My review of After Humanity by Michael Ward, a guide to the abolition of man by CS Lewis

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Many readers are familiar with CS Lewis’ The abolition of man. Last summer, Word on Fire published a wonderful companion to the book. Written by the theologian and literary critic, Michael Wardhe is intitulated Aclose to humanity: a guide to CS Lewis’ The abolition of man. My review of Professor Ward’s volume just appeared this morning in The Catholic Telegraph. Here’s how it starts:

At the height of World War II, in February 1943, CS Lewis delivered the Riddell Memorial Lectures at Durham University in England. Titled “The Abolition of Man”, they were published later that year as a small volume which has since been heralded as one of the most important books of the 20th century.

The abolition of man is a scholarly critique of vvalue subjectivism: the idea that goodness and beauty are not real truths about the things of the world, but rather our subjective perceptions imposed on the world. For example, when we say the Grand Canyon is beautiful, we’re not really describing what it is literally. We are simply announcing to the world the beautiful feelings that arise in us when we encounter the Grand Canyon. Lewis argues that under this theory, ratings of goodness or beauty cannot be good or bad. All are equally subjective and therefore equally unrational – simply a matter of individual taste.

But value subjectivism is a universal acid that cannot be forced into judgments about the goodness or beauty of the natural world. If true, the theory must also extend to human nature. We therefore cannot say what is inherently good for human beings, since goodness, like beauty, is only in the eye of the beholder. This means that there is no natural moral law that can guide society in shaping its laws and customs. Truth yields to the power and value of the subjectivity of those who hold it. This leaves politics and law in the hands of irresponsible elites who burden humanity with their vision of “good”. In this scenario, generations of human beings remain slaves to the capricious whims of powerful elites. This, Lewis argues, is the abolition of man.

You can the rest here.


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