The Public Interest

Antihumanism in the humanities

Joel Schwartz

Spring 1990

OVER FORTY years ago, C.S. Lewis wrote The Abolition of Man, a brief study of education in which he criticized the “’progressive” belief that the inculcation of traditional moral beliefs had become outmoded. Lewis reproached scientists—specifically, eugenicists and behavioral psychologists— for their unexamined faith that they could beneficently remake mankind. Ironically, he suggested, the scientists’ supposed capacity to conquer nature and to create a brave new world would result in man’s destruction; the prideful celebration of the omnipotence of (some) men would instead reveal only the impotence of all other men. To be truly human, Lewis contended, men and women must recognize what he called the Tao-moral principles that can apply to everyone and that can therefore provide a standard by which tyranny can be judged illegitimate.

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