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The Abolition of Man (1944)

by C. S. Lewis

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5,369561,531 (4.02)1 / 56
Both astonishing and prophetic, The Abolition of Man remains one of C. S. Lewis's most controversial works. Lewis sets out to persuade his audience of the ongoing importance and relevance of universal objective values, such as courage and honor, and the foundational necessity of natural law. He also makes a cogent case that a retreat from these pillars of our educational system, even if in the name of "scientism," would be catastrophic. National Review lists it as number seven on their "100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century."… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
What starts as a critique of an English textbook turns into philosophizing about human values. I didn’t really understand this one. It’s a short book with only 3 chapters.
  vvbooklady | Jan 1, 2022 |
Old-fashioned in style. I think he could have done a bit better. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
Not an easy read, but very important. Lewis gave these lectures in 1947, addressing concerns about the effect of education on values. He makes the point that the direction education was taking would create "men without chests" - that is, men (and women) without "sentiment", or strong feelings about values - what is good or bad, right or wrong. It is evident from the state of our "civilization" that he was right.

He further says that continuing on this course will result in the "abolition of Man", or a dystopian society like those found in Huxley's "Brave New World", Orwell's "1984", and some of the currently popular Young Adult series.

This is an important book, and worth the effort.
( )
  MarcHutchison | Jul 11, 2021 |
I started reading this book when I started an online class from Hillsdale College. This is a difficult book to read casually - in fact, I don't believe I can read it casually. I found that I needed to isolate myself from distractions, and to mark portions that were particularly pertinent to me. The book itself is short - my volume is 48 pages including the appendix. The matters discussed are weighty and Lewis references many different sources, and this required additional research time for me to understand context. I plan to read this book again in the future.

One of the central treatises of the book is the nature of the Tao, as Lewis calls it. He defines the Tao thus "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." He says a bit earlier (about the Tao) "You cannot reach them as conclusions: they are premises." He uses these arguments to establish the baseline for informed, moral discussion as opposed to natural discussion.

It is informative of how nature is described by Lewis: "The Natural is the opposite of the Artificial, the Civil, the Human, the Spiritual, and the Supernatural". A reflection on each of these opposing characteristics (excluding artificial, as Lewis does), illustrates to me why I value the general teachings of the Tao, and many of them specifically. Lewis addresses how there can be some disagreement with principles in the Tao: "From within the Tao itself comes the only authority to modify the Tao. This is what Confucius meant when he said 'With those who follow a different Way it is useless to take counsel'."

The appendix is a collection of ancient wisdom, titled "Illustrations of the Tao". It is broken down into different segments, such as "The Law of General Beneficence", "The Law of Special Beneficence", and others. These are taken from a sampling of different cultures including Chinese, Indian, Native American, Roman, Greek, Babylonian, and Egyptian.

I found myself enlightened by reading this short volume and I have much to think about and apply. ( )
  quinton.baran | Mar 29, 2021 |
A very good examination and refutation of moral relativism, or subjectivism, although it becomes more or less an argument from consequence--not necessarily showing that subjectivism is false but that it is practically unworkable except to create a very bleak future for humanity. Although C.S. Lewis was of course a Christian writer, this book doesn't go into an argument for Christianity in particular, only the idea that morality is objective and constant, so it's good for people who wouldn't be hip to an exclusive Christian claim to morality just yet. It was pivotal in my early development becoming a Christian.

As an aside, I read this book a long time ago in tandem with H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, which presents a similar view of the future of humanity in the hands of the "great planners and conditioners." ( )
  exhypothesi | Mar 7, 2021 |
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The Master said, He who sets to work on a different strand destroys the whole fabric.

Confucius, Analects II.16
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I doubt whether we are sufficiently attentive to the importance of elementary text-books.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Both astonishing and prophetic, The Abolition of Man remains one of C. S. Lewis's most controversial works. Lewis sets out to persuade his audience of the ongoing importance and relevance of universal objective values, such as courage and honor, and the foundational necessity of natural law. He also makes a cogent case that a retreat from these pillars of our educational system, even if in the name of "scientism," would be catastrophic. National Review lists it as number seven on their "100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century."

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Ediciones Encuentro

2 editions of this book were published by Ediciones Encuentro.

Editions: 847490255X, 8474908728

 

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