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The Abolition of Man

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  29,664 ratings  ·  2,159 reviews
 In the classic The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis, the most important Christian writer of the 20th century, sets out to persuade his audience of the importance and relevance of universal values such as courage and honor in contemporary society. Both astonishing and prophetic, The Abolition of Man is one of the most debated of Lewis’s extraordinary works. National Review cho ...more
Paperback, 113 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by HarperOne (first published 1943)
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Benjamin Beserra Lewis is saying that to every thing there's a proper reaction. If our "taste" and/or perception of something is not "calibrated" as to cause us a prop…moreLewis is saying that to every thing there's a proper reaction. If our "taste" and/or perception of something is not "calibrated" as to cause us a proper reaction, our character is flawed. In your example, we should find something is evil if the thing indeed "deserves" this judgement.

I'll just point out one little detail in that: Lewis probably wouldn't say evil is a thing itself, as far as I know. As a Cristian, he likely thought of evil as the privation of a good. You'd still be able to react to something as finding it evil, though it's understood you found it to have no goodness.(less)
Nathalia Watkins Yes! This is a must-read in my opinion.

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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
Check out this guide by Michael Ward.

Assigned in Ralph Wood's Oxford Christians class at Baylor (Fall 2014). Assigned for CAS faculty at Regent (2019–20).

Excellent. Lewis said that this was his favorite book of his non-fiction writings (see Collected Letters 812, 897, 941, 1040, 1148, 1181,1214, 1419). "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 Hideo
Cindy Rollins
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, reread, 2021
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
Jul 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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..


Apr 25, 2020 rated it liked it
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
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
2022 Review
I turn "wow, this book was really profound, I should make sure I re-read it a few times to fully explore the nuance" and then never actually reading it again into an art form.

Thankfully, I've got book clubs to bring me back and remind me why I love Lewis so much.

2015 Review
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 Lewis's relevance, even so many years later.
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
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
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
Carol Bakker
2022: Added a star this reading. I still find it quite challenging.

2020: 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 relevan
Mar 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Tori Samar
While I can't claim to have understood everything in this book, I understood enough to know that C.S. Lewis anticipated postmodernism in all its destructive power. The further you read, the more you will realize that we are living amid the abolition of man. We are now in a world that has wholeheartedly embraced debunking, denied the existence of universal values, fallen back on feelings and impulses, and thrown humanity into the pit of destruction. Isn't this pointed line from Lewis exactly what ...more
Apr 20, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lewis makes many excellent points in this book, the most notable being that absolute truth is not merely a social construct that can be dismissed on a whim. To deny absolute truth is to deny the very framework of existence.

At the same time, though, I was very confused while I was reading and had to backtrack and reread several times to grasp Lewis’s point. I found the writing and presentation of arguments to be fairly convoluted. This definitely merits a reread in the future.
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. ...more
Wow, this was deep! I feel like I grasped what Lewis was saying with my heart, but my head is still whirling! 😂 This is something I'll probably need to read at least a couple of times before I could write a proper review. ...more
Lina Tae
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This, my friend, is a book that you should memorize to your bones. Read the quotes on the Goodreads directory if you don't have time to read it. I'm giving you one for starters.
“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.”
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 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I listened to an audiobook to get the big picture, and I already plan to read a physical book after Christmas. I loved what I understood—even if that was a small fraction of the book. I’ll be listening to the Scholé Sisters podcast on the first essay ASAP.
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.
Andrei Vasilachi
It's been a while since a book has challenged my assumptions about morality to such an extent, and it's been a while since I've seen someone provide a strong argument against a Nietzschean revisionism of morals. I had a few issues with how Lewis portrayed scientists and people that nowadays would be called "critical theorists" — it seemed a bit like a caricature —, however, I can't help but agree with most of his arguments (if I look past the style of his rhetoric).

The crux of his argument could
Indeed, I can see why so many great scholars consider Lewis the greatest apologist of the twentieth century. He makes several excellent points in The Abolition of Man, short as it is, and his arguments about schooling, children, absolute truth, and morality are only growing more relevant.
This book is rather scholarly and dry, and I had to reread many paragraphs to catch his point. Nevertheless, it is interesting and well worth a read.
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
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
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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.” 297 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.” 224 likes
More quotes…