Sunday Book Review: The Abolition of Man

The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis is a short, well-written, and interesting book. Its readers could easily read it on a Sunday afternoon. Lewis’ book makes deep claims that should be of interest to all people concerned with values, morals, and truth.

The Abolition of Man starts with a criticism of a book, the “Green Book,” used to instruct English school children. According to Lewis the “Green Book” teaches that statements concerning value, such as calling something “beautiful,” are actually reflections of the speaker’s emotions and not the subject. Lewis goes on to argue that this claim about value statements renders them meaningless because in the world of the “Green Book” values are not real. This position will undermine the students’ morality and take away their ability to properly respond to good and evil- a trait a proper education should instill in children.

Lewis’ book further promotes arguments in favor of natural law and against its opponents. Lewis makes the case that certain things have always been held as moral or immoral, with only minor variations, throughout the ages. These universal positions are called the “Tao” by Lewis; he even provides a list of values he considered to be components of the Tao and relevant examples of their interpretation from different cultures. The Tao constitutes part of natural law. Lewis contrasts the world of the Tao with the world of the “Green Book” using the maxim “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” and its teachers as an example.

Lewis describes a future after natural law has been abandoned. In this future, a small cabal controls the morals and values of the masses. These elites will follow their own fancies since they will reject the idea of an objective right and an objective wrong. The end ultimate result of this cabal’s rule will be their cessation of being human and the reduction of most people to automatons- this will complete the “abolition of man.”

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