"Implicit" Morality

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"Implicit" Morality

Post by idoron » Mon Jan 05, 2004 11:23 pm

Here is thought for your consideration.

Morality is important (to greater and lesser degrees) in all cultures. There are a few generally accepted sources of morality. I.e. places where the buck stops. Briefly:

1) Supernatural. Moral guidelines come from God, the gods, or godesses, etc.

2) Utility. Moral guidelines come from the intellectual or moral zeitgeist. People sort of agree on moral principals that govern society.

3) Might. The powerful dictate morality (or lack thereof). Powerful here meaning people or institutions.

So where does the morality in Middle Earth come from? If I remember correctly we read the names of two seperate Valar. And it is either praise or calling for help, not instruction. Other than that we get the discussion of "forces" of implied good will. But everywhere you look there is an underlying tide of the virtue of resisting evil, domination, suffering. Why? When hobbitlings ask why the Big Folk overran and decimated the shire, and why then they had to kill Grima, what do their parents say?
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Mon Jan 05, 2004 11:39 pm

I will go with answer d. Or a 1/2. or a.5 Except there are no numbers between letters, but you get my point.

Morality is built into creatures as a part of their very nature. If you want to trace it back to Eru, go ahead. Eru designed the world to work in a certain way. Morality is just how it works. Kind of like you can't mix water and gasoline and expect your car to run better. Thus when building his creation, Eru made it so that it would reflect the truth, and so that his image would be imprinted on it. In rational beings more than others, of course. The Image of God in Man, flipping back to Primary Reality for a minute here, is reason and free will. So I'm assuming that's the same in a hobbit or an elf. Reason can be cheated and deceived, if its foundations are skewed, but if not, it will only lead one to the truth. This truth being, gas and water will not run your car, that morality is really the only thing that works.

That's a kind of confused muddle of thoughts, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that morality is an inseperable part of a rational creature's being. It's not something imposed outwardly by the gods, it's not something that's only useful, and it's not something that can be changed with enough force.

(that much said, it is ultimately useful to guide societies, because it always makes sense in the longrun, but there's more to it than that (and a lot of the times it doesn't seem the best, because there are other things that appear a lot more convenient, and blah blah blah). that's not to say that all morality should be dicated by law at all, but much of it should be (talking about things like murder being wrong, not things like whether a white lie is permissible, etc.), and that's when societies work out.
Still, I wouldn't call it "imposed by God" or "dictated by the powerful"

So a 1/2 is my initial rambling response.
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Post by idoron » Tue Jan 06, 2004 9:42 am

Even thought the discussion obviously extends beyond ME, I will keep the discussion there because we actaully have definitive mythos for it.

I did fail to mention one aspect. Enforcement, which you touched on. So I guess my question of two fold. Where does the morality in ME come from and why do MEers adhere to it? The second I think is more important.

Your hypothosis does not take into account that there are rational beings in ME devoid of morality. Namely Orcs, and several groups of Men. Not to mention self-aware beings of debatebly lesser or greater mental stature. Trolls and Balrogs for example. Dwarves even have a somewhat lesser moral standard than most Elves. By which I mean more selfish. And of course there are many individuals within the groups that display exemplary moral conduct and immoral conduct, all of which are rational beings.

In most cases where morality is imposed or derived from the Supernatural, Eru or possibly Manwe in this case, the system is enforced by a rewards/punishment system. I.e. if you obey The Great Whoever or live a just life according to the standards of Whatshisorhername you will be rewarded in another plane, usually after death.

But in ME we don't learn about that kind of thing. All elves that die go to the Halls of Mandos to await rebirth for the last battle. All men die and go, well, no one knows where or to what fate. No one knows what happens to Orcs. Or other sentient beings: Trolls, Ents, Bombadil, Goblins, Dragons. (As a side note I think it is interesting that Tolkien, clearly believing in heaven and hell, did not put them in his works regarding Arda)

I'm not interested so much in discussing the fates of individuals of each kindred, but in what light it can shed on the origin of morality.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Tue Jan 06, 2004 5:26 pm

Every creature has this morality built into them. Every creature.

Evil men are probably the easiest to deal with - many of them repent, like at Helm's Deep. This shows that they do have some sort of conscious and moral code, but that they can choose to ignore it.
Elves have morality in their reason, as do all creatures, but some elves were taken and warped by Morgoth in so many ways, i would not be surprised if Morgoth warped most of it away. You can alter your conscience and pretend to change the patterns of your reason - that makes it flawed reason, of course, but you can still be convinced of it. Like Gollum. But that doesn't mean that they started out with no moral code built into them.
Balrogs are fallen maiar, so that's a lot like Gollum.
Trolls we don't know much about, but since evil can only warp, not create, i would imagine they're basically the same as orcs.

As for the punishment/reward thing: the way i'm looking at morality is a little bit different from that route. I'm thinking of it as just the way things work, and things go wrong if you don't follow them. Chaos, division, fear, insecurity all come out of not following morality, peace, justice, love, and unity all come out of following it. You could see that as a reward. But I don't think the motive for being a moral being has anything to necessarily do with a reward. Our heroes in LotR aren't exactly out for a reward. Frodo doesn't think he's going to suceed in his quest, and yet he continues. He doesn't do it for a reward, because he thinks he's going to get caught and tormented by Sauron for the rest of his life. They do what they do because they believe it is what they must do, what they are supposed to do. But there's a deeper motive than just the call of duty. Love motivates the strongest of them. Frodo is motivated by love of the Shire, but Sam is motivated by love of Frodo. Faramir is motivated by love of Gondor, and Eowyn and Merry for love of Theoden. Or even just love of the Good itself, which is so lovable, and hate for anything that wants to destroy that good in its own selfish emptiness.

I think it's the nature of rational beings to strive for the good. None of these rational races is unfallen, so this desire is easily confused and can be directed wrongly. Still, there are the heroes that are oriented the right way, and thus strive for things that are wholly good, not just the appearances of good.

I know this doesn't actually directly answer your question in a coherent way, but these are just thoughts, inspired by a mutt-breeding of Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, Aristotle, and (yes, Steve!) even Kant...

In any case, i don't think it's based on a rewards system, because that seems far too shallow. Even in primary reality, if someone wanted to be good just to get brownie points from God and eternal life, that's seems to be wrong.
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Post by idoron » Tue Jan 06, 2004 9:19 pm

A few problems that I see with that argument.

1) If morality is the result of the rational thought of reasoned beings, then wouldn't each culture, species (dwarf vs human vs dragon vs Maia) have different morality? Individuals as well. Rationality not answerable to a higher authority will lead in circles (Why shouldn't we steal? It causes disorder. Why is the order in place good? Because there is no conflict. What if it is stealing from a cruel dictator who starves his people? It would still be wrong. But it would reduce suffering. etc.) And clearly no one 's morality in ME is answerable to a higher authority. Even Saruman, who dwelt in the Blessed Realm rationally decides the best way to achieve his ends, which he came to rationally, is domination. He shares with Gandalf his vision for an orderly world, which could only be achieved by the governing of the Istari. Is his vision "moral" in a positive way? We think not, but that is our moral judgement of the situation. If there was peace, people were happy, well fed, and free, who is to say that an imposed government is a bad thing?

2) Reason and logic are amoral. That is, simply data processors. They suffer from Garbage In/Garbage Out syndrome, and do not make a judgement evaluation. In the human experience, logic can order and describe facts and our subconcious moral voice, whatever its motive, makes the judgement call. Even based on true facts, one can arrive on incorrect conclusions based on logic alone. So, if my logic and reason can be incomplete and in error, how can I derive moral guidelines? Much less guidelines that everyone can live by? Much less how can everyone in Middle Earth arrive at those same guidelines?

Other issues:

Lots of evil men did not repent: Haradrim, the Men who betrayed the Union of Maedhros in the Nirnaeth, being allied with Morgoth, etc.

The pumishment/reward situation is not intended to be so base as it sounds. Perhaps we should say it is a Consequence-based system. Yes, chaos, suffering, (rah) result from immorality and likewise unity, strength, peace from morality. But those are temporary results.

After reflecting, it occured to me that after the Akallabeth, the Sil states that Sauron's spirit went into the abyss and later returned. <i>SO</i> maybe the question should be what is the criteria for judgement as to who goes where after death?
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Tue Jan 06, 2004 10:15 pm

Yeah, clarification problems. Sorry. Let me see if I can be more clear.

1. I am confused. Why would reason change for different races? Reason is reason. As for your "no stealing" thing, I'm a little confused as well. This is how I would think it would go: Why shouldn't we steal? It causes disorder. Why is order good? Because there is security and peace instead of chaos. What if it was stealing from a cruel dictator who was starving his people? Well, steal from him! He's abusing his power and he has no right to destroy people like this. Anyway, a tyrant creates disorder ...But I'm not sure if we want to start discussing the implications of this argument, because it seems a little off topic to me. In any case, I think what we can use for a mutual example is something about ends justifying means. Like, using the Ring to overthrow Sauron. But no, because that one's too obvious and the results are too immediate. Or... killing Gollum from the beginning. But then, we see he helps quite a bit in the end. Tolkien's too smart. I'm not creative at the moment, so let's just pretend we have an example where we're too "focused on the prize, and not the path that takes us there'... *beings to sing BTGB again* Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that though it may seem a beneficial result at the time, no result from unmoral means is ever truly beneficial. Wait long enough, or look deep enough, and it all falls apart. The Good is the only thing that's beneficial, always. Go ahead and ask clarifying questions. That's the best I can do at the moment.

The Saruman thing: An imposed gov't is not necessarily bad. But an imposed gov't by a cruel Istari (is there a singular form of this word? I've never seen it...) who only cares for himself and no one else could never create peace. Saruman's vision of an orderly world is good, but I don't think that's really what he wants to create. So I'm confused what you were trying to say here.

2. I am not trying to equate reason and morality. I'm just saying morality is reasonable. Ok, let's try again, because the explanation did not work the first time. Reason = the ability to discern the good. Will = the ability to choose it. A perfect rational being would discern the good perfectly and choose it always. But in a fallen, imperfect world, the good becomes much harder to discern. Thus we have people starting from horrible base assumptions but otherwise getting to a logically sound point. (But note: reason can be used in a lot of different senses, and I think I'm using reason in a more rounded, completed sense than base mathematical-like logic like you seem to be treating it.) If you are based on true facts, you will come to a correct conclusion if your logic is sound, unless you have one or two completely isolated facts. (example: little kids. she hit me! she just came up to me and walloped me with that count dooku lightsaber! ...but what he doesn't tell you is that he pushed her over first. Things like that.) So I'm saying that logic can be flawed, but the flaws in logic are usually quite easy to see and quite ridiculous to people. It's the foundations that are the key point to an argument - Hitler is very ingenious and logical, if you agree with his initial assumptions.

As for other issues, I know not all evil men repented. I was just saying they were capable of it.
Still don't get what you're trying to get at with the consequence-based system.
Should we really try to answer that? I don't know that it's possible to.
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Post by idoron » Tue Jan 06, 2004 11:11 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:Reason = the ability to discern the good.
That is what I was getting at. if you define it that way your conclusion is foregone.

But what is the ME definition of good? Where does it originate? What enforces it?

I was assuming by reason, you meant logic in the "Critical thinking sense": if A then B, etc. There is no logic or reason in ME that would lead to "morality." The only being capable of this is Eru who, of course, is not in ME or Arda, but outside of it. Even Manwe's logic and reason is flawed (Melkor <i>seems</i> sorry...).

So, for now, I am asking:
1) What is good, and how do we judge is an action "good," using ME mythos?
2) Why is it that the Elves seem to be the only race with a consistent moral conception? Even the Maiar and Valar have dubious moral issues.
3) Refering to my post above, we learn of the Void/Abyss in Sil. Who goes there? Other than Sauron? Melkor doesn't (yet). Elves don't. Do orcs? Do "evil" men? Do elves after the Last Battle? Do Balrogs?

There isn't, that I have read, textual discussion of these things. But that doesn't mean there is not (first) implications or (second) a framework to investigate them.

I am trying to keep personal beliefs seperate, and work with what we have been given in the (canon and semi-canon) texts of Arda.
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Post by idoron » Tue Jan 06, 2004 11:12 pm

No one else seems interested in this.
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Post by Theremin » Tue Jan 06, 2004 11:27 pm

I'm interested. I jst don't have much to add to the discussion, because I have not been schooled in philosophy and I do not have as deep of a background in Tolkien as you guys. I'm about a quarter of the way through TTT now. After I reread the Silmarillion, what would you suggest I read next? The only Tolkein I have ever read is the Hobbit, LotR, and the Silmarillion.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Wed Jan 07, 2004 11:42 am

Unfinished Tales first, Theremin. There's some pretty interesting stuff in there. Then maybe Lost Tales 1 and 2, but I would suggest you read the Essay on Fariy Stories before that (you'll find it in a book called the Tolkien Reader). Roverandom is a fun children's book, and Farmer Giles of Ham and the Smith of Wootton Major are kind of fun also - Tolkien's lighter side, in a world that has nothing to do with Middle Earth. If you like epic poems, you will really love the Lays of Beleriand, which is basically the early Silmarillion in epic poem format (only parts of it - mainly Turin and Beren and Luthien). The Letters are so cool, but you're going to want to read at least the Silmarillion and the Tolkien Reader first, since he talks quite a bit about them both. Well, that's as far as I've gotten, anyway, so I don't have that much to say about the rest. Of all the books, I would say getting through Lost Tales 1 was the hardest, mainly because i kept putting it down and forgetting where I was, and Christopher Tolkien's commentary is kind of boring and really confusing at times... Anyway, there are a few ideas for you. Happy reading.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Wed Jan 07, 2004 12:00 pm

idoron wrote:There is no logic or reason in ME that would lead to "morality."
What I have been trying to say is that if you don't follow a moral code, everything falls apart. It is illogical to be immoral - things don't work. For you or for anyone else. Plato and Aristotle both go here, from different angles, using only logic, and it works quite well.

Middle Earth may not have the same setup with religion as we do, but I'm sure it has the same system of logic. As Aragorn says in TTT, “Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.”

Tolkien said once that he stripped Middle Earth of all outward signs of religion so that religion could be at its very core. I wonder if it's really any use to try to figure out how Middle Earth morality works because essentially, it's just the same as ours. Otherwise, what's the point of writing a myth at all?
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Post by idoron » Wed Jan 07, 2004 6:15 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:What I have been trying to say is that if you don't follow a moral code, everything falls apart. It is illogical to be immoral - things don't work. For you or for anyone else. Plato and Aristotle both go here, from different angles, using only logic, and it works quite well.
What if my moral code is "Lie, Cheat, Steal" like Sauron's? He enjoyed years of the "good life" ruling middle earth. He escaped the wrath of the Valar. He turned his imprisionment in Numenor into domaination of men. He lasted a long long time until he fell permanently. But he would have ended eventually anyway. So what is illogical about using one's innate power to do what one can to improve one's situation?

Logic and Reason can deduce a code of morality from basic assumptions (pain is bad, suffering is bad, peace is good, etc.), but they <i>do not</i> work without having a basic set of assumptions to begin with, therefore cannot reach a definition of good and evil.

In Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam, and most religions, morality comes from the person or mandates of a supreme or higher being. But things like "Pain is Bad" are not the kinds of things we usually hear. Lifting weights is good for the body, but can cause pain in the muscles, is that bad or immoral? Surgery to remove a tumor causes pain afterward, is that bad or immoral? most would say not.
Sam Gamgee wrote:Middle Earth may not have the same setup with religion as we do, but I'm sure it has the same system of logic. As Aragorn says in TTT, “Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.”
Agreed. But how do men discern them? As I've said, for the above reasons, I don't think logic or reason alone will get us there. If it did, why didn't the fields of ethics and philosophy find their fufilment in Plato and Aristotle? It is not that simple.
Sam Gamgee wrote:Tolkien said once that he stripped Middle Earth of all outward signs of religion so that religion could be at its very core.
Which is brilliant.
Sam Gamgee wrote:I wonder if it's really any use to try to figure out how Middle Earth morality works because essentially, it's just the same as ours. Otherwise, what's the point of writing a myth at all?
Ever read <i>Brave New World</i>? Their morality works differently. But it is still a tale meant to affect out current morality and society. Things can shed light by the essence of their difference. In fact, in BNW their morality is based on pleasure, which logically should be good since it does cause harm or disorder or chaos. Right?
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Post by idoron » Wed Jan 07, 2004 6:17 pm

Under your definition is something that is Illogical Immoral?
And is something that is Immoral Illogical?

Would random decisions be immoral? Like if I flipped a coin to decide if I wanted Coke or Rootbeer at the Barbeque? Is that immoral because it does not follow a logical train of deduction?
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Wed Jan 07, 2004 10:17 pm

"Pain is bad" is wholly inconsistent with Tolkien. Suffering deepens the beauty. That's the mystery of a fallen world.

Plato and Aristotle's arguments did work. The Republic? Gorgias? Ok yeah, points were screwy here and there, but they did exceptionally well.
Logic alone? Well, it's tough... But if Eru made the world, and rational beings bear his image, the world must only "work" if it follows his plan. Happiness cannot result form immorality. Maybe a little bit of temporary pleasure, but never happiness. So maybe part of the job of logic is to look around and ask: "What works?" and then come to morality.
Even Sauron could not live in peace - he had to constantly fear for his back.

I was not equating immoral and illogical - I was saying something immoral was illogical.
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Morality

Post by Venividi » Thu Jan 08, 2004 4:45 pm

I think what Sam is trying to say is that morality is "imprinted" in the creature by the creator, and exists at a level deeper than reason. The argument goes like this: "Why shouldn't I steal?" "Because stealing is wrong". "How do I know it is wrong?" "I just do". That is the moraility of the race. To elf, man, or dwarf, it just is.

Each individual must then decide whether they choose to do what they know is right, or whether they choose to do otherwise. Acting contrary to what is morally correct does not mean that there is no morality, nor does it mean that there are many moralities.

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