CS Lewis – The Abolition of Man

CS Lewis, the famous author of many books including “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” wrote “The Abolition of Man” as a defense of objective values and metaphysical law. It defends science as something worth pursuing but criticizes using it to debunk values, the value of science itself being among them.


Can you be Holy (wholly a spiritual being) without accomplishing the end for which you are created? Can you be Divine unless you are Holy? Can you accomplish the end for which you were created, unless you are authentically faithful to the divine?
Thomas Traherne, 15th century English philosopher

CS Lewis wrote: “no justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous. Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism.
Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the ‘spirited element’.

Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his friend.On what ground are some men being asked to die for the benefit of others? Every appeal to pride, honor, shame, or love is excluded by hypothesis. (To use these would be to explain to men, in terms of pure reasoning, why they will be well advised to die that others may live.) 

One may argue that ‘Unless some of us risk death all of us are certain to die’. But that will be true only in a limited number of cases; and even when it is true it provokes the very reasonable counter question ‘Why should I be one of those who take the risk?’

From propositions about fact alone no practical conclusion can ever be drawn. To say “This will preserve society” cannot lead to offer one’s life

Alternatively “This will cost you your life” cannot lead directly to ‘do not do this’.
We have an instinctive urge to preserve our own species. That is why men ought to work for posterity. We have no instinctive urge to keep promises or to respect individual life: that is why scruples of justice and humanity -in fact the Tao [the way or path]– can be properly swept away when they conflict with our real end, the preservation of the species. That, again, is why the modern situation permits and demands a new sexual morality: the old taboos served some real purpose in helping to preserve the species, but contraceptives have modified this and we can now abandon many of the taboos.

For of course sexual desire, being instinctive, is to be gratified whenever it does not conflict with the preservation of the species. It looks, in fact, as if an ethics based on instinct will give the Innovator all he wants and nothing that he does not want.

Indeed instinct is a name without clear definition (eg to say migratory birds find their way by instinct is only to say that we do not know how migratory birds find their way), but I think it is to mean an unreflective or spontaneous impulse widely felt by the members of a given species. In what way does Instinct, thus conceived, help us to find ‘real’ values?

Is it maintained that we must obey instinct, that we cannot do otherwise? “

Lewis concludes that real values based on love and compassion are our true identity as spiritual beings, and that hormones, instincts and egoic thinking are valuable tools that are relevant only in the space-time paradigm of life as we know it in human form.

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