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The Abolition Of Man [Paperback]

C S Lewis
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 8 2001 Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis sets out to persuade his audience of the importance and relevance of universal values such as courage and honor in contemporary society.

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Review

"A Real Triump." -- Owen Barfield

From the Back Cover

In this graceful work, C. S. Lewis reflects on society and nature and the challenges of how best to educate our children. He eloquently argues that we need as a society to underpin reading and writing with lessons on morality and in the process both educate and re-educate ourselves. In the words of Walter Hooper, "If someone were to come to me and say that, with the exception of the Bible, everyone on earth was going to be required to read one and the same book, and then ask what it should be, I would with no hesitation say The Abolition of Man. It is the most perfectly reasoned defense of Natural Law (Morality) I have ever seen, or believe to exist. If any book is able to save us from future excesses of folly and evil, it is this book." This beautiful paperback edition is sure to attract new readers to this classic book.

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I doubt whether we are sufficiently attentive to the importance of elementary text books. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
INTRODUCTION
This famous 50-page survey of Natural Law thinking is one of Professor Lewis's tougher but more important works and with the current revival of NL thinking it should rise again. As moral philosophy (of the realist-objectivist school), via ancient literature, it is unusual and original. It is certainly not a work of theology. Confucius, Hindu 'Laws of Manu', and ancient Babylonians are quoted on a par with the Old and New Testament. (Catholics may sail through; but antinominianists will struggle against a non-theist exposition of the universal Law. In this case take Rom. ch. 1-3, and a bracing meditation on the concept of General Revelation as a tonic.)
Although its terseness makes it unsuitable for beginners, it would be possible to work up to it; either via Lewis's 'Mere Christianity', Book I, and Book III, parts 1-5 (a total of about 40 pages); and then the two essays from his book 'Christian Reflections', entitled 'On Ethics' and 'The Poison of Subjectivism' (total 25 pages). Or read Plato's 'Republic', Bks. 1-4, avoiding the old Jowett translation. (Kantians could limber up with 'Plato's Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law', by John Wild.)
SYNOPSIS: Chapter 1: Men Without Chests
The first 7 pages are discursive and, read once, may be skipped thereafter (rather like Book 1 of Plato's 'Republic'). They famously and confusingly deal with the link between objective aesthetics and emotive reactions to 'Nature'. It is not for Philosophy 101 students, reactions ranging from: 'What--who cares?--it's only opinion', to 'How is this relevant?'. Read the 'Republic', Bks. 1-4 until mastered.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have Other Reviewers Forgotten the Title? Dec 10 2002
Format:Paperback
I just finished reading this book for the fifth time; it is quickly becoming my favorite. Lewis traces how mankind will by means of poor education, faulty logic, and scientific/technological advances ultimately destroy itself, though certainly not in an apocalyptic fashion.
Lewis details how an improper education denies mankind that which makes us human, our virtue, our "Chests." By our heads we are mere intellect and spirit, and by our bodies we are mere animal and appetite; but where these two meet, the chest, is where we find our humanity.
"The Tao," which Lewis attributes an entire chapter to, is the undeniable universal laws govern and have always governed the lives of all humans (he offers evidence of the Tao from nearly every ancient religion/moral code at the end of the book). The Tao offers us the transparent window or lens with which we are able to experience this world. Those who try to step outside the Tao to criticize it, like those who accuse morality as being the construct of a power-hungry priestly ascetic caste (sound like Nietzsche?)and insist that the burden of proof lie with the accused (morality), speak utter nonsense. Thinkers like Marx and Nietzsche (whose philosophy was so paradoxical it drove him insane, he renounced all philosophy before him, including the ancient Greeks, and used logic to disprove logic), who reject the Tao, reject humanity. (I do no justice to Lewis's arguments; read the book.)
From this point we examine how mankind's conquest of Nature is really only the conquest of some men by other men. We are like the magician who surrenders more and more to Nature in return for power until he surrenders himself. We believe we are progressing, becoming more powerful, but we are not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even more timely than when it was written. June 23 2002
Format:Paperback
C.S. Lewis wrote this book in 1944, but he could have written it yesterday. In this little gem, C.S. Lewis sees through the modern world view right to the core of where it goes wrong. Most writers would need several hundred pages to explain how modernity differs from the pre-modern world view; and another several hundred pages to explain the dangers of modernity. C.S. Lewis manages it in under one hundred pages. And he even makes it fun.
In a nutshell, his book is on the dangers of moral relativism, a concern which we hear much about these days. Less often do we hear the critiques which he brings to bear on the technological mindset that wants to subject nature to our own whims. The punch line is that when all is said and done, our whims can only come from nature (if we refuse to acknowledge some external source of value.) If all there is in the world is nature, then nature must inevitably win.
Virtually every page offers a fresh insight into our modern-day foibles. That he wrote this highly relevant book more than a half-century ago is testimony to the clarity of his vision.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best and the Worst of C.S. Lewis Dec 10 2002
Format:Paperback
This book shows Lewis at his best and at his worst. At his best, he is a sharp social critic, a lucid expositor, and a man with an uncanny ability to get right down to the heart of the spiritual perplexities and self-deceptions that vex us in our daily lives, and open them up to the light of reason. I'm one of many people who owe a deep debt to this man, and I revere him as much as any one of the 5-star reviewers here.
But Lewis, as a writer, had serious faults as well. Though he was a generous reader, he was not a generous arguer: his idea of a good argument was to seize upon some poor schmo who epitomized some (then) current silliness and beat him senseless (with wonderfully powerful, clear, simple prose.) The spectacle is always fun, but it sometimes feels like watching Muhammed Ali boxing Peewee Herman -- you've always wanted to see it, but you have an uneasy feeling that what you're watching is not real boxing.
So to read this book properly, you need to understand two things. First, it is not a work of academic philosophy, and it won't stand up as such. That is to say, Lewis did not go out and look for the primary exponents of moral relativism of his time and wrestle them to the ground. He doesn't "survey the literature." He doesn't take on the important relativist philosophers. Instead he seizes this poor anonymous English textbook-writer by the collar and thrashes him soundly, and then goes on to pile up a sort of "everyone says so, so it must be true" defense of traditional moralities. Academic philosophers will no doubt recoil from this book in horror. It is not their sort of book, and it doesn't play by their rules.
Lewis is speaking to a different audience, and he has a different goal in mind.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Will read over and over again
This is one of those books to be read at different times and seasons of life. It was not an easy read, however brief it is. Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2011 by jobot
5.0 out of 5 stars Lewis and the Unabomber
Those who read this book, might also want to read Alston Chase's Harvard and the Unabomber. There Chase traces Ted Kaczynski's hatred of technology to two factors, one of which was... Read more
Published on May 2 2004 by Michael W. Perry
5.0 out of 5 stars Habermas repeats this argument in Future of Human Nature
I read this on the advice of one friend and was encouraged by another. It starts out in a very surprising way. But of course! Read more
Published on Jan. 6 2004 by W. Jamison
4.0 out of 5 stars Too close to home
The Abolition of Man is curious. It begins from a mere germ of an idea, inferred from an unchallenged source, and then slowly balloons until it is a diatribe against eugenics,... Read more
Published on Oct. 25 2003 by Arthem
4.0 out of 5 stars Read more carefully [...]
This book will not be easy for everyone, but it will be rewarding to engage with it, even if you disagree with Lewis' thinking. Read more
Published on June 9 2003 by Abba Poemen the Ubermensch
5.0 out of 5 stars The dangers of moral relativism
In this short book, CS Lewis takes public education for his subject, though the scope of the work goes well into the philosophical and ethical realms. Read more
Published on April 13 2003 by bixodoido
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting gathering of ideas, concepts, and theories.
I'll admit that some of Lewis's comments left me in the dust, but I did appreciate how well grounded some of his arguments were. Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2003 by Chadwick H. Saxelid
5.0 out of 5 stars The intellectual bankruptcy of ethical relativism.
The book contains three closely related essays on ethical relativism. As different as Eastern philosophy (Chinese and Indian) may be from Western philosophy (Greco-Roman and... Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2003 by Wesley L. Janssen
5.0 out of 5 stars Years Ahead of the Trends
In The Abolition of Man C.S. Lewis was well ahead of his times. He foresaw the development of postmodernism and deconstructionism. Read more
Published on Dec 21 2002 by Dr. Carol Samuelson
5.0 out of 5 stars As long as the limitations of the book are kept in view.
This book has been recently described as not being about general education, but ('rather') about broad politics, religion and philosophy. Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2002 by Jason Pratt
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