I am now in Chapter 4, “Morality and Psychoanalysis,” in C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Because this chapter is built around the necessity to accept two premises that I don’t accept: that morality is objective and God driven and that psychoanalysis is accurate, I don’t have much to say about it.
The first thing that I want to discuss is Lewis’s claim that “Either it may be what we call normal: it may consist of the sort of feelings common to all men. Or else it may consist of quite unnatural feelings due to things that have gone wrong in his subconscious…The desire of a man for a woman would be of the first kind: the perverted desire of a man for a man would be of the second.” Since not all men like women, that first definition would suggest that heterosexuality isn’t actually normal. Lewis is assuming that if most men like something, then it must be natural that all men like it. This is a flaw in reasoning.
The next thing I want to discuss is his argument “Imagine three men who go to war. One has the ordinary natural fear of danger that any man has and he subdues it by moral effort and becomes a brave man. Let us suppose that the other two have, as a result of things in their subconscious, exaggerated, irrational fears, which no amount of moral effort can do anything about. Now suppose that a psychoanalyst comes along and cures these two: that is, he puts them both back in the position of the first man.” I have two things to say about this bit. The first is that I don’t call subduing fear a moral action. I call it a required action in certain circumstances, and it may allow moral actions, like saving a child’s life, possible, but it isn’t in itself a moral action. The second is that the mental illnesses that he is talking about aren’t curable. They can be controlled with the help of therapy and, in some cases, drugs, but they can’t be cured. We understand mental illness a lot better today than we did in the 40’s and 50’s, but I think a lot of people are under the impression that issues like depression and anxiety disorders can be made to just go away. This isn’t the case. I will have generalized anxiety disorder for the rest of my life. The best I can hope for is that I will be able to keep it under control and lead a relatively normal life regardless of it.
I think the next chapter will be reviewed in much the same manner, since it is about sexual morality. I doubt I’ll agree with Lewis on sexual morality.