The Abolition of Man
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The Abolition of Man

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  9,971 ratings  ·  551 reviews
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 s...more
Paperback, 113 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by HarperOne (first published 1943)
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When things get bad, I take out the bourbon. When, as occasionally happens, time drags on and things don't get any better, I put the bourbon away and take out C. S. Lewis. His books are short, readable, and filled with an uncanny amount of wisdom. His genius, and the reason he's always been a comfort to me, lies in his ability to convince me that the world as it appears to be, the world that seems so oppressive, is not the whole story.

The lifeline of depression, the fuel from which it draws all...more
I have so many quotes marked from this book that I might as well just memorize the entire thing. This book alone introduced me to the writings of C.S. Lewis, and I am forever indebted to perceptions. Virtue, as he defines it, is the ability to recognize what is true, good and beautiful. To be able to admit that something has value.

Difficult in our world.

How did we get to the point that recognizing the goodness or beauty in something or someone else makes us feel as though part of our own soul is...more
Mike (the Paladin)
I've meant to read this for a long time. The edition of this I read had both The Great Divorce and The Abolition of Man. The Great Divorce is one of my all time favorite books, of any genre. This book is also excellent, though of a totally different type.

This book will/does require multiple readings if we want to get the most out of it. Also considering when this book was written (1943) then looking at the world today and seeing how things have progressed it could be eye opening and even a bit f...more
After my second reading:

"Can education influence morality?" asks the back cover blurb. Of course, the musings of an Oxford don seventy years ago could not be relevant to the current state of education in America. Or, could it? For a reader already concerned about the downward spiral of the quality of our education, this book will pour fuel on the fire.

The trends Lewis warned of in the 1940s now permeate our schools--all of them. The result may be men with unimaginable power, but no moral compa...more
Clare Cannon
Aug 21, 2011 Clare Cannon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Young Adults & Adults
How could I have done an Arts degree without reading this book?! Lewis was a genius, and everything he writes here feels indescribably relevant to the present time. I had goosebumps while reading it.

So many voices call for the abandonment of all value systems except their own, wishing somehow to 'free' society from the laws that have governed it only to impose their own, more arbitrary code.

Every humanities student (not to mention teacher) must read it.
The Abolition of Man is a short work but very powerful. As with everything by C. S. Lewis, we are in for reading/listening pleasure as well as education. He fills our minds with his own terms (Men Without Chests) examples taken from real life (The Green Book) and convincing arguments from literature (Faust). Can you just imagine being one of his lucky students?

Published in 1943, Abolition is more applicable today than when it was written but probably the least known of his major works. When I d...more
I read this for a third time due to the inclusion of several excerpts in Ayn Rand’s Marginalia. Rand virulently hated the book and its author, and I’ve always wanted to examine more closely why, since I admire both authors. Her primary disagreement is his coupling of magic and science by claiming they both wanted to achieve power over nature, but by different means. I agree with her that this is an unjustified coupling with its implied vilification of science.

She, on the other hand, seems to for...more
Apr 29, 2008 Noah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Aoi Leann, Mike McCaffery
Simply amazing. Probably the best book by CS Lewis I've ever read. And the most terrifying. I took particular interest in the book because of conversations with my friend Cadmus in Japan, who was of the opinion that Instinct towards preserving the species is all that drives humanity in our lives (to sum up his general position). This book shows (and I believe proves) that such ideas, along with others that are similar or spring from it (such as that values are void and that traditional ideas mus...more
Mark Adderley
An important criticism of the educational system in Britain and America; it makes a good companion piece with G. K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man.
Skylar Burris
In the Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis confronts the modern attempt to overthrow the “doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are.” As such, it is a book that should be of interest to any adherent of any traditional religion.

Though Lewis is a Christian, he does not take a specifically Christian approach in this book; instead, he uses logical and moral reasoning to attack...more
Sherwood Smith
Jun 06, 2009 Sherwood Smith added it
Shelves: history
This is arguably Lewis's most brilliant book, and probably his most intellectual. It furnishes more quotes than most of his others, as he argues for a universal morality. In knocking down the emerging post-modernists of the time (beginning with Nietzsche) he predicts pretty much what's happening now.

"Man's conquest of nature turns out to be nature's conquest of man. All her retreats turn out to be tactical withdrawals."
A classic analysis of our educational and ethical decline. "We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the gelding be fruitful."
Wow. He really gave it to 'em good.

Lewis begins with a discussion of education, contrasting what all of history's great thinkers on education (Plato, Locke, Rousseau) thought of its purpose with how it is done today. Now, emotions are trivialized, sentiments (such as patriotism, duty) "explained away," and morals made so abstract as to have nothing to do with life.

Lewis then defends Natural Law, the unanimous and universal idea of absolute morality that was brutally murdered by Kant and Nietzs...more
This book is only 81 pages long and it’s mind blowing. It illuminated answers for several questions that I’d both been wondering about for years and was still articulating in my mind, especially regarding education and progress. It also made some arguments about science that I’m going to have to roll around in my mind a bit. Here are some of the world-defining arguments Lewis manages to cover in just 81 pages:

If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved (p. 40).

For every one pupil who needs...more
Kyle Worlitz
I read this, because a religious friend asked me to. Frankly, its a lot of intellectual blathering that could be summed up much more concisely, and effectively. Lewis tries to argue that human nature will change for the worse the more rationalist we become. I believe that on closer examination, what worries him isn't that human nature might change in the future. It's that human nature may not have been what he wanted it to be in his present. Lewis is an intelligent man, but he makes the same mis...more
I think I only understood about 1/2 of it, but luckily it was every other sentence, so I feel like I got the gist of what he was trying to say. It was strange to feel like the Intellectuals probably haven't changed all that much since CS Lewis was shooting holes in their arguments. I think there are a few parts here I ought to memorize for some discussions that come up with people who are for the abolition of man without quite realizing it! I definitely feel I've met "men without chests", and I...more
This is a mind-blowing book. Will change your opinion of CS Lewis - he's what some would call a genius, disregarding his children's literature fame, and this will make you think. I could not have read this except in a class for college, so if you are in high school you should probably wait, but if you want something "collegiate" (no idea if i'm using that term correctly) or "academic" or simply amazing, you should probably read this. Will be difficult for some, but worth it nonetheless. Importan...more
Roma Jones
This book is wise beyond the current understanding of my 18 year old self, which I am happy about as it gives me reason to befriend it again and again. But Why oh why did I neglected reading this book for so long? 'Twas a short and almost sweet one indeed

I really wish I had this my junior year when I conformed to writing an essay for school critiquing an Ayn Rand quote concerning subjective and objective paradigms of the world. And since then have been pained (or pleasured) to be plagued with a...more
I found that this argument has a lot of relevance and weight even today so many decades after it was written. It is.a good argument against those claiming that there is no objective morality. For further and up to date study I recommend the articles on
Mary Ronan Drew
Lewis' comments on teaching c 1945. He's concerned that education divorced from natural law was leading to a world of people whose idea of "good" is to obey every impulse. He was right.
Marc Hutchison
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",...more
Any follower of C.S. Lewis should fully appreciate this revealing look at human nature and the course of destruction it seems to be taking. The Abolition of Man calls to all those who love to ponder the ways of man and contemplate our existence. The title alone is enough to draw in anyone with even a mite of curiosity.

Lewis outlines the path to the devastation of our very own beloved human race. He sets the beginning of this annihilation process in the way we are educated, primarily in English....more
Jay Miklovic
I really enjoyed reading this book, it engaged my mind in ways my mind has never been engaged. I imagine that this book is more than worthy of five stars, and maybe some day I will come back to it again and give it the fifth star. I must say that there were a number of times when I absolutely struggled to understand what Lewis was getting at, especially in the first 20 pages or so. However as I read on things seemed to come together more and more.

I loved the essay "men without chests" which affi...more
Normally a book this size wouldn't "count" for me. My edition was around 50 pages and I finished it in about two hours. It is made up, however, of three lectures delivered by C.S. Lewis. Though short for reading, they are packed with highly condensed content. They reflect something a little more advanced than his popular works (i.e. Mere Christianity), and familiarity with some of those first would likely help the reader move through this more easily.

The Abolition of Man contains a lot of what...more
Garrett Cash
The Abolition of Man is a superb series of essays in which Lewis argues that education is an essential part of the development of morality. Unfortunately the modern education system is replete with philosophies (intentional or not) that will create, as Lewis calls them, "men without chests." This would give birth to a horrifying dystopia of monsters capable only of cold calculation. Lewis also speaks extensively on the subject of universal law which he calls the Tao, laws of morality that are co...more
Jacob Stubbs
C.S. Lewis is a writer that I had at one point dismissed as overwrought within Christianity (curse you #4 enneagram). Sure, "Mere Christianity" and "Screwtape Letters" are classics, but I felt that these were often over-quoted and too heavily relied upon by Christians today. The "Chronicles of Narnia" movies also did not help this view. This article gives a good summary of my view:

Forgive me for posting the PuffHo.

All that being said, I was blown away by...more
I heartily recommend that you read this book, if you have a child that is being educated. This was not an easy read. I needed to reread, to ponder, to look up the definition of a few words in order to understand what I was reading. The subtitle of the book is “reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools.” Although written in the 1940s, and harshly criticizing the education system then, the essays seem even more relevant to our current...more
Jul 14, 2011 Heidi rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Heidi by: Paradigm High School
Shelves: teaching-school
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 22, 2012 Joshua added it
Recommends it for: Anyone
I've heard a lot about this book and finally got around to reading it.

I enjoyed the book and it was a quick read. Thoughts I'm left with: Do we laugh at honor today? Duty? Do we take serious the self-disciplined person or do we pity them? Do we praise the person who indulges in what makes them happy? Do we say good job when a man's instincts are discovered and fulfilled -do we congratulate each other when we come to terms with our own "instincts"? Do we celebrate self-gratification or self-disci...more
Daniel Slonim
This is one of my favorite books of all time. I've read it three times (if I remember right). My brother gave it to me for my seventeenth birthday, and I read it then. It was really good, but I couldn't quite understand the logical flow of his argument. This past summer I had to read it again alongside "That Hideous Strength" (the third book of his space trilogy) in preparation for a retreat with the Hillsdale College honors program. The two books (which are meant to go together) illuminated eac...more
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C.S. Lewy 3 34 Dec 09, 2013 07:38PM  
  • The Everlasting Man
  • Escape from Reason: A Penetrating Analysis of Trends in Modern Thought
  • Leisure: The Basis Of Culture
  • The Mind of the Maker
  • On Christian Doctrine
  • Angels in the Architecture: A Protestant Vision for Middle Earth
  • Christianity and Liberalism
  • Ideas Have Consequences
  • Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul
  • On the Incarnation
  • Between Heaven & Hell
  • The Idea of a University
  • Against Christianity
  • The New Testament and the People of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, #1)
  • Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child
CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS (1898–1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954. He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than th...more
More about C.S. Lewis...
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1) The Chronicles of Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia, #1-7) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #3) The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, #6) Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia, #2)

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“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” 79 likes
“You can’t go on “seeing through” things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.” 73 likes
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