In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis says

Even a good emotion, pity, if not controlled by charity and justice, leads through anger to cruelty. Most atrocities are stimulated by accounts of the enemy’s atrocities; and pity for the oppressed classes, when separated from the moral law as a whole, leads by a very natural process to the unremitting brutalities of a reign of terror.

Is there a specific example that Lewis was likely to have in mind? What is the “very natural process” by which pity for oppressed people leads to a reign of terror?

  • 1
    The Russian revolution would seem to fit - a revolution to free the oppressed underclasses that turned into a reign of terror. – DJClayworth Jul 23 '18 at 17:21
  • 1
    @DJClayworth, the French revolution fits, too. Pity for the underclasses leading to the brutal murders of the aristocracy followed by the brutal murders of those who challenged the state. This is a good question, but I don't know the source well enough to know if Lewis is talking about the individual or society. An individual may use society's pity of the underclass to leverage personal ambition, often with a trail of bodies, but would the paragraph apply wholly to an individual? Is there an example of an indivual, feeling pity, leading to just that individual's acts of cruelty? – JBH Jul 23 '18 at 18:20
  • 1
    However, and I apologize for asking, what does this have to do with Christianity? Why did you ask here and not Philosophy.SE? – JBH Jul 23 '18 at 18:22
  • 1
    I'm curious about the answer as informed by Christian theology, not from philosophy per se. – Peter Kagey Jul 23 '18 at 18:26
  • 2
    @JBH Or Anglican, or Reformed, or whatever, given that Lewis was not a Catholic. – KorvinStarmast Jul 24 '18 at 13:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.