C.S. Lewis, Democracy and Modern Relativism

6 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2009

See all articles by Colin D. Pearce

Colin D. Pearce

Clemson University - College of Business and Behavioral Science

Date Written: April 5, 2009


This short essay enters in the "Objectivism/Relativism" debate via the opposed vantage points of C.S. Lewis and Friedrich Nietzsche respectively. It highlights this opposition in terms of Lewis's identification of relativism with democracy and Nietzsche's association of it with aristocracy. Lewis connects the intellectual tendencies of democracy with hostility to tradition and virtue, both western and non-western, and therewith to the idea that moral values are "relative" and are ultimately rooted in individual and cultural preferences. Nietzsche on the other hand associates democracy with "objectivism" and the idea that there is a "one size fits all" truth with a capital "T." For Lewis successful societies need a grounding in "absolute" moral truth and so relativism will ultimately mean the demise of democracy and civilization. For Nietzsche on the other hand the capacity for "spiritual" relativism is the highest virtue and any society which fails to appreciate this fact will lack the most enlightened kind of leadership and as a result will never attain to its most laudable goals.

Keywords: Relativism, Objectivism, Democracy, C.S. Lewis, Nietzsche, Morality, Tradition, William Graham Sumner

JEL Classification: B31, Z0, Z12, Z19

Suggested Citation

Pearce, Colin D., C.S. Lewis, Democracy and Modern Relativism (April 5, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1373465 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1373465

Colin D. Pearce (Contact Author)

Clemson University - College of Business and Behavioral Science ( email )

Clemson, SC 29631
United States

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