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The Abolition Of Man, Or Reflections On Education With Special Reference To The Teaching Of English In The Upper Forms Of School

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Lewis uses his graceful prose, delightful humor, and keen understanding of the human mind to challenge our notions about how to best teach our children--and ourselves--not merely reading and writing, but also a sense of morality.


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Lewis uses his graceful prose, delightful humor, and keen understanding of the human mind to challenge our notions about how to best teach our children--and ourselves--not merely reading and writing, but also a sense of morality.

30 review for The Abolition Of Man, Or Reflections On Education With Special Reference To The Teaching Of English In The Upper Forms Of School

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    When things get bad, I take out the bourbon. When, as occasionally happens, time drags on and things don't get any better, I put the bourbon away and take out C. S. Lewis. His books are short, readable, and filled with an uncanny amount of wisdom. His genius, and the reason he's always been a comfort to me, lies in his ability to convince me that the world as it appears to be, the world that seems so oppressive, is not the whole story. The lifeline of depression, the fuel from which it draws all When things get bad, I take out the bourbon. When, as occasionally happens, time drags on and things don't get any better, I put the bourbon away and take out C. S. Lewis. His books are short, readable, and filled with an uncanny amount of wisdom. His genius, and the reason he's always been a comfort to me, lies in his ability to convince me that the world as it appears to be, the world that seems so oppressive, is not the whole story. The lifeline of depression, the fuel from which it draws all of its power, is the mind's misguided belief that it is able to encompass the complete truth about past, present, and future. C. S. Lewis invites the mind into a conversation, using humor, commonplace observations, and logic. He welcomes you into a warm place, like visiting your grandparents at Christmas when you were eight years old. He takes hold of the worldview that led you to him. With gentle, honest, understanding hands he wraps his palms around the neck of that worldview and proceeds to strangle it until it is dead, dead, dead. Lewis is known as a Christian writer. Most people I know want absolutely nothing to do with Christianity, to the extent that, for example, a friend of mine told me that despite my fervent recommendation, he refused to listen to anything by Leonard Cohen because he "heard he sang about religion." Though this particular book is not about Christianity, if you are of the camp that really doesn't want to hear the first word from someone who is religious, you may find this book annoying. Be forewarned. The book is divided into three sections. The first, "Men Without Chests," begins with an example taken from a grade school grammar textbook. In the example, the authors of the textbook imply that there are no sublime things in the world, only feelings of sublimity within us. There is nothing that really deserves respect or castigation, no right responses or ways of thinking about things: there is only opinion. Against this idea Lewis brings to bear the moral and ethical traditions of basically every culture that has ever existed. He lists all the rather startling similarities between, for example, Confucianism, Greek culture, Hinduism, and Jewish and Christian moral tradition. I'm talking about things like finding joy in children, having reverence for old people, respecting your neighbor, being courageous, helping those less fortunate, protecting your family, and not lying about other people for your own gain. In fact, in a long appendix at the end of the book, Lewis takes each of these ideas and gives examples of it in a myriad of different cultures throughout history. Lewis calls this group of ethical ideas "The Tao." And it is at this point that the book gets really startling. First, these ideas are of a dual nature. They are somehow natural to man (exemplified by their reappearance throughout history), yet at the same time they must be taught from one generation to the next. I see this in my three year old son. Through great effort, again and again, I try to teach him to respect other people. Not to, for example, hit other people when he is angry. The behavior I'm trying to teach is, most emphatically, not what comes naturally to him. Yet even in my own personal example I can see the duality Lewis talks about. What arguments can I make to dissuade him from hitting someone out of anger? "If you do it and I see you, I will punish you"? But that's not an argument against doing it, it's an argument against getting caught. "How would you like it if someone did that to you?" But we're not talking about someone doing that to him, we're talking about him doing it to someone else. (He pointed this out, by the way.) In the end, and it has taken me quite a bit of thought to understand this, I have to actually convince him that it's wrong. And this is something different than logical argument. In order to do it, there must be some latent sense of...what? Justice? Proportion? Something that already exists within him that my words can latch on to. Something already within him that the word "wrong" speaks to. So the duality is there, present in the facts that I a) have to teach him this and, b) can only make him really understand it and feel it by appealing to something which he already possesses and carries with him. The main point is this: the idea of what one ought to do cannot be brought before the judge of logic. Lewis made me realize that the word "ought," used so often in our culture, is in fact one of the strangest words ever. What does it really mean? Fortunately (and here comes another startling argument from Lewis) great thinkers like Aristotle and Plato have already thought over this idea. What is "ought"? Whatever it is it's the same thing, it comes from the same place in our thoughts (or our bodies), that our appreciation of good art comes from. The organ used to judge beauty is one and the same as the organ that tells you what you ought to do. When I read this, I almost couldn't believe it. Of course, I've heard this argument before: I remember writing "What the fuck are you talking about?" in the margins of my copy of Plato's dialogues when he brought up much the same argument. At the time, I thought it was completely ridiculous. But reading it now, in the present, it seemed startlingly true. I thought back to some of the times I've had a strong sense of "ought". Years ago, exhausted and tired, my girlfriend and I were driving home from a late night movie. Rounding the curve of a deserted Austin freeway at three in the morning, our car passed a lone truck, sitting still by the side of the road, rammed into one of those gargantuan streetlights they've put up every 100 feet or so. The streetlight had broken at its base and fallen directly on top of the cab of the truck. In the compressed seconds after the image of the truck flashed by, the following thoughts went through my mind: I ought to pull over this car, run over there, and do what I can to help. I don't have a cell phone. I don't have any medical training. There's nothing I can do. I'm really tired. Somebody else with a cell phone will be along in a minute or two. Could I really make any kind of difference? What if there's a lot of blood and I have to take him to the hospital? I don't even know if there's anybody in that truck. While all these thoughts were going on in my head, my stomach was fluttering with worry. But in between...in between my stomach and my head, there was another place: the chest. What we often refer to as the heart. While one part of me was fluttering with emotion, and another part was dithering with logic, this third part spoke its solution with an almost harmonic simplicity. I mean that though my chest (my heart) spoke a single answer, it felt as if this answer were made of a number of unified objects or notes or ideas. Like when someone strikes an e-major on a well-tuned guitar. That, I think, is the "ought" that Lewis is talking about. And he is right: it does come from the chest. It is the chest. Compare this to the experience of viewing something really beautiful, such as a cathedral or sculpture or a vast rock wall, full of shades and contrast, carved out over centuries by falling water. Lewis claims that you will realize, perhaps to your surprise, that the two feelings come from exactly the same organ. The more I read of books written from the 1900s onward, the more I become convinced that we are all in the middle of a fierce debate that started somewhere around that time, and that continues on to this day. This debate is over the future of mankind, the meaning of progress and, in the end, what it means to be human. The remainder of the book concerns this debate. During Lewis's time eugenics was popular. One hopes that the current reader will regard, as Lewis did, the concept with great distaste. But however unpopular eugenics may be at the moment, Lewis points out that it is the concepts and philosophical ideas behind eugenics that are what are truly hideous. Any vision of a perfect utopian society, or of any real progression toward it, must hold somewhere within its core, whether acknowledged or not, the idea that people must be changed. People must be made "better." And the only way to do this, in the end, is to strike at the heart, the chest, inside each person. The only way is to attempt to change that organ, that function, that I have been trying to describe. This is the meaning of the title of the book. Lewis argues that the essence of what man is can be found in that organ in the chest, the heart. And in order to achieve utopia, men in power are more than willing to modify, dull, or, if necessary, rip out the heart in order to achieve their goal. And when they do so, they will discover, to their (perhaps) horror, that what they have left is not a man at all. Examples of this kind of coerced modification of the chest can be listed endlessly. To use the media to present something as ugly which people never thought of as ugly before. Or to make people think of certain other people as weak and diseased who are not. Or to deliberately try to make people afraid out of all proportion to what they have to fear. Or to attempt to redefine what people ought to do, based on the recommendations of some experts. Or to paint some people as corrupt and evil, and as the cause of the problems of society. In the end, the ugliness comes from looking at another person and judging them: judging the "ought" they have come to within themselves. That, after all, is what you are doing every time you say you need to make a person (or group of people) better. As it is, this would just be ugliness. But when the massive power and coercion of the state becomes involved, as it always seems to, then the ugliness turns into something much, much worse. The course of history over the last century will provide plenty of examples, all provided courtesy of people whose goal was to make mankind better. Of course, now that we all recognize how horrific all of that was, we are no longer engaged in the business of making people better. We are no longer involved in using the pronouncements of doctors, scientists, famous people, and intellectuals to dictate through force or influence what people ought to do, or how they ought to think. Nor do we disparage those with ideas different from the common culture. Nor does society lean on businesses, artists, and families to believe and behave in certain ways. Now, we recognize that a diverse, vibrant society takes all kinds of viewpoints. As long as none of those viewpoints profess or seem to profess any wrong ideas, all voices are welcome. We invite everyone to join in the national discussion about which of the many new laws being proposed are the best ones to get people to behave more like they ought to, and to move our society into a better future. As if all this weren't enough content for a rather flimsy paperback, there is yet another startling argument that Mr. Lewis makes. He calls our attention to the nature of science. Accepting that science has certainly given us many wonderful things, can we say anything about what, exactly, science is? Science is a way of looking at material objects in which we deliberately dismiss some aspects of those objects. Not only spiritual or emotional aspects, but also even physical aspects that are not of concern to the nature of our inquiry. In science, we deliberately blind ourselves to the whole of something, in order to better understand some part of it. Many would argue, perhaps truthfully, that a clear understanding of the parts leads to a better understanding of the whole. Certainly, a clearer understanding of the parts allows us in many cases to manipulate the whole. Through a really inspired comparison of Bacon's New Organon to Goethe's Faust, Mr. Lewis argues that, in doing this, we are making a kind of deal. The result will be increased ability to get the stuff we want: medicines, airplanes, cheap food, more leisure time, sex without pregnancy. And what are we giving up to get all this stuff that we want? Are we giving up anything? Before I read this book, my answer would have been: "No. What could we possibly be giving up?" Now, I'm not so sure. Mr. Lewis states emphatically that he is not anti-science. He just wants us to be clear about what we are doing when we embrace science whole-heartedly. I think that's fair. If we pretend we are not making a choice when in fact we are, then somewhere down the line a point is going to arise when there are consequences that we didn't realize. I think that time is now. I think the fact that we have made this choice, and we didn't realize we were making a choice at all, has resulted in many of the conflicting views in our current society. What are we giving up? We are giving up our view of the whole object: the object with all of its philosophical, emotional, and spiritual aspects intact. This is, in actuality, the object as it appears to us before we apply the scalpel of science to it. Yes, science can help us find out things, but only by a deliberate destruction, in our minds and often in physical reality, of the whole of the thing. Take the following story as an example. In college, during a cat dissection, my partner and I were working on the large intestine. The room smelled of formaldehyde and our cat was stretched on a stainless steel table, his four paws tied with rope to allow us the easiest access to cut into his chest cavity. Our lab assistant came over. "Oh, let me show you this," he said. We stood back. He gathered the intestines in his hand and plopped them out onto the table beside the cat's body. There was a thin membrane covering them which he proceeded to pull off and stretch out. It stretched like a balloon, him pulling the transparent membrane between his hands. There were blue and red vessels (colored with some kind of dye they'd put into the cat) running through the membrane that reminded me of scraggly branches of trees. He held the membrane up, still stretched between his fingers. I saw his face on the other side of the membrane, staring at the criss-crossing vessels. "Isn't it absolutely beautiful?" he said. It was beautiful. But suddenly I was hit with the strangeness of what we were doing. That membrane was never meant to be stretched out like that: between someone's hands in a lab room. Those veins were never meant to be that color. That cat, whatever he was, whatever personality he had, was gone forever. The cat as he had been presented to the world, a living organism with certain habits and tendencies, in fact a unique thing in all the history of the world, had been destroyed. This was done so that we could learn something that ostensibly was about all cats, and was about ourselves as well: how the organs in mammals function. I am not against dissections. I'm glad I did it and I would do it again. My only point is that a choice was made. Our minds were made to focus on certain aspects of the cat at the expense of others. Mr. Lewis asks whether we don't lose some of our essential humanness in viewing things in this way. Do a dissection once and you might think about the things I thought about. Do it a thousand times and what happens? I chose a cat dissection as my example because I thought it might carry more weight with modern readers, distant as they are from slaughterhouses. But Mr. Lewis is actually talking about every aspect of science. I doubt anyone who reads this has performed a thousand dissections. But I would wager that there are things that everyone (including myself) who has grown up in our science-worshipping culture has thought about only scientifically a thousand times a thousand times. And Mr. Lewis argues, I think rightly, that this must have the same effect. I read this book four times, thought about it for weeks, and tried to boil down what I thought about it into something succinct. Obviously, I was unable to do so. Looking back over the review now, I see that I have, for example, neglected Mr. Lewis's incredibly profound statement that all that we think of as evil is simply the good of a part of The Tao magnified in importance so that it dwarfs all the other aspects of The Tao. That thought alone is worth the price of admission. There are probably five other main points of the book like this: points that I have missed. This book is simply too full of interesting points for any review of mine to do it justice. Five stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Excellent. Read various times. Just listened to an audio version in the fall of 2015. Although I have read this book multiple times, the last time through on audio, I noticed that the last section contained layers I had not ever really understood. I listened to it again (Jan. 2016) with that in mind, and yep, definite layers. This book is deep. Listened to it again in October of 2016. And yet again in July of 2017.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Allie

    I have so many quotes marked from this book that I might as well just memorize the entire thing. This book alone introduced me to the writings of C.S. Lewis, and I am forever indebted to perceptions. Virtue, as he defines it, is the ability to recognize what is true, good and beautiful. To be able to admit that something has value. Difficult in our world. How did we get to the point that recognizing the goodness or beauty in something or someone else makes us feel as though part of our own soul is I have so many quotes marked from this book that I might as well just memorize the entire thing. This book alone introduced me to the writings of C.S. Lewis, and I am forever indebted to perceptions. Virtue, as he defines it, is the ability to recognize what is true, good and beautiful. To be able to admit that something has value. Difficult in our world. How did we get to the point that recognizing the goodness or beauty in something or someone else makes us feel as though part of our own soul is being worn away? So backwards.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Assigned in Ralph Wood's Oxford Christians class at Baylor (Fall 2014). Assigned for certain faculty at Regent (2019–20). Excellent. Lewis said that this was his favorite book of his non-fiction writings. "The Green Book" is Lewis's way of referring to Alex King and Martin Ketley's The Control of Language: A Critical Approach to Reading and Writing. Abolition is the nonfiction version of That Hideous Strength (see here for some connections). See Plodcast, Episode #6, where Wilson recommends readi Assigned in Ralph Wood's Oxford Christians class at Baylor (Fall 2014). Assigned for certain faculty at Regent (2019–20). Excellent. Lewis said that this was his favorite book of his non-fiction writings. "The Green Book" is Lewis's way of referring to Alex King and Martin Ketley's The Control of Language: A Critical Approach to Reading and Writing. Abolition is the nonfiction version of That Hideous Strength (see here for some connections). See Plodcast, Episode #6, where Wilson recommends reading Lewis's Discarded Image (or the condensed article in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature) and Planet Narnia. Here's a helpful link for quotes and allusions in this book. See here for Latin uses in AoM. See Mark Ward's review here. TGC has some helpful drawings. Audio available here. Alternate title: Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools Book epigraph from Confucius (Analects II.16): "The Master said, He who sets to work on a different strand destroys the whole fabric." Ch. 1: Men without Chests epigraph [from the 14/15c medieval poem/carol "Unto us is born a son"]: "So he [Herod] sent the word to slay / And slew the little childer" [—> interesting to ask who is Herod, and who are the children, and what is being done to them] 1: issue of elementary textbooks; charitable reading (also pp. 4–5, 11-13)—authors didn't intend harm (but CSL doesn't have anything good to say about them) 2: "Gaius" and "Titius" [G&T] and The Green Book 2: quotation of Coleridge (waterfall is "sublime" or "pretty") —> G&T say comments about the waterfall's sublimity are only statements of personal feelings/emotions (but not objective, fitting comments on reality) 3–4: This practice leads to absurdities (If someone says, "You are contemptible," should we take such a comment as reflective of reality, or only that the person feels that way?). 4–5: Young readers are taught two things: 1) predicates of value convey the emotional state of the speaker, and 2) such statements are not important. 1': Students will extend such a lesson to other predicates of value (whether or not the authors of such predicates desire their comments to be indicative of their personal emotional state). 2': The use of only emphasizes the unimportance of the feeling/emotion. 4–5: The G&T lesson isn't stated explicitly, but it's teaching (conditioning) students nonetheless. 6–7: example of bad advertisement writing; missed opportunity to put bad writing next to good writing (e.g., Johnson, Wordsworth) and show why bad writing is bad (hard to do p. 13) 8–9: The effect is that students are taught to debunk lofty emotions evoked by nature ("debunking" language continues throughout the chapter). Such emotions are "contrary to reason and contemptible." 9: two ways to avoid the effect of such bad travel ads: 1) have real sensibility, or 2) be a "trousered ape" (cf. political ad: those immune are true patriots and cowards [cf. a Joel Osteen book: those immune are solid Christians and atheists]); G&T are cutting out the student's soul 10–11: similar debunking example with horses (by "Orbilius"); those immune are lovers of horses and the "urban blockhead" 11–12: G&T probably weren't trying to completely sweep away traditional values. 12–13: propagation vs. propaganda (see p. 23) 12–14: G&T have unintentionally slipped into propaganda because 1) explaining why bad writing is bad is difficult; 2) they think the world is too swayed by "emotional propaganda" (Lewis: people need to be rescued from emotional propaganda and rescued from "cold vulgarity" [not being awakened to noble emotions]; don't starve students of good emotions); and 3) they don't believe that sentiments are reasonable (see pp. 19–20). 13-14: "The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. . . . [A] hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head." [Lewis believes that the debunking of G&T's textbook hardens students' hearts. See the Herod epigraph.] 14–19: digression on how G&T (and their "educational predicament") are different from earlier educators; earlier educators believed that emotional reactions could be consonant with reality (other words Lewis uses are congruous, merit, just, ordinate, appropriate, due, according to, participation, harmony, conform, reasonable, fits, agreement, in accord [thru p. 21]) 16–17: Augustine on virtue as ordered loves (ordo amoris); Aristotle on education (liking what one ought to like); Plato's Republic (training is necessary to hate the ugly and love the beautiful) 17: Hinduism's (India) Rta: the order revealed in the cosmos, morality, and temple ceremonies; connect with satya/truth (correspondence to reality) 18: The Law is true (Ps. 119:151; see note 19 on pp. 104–05: "emeth"). 18-19: Chinese Tao ("the Way"—Ch. 2); Lewis takes all talk of objective values (Plato, Aristotle, Stoicism, Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism) and calls it "the Tao"; emotional responses should be in accord with nature (the heart should obey the head) 19–21: For G&T, feelings and facts [heart and head] "confront one another, and no rapprochement is possible." The educational predicament/problem is that G&T stand without the Tao instead of within it. 21: The task of education (from within the Tao) is to train students to have appropriate responses. Those "without" (on the outside of) the Tao must either debunk the sentiments or else make up another reason for the response (see the following example). 21-22: example of a Roman father teaching his son that it's objectively sweet and fitting (ducle et decorum) to die for one's country (also p. 30)—G&T can't agree in principle (either they debunk the emotion, or else they must say that the emotion is useful but not objectively true—see p. 21) 23: old/traditional education initiates to reality (propagation); new/modern education conditions (propaganda); G&T actually fit more with the debunking (they don't like propaganda) 24–26: training in virtue; even if G&T could justify virtues theoretically, the virtues need to be integrated (by training) into the intellect and emotions so that in real-life situations, virtue is just what comes out by instinct; Plato's Republic deals with the reason-spirit-appetite relationship (The head rules the belly through the chest); just head = mere spirit, and just belly = mere animal—humans have the middle/chest part, which makes them distinct from spirits and animals; G&T produce Men without Chests (the humanizing part) 26: famous gelding quote (we demand virtues from adults in society, yet we let G&T teach our kids) Ch. 2: The Way 27: Accepting G&T's education will practically result in the destruction of society, although this in itself isn't iron-clad proof that it's wrong. But there are theoretical difficulties with G&T too. (Ajax prayer to Zeus in Iliad, Book 17) 27-28: As subjective at G&T seem, they still (ironically) want to produce a certain thinking in their pupils (at least for practical purposes, if not transcendent/objective ones). 28–29: G&T clearly want their readers to agree with them, not simply to conclude that the book is a collection of G&T's subjective emotions. G&T clearly approve and disapprove of certain values (see n1 on pp. 105–06). Their skepticism of values, therefore, is shallow, because they hold to values "in the background." (See pp. 105–06n1 for lists of what G&T approve/disapprove of.) 29ff.: Lewis will speculate about what would happen if emotion and religion really were stripped away. [CSL's method is very presuppositional in that he pushes the presuppositions (what's "in the background") to their logical conclusions. See p. 72 where's he's explicit about this process.] 30–32: Lewis keeps the "death for a good cause" topic to make his point [remember that AoM was published in 1943 during WWII], and he supposes that an "Innovator" [sarcastic] strips away emotions/sentiments to get to the "ground" of particular values. But when you strip away the sentiments, no motivation is left; it's no more or less rational to resist sacrificing oneself than to consent to sacrifice oneself. You can't move from a factual proposition to a conclusion without a mediating ought; the indicative/is doesn't automatically imply the imperative/do (see p. 37). 32: The only way around this problem (for all of us) is to acknowledge that "oughts" can be rational; the only alternative is to abandon the search for a rational motivation (the Innovator has set out to destroy the first option, so he is likely to choose this second option). 33ff.: Instinct 33: The Innovator rejects a rational core in favor of "Instinct" (as a basis for ethical "oughts"). This, along with contraceptives, paves the way for a new sexual morality. 34: Instinct doesn't really explain anything. If it's innate and widely felt, we don't need The Green Book to tell us to do what's inevitable (see pp. 106–09 for Lewis's objections to I. A. Richards's argument that we can construct a value system based on satisfying impulses). 35–36: The same problem exists with Instinct: There's no ought. Even the Innovator has to agree that some impulses (ones destructive to society) should be controlled. We should obey each instinct just as we should obey each person—that is to say, we have no reason to. Additionally, we can't follow each instinct, because some of them conflict. So how do we choose without an arbitrator distinct from Instinct? (See pp. 106–09n2 for objections to I. A. Richards's theory of value based on satisfying impulses.) 37: If our "deepest" instincts are actually something external that gives instincts value, then the project to discover value that is derived from itself has failed. If our "deepest" instincts are just the ones we feel strongly about, then it's just a feeling that has little significance. We're at the same dilemma (p. 32): either there's an outside imperative, or we're stuck with the indicative. (See pp. 109–11 for Lewis's application of his argument to Waddington's attempt to base value on fact [whatever occurs is valuable; "existence is its own justification"]. Basically, Waddington would have to approve of traitors [quislings] and Nazi puppets [men of Vichy]. Lewis references Johnson's Rasselas) 37–39: Lewis questions whether we even have an instinct to care for posterity or preserve the species. Most of us are concerned with self-preservation or immediate family preservation (species preservation is too abstract). 39: repeated statement that neither factual propositions (see p. 31) nor Instinct (see p. 33) provide a basis for a system of values 39: Confucius, Jesus, and Locke all say things consistent with the Tao 39–40 (analogy): practical principles (re: posterity, society) within the Tao : the world of action :: axioms : the world of theory 40: "If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved. Similarly if nothing is obligatory for its own sake, nothing is obligatory at all." 41: Ironically, any attack of the Tao (objective truths) requires some reliance on it (or else the attack is baseless). [See Wilson's debate with Hitchens. An atheist can't complain that religion is evil, because an atheist has no basis for evil. By what standard does an atheist call anything evil?] 41–43: The Innovator (outside the Tao) has no warrant for picking and choosing some values (feeding and clothing people) while debunking others (justice, honor). 43: Other names for the Tao include Natural Law, Traditional Morality, etc. 43–44: The Tao is the only source of value judgments, and any attempt to raise a new system (ideology) is simply borrowing from the Tao. Ideological rebellion against the Tao is like branches rebelling against the tree: to succeed is to fail. 44–46: Not all traditional morality is correct, but criticism and confronting contradictions must occur from within the system (organic/advance), not from without (surgical/innovation). 46–47: Moving from a Confucian teaching to a Christian one is appropriate. Discarding everything for Nietzschean nihilism is absurd. "From within the Tao itself comes the only authority to modify the Tao." 48: An open mind is useful only for non-ultimate things. "Outside the Tao there is no ground for criticizing either the Tao or anything else." 48–49: No one can demand that the Tao provide credentials. Foundational things don't have foundations. 49–50: CSL isn't trying to prove theism; he's making a logical point that ultimate values are absolute—there's nothing below them that provide more of a foundation. 50–51: The penultimate paragraph is a question CSL poses from a modern perspective (it's not Lewis proposing this). The proposition is that the human conscience may be like anything else: useful to a point in human history, but eventually bypass-able. 51: CSL will address this position in the final lecture (Ch. 3). See the rest of the review here.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dean

    Published in the 1940ths this is a work of a brilliant mind!!! C. S. Lewis "The Abolition of Man" is also a timeless wake up call to all of us.. What does it means to be human? What about honor? Which values needs to be held up? Must we defend or surrender our way of life? For sure a work needed to be reread again and again.. Entertains and teach at the same time!! I would say the right book for this time!!! Highly recommendable.. Dean;) Published in the 1940ths this is a work of a brilliant mind!!! C. S. Lewis "The Abolition of Man" is also a timeless wake up call to all of us.. What does it means to be human? What about honor? Which values needs to be held up? Must we defend or surrender our way of life? For sure a work needed to be reread again and again.. Entertains and teach at the same time!! I would say the right book for this time!!! Highly recommendable.. Dean;)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Werner

    This is a very short --but pithy-- book, with actually only 113 pages, and only the first 81 of those make up the main body of the text; the rest are the Appendix and end-notes (mostly documenting sources). The three main chapters are the texts of the three Riddell Memorial Lectures delivered on successive evenings in February 1943 at the Univ. of Durham's King's College. It's sub-titled "Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools," s This is a very short --but pithy-- book, with actually only 113 pages, and only the first 81 of those make up the main body of the text; the rest are the Appendix and end-notes (mostly documenting sources). The three main chapters are the texts of the three Riddell Memorial Lectures delivered on successive evenings in February 1943 at the Univ. of Durham's King's College. It's sub-titled "Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools," starts with a critique of some aspects of a 1939 British high school textbook, The Control of Language: A Critical Approach to Reading and Writing (although Lewis didn't name the book), and is cataloged by most U.S. libraries that have it with books about education. However, the real focus is on fundamental philosophical questions of value and morality, which of course necessarily underlie whatever approach one takes to education, but which underlie every other aspect of human life as well. By 1943, the British intellectual establishment, like their counterparts everywhere else in the Western world, had pretty much totally embraced the view that the concept of right and wrong has no objective validity, and that human emotional, affective responses to persons, things or situations in the world are purely biochemically determined reactions, with no legitimacy apart from whatever evolutionary survival value they might have (or formerly have had) for the human species as a whole. The task of education and of social engineering generally, in this view, is to systematically debunk transcendent ethical values and whatever emotions support them. Lewis' message here is a root-and-branch rejection of this view, and a thumbnail case for debunking the would-be debunkers. (Since the establishment consensus in 2020 is the same as it was in 1943, with the only differences being that it now has, if anything, more political power, less willingness to tolerate opposition, and the benefit of nearly 80 more years of time to further its mission of social and cultural demolition, it's clear that the debate set forth here is as relevant as ever.) Basically, to paraphrase and condense the contents of these lectures in my own words, Lewis' contention is that there is an underlying Natural Law of right and wrong, wholesome human relations, and appropriate response to the beauty and majesty of the natural world and universe, the existence of which can not be demonstrated by reason (though it is not contrary to reason), but which rather has to form the first axiom of moral reasoning, and which is intuitively perceptible by the inborn human conscience. (This has a similarity, as Lewis recognizes, to "instinct," the existence of which his opponents admit, but transcends the idea of purely biochemical instinct for evolutionary survival value.) This Natural Law, which Lewis here (as he does sometimes elsewhere) calls the Tao, has been recognized as valid throughout human history by cultures around the world, with considerable unanimity as to its basic concepts. Whether or not this Tao derives ultimately from Divine revelation (although Lewis himself believed it did, as he asserts in other writings) is immaterial; the important thing is that it exists as the bedrock postulate of reality, however you explain it, and conveys information about moral truth that we neglect at our peril. In his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick suggests that the basic difference between his androids and humans is that the latter can feel genuine empathy for their fellow humans and other living creatures, while androids can not. Though they're very different writers writing decades apart, Lewis here is saying something similar. Natural feelings of love, pity, respect, reverence, family affection, patriotism tempered by general fellow-feeling for all humans, delight in beauty are the things that make us truly human, more so than the dispassionate operations of our reason, and which mediate the demands of reason to our bodies, which by themselves wouldn't be anything but animal. Annihilating human capacity for these kinds of emotions produces "men without chests" (alluding to the idea of the heart as the seat of emotion), and really would, for all practical purposes, mean the "abolition of Man" as genuinely human. (He's using "Man" here generically, of male and female humankind, and all readers in 1943 would have taken it that way.) He also suggests that the social engineering that brings about the creation of such post-humans is not an elevation of humanity in general, but simply an elevation of the engineers to absolute power, which according to their own principles would be exercised without ethical values. This main body of the text is very rigorously reasoned, and can be demanding to follow. The Appendix is a roughly 19-page collection of quotations from around the world, drawn from a variety of cultures and representing sources ranging from ancient to modern, roughly topical in organization, designed to illustrate the universality of the Tao. (The quotations are not intended to be comprehensive.) Three of these are taken from American Indian sources, and what cost the book a star in my rating is that the cultural source of these is identified as "Redskin." (Wikipedia has a very comprehensive discussion of the etymology and use of the term, and its gradual pejoration in the 19th and early 20th centuries, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redskin .) I do not think Lewis consciously intended the term as a slur, and it was not apparently as pejorative in British as in American English at this time. But it was still a slangy term not normally used in formal contexts, as it is here, and as such I think reflects a lack of respect. (This would have been general among British intellectuals on both the Right and the Left in 1943 --some of whom still advocated the extermination of "inferior races," for which Lewis to his credit called them out elsewhere-- and his opponents at the time had no objection to it; but it's nevertheless objectionable to me.) Note: The Goodreads description of this edition states that it's "Permanently unavailable owing to copyright issues." Since it was originally published in 1943, which under the terms of current U.S. copyright law (a.k.a. the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act") would presumptively remove it from the public domain, I'm guessing these "issues" would have been the result of some lawsuit against the publisher, Harper. However, the terms of whatever verdict or settlement was reached presumably wouldn't have required the surrender of copies sold before the suit took place. One of these was donated to the Bluefield College library in 2016, and was the one that I read. (As an author, albeit in a small way, and a librarian, I support reasonable copyright protections. I don't consider perpetual "copyright" reasonable, and I doubt that Lewis would have, either.)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    I've meant to read this for a long time. The edition of this I read had both The Great Divorce and The Abolition of Man. The Great Divorce is one of my all time favorite books, of any genre. This book is also excellent, though of a totally different type. This book will/does require multiple readings if we want to get the most out of it. Also considering when this book was written (1943) then looking at the world today and seeing how things have progressed it could be eye opening and even a bit f I've meant to read this for a long time. The edition of this I read had both The Great Divorce and The Abolition of Man. The Great Divorce is one of my all time favorite books, of any genre. This book is also excellent, though of a totally different type. This book will/does require multiple readings if we want to get the most out of it. Also considering when this book was written (1943) then looking at the world today and seeing how things have progressed it could be eye opening and even a bit frightening. I can recommend it highly. I will not try to lay out what the book is about and the premise of the book. I could never do it justice. C.S.Lewis was/is a gift to humankind and I'd really recommend his writings not be missed. Think you disagree because you're and atheist? I humbly suggest you actually read his writings and see if you disagree. After all C.S.Lewis was at one time a confirmed atheist also. Quote from, Surprised by Joy: "A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading." - C. S. Lewis

  8. 5 out of 5

    Clare Cannon

    How could I have done an Arts degree without reading this book?! Lewis was a genius, and everything he writes here feels indescribably relevant to the present time. I had goosebumps while reading it. So many voices call for the abandonment of all value systems except their own, wishing somehow to 'free' society from the laws that have governed it only to impose their own, more arbitrary code. Every humanities student (not to mention teacher) must read it. How could I have done an Arts degree without reading this book?! Lewis was a genius, and everything he writes here feels indescribably relevant to the present time. I had goosebumps while reading it. So many voices call for the abandonment of all value systems except their own, wishing somehow to 'free' society from the laws that have governed it only to impose their own, more arbitrary code. Every humanities student (not to mention teacher) must read it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Rollins

    This book is definitely one that gets better the more times you read it. I can remember understanding very little of it except the famous paragraph at the end of the first chapter the first time I read it, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. 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.” Certainly, that paragraph itself i This book is definitely one that gets better the more times you read it. I can remember understanding very little of it except the famous paragraph at the end of the first chapter the first time I read it, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. 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.” Certainly, that paragraph itself is worthy of 5 stars. This time around, my fourth or fifth reading, I read it with our new book club in view, underlining and making notes for our group. This helped me see it with fresh eyes. I remembered how confusing it was the first time I read it and I was happy to realize more of it made sense to me now. Still can't say the whole thing was wide open to me but more than before. Let me add that today I believe the single most important message in this book is the use of the word 'debunking' by Lewis. As Christians we often guilty of being debunkers and I believe it is a way that we undermine our message even as we are giving it. We need to read this book often and ponder how we have joined the culture of debunking which is deadly.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    After my second reading: "Can education influence morality?" asks the back cover blurb. Of course, the musings of an Oxford don seventy years ago could not be relevant to the current state of education in America. Or, could it? For a reader already concerned about the downward spiral of the quality of our education, this book will pour fuel on the fire. The trends Lewis warned of in the 1940s now permeate our schools--all of them. The result may be men with unimaginable power, but no moral compa After my second reading: "Can education influence morality?" asks the back cover blurb. Of course, the musings of an Oxford don seventy years ago could not be relevant to the current state of education in America. Or, could it? For a reader already concerned about the downward spiral of the quality of our education, this book will pour fuel on the fire. The trends Lewis warned of in the 1940s now permeate our schools--all of them. The result may be men with unimaginable power, but no moral compass by which to guide their actions. Unlike many other Lewis books, this is not a Christian apology. In fact, he claims that all historic cultures worldwide stand in opposition to the modern, valueless approach. Original review: This is perhaps the most challenging of Lewis's books of essays, but his thesis is clear: modern education is creating "men without chests", that is, they have brains and bowels (and other lower urges) but no heart.

  11. 5 out of 5

    booklady

    The Abolition of Man is a short work but very powerful. As with everything by C. S. Lewis, we are in for reading/listening pleasure as well as education. He fills our minds with his own terms (Men Without Chests) examples taken from real life (The Green Book) and convincing arguments from literature (Faust). Can you just imagine being one of his lucky students? Published in 1943, Abolition is more applicable today than when it was written but probably the least known of his major works. When I d The Abolition of Man is a short work but very powerful. As with everything by C. S. Lewis, we are in for reading/listening pleasure as well as education. He fills our minds with his own terms (Men Without Chests) examples taken from real life (The Green Book) and convincing arguments from literature (Faust). Can you just imagine being one of his lucky students? Published in 1943, Abolition is more applicable today than when it was written but probably the least known of his major works. When I did a GR search of quotes, there was less for this book than for all the others. As a work written for all people, believers of whatever or no particular faith, it is a shame that this work is so largely ignored. In Abolition, Lewis gives us a defense of objective value and natural law, and a warning of the consequences of doing away with or "debunking" those things. His concern is for what we are teaching our young people and yet he freely admits—tongue in cheek—to not being particularly fond of little children knowing the reaction this admission would arouse among some in his audience. He warns us:‘For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please. In all ages, no doubt, nurture and instruction have, in some sense, attempted to exercise this power. But the situation to which we must look forward will be novel in two respects. In the first place, the power will be enormously increased... the man-molders of the new age will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out all posterity in what shape they please. The second difference is even more important. In the older systems both the kind of man the teachers wished to produce and their motives for producing him were prescribed by the Tao* — a norm to which the teachers themselves were subject and from which they claimed no liberty to depart. They did not cut men to some pattern they had chosen. They handed on what they had received: they initiated the young neophyte into the mystery of humanity which over-arched him and them alike. It was but old birds teaching young birds to fly. This will be changed. Values are now mere natural phenomena. Judgments of value are to be produced in the pupil as part of the conditioning. Whatever Tao there is will be the product, not the motive, of education. The conditioners have been emancipated from all that. It is one more part of nature which they have conquered.’ (Italics added) *Lewis says that there is a set of objective values that have been shared, with minor differences, by every culture "...the traditional moralities of East and West, the Christian, the Pagan, and the Jew...". This he calls the Tao. Read this back in 2001 but can't remember it. Peter Kreeft recommended it during his recent lecture on How to Win the Culture War: A Christian Battle Plan for a Society in Crisis.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Worlitz

    Lewis tries to argue that human nature will change for the worse the more rationalist we become. I believe that on closer examination, what worries him isn't that human nature might change in the future. It's that human nature may not have been what he wanted it to be in his present. Lewis is an intelligent man, but he makes the same mistake that so many people make; he tries to fit science and theory to a preconceived truth. He doesn't have a question, and then try to answer it. He doesn't have Lewis tries to argue that human nature will change for the worse the more rationalist we become. I believe that on closer examination, what worries him isn't that human nature might change in the future. It's that human nature may not have been what he wanted it to be in his present. Lewis is an intelligent man, but he makes the same mistake that so many people make; he tries to fit science and theory to a preconceived truth. He doesn't have a question, and then try to answer it. He doesn't have a premise, and then try to disprove it. One can only conclude that Lewis doesn't understand science, or that this is a cleverly hidden piece of religious propaganda.

  13. 5 out of 5

    J.Aleksandr Wootton

    Hard to start, easy to finish. Lewis apparently presumed his audience would be fellow academics, or at least persons educated in a common curriculum - an assumption which makes the opening pages difficult to follow. I was about 10 the first time I read this, with no background in "the well-known story of Coleridge at the waterfall" or "dulce et decorum est" (and no Internet to quickly look them up with). But over the first dozen or so pages Lewis finds his stride, and as the book's discussion mov Hard to start, easy to finish. Lewis apparently presumed his audience would be fellow academics, or at least persons educated in a common curriculum - an assumption which makes the opening pages difficult to follow. I was about 10 the first time I read this, with no background in "the well-known story of Coleridge at the waterfall" or "dulce et decorum est" (and no Internet to quickly look them up with). But over the first dozen or so pages Lewis finds his stride, and as the book's discussion moves from abstract subjectivity to "trained emotions" to morality and eugenics, that characteristic Lewisian clarity carries the reader forward. Abolition of Man is a short book. I've read it four times now, and I'm looking forward to reading it again.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    Wow, this was deep! I feel like I grasped what Lewis was saying with my heart, but my head is still whirling! 😂 This is something I'll probably need to read at least a couple of times before I could write a proper review. Wow, this was deep! I feel like I grasped what Lewis was saying with my heart, but my head is still whirling! 😂 This is something I'll probably need to read at least a couple of times before I could write a proper review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lina Tae

    This, my friend, is a book that you should memorize to your bones. Read the quotes on the Goodreads directory if you don't have time to read it. I'm giving you one for starters. “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” This, my friend, is a book that you should memorize to your bones. Read the quotes on the Goodreads directory if you don't have time to read it. I'm giving you one for starters. “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laurel Hicks

    An excellent essay on the dangers of the word 'only,’ how neglecting the ‘ought’ for the sake of the ‘is’ distorts the ‘is’ and gives us men without chests. An excellent essay on the dangers of the word 'only,’ how neglecting the ‘ought’ for the sake of the ‘is’ distorts the ‘is’ and gives us men without chests.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carol Bakker

    I didn't factor how difficult I would find C.S. Lewis to sometimes be. I first listened to this book as I walked. Bad idea. It ricocheted off my brain. I read the words. I listened and read together. Finally, I watched the book/listened to audio with CSLewisDoodle on You Tube. It truly improved with each excursion, and by improving I mean my understanding inched forward. One thing about C.S. Lewis: his ideas are as relevant now as they were in 1944. In short, I want to give this five stars; alas, I didn't factor how difficult I would find C.S. Lewis to sometimes be. I first listened to this book as I walked. Bad idea. It ricocheted off my brain. I read the words. I listened and read together. Finally, I watched the book/listened to audio with CSLewisDoodle on You Tube. It truly improved with each excursion, and by improving I mean my understanding inched forward. One thing about C.S. Lewis: his ideas are as relevant now as they were in 1944. In short, I want to give this five stars; alas, in order to love it, I feel I should get it. I certainly want to take another go at this in the future.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    Wow, this is hard to rate and review. 3.5 stars? This is a collection of three related, non-religious essays. Lewis observed the introduction of Progressive ideals (like moral relativism) in schools and explained the logical problems with them. He examines the ideas (there is no absolute truth, no intrinsic value, and no Natural Law) and shows the flaws in their logic. The way he tackles these philosophical ideas just proves his genius. Just watching his thought process and the beautiful writing i Wow, this is hard to rate and review. 3.5 stars? This is a collection of three related, non-religious essays. Lewis observed the introduction of Progressive ideals (like moral relativism) in schools and explained the logical problems with them. He examines the ideas (there is no absolute truth, no intrinsic value, and no Natural Law) and shows the flaws in their logic. The way he tackles these philosophical ideas just proves his genius. Just watching his thought process and the beautiful writing is fascinating.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Skylar Burris

    In the Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis confronts the modern attempt to overthrow 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 kind of things we are.” As such, it is a book that should be of interest to any adherent of any traditional religion. Though Lewis is a Christian, he does not take a specifically Christian approach in this book; instead, he uses logical and moral reasoning to attack In the Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis confronts the modern attempt to overthrow 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 kind of things we are.” As such, it is a book that should be of interest to any adherent of any traditional religion. Though Lewis is a Christian, he does not take a specifically Christian approach in this book; instead, he uses logical and moral reasoning to attack moral relativism, appealing to an “objective value” he calls, for convenience, the Tao, though others may call it “Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes.” He debunks two different but equally popular modern ideas: (1) that it is possible to formulate any real values outside the Tao and (2) that we do not need any value system whatsoever. The Tao, argues Lewis, “is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or…ideologies…all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they posses.” Lewis goes onto warn of the consequences that will follow if the Tao is denied. ”The Conditioners, then, are to choose what kind of artificial Tao they will, for their own good reasons, produce in the Human race. They are the motivators, the creators of motives. But how are they going to be motivated themselves?” Either there are absolute values, “or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own ‘natural’ impulses. Only the Tao provides a common human law of action which can over-arch rulers and ruled alike. A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny.” The Abolition of Man is also a book about modern education, about the ways in which educators implant assumptions of moral relativism and anti-sentimentality into the minds of pupils, thus removing the “organ” of emotion that prompts virtuous behavior. "No justification of virtue,” writes Lewis, “will enable a man to be virtuous. Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism.” It’s not always an easy book to follow, but it is rewarding if one is patient. The appendix, where he quotes a variety of sources from different religions and cultures to catalogue certain common values, is interesting.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Othy

    Simply amazing. Probably the best book by CS Lewis I've ever read. And the most terrifying. I took particular interest in the book because of conversations with my friend Cadmus in Japan, who was of the opinion that Instinct towards preserving the species is all that drives humanity in our lives (to sum up his general position). This book shows (and I believe proves) that such ideas, along with others that are similar or spring from it (such as that values are void and that traditional ideas mus Simply amazing. Probably the best book by CS Lewis I've ever read. And the most terrifying. I took particular interest in the book because of conversations with my friend Cadmus in Japan, who was of the opinion that Instinct towards preserving the species is all that drives humanity in our lives (to sum up his general position). This book shows (and I believe proves) that such ideas, along with others that are similar or spring from it (such as that values are void and that traditional ideas must be cast aside for good) will bring about nothing but pain and, well, the "abolition" of our human selves and all that is meaningful to us as Humans. What an amazing book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    (The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!) Y’all, I’m going to start this with some r (The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!) Y’all, I’m going to start this with some realness. While reading, most of the time, my thoughts were “so….what did I just read?” Two pages in I realized this was going to be a “have my dictionary app opened the whole time” kind of read. Of the books I’ve read from Lewis, this one is by far the most philosophical (thus explaining my hurt brain by the time I was done ; ) and I would say that was his point. This book wasn’t about proving Christianity so much (although he does say he believes that, he also points out in the second chapter that “a supernatural origin for the Tao (traditional morality) is a question I am not here concerned with.”), but instead arguing against moral relativism. Did I mention my need of a dictionary for this book? ;). If you’re looking for apologetic/philosophical material, I definitely recommend Mere Christianity. But this book isn’t without value. Far from it. I think C.S. Lewis speaks about relevant truths today. First, we are more than science and we aren’t meant to simply exist. He also spends the majority of the book speaking against that moral relativism stuff. I’m not really sure how to go about this discussion, so that’s when I drop a bunch of quotes and hope for the best. So here we go and please feel free to include your thoughts on these quotes! (Emphasis are my own) “Gains and Titius, while teaching him nothing about letters, have cut out of his soul, long before he is old enough to choose, the possibility of having certain experiences which thinkers of more authority than they have held to be generous, fruitful, and humane.” “They see the world around them swayed by emotional propaganda – they have learned from tradition that youth is sentimental – and they conclude that the best thing they can do is to fortify the minds of young people against emotion. My own experience as a teacher tells an opposite take. For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments.” “Men without Chests” are “not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardor to pursue her…it is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out.” “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” “Telling us to obey Instinct is like telling us to obey ‘people.’ People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war. If it is held that the instinct for preserving the species should always be obeyed at the expense of other instincts, whence do we derive this rule of precedence?” “The Innovator attacks traditional values (the Tao) in defence of what he at first supposes to be (in some special sense) ‘rational’ or ‘biological’ values. But as we have seen, all the values which he uses in attacking the Tao, and even claims to be substituting for it, are themselves derived from the Tao. If he had really started from scratch, from right outside the human tradition of value, no jugglery could have advanced him an inch towards the conception that a man should die for the community or work for posterity.” “Whence comes the Innovator’s authority to pick and choose?” “Since I can see no answer to these questions, I draw the following conclusions. This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgements. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world.” “As soon as we take the final step of reducing our own species to the level of mere Nature, the whole process is stultified, for this time the being who stood to gain and the being who has been sacrificed are one and the same.” I’ll close out with this one because THE TRUTH OF IT! “But once our souls, that is, ourselves, have been given up, the power thus conferred will not belong to us. We shall in fact be the slaves and puppets of that to which we have given our souls.” Discussion Prompts (Join in any, all or add your own!): 1. What are your overall thoughts of this book? 2. Do you think there was any significance to the names Lewis used to describe the teachers (Gaius, Titius and Orbilius)? I researched the names, but didn’t come across anything that stuck out, but thought I’d throw the questions out there! I’m sure there was some genius reason behind it, but you know, Jack and I aren’t quite on the same level. 3. What quotes were meaningful to you? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    5/25/2020 * 3.5 - 4 🌟 Wow, lots to ponder here. A lot I agree with but some I'm not sure about and will have to think about for awhile. 5/25/2020 * 3.5 - 4 🌟 Wow, lots to ponder here. A lot I agree with but some I'm not sure about and will have to think about for awhile.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I have read this before and appreciated it. Reading it as a mom, the wife of a high school administrator, a homeschool parent and a perpetual student of Lewis, it was utterly profound for me this time. I think that this has become my very favorite of Lewis's philosophical reflections or social commentaries. The third reflection about science was particularly compelling. I have read this before and appreciated it. Reading it as a mom, the wife of a high school administrator, a homeschool parent and a perpetual student of Lewis, it was utterly profound for me this time. I think that this has become my very favorite of Lewis's philosophical reflections or social commentaries. The third reflection about science was particularly compelling.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Brooks

    Why does society desire to raise children with no moral compass besides their own?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eye of Sauron

    I've read this at least three times over the last couple of years, and it's still just as profound and moving as the first time I read it. Despite being one of Lewis's lesser-known works of nonfiction, The Abolition of Man is an amazing piece of exhortatory philosophy. Relatively short, and taking the form of three short essays that connect to one another, it's stunning, concerning, and even alarming at parts. The main premise is simple, though abstract: the modern educational process is teaching I've read this at least three times over the last couple of years, and it's still just as profound and moving as the first time I read it. Despite being one of Lewis's lesser-known works of nonfiction, The Abolition of Man is an amazing piece of exhortatory philosophy. Relatively short, and taking the form of three short essays that connect to one another, it's stunning, concerning, and even alarming at parts. The main premise is simple, though abstract: the modern educational process is teaching students that truth is subjective rather than objective, essentially removing the ability to make value judgments and therefore removing the mediator between the intellect and carnal desires ("Men Without Chests"). While some might object that the abolition of objective value isn't really all that bad, Lewis addresses this concern in his second essay, "The Way," in which he demonstrates the catastrophic implications if a person rejects objective value altogether. The third essay, "The Abolition of Man," is a continuation of this, a projection into a future in which objective value has been demolished and scientific advances have allowed Man complete power over Nature and therefore over the future of mankind (genetic manipulation, etc.). It's a chilling picture of a dystopian future, and its message is even more applicable today. This book also has interesting ties to That Hideous Strength; reading both of them will in turn heighten your understanding of both. Would highly recommend.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Annie Kate

    Now that I've been a home educator for over two decades, this book makes more sense to me. Partly because I understand education, and partly because homeschooling my kids has taught me enough history and philosophy to enable me to understand why Lewis wrote the book. This is listed in at least two 'top books of the twentieth century' lists, and deservedly so. Highly recommended for parents, educators, and everyone else concerned with truth and culture. (Note that this is not an explicitly Christia Now that I've been a home educator for over two decades, this book makes more sense to me. Partly because I understand education, and partly because homeschooling my kids has taught me enough history and philosophy to enable me to understand why Lewis wrote the book. This is listed in at least two 'top books of the twentieth century' lists, and deservedly so. Highly recommended for parents, educators, and everyone else concerned with truth and culture. (Note that this is not an explicitly Christian book; even atheists will be able to stomach it and appreciate the arguments.)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Annie Monson

    Lewis makes arguments gradually, patiently, thoroughly. In his thoughtfulness lies his strength. And it is this kind of strength that equips one to resist the hurtful propagandas and conditioning that so sneakily seep into the bones of an age.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark Jr.

    In The Abolition of Man Lewis argues for the "Tao"—his ad hoc technical term for natural law. Several people recommended this to me as the best case for natural law. I'm not ready to say that, because it wouldn't be fair to the other prominent books on the topic I have yet to read. But this book is worthwhile if only because it is quintessential Lewis (as most Lewis books seem to be). He writes with amazing prose and incisive clarity on modern efforts to undo or replace traditional values—modern In The Abolition of Man Lewis argues for the "Tao"—his ad hoc technical term for natural law. Several people recommended this to me as the best case for natural law. I'm not ready to say that, because it wouldn't be fair to the other prominent books on the topic I have yet to read. But this book is worthwhile if only because it is quintessential Lewis (as most Lewis books seem to be). He writes with amazing prose and incisive clarity on modern efforts to undo or replace traditional values—modern efforts to abolish man. His basic argument is that the standards by which modern thinkers evaluate the Tao are themselves unavoidably derived from the Tao. His brief book doesn't amount to an apologia for Christian faith, but it certainly heads that direction. Just two quotes: Their scepticism about values is on the surface: it is for use on other people’s values; about the values current in their own set they are not nearly sceptical enough. And this phenomenon is very usual. A great many of those who ‘debunk’ traditional or (as they would say) ‘sentimental’ values have in the background values of their own which they believe to be immune from the debunking process. They claim to be cutting away the parasitic growth of emotion, religious sanction, and inherited taboos, in order that ‘real’ or ‘basic’ values may emerge. You cannot go on `seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to `see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To `see through’ all things is the same as not to see. I couldn't help thinking of Stanley Fish's powerful essay "Boutique Multiculturalism." A "strong multiculturalist" in Fish's piece is someone so tolerant that he attempts to honor and appreciate other cultures no matter what. But that no-matter-what gets tested. When the Ayatollah Khomeini issues a fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie (author of the sacrilegious Satanic Verses), what is the Western, liberal, strong multiculturalist to do? Fish: "At this point [he] faces a dilemma, either he stretches his toleration so that it extends to the intolerance residing at the heart of a culture he would honor, in which case tolerance is no longer his guiding principle, or he condemns the core intolerance of that culture..., in which case he is no longer according it respect at the point where its distinctiveness is most obviously at stake. Typically, the strong multiculturalist will grab the second handle of this dilemma (usually in the name of some supracultural universal now seen to have been hiding up his sleeve from the beginning)." (Critical Inquiry, Winter 1997, p. 383) Fish says he's read Lewis and modeled his writing after the Oxford (and Cambridge) don's. Perhaps he picked up some of this kind of thinking from The Abolition of Man.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    I read this for a third time due to the inclusion of several excerpts in Ayn Rand’s Marginalia. Rand virulently hated the book and its author, and I’ve always wanted to examine more closely why, since I admire both authors. Her primary disagreement is his coupling of magic and science by claiming they both wanted to achieve power over nature, but by different means. I agree with her that this is an unjustified coupling with its implied vilification of science. She, on the other hand, seems to for I read this for a third time due to the inclusion of several excerpts in Ayn Rand’s Marginalia. Rand virulently hated the book and its author, and I’ve always wanted to examine more closely why, since I admire both authors. Her primary disagreement is his coupling of magic and science by claiming they both wanted to achieve power over nature, but by different means. I agree with her that this is an unjustified coupling with its implied vilification of science. She, on the other hand, seems to forget that he’s only attacking science when it presumes to change man’s basic moral nature. It is true that Lewis assumes that the logical progress of science would lead to such human engineering, which I also disagree with. However a friend to whom I lent the book assures me that fears about science's encroachment upon basic human nature "is certainly being proved true with a vengeance." Apart from this issue, the book's primary value is its identification of a fundamental morality (he calls it the Tao) that underlies human nature, and which is axiomatic, i.e., it can’t be proven, but must simply be recognized. A person's proper development results in passionate feelings about the sanctity of this morality; those who don’t possess these feelings are “men without chests.” The Abolition of Man is a superbly written, succinct statement of this important idea.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    I took a C.S. Lewis class in college (yes, an entire class just reading C.S. Lewis!), but never got around to reading this one until now. I'll be honest, the first third of it went right over my head. It's definitely not like most of his stuff I've read. It wasn't until the last quarter of the book that it finally dawned on me that the whole book is just an argument against eugenics. Yes, he talks about universal values and other important things, but he is essentially trying to make a logical a I took a C.S. Lewis class in college (yes, an entire class just reading C.S. Lewis!), but never got around to reading this one until now. I'll be honest, the first third of it went right over my head. It's definitely not like most of his stuff I've read. It wasn't until the last quarter of the book that it finally dawned on me that the whole book is just an argument against eugenics. Yes, he talks about universal values and other important things, but he is essentially trying to make a logical argument that eugenics will lead to the downfall of mankind. He entirely avoids using religious reasoning, I assume because he is talking to people that only believe in science. Imagine a long car ride with a college professor while he talks you through a logical thought experiment to prove his point... and you'll just about get the feel of this book. Not my favorite, but I'll probably read it again to better take it in, now that I've got the gist of it.

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