sábado, 8 de octubre de 2016

Lewis saw clearly that without metaphysics we have only physics, by which mere power rules the day.

The Abolition of Mad Men (C.S. Lewis)


How refreshing: C. S. Lewis’s prescription of natural law and objective values Ayn Rand, the Russian-born libertarian novelist and playwright, had no love for C. S. Lewis, whom she described in the margins of her copy of The Abolition of Man (1943) as “abysmal scum” and a “cheap, awful, touchy, social-metaphysical mediocrity.” 

In Abolition, ranked seventh on National Review’s list of the greatest non-fiction books of the 20th century, Lewis defended the objective reality and practical importance of such metaphysical concepts as beauty and goodness. Lewis saw clearly that without metaphysics we have only physics, by which mere power rules the day. 

Instead of a natural moral law “overarching rulers and ruled alike,” we are left with a moral subjectivism in which each is a law unto himself. Yet the very concepts of moral or political freedom, Lewis insisted, make no sense without natural law. This is high theory, perhaps, but theoretical ideas have real-world consequences, and Lewis touched on something enduringly important. 

Consider Lewis’s prescience about the consequences of denying natural law: If there is no objective standard of morality, then the universe is simply a vast empty wasteland. It does not determine what our values ought to be; rather, we project our values onto it. These values would then not be derived from Nature or Nature’s God. 

Instead, they would originate with us. But exactly which part of us would tell us what to value? Not reason, since reason (on this account) does not apprehend anything objectively good in the world. No, it would simply be our base wants and desires, which are arbitrarily shaped by our environment. Ethics would be a hopelessly subjective enterprise, driven ultimately by emotion rather than reason. 

This kind of moral subjectivism often appears, on the surface, to be every bit as dogmatic as the old moralism, but it has a crucial difference: Subjective moral norms are impenetrable to rational scrutiny or argumentation. In a culture that has imbibed this philosophy, public shaming is a more powerful tool than debate, and it is more powerful still to combine shaming with a harsh curtailment of free speech. In many ways, we are seeing this logic play out in our culture in real time.


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