First things, as described here by Lewis, reminds me of necessary but not sufficient.
In short, two things are needed to achieve a desired outcome.
But in this case, it matters what order you put them in (think order of operations).
- Can you be the best father by prioritizing your desires?
- Can you be the best employee by putting your self-interest first?
- Can you generate wealth by focusing on a salary, or passive income?
What if the way to get what you want is by getting your priorities straight?
This is a question, as C. S. Lewis put it in an article he published in 1942, of distinguishing between first and second things. “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first. From which it would follow that the question, What things are first? is of concern not only to philosophers but to everyone.” Lewis argues that throughout the twentieth century “our own civilization . . . has been putting itself first. To preserve civilization has been the great aim; the collapse of civilization, the great bugbear.” And if “preserving civilization” really is the first order, then Niebuhr’s Christian Realism is surely the political philosophy to follow. But, Lewis asks, “how if civilization has been imperilled precisely by the fact that we have all made civilization our summum bonum? Perhaps it can’t be preserved in that way. Perhaps civilization will never be safe until we care for something else more than we care for it.”