C. S. Lewis published The Abolition of Man in 1944 in the midst of World War II. We can perhaps imagine the ominous and suggestive nature of this timing. But, as readers soon discovered, the book was not at all about the War, or Hitler’s eugenics, or the looming nuclear threat. Lewis’s real subject is the soul and its education. According to Lewis, the real enemy—more dangerous than any nation, weapon, or science—is a philosophy: nihilism. It is perhaps a bit misleading to say that nihilism is a “post-modern” philosophy, for there have been nihilists and advocates of nihilism as long as there have been men. But it is true that this philosophy has come to be more widely preached and practiced in our time than ever before. In The Abolition of Man Lewis both explains and combats this modern (post-modern) development.
Externality in Lewis, Chesterton, and Tolkien
his paper is about three writers and one idea which they held in common—an idea with which they were all positively enchanted. The three are C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and J. R. R. Tolkien. The one idea is a certain fairly general (but far from trivial) thesis about meaning or fulfillment in life—that is, in the life of created rational beings. I will state the idea and then comment briefly on some of its parts. It is this: that the fulfillment of rational creatures, in any (positive) degree, involves some activity of the soul which is performed as an end in itself and which has as its contemplated object some external good, where that activity does not entail either arrogating to oneself authority to which one does not have a right, or being remiss in the exercise of authority which one is obliged to exercise.