing. In His love, He wraps and holds us. He enfolds us for love and will never left us go. We are wrapped and held in the embrace of God’s all-pervasive love for each of us, the love that calls us by name, that makes us precious in God’s sight”

– Julian of Norwich

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