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Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

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C.S. Lewis, H.G. Wells and Arthur C. Clarke
SPOILERS BELOW. I discuss the meaning of several books by C.S. Lewis, Arthur C. Clarke and H.G. Wells, and the books cannot be discussed without a discussion of their surprise endings. You Have Been Warned.

I am reading (but have not finished) a book by Doris T. Myers called C.S. LEWIS IN CONTEXT, where the authoress advances the argument that C.S. Lewis, in his fiction writing, addressed a central preoccupation of the European intelligentsia after the culture-wide disillusionment and loss of spiritual strength ushered in by the decimation of the Great War (World War I). That preoccupation was with language and its relation to reality. The pre-War consensus was that words had meaning, and were shaped by the ideals and ideas which these words embodied: a word was an incarnation of a real idea. The post-War consensus was that words were a side-effect of mechanical actions in the nervous system, having no meaning in and of themselves: the modernists idea is that there are no ideas, only Madison Avenue manipulations of linguistic machinery to attempt to influence your thinking machinery.

While I side with Aristotle in most things, when it comes to language, I am a Platonist. If the truths discovered by mathematics are not objective in every sense of the word—things whose reality depends not on the observer but on itself for its truth—then with word “truth” has no reality. And, if the word “truth” has no reality, than neither can the statement “the word ‘truth’ has no reality’ have any reality.

The conclusions and opinions of C.S. Lewis in these matters can be discerned in his nonfiction essay, THE ABOLITION OF MAN, and also in his fictionalization of that essay, THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH; and an acute reader will notice the way language is used in PRELENDRA and OUT FROM THE SILENT PLANET, in the scenes of the temptation of the Green Lady of Venus, or the deposition of Weston by the Eldil, with accompanying translation from English into the True Speech.

Doris T. Myers, also advances the proposition that Lewis represents a serious contribution to the science fiction field, augmenting mere adventure stories into tales with a serious moral point and philosophical reflection.

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