Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Abolition of Man

A book review-yay! Ok so this book has been out there for awhile already but I'm reading it again and it makes even more sense now than when I read it so long ago. Here's a teaser. (Definition added by moi.)


Human nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man. The battle will then be won. But who, precisely, will have won it?
For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please. Hitherto the plans of educationalists have achieved very little of what they attempted and indeed, when we read them - how Plato would have every infant "a bastard nursed in a bureau," and Elyot would have the boy see no men before the age of seven and, after that, no women, and how Locke wants children to have leaky shoes and no turn for poetry - we may well thank the beneficent obstinacy of real mothers, real nurses, and (above all) real children for preserving the human race in such sanity as it still possesses. But the man-moulders of the new age will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out all posterity in what shape they please. . .

The Conditioners, then, are to choose what kind of artificial Tao they will, for their own good reasons, produce in the Human race. .

It is not that they are bad men. They are not men at all. Stepping outside the Tao, they have stepped into the void. Nor are their subjects necessarily unhappy men. They are not men at all: they are artifacts. (Artifact: An object produced or shaped by human craft) Man's final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man.

When all that says "it is good" has been debunked, what says "I want" remains. . The Conditioners, therefore, must come to be motivated simply by their own pleasure. My point is that those who stand outside all judgements of value cannot have any ground for preferring one of their own impulses to another except the emotional strength of that impulse.

At the moment, then, of Man's victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subjected to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely "natural" - to their irrational impulses. Nature, untrammelled by virtues, rules the Conditioners and, through them, all humanity. Man's conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature's conquest of Man.


-- C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, chap. 3, para. 5-10, pp. 72-80, as quoted in The Quotable Lewis, Wayne Martindale & Jerry Root, editors


Insolublog said...

Good post Uber.

The question of how man might be abolished is a fascinating one. It's nearly impossible to disjoin the cultural trends and mores from the physical and the technological. At what frame of the movie to you stop the film and declare the end of human nature? If we control the 'Tao', is the fact that we can control it a natural function of man? I f we can control it, is it really a force of nature? In the new era of stem cells and genetic fashions, these questions will be brought to the front burner.

Uber said...

Whoah! I just wanted to know where all the cowboys have gone. lol j/k

Thank you for the links, I'll surely check them out. :)

Insolublog said...

The cowboys are all currently scraping terrorists off of the badlands. When they get back safe and sound, I hope they move into leadership positions.

Uber said...

Indeed! *g*