Abolition Of Man Essay

This essay has a total of 849 words and 4 pages.

Abolition Of Man

Every culture ever known has operated under a system of values. Many varied on exact
principles, but most applied the idea of Natural Law. Or, as C.S. Lewis would refer to it
in his Abolition of Man, the Tao. In this particular book Lewis discusses the implications
that would follow could man overcome this basic value system that has been in place since
the development of rational thought. However, paradoxical as his opinion may seem, he
holds that to step beyond the Tao is to plunge into nothingness. Simply put, it is his
claim that to destroy, or even fundamentally change, man's basic value system is to
destroy man himself.

Lewis states late in the book that, "They are not men at all. Stepping outside the Tao,
they have stepped into the void(64)." The empty "they" that Lewis is referring to those
that would seek to move beyond the Tao. Acceptance in the belief that the Tao is the
rational contents of everyman, which Lewis asserts openly in the text, is to say that he
has moved beyond all that makes him man. Although the idea of overcoming the Tao leading
to nothingness in man is somewhat abstract, Lewis explains it in different terms later. He
discusses the qualitative value of things be saying, "It is not the greatest of modern
scientists who feel most sure that the object, stripped of its qualitative properties and
reduced to mere quantity, is wholly real(70)." This is to say that it is the Tao that
gives man his qualitative properties and hence, to take those away is to take away that
which makes him man. This is clearly his meaning when he goes on to say, "The great minds
know very well that the object, so treated, is an artificial abstraction, that something
of its reality has been lost(71)." If something is not part of the "reality," is it not
instead a part of nothing? For even when man talks of intrinsic values and emotions, there
is validity in these things simply because they are experienced by someone. To say these
things have been experienced gives them substance, whether they can be perceived by the
senses or not. It seems as though Lewis is arguing that because the Tao is a qualitative
substance inherent to man, to strip that would be the reduction of him into nothing.

Perhaps this idea could be better applied when applying it to the observations that are
common to most every man. Making the assumption that Lewis is referring to the "void" as
the absence of all qualities defining man, it is simple to compare this idea to the world
around us. To borrow a metaphor from the author himself, the reader should imagine a tree.
Most would agree upon the most basic components of this object; a trunk, roots, limbs, and
leaves. What would happen to the tree if the branches, thereby including the leaves,
decided to exist and function separate from the trunk? As most know, this would lead to
the destruction of the isolated branches. In essence, to separate this fundamental pair is
to cause the destruction of one of its parts. This is the argument that Lewis is making
about refusal of the Tao. The rational man is irrevocably dependant upon the Tao. Without
this part of man, man cannot survive and leads to his own destruction.

Although it is clear what genuine dependence man has upon the Tao, the dissection of the
Tao has not yet been explored. Perhaps his most assertive belief on futile attempts to
alter the components of the Tao can be seen in the following passage. He writes that, "The
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