For about a hundred years we have so concentrated on one of the virtues—‘kindness’ or mercy—that most of us do not feel anything except kindness to be really good or anything but cruelty to be really bad. Such lopsided ethical developments are not uncommon, and other ages too have had their pet virtues and curious insensibilities.

Can anyone simplify this quote, in a passage from C.S. Lewis's "The Problem of Pain"?

  • From the extract, it's not clear which virtue CS Lewis thinks we should be valuing more highly than kindness, but I'd guess that the rest of the essay explains why it's actually more important to be honest than kind, or just than kind, or pious than kind, or something of that sort.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Oct 24, 2022 at 12:17

3 Answers 3


Different ages have different pet virtues and curious insensibilities and it is not uncommon.


"For about a hundred years we have been obsessed with one of the virtues, and that is ‘kindness’ (which we otherwise call “mercy”). This means that most of us think that only kindness is really good or only cruelty is really bad. Such biased views of the meaning of virtues are not uncommon, and, in the past, people have had their favourite virtues and have, unaccountably, ignored some virtues.


I always recommend to split such long phrases into shorter ones. I also simplified some constructions. Hope it's useful.

For about a hundred years, we regarded kindness as the most important virtue. As a result, for most of us feeling that we're kind equates with thinking that we're good, and vice versa. Such patterns are not uncommon, and other ages have had similair distorted perceptions, too.

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