Polanyian Perspective on “The Abolition of Man”

Jon Fennell June 25, 2013

Presented at:
SCL Conference 2013


The Abolition of Man is sometimes viewed as an attack on science. Anticipating this criticism, Lewis states that his remarks are not an attack on science but instead a defense of value—the value, among other things, of science. Lewis goes on to suggest that science might itself be the remedy for the dark moral malady that The Abolition of Man accounts for and describes. The purpose of this paper is to show that, in the work of Michael Polanyi, Lewis’s aspirations regarding the curative powers of science are in fact realized. Polanyi not only demonstrates the bankruptcy of scientism, but he does so in a manner that, while revealing the inspiring character of genuine science, greatly clarifies Lewis’s project.


Classical Education Science


Jon Fennell
Jon M. Fennell is Director of Teacher Education and Dean of Social Sciences at Hillsdale College. He received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of California, Davis before moving to the University of Illinois where he earned a Ph.D. in philosophy of education. Prior to arriving at Hillsdale in 2005, Dr. Fennell spent four years in the Idaho State Department of Education and more than 20 years in the wholesale distribution, computer hardware, and ERP software industries. His teaching and research reflect a deep interest in philosophy, politics and education and is frequently focused on the domain where the three disciplines overlap. Dr. Fennell has written on educational topics as well as on the thought of seminal thinkers ranging from Rousseau and Dewey to Allan Bloom, Leo Strauss, Harry Jaffa, and Michael Polanyi. He is currently pursuing the intellectual connections between Polanyi and C.S. Lewis.

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