6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Universal rules for knowing what to do or not to do
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...
Published on April 7 2004 by Michael JR Jose
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Explains, shows the consequences but little argument
I read this book after a few different sources mentioned it as a book that deals with moral relativism. After reading the book, I don't know if I can honestly agree with many of the other reviewers. I have read two other books by C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity," and, "The Screwtape Letters," so I think I have some idea what his approach is. I can only...
Published on June 17 2001 by Bruce H
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Magnificent Work of Ethics and Social Commentary,
This review is from: The Abolition Of Man (Paperback)Though best-known as a Christian apologist, Lewis' Abolition of Man has an appeal to an audience outside of Judeo-Christianity as well as within.
Lewis takes on those who want to rewrite morality, and for that matter, master and change human nature (hence the title). The various movements for this have changed names and some details, but from David Hume to modern-day sociolobiologists and Peter Singer, we can see a continuity of people who want to proclaim a new moral order (but at the cost of of some aspect of our humanity).
Lewis neatly dissects these would-be revolutionaries and show how any attempt to rewrite human nature must occur within the context of Nature and natural law, and that the new morals that these revolutionaries proclaim are in fact distorted, mutilated echoes of what Lewis dubs the Tao, which is a common morality written in human nature and shared by all the great faiths, philosophies and cultures. In the appendix, Lewis has selections from the great sagas, scriptures and philosophers showing how the Taoist, Confucian, Greco-Roman, Old Norse, Hindu, American Indian, and Judeo-Christian cultures all have a common morality, and while Lewis allows that these ways of life are not identical, they do point to some natural set of laws which humans should follow.
The end result is a beautiful critique of moral relativism and the more dehumanizing philosophers and pundits of modern times. In the 1-2 hours it took to go through this book (though I look forward to returning to it and pondering some parts of the book further), this has become one of my favorite Lewis books.
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant as always,
This review is from: The Abolition Of Man (Paperback)While reading C.S. Lewis I often get that wistful feeling of "I so wish I had thought of that". This short collection of essays is not an exception. Subtitled "Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools", Lewis uses an elementary English text to illustrate the insinuation of moral relativism to all levels of modern society. The first essay contemplates our society filling young minds with knowledge but leaving out all sense of objective truth or value - we produce "Men Without Chests". "You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive', or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity'. 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."
His second essay concerns one of his preoccupations - Natural Law or what he calls the "Tao", that sense of fair play that runs through all of us. The appendix contains bits of that Tao - culled from Old Norse, Ancient Chinese, Babylonian, Roman texts that lay down moral laws that appear to be accepted across thousands of years and widely diverse civilizations by common consent.
The final essay "The Abolition of Man" addresses the future of mankind in light of his attempts at "innovation". When the last frontier is man's own nature, the successful conquest will be man's abolition. This is frightening considering the willingness of modern liberals to play fast and loose with life, cloning, and soon, gene manipulation.
This short book is more relevant today than when Lewis wrote it and is essential reading for Christians.
5.0 out of 5 stars Chock-full of thought provoking statements,
This review is from: The Abolition Of Man (Paperback)In this brief but excellent philosophical work, Lewis addresses the issue of moral relativism. He begins by evaluating the ideologies implicit in a few examples of English textbooks used in the schools at his time. He shows how these ideologies do not belong in the textbooks because of their falsity and potential to creep into the thinking of the students who use them. Lewis discusses with convincing logic that there is such a thing as objective truth/values, and that this is universally inherent to humanity. He uses the word "Tao" to collectively refer to these values, and elaborates on his intended meaning on pg. 28 of the Third Printing. He states,
"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."
The appendix of the book shows a list of possible examples of this natural law, and how it extends across religion and culture. This agrees with the Christian belief that there is a natural order/law established by God and written on the hearts of all humanity (see Jeremiah 31:33, Romans 2:14-15, Hebrews 10:16).
The third chapter of the book offers a startling insight into the progress of science towards "conquering nature." Lewis shows how in the abscence of the natural law or a foundational set of morals, humankind will have found that it's supposed power over nature is really nothing but a certain amount of tyranny over other humans. I think a modern illustration of Lewis' point is the inaccesibility of vaccines and simple medical treatments in third world countries. Altogether "The Abolition of Man" is an excellent work that can be appreciated and enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike.
5.0 out of 5 stars Prophetic and Disturbing,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Abolition Of Man (Paperback)Lewis' insight into human nature and society's directions continues to astound me. Written nearly 60 years ago, this book describes the ultimate cost of mankind departing from the notion of objective right & wrong, from truth itself. It is particularly interesting today in light of recent "advances" in technologies for genetic manipulation. The book is such a brief read that no-one should miss the opportunity to be challenged by it.
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting,
This review is from: The Abolition Of Man (Paperback)This book is a very interesting look at the role of education in society. Lewis poses some very interesting points. A worthwhile read.
5.0 out of 5 stars Prophetic Words.,
This review is from: The Abolition Of Man (Paperback)This is a book by C.S. Lewis. What more needs to be said? Lewis never did write one bad book, whether he was writing about fantasy, sci-fi, philosophy, criticism, or whatever. In this small book (less than 100 pages) Lewis examines what is wrong with modern education and what will be the end result of the current (even today) trend: the abolition of man. Enlightening and prophetic reading.
5.0 out of 5 stars What happens if a person loses a sense of right and wrong?,
This review is from: The Abolition Of Man (Paperback)Hands down, this is my favorite C. S. Lewis book, "The Screwtape Letters," and "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" notwithstanding. This book discusses moral absolutes, and what would happen if we lose the sense of right and wrong.
This short book is only three chapters long, but, charachteristically, Lewis says more with one letter than some people say their entire lives.
Chapter One discusses MORAL RELATIVISM that is taught in schools, and how the end result of relativism is a dehumanizing process where we become "men without chests," or hearts, humans without a sense of right and wrong, and therfore no longer humans. You see this idea manifested in the varous Varsity and JV Columbine-style shootings that are now en vogue.
Chapte Two discusses this set of moral laws or traditional values, which Lewis calls "the Tao." The Tao is the source of all value judgements and is the source of "traditional morality." When people try to change this morality, they are destroying all sense of right and wrong. "The human mind hs no more power of inventing an new [moral] value than of imagining a new primary color." (p. 56) We need this absolute set of moral laws to survive.
Chapter Three discusses the result of not having any absolute values: what happens is that rightness and wrongness is reduced to appetites, "the emotional strength of [the] impuse" (p.57). These is no law, just rampant and renegade emotions controlling everything. There is no sense of fairness, just a "might makes right" law of the jungle, a la Korihor.
The one appendix contains illustrations of this moral law from differing civilizations. Memebrs of the Church of Jesus Christ would see the Light of Christ behind all of this.
This is a pressing book, and should be read with "1984," "Brave New World," "People of the Lie," and "Slouching Towards Gomorrah" in mind.
Three cheers for C. S. Lewis!
4.0 out of 5 stars A Prophetic Book from WWII,
This review is from: The Abolition Of Man (Paperback)It's truly amazing how correct C.S. Lewis was in this book. From a single example of a new school book, he foretold exactly what the Liberals (in the American sense) would do to mankind via the educational establishment. A very short book, but a very good one.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lewis Bravely Knocks Down a Five-Pound Argument,
This review is from: The Abolition Of Man (Paperback)This book is a diatribe in reaction to five sentences that Lewis read in a children's grammar book. The authors (whom he refuses to name, thus making it impossible for anyone to check whether he fairly represents their position and successfully refutes it) stated that when we call a waterfall "sublime," we really mean "'I have feelings associated in my mind with the word sublime'...we are only saying something about our own feelings." Lewis inferred that the authors believed that there is no such thing as human virtue or intrinsic value and that a mostly hedonist biological instinct is the closest thing to a moral code that we can have--all because they said that your estimation of a waterfall's beauty says more about you than about the waterfall!
As far as I can tell, those authors were discussing aesthetics, not moral philosophy. This does not prevent Lewis from fantasizing about what their moral philosophy must be, nor from tearing it down.
Lewis opposes noncognitivism--the philosophical claim that moral statements do not represent propositions about the world--and, more specifically, emotivism--the claim that moral statements represent the speaker's emotions. His only reason is that emotivism leads to contradiction. If, when I say, "Your feelings are contemptible," emotivism would translate it to mean "My feelings are contemptible," then the theory is ridiculous and useless. But no serious emotivist would hold such a view. It is more common to translate it as "Your feelings are contemptible to me" or "I have contempt for your feelings." So Lewis is attacking a straw man and is left without any response to serious emotivism.
Lewis believes that each object merits a certain emotional reaction from us. To say that the waterfall is sublime means that it deserves our admiration, and to fail to sufficiently admire it would be a deficiency on our part. He has one rare moment of insight: "To say that a shoe fits is to speak not only of shoes but of feet," which is immediately vitiated when he uses it to illustrate the claim that our feelings must conform to reality. He does not consider that there might be other ways of evaluating the appropriateness of our emotions: their consistency with other feelings, their appropriateness according to one's principles, their conformity to etiquette, etc. The worth of a shoe can be determined in a variety of different ways, depending on whether it is meant to conform to a baby's foot, a club foot, pavement, sand, or a desire for an extra three inches of height. A shoe is not, as Lewis's theory requires, evaluated by its intrinsic nature; rather, it has, as the wise aphorism suggests, value that is relative to the people who assign it.
Nor does he adequately explain what this theory of the intrinsic worth of objects has to do with moral action. In conflating aesthetic theory with moral theory, he seems to accept the very emotivism he rails against.
He does not successfully refute moral relativism. He insists that morality must rest on certain foundational claims, such as "preserve humanity," which must be accepted as true; but he gets himself into trouble when, halfway through the book, he says these basic moral claims should be accepted as "axioms" necessary for the entire moral system. Accepting "preserve humanity" as an axiom is perfectly compatible with relativism. A relativist will have no problem acknowledging that a certain moral claim is integral to a certain moral system. What relativism denies is that the claim is objectively true outside of the system. By permitting, here, the acceptance of moral claims as merely axiomatic, Lewis undercuts support for his own insistence throughout the rest of the book that these axioms are actually true. He would have done better if he had actually read a book by any mature emotivist or relativist philosopher before trying to argue against the theory.
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The Abolition Of Man by C S Lewis (Paperback - March 8 2001)
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