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The Abolition of Man

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  11,629 ratings  ·  612 reviews
Both astonishing and prophetic, The Abolition of Man remains one of C. S. Lewis's most well-known 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 syst ...more
Paperback, 113 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by HarperOne (first published 1943)
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Tim
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
Allie
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
Ron
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.
booklady
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
Noah
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
Bruce
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
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
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.
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."
Sean
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
Amber
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
Jean
In "The Abolition of Man", C.S. Lewis presents a solid case of the dangers of moral relativism. True 50 years ago when Lewis wrote it and visionary as it applies more than ever today. I highly recommend this book. If you choose to read it, ask yourself if you recognize any ways, sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle, in which you or your children are being conditioned to think through our education system, scientific "advancements", the media, government, etc. The "nonjudgmental, politica ...more
Susan
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
Jacob Aitken
How did I go so long without reading this? In many ways its a natural law primer. Lewis does a good job showing how secular anti-natural law theories devolve into incoherence, but the book is so much more. In it we see a glimpse--one rarely acknowledged by Lewis's evanjellyfish disciples today--of the coming global state and its scientific elite. This book should be read in conjunction with That Hideous Strength (easily the 5th greatest novel of the 20th century; the other four were by Tolkien). ...more
Colleen Lynch
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
Josh
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 http://www.reasonablefaith.org.
Amy
A ton of profound thought in this relatively short book. Having concluded my first reading, I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface. I'm amazed at how relevant Lewis is, even so many years later.
John
A short, fascinating essay on the modern view of moral value. I highly recommend reading it if only for the last chapter, which is a scarily prophetic examination of modern man's "conquest of nature".
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.
Kevin Heldt
Lewis. Brilliant. As always. This incisive book cuts through a lot of the "modern" nonsense that has attached itself to education and philosophy. A short book yet quite profound.
Homeschoolmama
This is not the sort of book you take to the beach for a leisurely read. Nor is it the kind of book you read in bed before retiring; no, this is the kind of book you need to sit up straight in a chair for, with a notebook and pen, or at least a highlighter...
It is one of Lewis' shorter books, but it is packed w/his customary logical arguments and illustrations. In Abolition of Man , Lewis writes about the cultural implications of subverting natural law. He starts out with a refutation of The
...more
Sarah
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
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
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
Michael
Absolutely incredible! Lewis is spot on in his criticism of much modern thought!

I definitely recommend this book and will surly read it again!
Brendan
Take that, moral relativism!
Jeremy
Assigned in Ralph Wood's Oxford Christians class at Baylor (Fall 2014).

Excellent. Lewis said that this was his favorite book of his non-fiction writings. "The Green Book" is Lewis's way of referring to Alex King and Martin Ketley's The Control of Language: A Critical Approach to Reading and Writing.

Here's a helpful link for quotes and allusions in this book.

1: charitable reading (also pp. 4, 11-13)
2: Coleridge/waterfall/sublime/feelings
6: ad example (don't just say it's bad—show what's good); se
...more
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C.S. Lewy 4 46 Dec 24, 2014 09:24PM  
  • Heretics
  • Escape from Reason: A Penetrating Analysis of Trends in Modern Thought
  • On Christian Doctrine
  • Angels in the Architecture: A Protestant Vision for Middle Earth
  • The Idea of a University
  • Leisure: The Basis Of Culture
  • Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God
  • On the Incarnation
  • The Mind of the Maker
  • The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life
  • Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World
  • Ideas Have Consequences
  • Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child
  • Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God
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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.” 114 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.” 80 likes
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