Book Review: The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis

TheAbolitionOfManI just finished my third C. S. Lewis book, and can say that of the ones I’ve read (Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and now The Abolition of Man) this is probably the most important.  The basic premise of the book is that, all of life – that is all truth and morality – is based upon some Higher Truth.  Lewis does not go so far in The Abolition of Man to claim that this Higher Truth should be Christianity (he argued that in Mere Christianity), but just that all Real Truth is in reality based upon a Higher Truth.  Men may deny this Higher Truth, but if while denying this Truth they still claim any sort of right or wrong, then they are in fact being hypocrites.  All morality, argues Lewis, stems from a higher, timeless Truth.  For lack of a better term, Lewis labels this Higher Truth,”The Tao” in The Abolition of Man.

To actually represent this book correctly, I must explain that Lewis does leave open another possibility.  Men may deny this Higher Truth, the Tao, but if they do so, every decision will then be based simply upon the opinion, or lust, of the moment.  As he says on page 67, “If you will not obey the Tao, or else commit suicide, obedience to impulse (and therefore, in the long run, to mere ‘nature’) is the only course left open.”  If the decisions of morality are not based on a Higher Law, and moral decisions are simply based upon our own fleeting opinions, then, argues Lewis, “Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man” (64).  In other words, apart from a Higher Truth society will fall apart, and the influence of a few men in power will affect every other man, and result in the collapse of society.  Lewis concludes, “I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a man who, having stepped outside traditional morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently” (66).

I think this is an important book because what Lewis first predicted in 1944 in The Abolition of Man, is happening right now throughout Western society.  In American culture the adoption of a relativistic worldview seems to be making society worse not better.  When people adopt the “I do what feels right” view of morality, then society is doomed.  Mankind must base its morality on a higher, Objective Truth, and the only one that is shown to be true again and again is the truth of Christianity.  The pervading, demonic influence of Darwinian naturalism, and the survival-of-fittest mantra, if left unchallenged, will always result in the destruction of society.

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