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Man as Raw Material

Guinea pig
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In chapter 3 of The Abolition of Man, CS Lewis says, “If man chooses to treat himself as raw material, raw material he will be.” III, 16

Regrettably, that is exactly what most people I run into think of themselves. When I read blogs, people don’t even hesitate to describe how they have been conditioned to behave the way they do. They aren’t even ashamed of it. That is what Lewis meant when he said that the debunkers make “men without chests.”

We also see people who regard themselves as nothing but chemicals. Recently I saw as a title for an article, “Am I my DNA?” I hope he answered negatively. But when a culture produces – even as a response – such an article, that culture is decadent and uncivilized. It is inhumane before the discussion begins.

Another expression I hear a lot, even among classical educators, is that the students are “guinea pigs.” Now, happily, they are not using the term very carefully. They just mean they are doing things for which they don’t yet know the outcome. I’m OK with that part of it. But a guinea pig is used for experiments. That’s why they use the term. And strictly speaking it is both immoral and in most cases illegal to conduct experiments on human beings.

Lewis gave us three options: you can debunk, you can condition, or you can initiate. Those who initiate are not doing experiments. Yes, they try things to see what works and what doesn’t, so in that very loose sense they experiment. But only the state would lower humans to something so debased.

Classical educators, and especially Christian classical educators, are initiators. We are initiating our pupils into the great tradition in which truth has been discovered and lived, discovered and ignored, undiscovered and unknown, but always sought by some. The tools have been there from the beginning of time. They are rooted in the senses, common sense, reason, and a disciplined will. NOT TECHNIQUES. And they are not experiments. They are food. Which the pupils are not.

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