The Abolition Of Man By C.S. Lewis

1492 words - 6 pages

The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis

 

      The Abolition of Man is perhaps the best defense of natural law to be

      published in the twentieth century. The book is outstanding not because

      its ideas are original, but because it presents so clearly the common

      sense of the subject, brilliantly encapsulating the Western natural law

      tradition in all its Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian glory. Interestingly,

      Lewis' defense of objective morality here resonates not only with ideas

      from the giants of Western thought (including Plato, Aristotle, Augustine,

      and Aquinas), but also draws on the wisdom of the East, including Confucius and the sages of Hinduism.

 

      In "The Abolition of Man" C.S. Lewis developed three lectures entitled

      "Men without Chests'', "The Way", and "The Abolition of Man". In them he

      set out to attack and confute what he saw as the errors of his age.  He

      started by quoting some fashionable lunacy from an educationalists'

      textbook, from which he developed a general attack on moral subjectivism.

      In his second lecture he argued against various contemporary isms, which

      purported to replace traditional objective morality. His final lecture,

      "The Abolition of Man", which also provided the title of the book

      published the following year, was a sustained attack on hard-line

      scientific anti-humanism.

 

      The first essay, "Men without Chests," indicted the modern attempt to

      debunk objective virtues and sentiments. According to Lewis, traditional

      moral theorists believed that virtues such as courage and honor were true

      regardless of culture; these theorists also maintained that the purpose of

      education was to inculcate virtues in people by linking them to the proper

      emotions. This process of reinforcing virtue with emotion produced

      "sentiments" in people, supplying them with "chests" that safeguarded them

      from savagery. By debunking all sentiments as merely subjective, however,

      modern critics have generated "men without chests", human beings who are

      unable to resist their basest appetites because they have been deprived of

      the very means of resistance. The situation has made civilization

      unsustainable according to Lewis. "We make men without chests and expect

      of them virtue and enterprise," he observed. "We castrate and bid the

      geldings be fruitful."  Lewis concluded his first essay by launching his

      argument for the existence of an objective moral code that transcended

      time and culture.

 

      In the second essay, The Way, Lewis claimed that an honest study of

      different cultures, far from showing ethical confusion, indicated the

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