Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Abolition of Man by Man

“Abolition of Man” is a very difficult read. The first two chapters outline the subjectivism that Lewis observes in his contemporary school teaching. He shows how teachers are training students in the belief that an object has no value of its own. A man’s statement on the object is only a reflection of his personal feelings at that moment. Thus our world is only a reflection of our feelings at any given point, nothing in it has any good or bad value except in comparison to our present feelings. In the third chapter Lewis describes the consequences that would result if this type of teaching were to remain unchecked in our society.

Let me first go back to Lewis’ analysis in the second chapter of these teachers. He says “we continue to clamour for those very qualities which we are rendering impossible…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.” The teachers expect more morality from the students than they are training the students to have. In not teaching students to make value judgements the teachers have, in essence, judged tradition moral law to be bad. In explaining this Lewis shows how the teachers are being hypocritical both in their desire for a different society and in their expectations of their students. To make the same point Lewis says “A great many of those who 'debunk' traditional or (as they would say) 'sentimental' values have in the background values of their own which they believe to be immune from the debunking process.”

I also want to comment on one of the results Lewis predicts for a society that eradicates the traditional moral law. Lewis says “There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man’s side. Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger. In every victory, besides being the general who triumphs, he is also the prisoner who follows the triumphal car.” Lewis is saying that even as these teachers attempt to advance our society by removing all values of right or wrong they are also destroying our society. We are losing as much as we are gaining. I believe this to be a very accurate assumption of what happens when man rejects the moral law and even the Law of God. As was brought up in an earlier class God’s Laws have been implemented to protect us from harm (sometimes originating in ourselves). The example in class was soldiers who were told to carry shovels or spades with them to bury their excrements outside of camp and thus prevent the spread of disease. If this rule was not followed man would have harmed himself by exposing himself to disease. Another example would be a man who chose to murder someone. Even as he is killing someone else, he is killing part of himself as well: slowly the more he kills the more immune he will be to the pain he is causing. He is losing the compassion that makes him human and thus isolating himself from human companionship. As Lewis says “man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of man… man’s conquest of nature turns out to be… nature’s conquest of man.” Even as we try to separate ourselves from the traditional morals that are engraved on our hearts we are allowing nature to have more complete dominion over us. This is the point that Lewis is making.

There is much more theology and logic in this book that I have not mentioned and much that I do not fully understand.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Kim,

    You have understood much! Very good summary.

    A & P