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The Abolition of Man

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  22,287 ratings  ·  1,484 reviews
Lewis uses his graceful prose, delightful humor, and keen understanding of the human mind to challenge our notions about how to best teach our children--and ourselves--not merely reading and writing, but also a sense of morality.
Paperback, 113 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by HarperOne (first published 1943)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  22,287 ratings  ·  1,484 reviews

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Mar 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Douglas Wilson
May 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
Excellent. Read various times. Just listened to an audio version in the fall of 2015. Although I have read this book multiple times, the last time through on audio, I noticed that the last section contained layers I had not ever really understood. I listened to it again (Jan. 2016) with that in mind, and yep, definite layers. This book is deep.

Listened to it again in October of 2016. And yet again in July of 2017.
Apr 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Assigned in Ralph Wood's Oxford Christians class at Baylor (Fall 2014). Assigned for certain faculty at Regent (2019–20).

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. Abolition is the nonfiction version of That Hideous Strength (see here for some connections). See Plodcast, Episode #6, where Wilson recommends readi
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Readers interested in moral and social philosophy
Shelves: other-nonfiction
This is a very short --but pithy-- book, with actually only 113 pages, and only the first 81 of those make up the main body of the text; the rest are the Appendix and end-notes (mostly documenting sources). The three main chapters are the texts of the three Riddell Memorial Lectures delivered on successive evenings in February 1943 at the Univ. of Durham's King's College. It's sub-titled "Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools," s ...more
Clare Cannon
Jul 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Published in the 1940ths this is a work of a brilliant mind!!!
C. S. Lewis "The Abolition of Man" is also a timeless wake up call to all of us..

What does it means to be human?
What about honor?
Which values needs to be held up?
Must we defend or surrender our way of life?

For sure a work needed to be reread again and again..
Entertains and teach at the same time!!
I would say the right book for this time!!!
Highly recommendable..


Cindy Rollins
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, reread
This book is definitely one that gets better the more times you read it. I can remember understanding very little of it except the famous paragraph at the end of the first chapter the first time I read it, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. 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 geldings be fruitful.”

Certainly, that paragraph itself i
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
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
Kyle Worlitz
Aug 04, 2011 rated it liked it
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 mistake that so many people make; he tries to fit science and theory to a preconceived truth. He doesn't have a question, and then try to answer it. He doesn't have ...more
J.Aleksandr Wootton
Nov 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Hard to start, easy to finish.

Lewis apparently presumed his audience would be fellow academics, or at least persons educated in a common curriculum - an assumption which makes the opening pages difficult to follow. I was about 10 the first time I read this, with no background in "the well-known story of Coleridge at the waterfall" or "dulce et decorum est" (and no Internet to quickly look them up with). But over the first dozen or so pages Lewis finds his stride, and as the book's discussion mov
Laurel Hicks
An excellent essay on the dangers of the word 'only,’ how neglecting the ‘ought’ for the sake of the ‘is’ distorts the ‘is’ and gives us men without chests.
Apr 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Carol Bakker
I didn't factor how difficult I would find C.S. Lewis to sometimes be.

I first listened to this book as I walked. Bad idea. It ricocheted off my brain. I read the words. I listened and read together. Finally, I watched the book/listened to audio with CSLewisDoodle on You Tube. It truly improved with each excursion, and by improving I mean my understanding inched forward.

One thing about C.S. Lewis: his ideas are as relevant now as they were in 1944.

In short, I want to give this five stars; alas,
Wow, this is hard to rate and review. 3.5 stars?

This is a collection of three related, non-religious essays. Lewis observed the introduction of Progressive ideals (like moral relativism) in schools and explained the logical problems with them. He examines the ideas (there is no absolute truth, no intrinsic value, and no Natural Law) and shows the flaws in their logic.

The way he tackles these philosophical ideas just proves his genius. Just watching his thought process and the beautiful writing i
Skylar Burris
Dec 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-inklings, 2016
(The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!)

Y’all, I’m going to start this with some r
May 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
5/25/2020 * 3.5 - 4 🌟
Wow, lots to ponder here. A lot I agree with but some I'm not sure about and will have to think about for awhile.
Mar 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I have read this before and appreciated it. Reading it as a mom, the wife of a high school administrator, a homeschool parent and a perpetual student of Lewis, it was utterly profound for me this time. I think that this has become my very favorite of Lewis's philosophical reflections or social commentaries. The third reflection about science was particularly compelling.
Jesse Brooks
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Why does society desire to raise children with no moral compass besides their own?
Eye of Sauron
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this at least three times over the last couple of years, and it's still just as profound and moving as the first time I read it.

Despite being one of Lewis's lesser-known works of nonfiction, The Abolition of Man is an amazing piece of exhortatory philosophy. Relatively short, and taking the form of three short essays that connect to one another, it's stunning, concerning, and even alarming at parts. The main premise is simple, though abstract: the modern educational process is teaching
Annie Kate
Now that I've been a home educator for over two decades, this book makes more sense to me. Partly because I understand education, and partly because homeschooling my kids has taught me enough history and philosophy to enable me to understand why Lewis wrote the book.

This is listed in at least two 'top books of the twentieth century' lists, and deservedly so.

Highly recommended for parents, educators, and everyone else concerned with truth and culture. (Note that this is not an explicitly Christia
Mark Jr.
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, kindle, 2018
In The Abolition of Man Lewis argues for the "Tao"—his ad hoc technical term for natural law.

Several people recommended this to me as the best case for natural law. I'm not ready to say that, because it wouldn't be fair to the other prominent books on the topic I have yet to read. But this book is worthwhile if only because it is quintessential Lewis (as most Lewis books seem to be). He writes with amazing prose and incisive clarity on modern efforts to undo or replace traditional values—modern
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
I took a C.S. Lewis class in college (yes, an entire class just reading C.S. Lewis!), but never got around to reading this one until now.

I'll be honest, the first third of it went right over my head. It's definitely not like most of his stuff I've read. It wasn't until the last quarter of the book that it finally dawned on me that the whole book is just an argument against eugenics. Yes, he talks about universal values and other important things, but he is essentially trying to make a logical a
Sherwood Smith
Jun 06, 2009 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."
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow, just wow. No words.

There are three sections to this book. I had a hard time following the first two but once I reached the third, his vision started clicking and I was blown away by his insight.

In this book, Lewis laid out his argument as to why there has to be a universal moral code and certain objective laws of nature otherwise Man would cease to exist. It's beautiful. It's relevant. I plan on visiting it again down the road!
May 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: c-s-lewis, faith
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.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Clive Staples Lewis 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

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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.” 246 likes
“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. 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 geldings be fruitful.” 171 likes
More quotes…