“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
While this quote from C.S. Lewis is often cited, few completely understand what Lewis meant by it, nor understand the book from which it was taken, The Abolition of Man, which, unlike Lewis’s more popular works of fiction and Christian apologetics, is a broad philosophical treatise aimed at everyone, and perhaps the most admired and yet least accessible of Lewis’s writings.
My guest today has written a guide, called After Humanity, that is designed to make The Abolition of Man more understandable to the average reader. His name is Dr. Michael Ward and he’s both a Catholic priest and a Senior Research Fellow at Oxford. Michael kicks off our conversation by offering a big picture overview of what The Abolition of Man was about, which centers on Lewis’s argument against subjectivism, and for the idea that there exists objective moral values, the denial of which brings destructive consequences. We unpack the case Lewis makes for the existence of a natural order which underlies all religions and cultures, and why he called this universal, objective reality the “Tao.” We then get into what Lewis meant by the idea of making “men without chests,” the function of a man’s chest, and why chests aren’t being developed. We end our conversation with why moral debates can seem so shrill and fruitless in a world without agreement upon objective values, and if anything can be done to build the chests of modern men.
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