Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Pope Benedict, CS Lewis and the Abolition of Man

In the light of reactions to Pope Benedict's comments on gender and the human future (use Babelfish for a rough translation), the book to read is CS Lewis's The Abolition of Man which I have discovered is available online.

Actually, it is a 'must read' in any circumstances.

For those that like science fiction or fantasy, I would add to the list of Lewis's works Voyage to Venus and That Hideous Strength. (Out of the Silent Planet is the first book in the trilogy, but you can safely skip it.)

When you've read The Abolition of Man, you might like to hop over to this article on the teaching of philosophy in schools to observe in action what Lewis warned about:
In another classroom, a group aged 10 and 11 were shown four works of art and told two were by the same painter. Then they were told by "The Philosophy Man" that one of them was the most beautiful. He was pointing out the difference between facts and values.

There is a difference, argued Aidan. "Five times five is 25 and that's a fact," he said. "My age is 11," added Connor. "If anyone said my age was 10, they would be wrong." In the end, the class largely agreed it was a fact that two of the paintings had been done by the same artist but which was the most beautiful was a matter of opinion.
As Lewis observed, what Aidan has learned is that our emotions about the world around us are ‘merely’ a projection of our own inner world onto nature. There is, according to this view, nothing which is actually beautiful, we just feel certain things, or have ‘opinions’ which are all equally valid: I feel this is beautiful, you do not. Either way, the thing itself is only what I, or you, think it to be.

From here, Lewis argued, it is a slippery, and inevitable, slope to redefining ourselves in whatever form those who have the power to do so choose. (A process which has arguably been under way for some time.)

Having done this, however, there will be no going back up the slope. Having set out to conquer nature, nature will have conquered us, because the shape into which we will now have been carved will be that which those with the power feel (driven by their own nature) to be best.
But read it for yourself.

John R
23 December 2008

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  1. Thans, John for the reference. I read lewis years ago, and agree there's an uncanny and disturbing link between your two sources. I am rather interested by the notion of "human ecology" that the Pope is trying, fascinatingly, to open up, but suspect he won't get much of a chance if his words are perceived as simple gay-bashing. Heigh ho.

  2. Thanks, a day without "St." Lewis is a day uncorrected.

  3. David Jones of Covenant Theological Seminary also makes uses of 'Abolition' in this free sweries of lectures on ethics:

  4. "...he won't get much of a chance if his words are perceived as simple gay-bashing."

    If you rely on 'the meedya' - like the BBC or most US MSM - for your 'perceptions', then no chance, buckeroo. This pope, after all, has been comprehensively presented as an intolerant, misogynistic, homophobic, Islamophobic, pedophiliac priest-assisting Hitler-Jugendgruppenfuhrer ....
    He's a clever man. I quite like him.