Title: The Abolition of Man
Author: C. S. Lewis
Rating: 4 of 5
This was the last required reading for my C. S. Lewis class (I have one more optional book that I will probably read), so we’re coming to the end of the C. S. Lewis review series.
This is one of Lewis’s shortest books, but it is dense. I know I didn’t catch everything that was going on in this first reading so I’m not completely confident of my understanding (or rating), but I’ ll try to give a basic overview anyway. The book’s subtitle is Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools, but that is a completely inadequate description of the content. To be sure, Lewis begins by excoriating an English textbook for advocating a certain philosophy in which “all sentences containing a predicate of value are statements about the emotional state of the speaker and…all such statements are unimportant,” but that is just the jumping-off point.
His criticism of the English book quickly turns into a defense for the existence of a universal, objective moral standard which he refers to as the Tao and defines as “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.” He spends the rest of the book arguing for its existence and explaining the dehumanization that he believes would occur should humanity ever succeed in completely eliminating/forsaking it (a scenario which he plays out in the N.I.C.E. institute in That Hideous Strength).
I didn’t find all of his reasoning completely convincing on a first reading, and I think that (as is usually the case with such attempts) this attempt to follow the topic “to its logical conclusion” end up overblown and needlessly apocalyptic. However, there was a lot to think about here in regard to evidence for the existence of objective truth and morality (which he does not explicitly try to tie to Christian morality alone). Not my favorite Lewis book, but a good example of him at his most philosophical.