Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"the impulse to scratch when I itch or to pull to pieces when I am inquisitive"

"But what never claimed objectivity cannot be destroyed by subjectivism.  The impulse to scratch when I itch or to pull to pieces when I am inquisitive is immune from the solvent which is fatal to my justice, or honour, or care for posterity.  When all that says 'it is good' has been debunked, what says 'I want' remains.  It cannot be exploded or 'seen through' because it never had any pretensions.  The Conditioners, therefore, must come to be motivated simply by their own pleasure. . . . those who stand outside all judgements of value cannot have any other ground for preferring one of their own impulses to another except the emotional strength of that impulse. . . . our hope even of a 'conditioned' happiness rests on what is ordinarily called 'chance'the chance that benevolent impulses may on the whole predominate in our Conditioners.  For without the judgement 'Benevolence is good'that is, without re-entering the Taothey can have no ground for promoting or stabilizing their benevolent impulses rather than any others.  By the logic of their position they must just take their impulses as they come, from chance.  And Chance here means Nature.  It is from heredity, digestion, the weather, and the association of ideas, that the motives of the Conditioners will spring.  Their extreme rationalism, by 'seeing through' all 'rational' motives, leaves them creatures of wholly irrational behaviour.  If you will not obey the Tao, or else commit suicide, obedience to impulse (and therefore, in the long run, to mere 'nature') is the only course left open.
     "At the moment, then, of Man's victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subject to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely 'natural'to their irrational impulses.  Nature, untrammelled by values, rules the Conditioners and, through them, all humanity.  Man's conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature's conquest of Man. . . . If the fully planned and conditioned world (with its Tao a mere product of the planning) comes into existence, Nature will be troubled no more by the restive species that rose in revolt against her so many millions of years ago, will be vexed no longer by its chatter of truth and mercy and beauty and happiness.  Ferum victorem cepit:  and if the eugenics are efficient enough there will be no second revolt, but all snug beneath the Conditioners, and the Conditioners beneath her, till the moon falls or the sun grows cold."

     C. S. Lewis, The abolition of man, or reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools, University of Durham Riddell memorial lectures 15, chap. 3 ((New York:  The Macmillan Company, 1947), 41-43).

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