THE ABOLITION OF MAN
Subtitled ‘Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools’, this is a book I first read as a schoolboy myself. It made an enormous impression on me then and I’ve reread it many times since, always with delight. It begins with a sharp critique of the philosophy at work in a recent text for secondary school students (Lewis’ scepticism about said philosophy is evident also in The Silver Chair, the sixth Narnian book, and in Screwtape Proposes a Toast, the sequel to The Screwtape Letters). Reading Lewis’ book made clear to me the fallacy of thinking evaluative judgment a projection of one’s own emotional state rather than an intelligent response to some truth about the object in question, which calls for - warrants - some evaluation. And it made clear also the incoherence (the self-refutation) of attempting to reduce the scope of human understanding to material facts alone. Concise and eminently readable, The Abolition of Man very effectively shows the emptiness (the arbitrariness) of scepticism about reason and the horrors to which that scepticism is handmaiden. The book’s predictions about the cult of technology, and the contempt its masters will have for the persons on whom they operate, are eerily prescient.
LAW AND DISAGREEMENT
I had the good fortune to hear Jeremy Waldron lecture in Auckland in my final year of undergraduate study, which spurred me to read this book, as well as its companion, The Dignity of Legislation (Cambridge, CUP, 1999). The book takes legal philosophers to task for their (our) disdain for legislation and the legislature, and is a call to arms for a democratic jurisprudence, which understands legislation as a principled type of law. Moving from the structure and rationale of the legislative assembly to the theory of statutory interpretation, in the first part of the book, and from the nature of moral argument to the grounds for opposing the practice of judicial review of legislation, in the second and third part, the book covers much ground but is always interesting, always thought-provoking. The range and lucidity of the book impressed me greatly and explains in part why I decided to undertake graduate study in legal philosophy. The book persuaded me that judicial review is unjustified, at least in general, and, while I disagree with some of Waldron’s particular arguments about legislation, I hope my own work on legislating is in the spirit of Law and Disagreement, if not in strict conformity to the letter.