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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
The Abolition of Man (Annotated)
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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 24 May 2017
A superb book, even more relevant today than when it wasn't written. I've already read 'Mere Christianity' and the Narnia and Hideous Strength books but I only came across this because of reading quotes posted on the internet and being amazed that Lewis had summed up so succinctly what I had been thinking for some time - that as a society we are currently sawing off the branch we are sitting on, by undermining traditional values and ethics without having anything solid to replace them with. This should be a required text for all school children to read. Along with Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451' and Robert Pirsig's 'Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance'
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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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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 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 16 August 1999
Using the clever vehicle of critiquing a presumptuous Britishtextbook, Lewis de-bunks the use of scientific method to analyze humanity, claiming instead that humans must trust their cumulative culture and their gut feelings. The three chapters are the record of three lectures he delivered toward the end of WWII; there is an undercurrent of distress regarding a society's willingness to sacrifice its sons for its own ironic preservation. These lectures pre-date his more well-known works of 'mere Christianity' and thinly veiled allegory and fantasy, and his tone is scholarly and patient while trying to wade through some very thick philosophy. More than 3 stars for graduate student readers, but 3 stars for anyone hoping to find a clear direction for designing learning expriences that result in noble citizens with altruistic charcter. Screwtape Letters communicate the same theories in much more digestible form. Perhaps his multi-cultural references, finding superficial similarity in the spiritual works of many cultures and historic eras, must be considered very much ahead of the current era's hypersensitivity to eurocentric assumptions, but his use of 'the tao' as a generic term for traditional morality might be considered as presumptuous as the textbook he mercilessly skewers throughout the series..
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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 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 28 November 2010
Like many reviewers, I have seen a prophetic element to Lewis' apologetics in Abolition.

He offers a deep insight into the nature of man, his ambitions as they relate to science & technology, the cumulative effect of moral relativism, and argues for the existence of an objective Moral Law. He builds his argument slowly on a seemingly unrelated subject - a children's English Language text - but cleverly uses this analogy to show the objectivity of the Moral Law and the slippery ground of moral relativism.

Why the 'Abolition of Man'? Lewis notes that man's 'dominance over nature' is not at all as a species, but is only true for specific groups within the species - these groups define morality according to what is convenient to their purposes, and often to very destructive ends. Lewis envisioned a growing moral relativism that would allow for certain steps to be taken in science - like gene manipulation- and hence some future generation could effectively rob those to follow of their ability to 'be human'. In effect man will become what this 'master' generation decides it should be.

Abolition quite pointedly, though with careful thought, deconstructs the idea that man is led purely by instinct as a creature of evolution (though he accepts evolution). Somehow Lewis reached forward to counter many of today's arguments against the existence of God, religion as a product of culture and an overarching 'Tao' or 'Natural Law'.

He ends the book with a collection of teachings from a variety of cultures and beliefs (Babylonian, Egyptian, Chinese and Jewish amongst others) to illustrate the universality of specific moral standards like fidelity and obligation to the poor, children and parents among others. I only wish Lewis spent more time exploring more specific arguments against Moral Objectivism, but nonetheless he demonstrates why he is the Master Moralist.
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on 16 April 2014
I feel validated after reading this. All I have thought to be wrong with society demonstrated more eloquently than any modern author could.
This is the second time a CS Lewis book has given me pause! This book should be the test for our educators...are they "men without chests?"
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