Abolition of Intellect - Thoughts on The Abolotion of Man by C.S. Lewis

July 2022

“The operation of [modern scholarship] and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests. It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as Intellectuals. This gives them the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks Intelligence. It is not so. They are not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardor to pursue her…It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.”

C.S. Lewis makes clear in The Abolition of Man that the abolition of man is the abolition of the heart–an abandonment for how humans connect with one another for a sole focus on the so-called “intellect.” However, true intellectuals seek what is true; they seek to make the world better through their scholarly pursuits and bring her closer to that truth. The goal is to make the human experience and the human condition more fruitful and prosperous. One’s metrics for that fruitfulness and prosperity may differ, but it appears from both philosophy and biology that fostering the soul through human connection and a seeking of a deeper purpose is essential.

In her study on the effects of human connection, Dr. Emma Seppala of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research found that “social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being.” Seppala also found that people who feel more connected show lower levels of anxious and depressive feelings, greater empathy for others, and also tend to be more cooperative and trusting.

Similarly, a lack of social connection can have detrimental effects. In a study of over 7,000 men and women in California, Dr. Lisa Berkman found that “people who were disconnected from others were roughly three times more likely to die during the nine-year study than people with strong social ties.” These studies show the importance of human connection beyond the intellect; it is the “chest” that allows us to ascend from instinctive or animalistic ways of pure survival to a fuller human experience with one another.

We live and die by our connection to others. To declare this soul-building as unnecessary or unmeasurable is insufficient and remiss. Humanity must focus on building products, organizations, and experiences that foster greater human connection among each other; without this, we are sure to witness the abolition of true intellect and the abolition of man.