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The Abolition of Man Paperback – April 7, 2015
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C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man purports to be a book specifically about public education, but its central concerns are broadly political, religious, and philosophical. In the best of the book's three essays, "Men Without Chests," Lewis trains his laser-sharp wit on a mid- century English high school text, considering the ramifications of teaching British students to believe in idle relativism, and to reject "the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kinds of things we are." Lewis calls this doctrine the "Tao," and he spends much of the book explaining why society needs a sense of objective values. The Abolition of Man speaks with astonishing freshness to contemporary debates about morality; and even if Lewis seems a bit too cranky and privileged for his arguments to be swallowed whole, at least his articulation of values seems less ego-driven, and therefore is more useful, than that of current writers such as Bill Bennett and James Dobson. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
"A Real Triumph." -- Owen Barfield
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Lewis believes in Natural Laws - laws of morality, such as duty to children, parents, elders, the "golden rule," mercy, magnanimity, justice - which have been accepted both throughout history and by varied cultures. Lewis calls these laws "the Tao."
The problem as Lewis outlines it, is that if nothing is self-evident (i.e., true), then nothing can be proven. And, if nothing is obligatory because it is self-evident, then nothing is obligatory for its own sake, i.e., because it is true. If nothing is obligatory, then rules of conduct are subject to pleasure or whim and are enforced only by power of some over others. Ultimately, this robs of us our humanity. Lewis says, "A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery."
The consequence of rejecting the idea of universal truth, or "the Tao," is the destruction of the society which rejects it. This is, as Lewis says, tragically comical because "we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible."
Viewing everything through the lens of political correctness and equal outcomes, and by chopping those who achieve down to size, our political leaders are governing precisely as they were educated. They will continue to pinch, tuck and mold man so that he is in *their* image, and no longer in the image of the Creator; no longer bound by what Lewis calls the Tao - the law instilled in man from the beginning.
The two most telling quotes from this work:
"We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful."
"At the moment, then, of Man's victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subjected to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely 'natural' -- to their irrational impulses. Nature, untrammeled by values, rules the Conditioners and, through them, all humanity. Man's conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature's conquest of Man."
If the 20th century was horrific because of the loud bang of its wars, the 21st century may well be more horrific from the faint whisper of its surrender. Out of all Lewis' works, this is probably the most unsettling.
Like Mere Christianity, this book is based on things he said orally, in this case a lecture. Lewis argued that the danger we face in society is a reductionistic Scientism which ends up turning Man himself into just another object of Nature and thus totally subsumed by it. Basicallly, the paradox is that as humanity increases in technological and scientific knowledge in order to gain mastery over Nature, it also gives up a little bit of its humanity as well until human beings themselves are considered only products of Nature to be shaped at the will of their Molders. He sees a Brave New World-type situation emerging if things don't turn around.
All this stems from reducing objective statements like, "This flower is majestically beautiful," to "He merely gets a happy feeling when he looks at the flower." In other words, it is taking what is an objective statement about the reality of the flower and turning it to just a subjective feeling. This gets worse when applied to moral statements. The Moral Law or the Tao that all societies have known (but of course none has fully followed) is completely denied by the above debunkers of aesthetic statements. Certainly not compeletely denied since the debunkers have values themselves that they believe are exempt from the debunking process. But if reductionism has its way, it will be more difficult for these debunkers to protect the pieces of the Tao that they do believe in from the onslaught.
This is a very short book but a very important one given our current state of conflict between various worldviews.
I gave it stars for the content. However, i suggest ordering from a different publisher, because these pages are cut poorly and glue bound poorly. They are all different widths and literally look like they were hand cut by a 5 year old. So this book is not bookshelf quality - Sadly, it barely withstood one read through.