Communication and Rhetorical Studies
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
C. S. Lewis, Media Ecology, Practical Reason, Premodern Rhetorical Tradition, Rhetoric and Philosophy of Education, The Abolition of Man
This interpretive project begins with the following question: How does The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) function as a rhetoric and philosophy of education to open up meaningful alternatives to modern education? Although Lewis originally composed and delivered the text as three lectures in response to the felt educational concerns of his age, in its published form The Abolition of Man still offers relevant insight on the topic of education in contemporary times. Scholarship on Lewis has yet to fully appreciate exactly how his educational ideals align with the premodern rhetorical tradition, but this project argues that distinctive courses of action emerge by interpreting The Abolition of Man as a rhetoric and philosophy of education from within this framework. The premodern rhetorical tradition understands the importance of moral education for developing the habits that are necessary for practical reason and meaningful communal interaction. However, through the worldview of scientism, modern education replaces the authority of this human tradition with the authority of method and technique. When modern education uses the authority of method and technique to replace human tradition, knowledge and values are mediated through the dictates that scientism establishes as valid. Scientism only permits knowledge and values that perpetuate its own authority, thus ignoring the ideals of the premodern rhetorical tradition because they challenge this authority. Lewis tacitly relies upon the educational ideals of the premodern rhetorical tradition to critique the amoral scientism of modern education and to revitalize classical learning attentive to moral values, virtuous action, and practical reason.
Pertler, N. (2014). C. S. Lewis and the Premodern Rhetorical Tradition: The Abolition of Man as Rhetoric and Philosophy of Education (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1039