The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis
Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it – believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could merit, our approval or disapproval, our reverence or our contempt.
So writes Lewis when considering the work of Gaius and Titius, pseudonyms of authors of a text book referred to as The Green Book. In the second chapter of this textbook, the authors quote the story of Coleridge at the waterfall: Coleridge hears one man describe the waterfall as “sublime,” the other man describes it as “pretty.” Coleridge approves of the first, and rejects the second with disgust.
Why? Both are valid observations and accurately describe its nature, yet “sublime” better captures its essence – it is the more appropriate and just observation. Meanwhile, the two textbook authors do not concern themselves at all on this point, but choose, instead, to examine the statement as a description of the feelings of the observer – eliminating the possibility of making a proper value judgement.
St. Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it.
Aristotle says that this is the aim of education – to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought; thus, when he comes to the age of reflective thought and reason, he will find his first principles in ethics. Those not so trained can make no progress in this regard.
One can find such thinking in many cultures and traditions: Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and Oriental. Lewis will refer to this as the Tao – that which the Chinese call the greatest thing…
…the reality beyond all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator Himself. It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road.
It is the way in which every man should “tread in imitation…conforming all activities to that great exemplar.” In our Western tradition, we have been given this exemplar – His story is to be found in the Gospel.
Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism.
More stuff doesn’t equal liberty and isn’t enough for liberty; measuring progress in terms of trade and GDP is barely one level up from the law of the jungle. Humans have been made for more than this.
We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings to be fruitful.
Doesn’t sound like the material from which liberty will spring forth, does it.