Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Philosophy And Fiction III

CS Lewis rightly differentiates between beings that are capable of reason and morality and those that are not. In his Ransom Trilogy, the Solar word for a rational animal is hnau. Thus, Elwin Ransom, a hnau from Thulcandra (Earth), meets three kinds of hnau in Malacandra (Mars) and one in Perelandra (Venus) but also meets the hypersomatic eldila who inhabit Deep Heaven (interplanetary space).

Although Lewis and his brother described traditional literary anthropomorphic animals in Boxen, Lewis fine-tuned the idea in his Chronicles of Narnia. Narnia is inhabited by many kinds of hnau although that term is not used because the Narnians speak English, not Solar. There are:

sons and daughters of Adam and Eve (human beings);
sons of Earth (dwarves);
Talking Beasts.

When Aslan breathed on the dumb ancestors of the Talking Beasts, they not only gained the power of speech but also increased both their body size and the size of their heads in relation to their bodies. Thus, a Narnian Talking Mouse stands upright at about two feet, wields a sword and has a brain big enough for thought and speech. Lewis carefully avoided ascribing intelligence to ordinary animals. Being Christian, he believed that hnau have souls. Being materialist, I nevertheless believe that there is a qualitative difference between animal and human consciousness, as evidenced by the fact that we are discussing this issue whereas cats, dogs and mice are not. We are capable of reason and morality. A dog may believe that his master is at the door but cannot believe that he will return a week next Thursday because the dog lacks the language for that.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

As you know, I disagree with materialism--but that is not the main point of this comment. Rather, your quoting of such Lewisian terms as "hnau" reminded me of Anthony Boucher's short story "Balaam." One of the two main characters in that story is a Jewish rabbi who has read C.S. Lewis. At one point Rabbi Acosta says of Lewis: "He advances the doctrine of what he calls 'hnaus'--intelligent beings with souls who are the children of God, whatever their physical shape or planet of origin."

C.S. Lewis has influenced many writers, including, I believe, Poul Anderson. And Anthony Boucher was a very good friend of PA, who has mentioned him repeatedly.