This is the second book by C.S. Lewis that I’ve reviewed. The Abolition of Man is a work that I believe is prophetic, but not just because it described a problem we’d deal with decades later. Rather, the prophecy lies in the ability to predict the end result. It does so by following the logic to its conclusion with tremendous accuracy. Near the end, he says, “But you cannot go on ‘explaining away’ for ever; you will find that you have explained explanation itself away.” If that doesn’t call to mind our current Postmodern culture, I don’t know what does. So, if you’re interested in how Lewis check out this review.
Problems in Education
Lewis begins this book by calling out a couple of authors of a grammar book, but not for teaching grammar poorly. Instead, he points out that their grammar book was teaching a worldview. When they should have been explaining the rules of language, they were directing students’ word choice in a peculiar way. They do not point out an issue with the grammar, but the way language was used. In this passage, they assert that we merely explain how we feel about something, instead of being able to recognize a quality in an inanimate object. We can easily see how this method has grown and tainted our education system today. Here’s the passage.
“Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it—believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could merit, our approval or disapproval, our reverence or our contempt.”-C.S. Lewis
What is the Abolition of Man?
Basically, the abolition of man that Lewis describes is a scientific religion based on “Man’s conquest of nature.” He doesn’t necessarily use those terms, but he shows that we often think of technology as progress. Offering the airplane, wireless, and contraceptive as examples, he shows that reliance on technology is not conquering in any way. “If I pay you to carry me, I am not therefore myself a strong man,” he says, demonstrating this point. Rather than liberating man from nature, we have a few who advance the technology that the masses rely on. Instead of mastering nature, we have reduced ourselves to the same level as the nature we wish to conquer. And, in doing so, we abolish man.