An ethical life – a good life – is a life that is lived in a community with others. This argument is important to make; the issue of the ethical life in the community can be traced in the literary works by Cicero and C.S. Lewis. It is important to differentiate the views of Lewis who considered the Christian society from the views of Cicero who wrote about the importance of the political community. Lewis stated that “…the one really adequate instrument for learning about God is the whole Christian community, waiting for Him together” (Mere Christianity, book 4.2, 165). Cicero believed the political community to be the origin of everything, the fundamental beginning of the society: “Indeed that is the principle of a city and the seed-bed, as it were, of a political community” (On Duties, book 1, 23).
Depiction of the Ethical Life
The ethical life can be considered a good life; a person who wants to live an ethical life should act morally and in accordance with the natural and moral laws and principles. In this respect, Lewis suggested that people of religion and atheists can recognize the good and evil deeds without God and religious doctrines because the sense of good and evil is the essence of the moral laws; “The Law of Human Nature, or of Right and Wrong, must be something above and beyond the actual facts of human behaviour” (Mere Christianity, book 1.4, 21). It is obvious that Lewis wanted people to live in an ethical community that would exist in accordance with the moral laws. “God is love, and that love works through men – especially through the whole community of Christians” (Mere Christianity, book 4.4, 176). Taking into account the fact that Lewis regarded the Christian community as the whole society which acts under the law of human nature, we can assume that he argued for the ethical life within the Christian community.
Cicero thought the community to be important because “She also prompts men to meet in companies, to form public assemblies and to take part in them themselves” (On Duties, book 1, 35). It means that all wise men should enter the community which is of political nature; “Wisdom is foremost in the sense that it is basic and directive; it includes the understanding of the cosmic community that is a prerequisite for action” (On Duties, book 1, 60). In this respect, Cicero understands the political community as something primary and basic; “…debtors ought to be excused from the money that they owe, are undermining the very foundations of the political community” (On Duties, book 2, 95). The ethical life of the political community was based on political laws, whereas the Christian community originated in the law of human nature and moral principles.
Lewis claims the Christian community to be the origin of the good and the essence of the religion; “And then, after they had been formed into a little society or community, they found God somehow inside them as well” (Mere Christianity, book 4.2, 163). It means that God was the feature of the society rather than an individual; in addition, the community could understand the truth of the universe when its members found God inside them. Cicero introduced the idea that those people who are the members of the political community can perform good deeds through their community; “It is with good reason, therefore, that greater impulses to achieve greater things are aroused in the spirits of those engaged in public life than of those who live quietly” (On Duties, book 1, 29). In this respect, the political community as well as the Christian one was the fundament and the result of good intentions and actions, goals and achievements; the life within the community is the way to meet God and find Him inside them, and to be helpful to the country.
Ethical life is the god life which can be the reason and the result as well; people try to approach God and to be helpful and to share their wisdom with other members of the society. Lewis and Cicero thought the community was an important part of human life and activities. Lewis presented the community as people engaged in the Christian religion; he attempted to explain the significance of the community for its members. Cicero considered the political community an embodiment of wisdom and courage; he believed people to be wise if they were engaged in public matters; according to Cicero, people could perform great deeds more effectively in the conditions of being members of the political community.
Both authors believed that the community is the most appropriate way to achieve some goals and to establish and maintain moral and ethical laws. Lewis considered the Christian community a little society that can be characterized with the help of the concept of moral behavior: “Perfect behaviour may be as perfect gear – changing when we drive” (Mere Christianity, book 3.1, 70). Cicero introduced his little society as a political community that is an engine of all social and political processes in the country.
Cicero, Marcus Tullius. On Duties. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001.