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C.S. Lewis on the Consequences of Relativism

Walter Hooper once asked C.S. Lewis which of his books was the most important. Lewis named The Abolition of Man as that book. Lewis first gave the lectures in this book to a group of teachers that were being fed a subjectivist or relativist perspective on education. He uses as an illustration a textbook he had been sent that he dubs the Green Book. He then proceeds to critique this as a model of what he would say to this kind of approach. Along the way, he makes a number of profound observations. One such insight is that much of modern education does not so much argue for relativism (emotivism) as it communicates it as an implicit assumption that becomes embedded in the student’s mind. The Abolition of Man shows the proper place of emotions, feelings, or affections in education. He points out the inconsistencies or contradictions in this relativistic approach. Lewis also warns of the inevitable consequences if these assumptions are left unchecked.

Study Questions

  1. How did (atheist) Lewis’s problem of evil (with Christianity) lead to an argument for God’s existence?
  2. What does it mean that “education is implication”? How do students pick up by implication the relativist perspective?
  3. How does relativism trivialize emotion?
  4. What is the proper place of emotion in education?
  5. How do relativists contradict themselves?
  6. What are the consequences of relativism according to Lewis?
  7. What is the problem with “seeing through” things?

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