…more than any dog who ever lived. Over on FB, John Matthew Swaim tells the tale of how, trying to get his kids to go to bed, he was confronted with a bright question: Does Chewbacca have a soul? Summoning his Catholic Thomistic powers to their height, he replied:
Aquinas says that the soul is, in one sense, “the first principle of life of those things which live.” Beyond that, he would distinguish between vegetative souls (plants, etc), and animal souls, and beyond those to human souls. If we’re talking a soul in the sense of an animating spirit, then yes, Chewie has a “soul,” just like a dog or a slime mold or a bonsai tree has a “soul.”
Now, obviously, Chewbacca isn’t human. However, since we’re using Thomistic categories, Aquinas would refer to the potentiality of the human soul as able to be changed in ways beyond those common to mere animals, who can only respond to stimuli and appetites. Human souls, in contrast to animals, can react to their world in a more advanced manner, growing their intellect along the way (i.e., as he puts it, “from ignorance to knowledge and from vice to virtue”).
Since, then, in the theoretical universe of STAR WARS, the wookie race is known to exhibit the kinds of potentialities common to humans in our actual reality, these criteria of Aquinas would apply. Chewie and his kin can perfect, it would seem, their intellect, and grow in virtue. (What else would compel Chewie to so loyally honor his “life debt” to Han Solo?) Therefore, in that theoretical universe, according to those Thomistic categories, Chewbacca would, all other things being equal, be possessing of a soul.
“AHA!” You might respond. “Droids in that same theoretical universe have the power to grow in knowledge, and, some would say, virtue- wouldn’t they then have souls as well?” THIS, my friends, is where it all breaks down.
Because Chewbacca is a character in a fictional universe, whose actions exist only when penned by authors either of canonical or fan-generated fiction, Chewbacca HAS NO FREE WILL, much like droids in that world, and computers in ours, which can only act and react as their programming dictates. Chewie may appear to have some measure of free will in his own universe; in ours, however, he can only operate in the way that screenwriters, comic artists and Lucasfilm-approved novelists make him to operate. So in that very specific sense, you could only believe that Chewbacca has a soul if you’re a Calvinist, because Calvinists both deny free will and reject St. Thomas Aquinas.
Actually, I think Thomas would reckon Chewie to be human since he has a rational soul. But I will leave this important question to Michael Flynn to adjudicate since he is both a Thomist *and* an actual science fiction writer, well as somebody who has actually created aliens with rational souls.
Whereupon, Mike Flynn responded:
In discussing the “monstrous races” reported by secular writers — the blemyae, sciopods, pygmies, dog-heads, etc. — Augustine commented: “Whoever is anywhere born a man, that is, *a rational, mortal animal,* no matter what unusual appearance he presents in color, movement, sound, nor how peculiar he is in some power, part, or quality of his nature, no Christian can doubt that he springs from that one protoplast. We can distinguish the common human nature from that which is peculiar, and therefore wonderful.”
— Augustine of Hippo, City of God Book 16 Ch 8
I like belonging to a Church whose saints were already essentially noodling the idea of Extraterrestrial Life in the fifth century.
Also, I love that Chewie is literally a dog-headed man, created (as Indiana Jones was named) in honor of George Lucas’ dog.
By the way, if you want to read *the* most Thomistic science fiction novel of all time–and a great yarn that will break your heart–I cannot recommend highly enough Mike Flynn’s brilliant Eifelheim, which would also make a doozy of a Christmas present for the bright science fiction-minded teen or young adult in your life.