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 chose it as number seven on their “100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century.”
Lewis, C.S. The Abolition of Man. Touchstone, 1996.
Lewis’ The Abolition of Man is a striking, though short, work arguing that the logical progression of a “coolly rational” mentality is toward the abolition of humanity and its replacement by mere animal, i.e. Man unguided by virtue (what Lewis terms the Tao) and led only by chance impulses fueled by happenstance emotion. The first chapter concerns modern education and its obsession with “debunking” or “seeing through” qualitative descriptions, with the exchange of objective value statements for subjective feeling statements. Lewis denounces such instruction as tending towards absurdity in the remaining two chapters. In chapter two, he argues that neither Pure Reason nor Instinct serve as sufficient bases for the Tao, which must then, necessarily–since it is observed and perceived and used–be in itself a first principle. Chapter three then seeks to describe the natural consequences of a human race fixated on the denial of the Tao. Of particular force is the closing paragraph of this chapter, in which Lewis’ literary ability drove home not only the absurdity but also the futility of the one who attempts to “go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever [sic].”
Would definitely recommend reading through several times. It’s not too long, anyhow. (As an aside, the entire work as well as the appendix work well as justifications for the second premise of W.L. Craig’s Moral Argument for the Existence of God.)
C.S. Lewis initiates the discussion of absolute morality (termed as “Tao” by Lewis in the text) by criticizing the ways that the contemporary education is shaping schoolboys’ view of sentiments and values. More specifically, some textbooks claim that feelings are trifling and contemptible, implying dangerously that morality should be treated equally. Next, Lewis examines if instinct can be a source of value judgments that are evident in our lives. The conclusion is that there was some occurrence, or someone, that endowed value on one instinct over another. One example he uses to clarify this point is by questioning why we should be unselfish tomorrow, which ultimately leads to the question of why we should care about the preservation of species at all.
This book is difficult to read, but it serves as a strong support for the existence of absolute morality and, thus, the existence of God.