C.S. Lewis & The Abolition of Man

Posted by Christine Dewitt on Jan 10, 2018 11:39:49 AM

Over the Christmas break I had the pleasure of working my way through a stack of accumulating ‘must reads’ and re-reads on my desk at home. One of these was a slim volume by C.S. Lewis entitled The Abolition of Man.

If you wish to understand the goal of Classical Education, and hence the goal of the work we do at Veritas, this is one book you should read. If you wish to understand why our culture stands so opposed to Christian values, this is one book you cannot afford not to read.

The Abolition of Man makes clear that our lives are not about the pursuit of happiness, or about following our own dreams, or about fulfilling our own desires. Rather, our lives are about conformity to an objective Truth, a Savior, Jesus Christ. This conformity is lived out in the timeless battle between good and evil, right and wrong, and we, as students, parents, educators, are called to be engaged in this battle not only in our hearts, but also in our minds.

As Lewis notes: 
It is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is, and the kind of things we are. ... And because our approvals and disapprovals are thus recognitions of objective value or responses to objective order, therefore emotional states can be in harmony with reason, or out of harmony with reason.... No emotion is, in itself, a judgment; in that sense all emotions and sentiments are alogical. But they can be reasonable or unreasonable as they conform to Reason or fail to conform. The heart never takes the place of the head, but it can and should obey it.”

The world would have us judge value by our own emotions, but history and God’s Word tell us to do otherwise. Because we are fallen creatures, our emotions lead us astray and must be ordered according to God’s will, not our own. As both St. Augustine and Aristotle taught us, the aim of education is to train students to give every object the kind of love it deserves, not the kind of love our fickle emotions tell us to give it. Without this training of the affections (ordo amores), our children will never learn to love what is good and hate what is bad. They will never love what is truly true, truly good, and truly beautiful, as judged by an objective Truth.

Written in 1944, Lewis’ book seems shockingly current in its appraisal and analysis of modern educational philosophy and attitudes. You would think he was writing about the moral relativism of our own day. Lewis was fighting the same tendencies in culture that we face today, and with a wit, wisdom, and eloquence rarely found in today’s conversation on education.

At Veritas, we stand for the objective Truth of God’s infallible Word and against the subjective values and moral relativism of the world. If our students graduate with the ability to discern between these solidly in place, we have accomplished our goal. 
If you do not have time to read Lewis’ 30 or so pages (1 hour), take the time to read these ten (only 12 minutes!), written by Dr. David K. Naugle, chair and professor of philosophy at Dallas Baptist University. Dr. Naugle gives a summary of Lewis’ thesis in The Abolition of Man and places his argument in the present era with a timely comparison to contemporary writers.

-Mrs. DeWitt 

Topics: Education, Classical Model