“The general and the prisoner” by C.S. Lewis

“Man’s conquest of Nature, if the dreams of some scientific planners are realized, means the rule of a few hundreds of men over billions upon billions of men. There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man’s side.

Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger. In every victory, besides being the general who triumphs, he is also the prisoner who follows the triumphal car.

I am not yet considering whether the total result of such ambivalent victories is a good thing or a bad. I am only making clear what Man’s conquest of Nature really means and especially that final stage in the conquest, which, perhaps, is not far off.

The final stage is come when Man by eugenics, by pre-natal conditioning, and by an education and propaganda based on a perfect applied psychology, has obtained full control over himself. Human nature will be the last part of Nature to surrender to Man. The battle will then be won.

We shall have ‘taken the thread of life out of the hand of Clotho’ and be henceforth free to make our species whatever we wish it to be. The battle will indeed be won. But who, precisely, will have won it? For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means, as we have seen, the power of some men to make other men what they please.”

–C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: HarperCollins, 1944/2001), 58-9.

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Filed under C.S. Lewis, Quotable Quotes

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