Friday, 15 October 2010

Universal Morality

Universal Morality

One of the main theses in Lewis's apologia is that there is a common morality known throughout humanity. In the first five chapters of Mere Christianity Lewis discusses the idea that people have a standard of behaviour to which they expect other people to adhere. This standard has been called Universal Morality or Natural Law. Lewis claims that people all over the earth know what this law is and when they break it. He goes on to claim that there must be someone or something behind such a universal set of principles. (Lindskoog 2001b, p. 144)

These then are the two points that I wanted to make. First, 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 Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in. (Lewis 1952, p. 21)

Lewis also portrays Universal Morality in his works of fiction. In The Chronicles of Narnia he describes Universal Morality as the "Deep magic" which everyone knew. (Lindskoog 2001b, p. 146)

In the second chapter of Mere Christianity Lewis recognizes that "many people find it difficult to understand what this Law of Human Nature [...] is". And he responds first to the idea "that the Moral Law is simply our herd instinct" and second to the idea "that the Moral Law is simply a social convention". In responding to the second idea Lewis notes that people often complain that one set of moral ideas is better than another, but that this actually argues for there existing some "Real Morality" to which they are comparing other moralities. Finally he notes that sometimes differences in moral codes are exaggerated by people who confuse differences in beliefs about morality with differences in beliefs about facts:

Moral universalism
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Moral universalism (also called moral objectivism or universal morality) is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for "all similarly situated individuals"[1], regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexuality, or other distinguishing feature. Moral universalism is opposed to moral nihilism and moral relativism. However, not all forms of moral universalism are absolutist, nor are they necessarily value monist; many forms of universalism, such as utilitarianism, are non-absolutist, and some forms, such as that of Isaiah Berlin, may be value pluralist.

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