In “Abolition of Man”, author C.S. Lewis discussed the foundation of traditional ethics by embracing the Chinese word Tao, meaning “the Way.” Lewis declares that people today have assumed a place outside the Tao. This position involves, according to C.S. Lewis, a choice between two evils; and one or the other evil is our destiny if we believe that the Tao isn’t real. But aside from such everyday thoughts, there are hypothetical problems to this belief.
The demand to abandon traditional ethics is frequently related to what is thought to be a new and rational set of morals. This new standard typically amounts to the protection of humanity. This is still not a new value; it is as old as any other value and a part of the Tao. And it is hard to understand where else any standards could originate than in the Tao.
The thinking that helps to expose traditional ethics is the kind of reasoning that will never grasp applied conclusions. It can only create declarations of fact. Nor will it be helped by any call to instinct. To have impulsive needs doesn’t mean that we must obey them. Furthermore, wishes to guarantee an extended and joyful future for humanity is just one among many strong instincts, such as the necessity to protect one’s own life or children.
To choose which instinct is to be followed to what point, some advice from outside the realm of instinct is crucial. Applied values cannot be grasped as conclusions: they are principles. When one idea is known, the rationality of the Tao is indirectly familiar. And that means the legitimacy of all the other principles are as well. If there is, for example, a responsibility to future generations, then it is impossible to understand why there should not be a similarly required obligation to parents.
Criticism from outside the Tao eliminates itself from any foundation on which it can declare morals. Nonetheless, people today are not likely to understand the Tao as something to be followed. Standards are, on this interpretation, just another part of nature to be occupied sooner or later by practical knowledge. When this occurs, people will no longer be in the grasp of incomprehensible thoughts of what we must do since these exact views will be in our control. We will then create and alter such thoughts at our individual accessibility.
Basically what Lewis is saying here is that the effort to expose traditional standards is frequently centered on a set of morals which is deliberated to be new, but which in fact is a slight mixture of traditional ethics. The modernizer will be incapable, in the end, to clarify why this choice is reserved while the rest is forbidden. Therefore, on a closer look, he will have established the set nature of all ethical values and the necessity to reject either all or nothing of traditional morals. People today who acknowledge this are then probable to reject all, since they believe that the nature of humanity is a thing to rule and not to be ruled by.