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on 4 November 2003
There are not many books which I think everyone should read. This slim volume is one of them. Here C. S. Lewis explains in the clearest way imaginable why all the attempts to "debunk" humankind are flawed. E.g. attempting to reduce humans to the product of evolution, or to our psychology and social background. The essential argument is this: if we argue that our innate sense of right and wrong is arbitrary and so seek to replace it with something else, where do we get the belief that our new morality is desirable from? Must it not, in the end, be justified from the innate morality it seeks to replace? (The alternative is that it is not justified at all.) This is a compelling and exciting book. Don’t take my word for it: read it yourself!
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on 6 April 2013
As several other reviewers have noted, this book starts with an excessively distracting rant about some mid-20th Century school textbook. And it seems to go on for ages, feeling unjust in its criticism of an inadvertent philosophical faux pas that the authors of this long-forgotten textbook have made.

But if you can only bare with it and keep going you realise that the vital point he is making is buried in the heart of the book, and actually the subliminal nature of reductionist and relativistic thinking is just the problem he is talking about. It was only about half way through the book that I realised what CS Lewis' message was and, more importantly, how pertinent it is to public life in 2013 Britain. Stunning.

Because of the format it is fairly inaccessible for average readers like me, but in terms of the central idea this book is a potential life-changer. An easy 5 stars.
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on 5 February 1998
In this terse discussion about ethics, specifically how education develops man's sense of morality, Lewis argues that there are indeed objective values, denying the relativistic viewpoint of those who postulate that all values are fictional creations from the subjective mind of mankind. He also convincingly demonstrates how those who educate the young inevitably influence students' views on the matter by the very language used in their schoolbooks. Far from being an abstruse topic that has little bearing on our every day lives, subjective relativism has long term adverse consequences for members of society who come under its influence. Given wide enough application, it could ultimately destroy mankind. The appendix to THE ABOLITON OF MAN is quite helpful, listing examples of common values held by people of many different societies and cultures, pointing to an objective law, or "Tao". It does indeed show that there is a desire for a way of life that is better and more just, for mercy and kindness, which is seen in the different cultures around the globe. If there were not divine law and objective values, then we humans would be - as the animals seem to be - satisfied with any 'ole way of living. This book is just a bit dense in spots (which is why I rate it with a 9 instead of 10), but still readable and quite peritinent to today's western society. For related material in a little less left brained presentation, see Lewis's THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH or MERE CHRISTIANITY.
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on 2 July 1997
After Mere Christianity I think this is C.S.Lewis' greatest book. This is not at all a treatise on Christianity. In fact he employs his alacrity with the other schools of religious thought to better make his points. Its focus is on subtle turns of phrases employed in school texts that diminish and undermine the the man's unique ability to impute quality of character, nobility, and beauty to objects and events. One chapter called Men Without Chests is a phrase that will haunt you time and again as you think back on this book when discussing why things seem better than ever in the world today... yet people feel more shallow and empty and don't know why. The book discusses how man is teaching away his humanity. It is inspired by a simple line quoted from a school text book about a waterfall. At first it is difficult to see what C.S. Lewis feels so passionate about but well before the end of the book you understand clearly. This is a book that can bring you into focus and may have a lasting impact on the way you look at the world. By the books end you may find yourself even more human than when you began.
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on 26 January 2001
...and The Abolition of Man explains why. We have become materialists and sacrificed all the most important spiritual beliefs that make us something other than mere animals. Man has abolished his own humanity in his quest to "conquer the world." Great reading. Also recommended: "Castle of Wisdom," a Christian book by Rhett Ellis, another great book, even if it is a bit on the strange side.
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on 27 February 2016
This book is based on Lewis' lectures at University of Durham in 1943. Over 70 years on, the text describes exactly the path that we have gone down, making this book read like prophecy. This is the power of Lewis' insight which still benefits us today by illuminating the folly we are in and the "final stage" we are heading - the abolition of man! Is there still time to arrest the trend? I think not not because it's too late but because few people are warned. Perhaps we all should read this book and make an informed choice - do we really want that future for our offspring if we are lucky enough to have escaped the knife ourselves?

The pressure is on to eradicate all the fundamental core values that we hold. We see our traditional values being assaulted without stirring much alarm. We reason on some of the first principles that define us as human, and human nature is the final area of "Nature" that we seek to conquer or overpower. Then who are we? Lewis argues, 'Man's conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature's conquest of Man.' (p. 41) 'We have been trying like Lear, to have it both ways: to lay down our human prerogative and yet at the same time to retain it. It is impossible.' (p.43)

I must say, as pointed out by Lewis, schools today play a crucial role in "conditioning" our kids and the future generation under the regulation of the state. What Lewis has argued has happened at school today, and sadly for us, we do not have a critical voice as forceful, articulate and eloquent to expose the danger of this path for everyone to see. A sober read.
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on 2 October 1997
Why such a foreboding title for a book on education? Lewis starts his book with a critique of a textbook for elementary schoolchildren on English, but goes on to draw conclusions from the book's authors' worldview about the ultimate end of the quest for subjective ethics. It is Lewis' thesis that ethics do not come from man, and any attempt to create a "new" ethic starting from man will inevitably result in the annihilation of both ethics and the human race. In the light of Western society's journey through modernism and into post-modernism, this little book just gets more and more timely with every passing day. It also contains a helpful appendix, Illustrations from the Tao, which shows that the basic principles of ethics are universal: common to all cultures and all times.
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on 19 May 2006
CS Lewis' book here is an incredible prophesy of how he saw the western world moving forward, a world where what was triumphed as 'man's power over nature' turned into 'man's power over other men, using nature as his (or her, I'm sure) instrument'.

This is an incredible book packed with so many truthes about modern day life you would struggle to believe it has been around for 50+ years!
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on 7 March 2013
This is a thought-provoking read, in classic C.S. Lewis style. I would not go as far as he does with the consequences of naturalistic philosophy being subtly brought into education (I still think that children who learn morality at home will be less likely to fall into these traps at school). Yet, I do think that his warning is relevant for today - school-leavers are not taught to closely examine what they are fed at university, but rather blindly follow whatever 'the experts' say. As a result, few students ever think critically about dubious 'scientific' theories such as evolution. The naturalistic philosophy that comes with evolution leads on to the logical conclusion that humans are just another species of mammal, and morality and truth are not objective realities. The resulting acceptance of evil and falsehood as the norm are fulfillments of what C.S. Lewis was considering in his day.
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on 24 July 2014
I bought this as it is meant to be a seminal work. I am a scientist and therefore found this book really hard work, but it was worth all the effort to read and re-read until I made sense of the arguments.
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