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Man’s quest of Nature, if the dreams of some scientific planners are realized, means the rule of a few hundreds of men over billions upon billions of men. … Each new power won by man is a power over man as well.
~ C.S. Lewis
Chapter 3 of Dr. Benjamin Wiker’s book, “10 Books Every Conservative Must Read,” has an excellent treatment of C.S. Lewis’ “The Abolition of Man,” which is divided into three parts, each representing a chapter: “Men without Chests,” “The Way” and “The Abolition of Man.” Lewis’ subtitle was “How Education Develops Man’s Sense of Morality,” but Wiker cites an alternative subtitle: “An Inquiry into the Heart of Modern Liberalism.”
The thesis of Lewis’ work addresses the modern attempt to completely master nature, an effort, Lewis warns, that will end in the subjection of human nature itself to total technological manipulation and exploitation, a tyranny of the minority over the masses of mankind – thus the end of conservatism, the end of liberalism … the abolition of man.
According to Lewis, modern liberalism seeks to “remove all limits to the human will” or, in the words Aristotle used to define “democracy,” to liberate man from any natural limits on his desires, allowing everyone “to live as he wants toward whatever end he happens to crave.”
Wiker quotes Lewis: “The natural trend in a democracy where everyone aims to live as he wants is for politicians to promise more and more to fulfill the multitude of incompatible desires of the populace. To meet these promises, they print reams of money and borrow in epic proportions. As the system becomes unstable and begins to collapse, the people call for a leader to bring them out of this crisis.” This societal crisis inevitably leads to a concentration of more and more power in government, which over time has devolved from a republic to a mild democracy, from an extreme democracy into a tyranny.
Men without Chests
The first section of the book, “Men without Chests,” cites “The Green Book,” a grammar book by Gaius and Titius, which are pseudonyms for the actual authors. Their premise is rooted in analytical philosophy, liberalism and moral relativism and states “that when we think we’re saying something true about reality, we are only describing our own subjective feelings.” This extreme relativism amounts to a form of suicide of thought these writers “use to kill the childlike faith in reason, and in doing so, slay what is essentially human, our rationality” – our desire to know.
Lewis answers this relativism by restating that the question is not what feelings someone generally has, or the origins of these feelings, but what feelings he should have.
To put modern liberalism in its proper historical context, Wiker takes us back to the English Renaissance philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679). Hobbes, like many of his generation, was permanently scarred by the horrors of the political-religious Thirty Years’ War (1618-48). Hobbes was the first modern thinker to systematically attack the notion that there is any natural, moral order. He argued that the words “good” and “evil” are merely descriptions of our own individual likes and dislikes. Hobbes was thus the father of modern relativism and modern liberalism. It was Hobbes who first gave us men without chests. Connecting Hobbes to Lewis, Wiker further states:
They cut off the top of man, the part of him that rises above his animal nature, and leave only his animal feelings. In doing so, they obviously hack out the fullness of human nature as Voegelin outlined it, body, soul intellect, spirit, leaving only the feelings of the body as the highest reality. … In pressing for skepticism … they allow for transcendence as long as no one can be either right or wrong about God; hence they allow for a vague Spiritualism as having the status of one more subjective feeling. …
“The Way” is Part 2 of Lewis’ work, which can also be defined as “Natural Law” or traditional morality, or as the Chinese refers to it, the Tao. It defines and supports “the traditional moralities of East and West, the Christian, the Pagan and the Jew.” Moral standards = natural standards we must obey for our own good.
To counter Gaius and Titius’ point that public education must become indoctrination, Lewis stresses that good education denotes moral lessons, and in an earlier age teachers taught students that there was an objective moral order, a transcendent reality, a natural law, if you will, to which students were trained to adhere, a reality that was contained in human nature itself and written into the very foundations of the universe, a reality that we had fallen from but nevertheless must always seek to obey.
The Abolition of Man
In Part 3, “The Abolition of Man,” Lewis postulates that “once we regard man as having come about accidentally, that is, by evolution in a godless universe, then human nature itself is taken to be impermanent and hence infinitely malleable.” What Voegelin called “Gnosticism,” this new liberalism or utopian socialism is achieved by a combination of moral relativism and technical power – “Should we do this?” (which assumes that there is a moral order) is replaced by “How can we do this?” Issues of morality are considered outdated in the evolutionary progress of mankind as demonstrated by his godlike feats of technical power to violate all natural laws, biblical principles and hence moral restraints.
Progressives and liberal have long realized that to achieve the abolition of man, society must dispense with Natural Law, objective morality, the republic and God. Only then can state power be used by these utopian socialists as a means to transform the world and human nature with it. Enter President Barack Obama, a utopian socialist who frequently and arrogantly proclaims that he will “fundamentally transform America.”
In modern political terms, the seminal question the voters should have asked themselves in November 2008 was: Obama wants to fundamentally transform American into what? Now it may be forever too late to prevent the abolition of man; to redeem ourselves away from Obama’s soft tyranny and into a republic again.