Thursday, January 31, 2013

Life Under Compulsion and The Abolition Of Man

Links to posts.

     As a student in a private religious high school in the mid Sixties, I was fortunate to be under the tutelage of a brilliant man who introduced me to important books.  One of them was The Abolition of Man, by C. S. Lewis, with its essay, "Men Without Chests."  Here began my introduction to the importance of the relationship of thought and language, and the realization that there is an ongoing war upon language.  The war upon language may be dangerous for at least three reasons: first, because it is so little recognized; second, because an effective defense seems difficult; and third, because a war upon language is actually a war upon thought itself.

     In the intervening decades since Lewis and others addressed the matter, many good writers have arisen who make the same, or similar, points, and have made an effective contribution.  I am thinking particularly of Wendell Berry's Standing By Words, but others will come readily to mind.

     Most recently, Anthony Esolen, who posts at Front Porch Republic, has written a fine piece titled, "Life Under Compulsion: The Dehumanities."  For those of us who think about the importance of language to thought, and the importance of thought as linking the human spirit to human life -- or we just happen to love Life, Liberty, and Language -- the essay provides much food for thought.  As do some of the comments that appear after it.

     You will notice that the posting linked above simply happens to be the most recent, in fact the eighth, in a series of essays.  Here are links to the first seven.

     1. Life Under Compulsion.
     2. Life Under Compulsion: From Schoolhouse to Schoolbus.
     3. Life Under Compulsion: The Billows Teaching Machine.
     4. Life Under Compulsion: If Teachers Were Plumbers.
     5. Life Under Compulsion: Human Scale Tools and the Slavish Education State.
     6. Life Under Compulsion: Curricular Mire.
     7. Life Under Compulsion: Bad Universality.

 *       *       *

This post was slightly revised on February 9.  Comments most welcome.

On February 19, I discovered that FPR added another post in the series.

     9. Life Under Compulsion: The Itch.


  1. Thank you for this excellent post. The Abolition of Man is certainly one of the most significant books published in the last century. I want to recommend a podcast by Fr. Thomas Hopko, an Orthodox priest and theologian, on this book which he particularly admires.

  2. In his preface to "That Hideous Strength" Lewis confides in his readers that the novel is simply a narrative form of the ideas presented in "The Abolition of Man."

    You can read it here:

    Also, my own experience agrees with the opening sentence: "As a student in a private religious high school (...), I was fortunate to be under the tutelage of a brilliant man who introduced me to important books."

    Thank you.

  3. Lucky you, Justin.

    I ended up with Robert Heid.

  4. For those who don't know -- that last was an inside joke. Justin, Anonymous, and I all know each other very well. RH