The Abolition of Man Paperback – Apr 7 2015
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"A Real Triump." -- Owen Barfield
From the Back Cover
In The Abolition of Man, 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. Both astonishing and prophetic, this book is one of the most debated of Lewis's extraordinary works. National Review chose it as number seven on their "100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century."See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on Sept. 11 2011 by jobot
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 morePublished on May 2 2004 by Michael W. Perry
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 morePublished on Jan. 5 2004 by Amazon Customer
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 morePublished on Oct. 25 2003 by Arthem
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 morePublished on June 9 2003 by Gregory
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 morePublished on April 13 2003 by bixodoido
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 morePublished on Feb. 18 2003 by Chadwick H. Saxelid
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 morePublished on Jan. 21 2003 by Wesley L. Janssen
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