The Abolition of man can be seen as a description of what will happen to man if he continues to gain control of nature. To Lewis this control over nature is not man’s domination over nature, but a “power exercised by some men over other men.” He believes that when humanity manages to gain control over itself, it will no longer be man in the sense of the natural world. Instead, man will be “free to make our species whatever we wish to be” and will result in the loss of humanity.
Lewis’s explanation of man’s conquest over nature brings to light various paradoxes. These paradoxes all lead to the result that the more that man tries to gain control over nature the more man will be closer to destroying himself. Lewis supports his claims of man’s control over man, and shows the irrationality of man’s control over nature through the use of the contraceptive. For Lewis, the use of contraception works as a paradox and seems to destroy the very nature of man’s power. While using it man manages to control nature by controlling birthrates, but also manages to diminish its future population; this reinforces the idea that man’s control over nature is man’s control over men by other men.
Another paradox that rises with the thought of man’s control over man, is that even when people try to break free from control, the only guidance and set of tools that they have left to use are those which they borrowed from their predecessors, therefore the more they try to break free the more entrenched they become in using the objects of their ancestors. As Lewis suggests, “they are weaker, not stronger: For though we may have put wonderful machines in their hands we have pre-ordained how they are to use them.”
The Abolition of man seems to be catered to the general population with an emphasis on trying to convince people that the increasing domination over natural things will eventually end in the destruction of mankind. Although he states that he is not writing to judge if “ambivalent victories are a good thing or bad,” he seems to have written the Abolition of man precisely to point out the paradoxical negative effects of our apparent domination. He brings into question the view of treating things as nature in the world, when he says, “The real objection is that if man chooses to treat himself as raw material, raw material he will be: not raw material to be manipulated, as he fondly imagined, by himself, but by mere appetite, that is, mere nature, in the person of his dehumanized conditioners.”
He describes the conditions that humans will be under, if men are to succeed at conquering nature. But if men are a part of nature, and nature is so intertwined in humans, how do you differentiate between man and nature if man is part of nature? As he states, “the price of conquest is to treat things as mere nature” “we reduce things to mere nature in order that we may conquer them” this is problematic for Lewis, because by considering a thing to be mere nature “objects resist the movement of the mind.” Things become an object ready to be dominated, and become objectified to the point where they become “an artificial abstraction… where something of its reality has been lost.” For Lewis the difficulty arises when humans are taken into account as nature. At that point humans are no longer seen as people but rather as objects ready to manipulate and conquered. He points out that if humans are to be conquered, that there will be people who will have broken free from all judgments and values. Lewis believes that if man ever manages to gain control over nature, that there would have to be people in control called conditioners that “will produce conscience and decide what kind of conscience they will produce.” These people will then create the human race. But by being able to create man, the actual being of man will be destroyed, because by creating them there will be no men, just a hollow creation of people with false ideals given to them. This will eventually lead to the loss of the Tao.
While reading, the definition of the Tao was not so clear, and was rather described with different characteristics, because although he describes the Tao as “a norm to which the teachers themselves were subjects and from which they claim no liberty to depart” he does not explicitly state what this norm is. This Tao is clearly an important part of what he states makes the human different from all other creatures, because by “stepping outside the Tao, they have stepped into the void.” Lewis describes it differently, by mentioning that it teaches us “preference and encouragement” and that “only the Tao provides a common human law of action.. which is not a tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.”
Throughout the text Lewis uses personifications to describe the paradox of man’s control over nature. He personifies nature as a feminine woman, and states “all of nature’s apparent reverses have been but tactical withdrawals. We thought we were beating her back when she was luring us on. What looked to us like hands held up in surrender was really the opening of arms to enfold us forever.” The personification helps illustrate the claim Lewis made by painting a picture of a woman in the action of embracing, which can be misinterpreted just like the act of man’s domination of nature can be misinterpreted.
Lewis makes clear throughout The abolition of man, that a conquest by man over nature would eventually be the end of man. He points out that every conquest that we have over nature is nothing but the exact reversal. When he explains the conditioners will make men what they are by a motive, he means by impulse, “those who stand outside all judgments of value cannot have any ground for preferring one of their own impulses to another except the emotional strength of that impulse” The paradox is that while these men are trying to make men what they want they will also have to become part of nature themselves by going back to instinct. As Lewis says “Human nature will be the last part to surrender to man” but when it does he explains that it will be the end of man, in the sense of the traditional being.