"Implicit" Morality

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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Jan 09, 2004 12:16 pm

yes, thank you, vv
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Post by idoron » Fri Jan 09, 2004 12:18 pm

I understand Sam's point. However, the textual evidence doesn't make it clear to me that this is, indeed, the system of morality in ME.

For morality to be absolute, which it appears to be in ME, it must be derived from a source that in not (1) subjective, (2) prone to error, or (3) lacking totality of conception (i.e. can't understand or explain everything).

A morality based on logic or reason alone does not meet these criteria.

When Melkor rebels during the Music (in Sil.) he does not appear to be knowingly, malicously, doing wrong. It is not until Eru ends the music, and confronts Melkor and says that ultimately all music comes from him, implying that what Melkor wants to create really is not his own, and his shame becomes "secet anger."

If anyone would have proper morality, it would be Melkor. Melkor had the "greatest gifts of power and knowledge." And existed as a partaker of the Music, the greatest of the Ainur. Yes, he may have Free Will to follow or not the morality, but my reading of the text is that he wasn't acting immorally until after the above mentioned incident.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Jan 09, 2004 12:29 pm

Why do you think logic is subjective? good logic is good logic - that's it. It's true or not. I'm trying to say that morality is truth, and that logic will lead anyone to it, if they really try. I'm not saying that morality is somehow limited by logic. Morality has a grander scope than just a code. It's not just a little set of rules all boxed and tied with a ribbon, given to us by a higher authority; it's the only way things work - it's the truth about Creation.
I guess I really don't understand what you're trying to say. Can you explain what you think it is more thouroughly? I might get it then.


I think Melkor is knowingly, maliciously doing wrong. Pretend you're a lucky enough soul to be able to be performing with the greatest band in the universe, like, uh, these guys called glass hammer. Imagine willfully starting to sing out of tune and shouting to get all the attention on you - who cares about Fred's stupid solos, and all the awesome multivox - it's all about YOU! LISTEN TO ME, EVERYBODY!
It does not seem that you would be able to pull that off without being excessively arrogant, selfish, and malicious. If Melkor really wasn't acting immorally, then he's perfectly innocent, even after everything he's done, from the marring of the trees to the battle of unnumbered tears.
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Post by idoron » Fri Jan 09, 2004 1:10 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:Why do you think logic is subjective?


Logic processes facts. Or, more accurately, perceptions. In the context of ME: After the unchaining of Melkor, Manwe accepted his plea for pardon, believing his repentance was sincere. Clearly it was not. Manwe's reason led him to that conclusion because he did not understand evil or Melkor. Even the Lord of the West was limited in his logic because of what he perceived. He had all the same facts as the readers of Sil. have, probably <i>more</i>. But instead of casting Melkor into the void at that point, he releases him. And his misdeeds after that were even greater than those previously.

And then, the logic of the Valar was that Melkor should be left to his own devices. And much more nastiness followed.

Sam Gamgee wrote:good logic is good logic - that's it. It's true or not.


Does good mean "correct" or "sound"? If, given the "facts" that a given "race" is inferior and perpituity on earth is based on survival of the fittest (in it's gruesome "plains of Africa" kind of form), then "sound" logic would take people some sick places. Yes?

Sam Gamgee wrote:I'm trying to say that morality is truth, and that logic will lead anyone to it, if they really try.


Maybe this is the line of discussion we should be pursuing. Explain "morality is truth." About what?

Sam Gamgee wrote:It's not just a little set of rules all boxed and tied with a ribbon, given to us by a higher authority; it's the only way things work - it's the truth about Creation.


Wait, so what's this little box tied up with a ribbon I've been hanging on to all these years? :wink:

Sam Gamgee wrote:I guess I really don't understand what you're trying to say. Can you explain what you think it is more thouroughly? I might get it then.


Does "it" mean "logic", "morality", or "Morality in ME"?

Sam Gamgee wrote:I think Melkor is knowingly, maliciously doing wrong...It does not seem that you would be able to pull that off without being excessively arrogant, selfish, and malicious.


Well, this requires a rather long discussion, so I am going to have to save it for later. I will come back to it.

Sam Gamgee wrote:Imagine willfully starting to sing out of tune


Singing out of tune is not that hard for me to imagine. :wink:
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Jan 09, 2004 1:28 pm

Ok. I don't think you get what I'm trying to say. Let me try again. Let me know if I'm saying the exact thing as before, in your mind.

So Eru creates the world. He creates it in a certain way, and creates creatures to fulfill certain functions, such as discerning good with reason and choosing it with will. Are we ok so far?

Then the rational creatures fall. They start to warp their reason so they lead themselves intentionally to believe that darkness is good. They twist virtue and pursue power instead of art. idoron asks: "Where is morality?"

Sam answers: Morality is still there, as always. Morality is doing what the creature was made to do, basically. The creature doesnt "work" properly if it doesn't do what it was made to do, and there is no way it will ever be happy/find peace without doing what it was made to do. A whale will never be able to fly, and an oliphant isn't meant to burrow in the ground - that's not what they are meant to do. It just wouldn't work for them if they tried to do those things.
So a rational being is not meant to choose a warped good over the Good itself. It will never work for it to do so.
The question remains: where is morality?
Every creature can find morality by considering what it was meant to do and to do it. Just because a race or fifteen is bad at filfilling its function and pursuing what it knows is right does not mean that it has no conception of it. An oliphant knows its not supposed to be burrowing, because knowledge of its function is embedded in its nature, but it can still burrow anyway. (Ok, the analgoy doesn't completely hold because oliphants are irrational and cannot question or try to warp their function like rational beings can.)
So even Melkor knows what is right and wrong - it's written into his conscience, because that is what he is meant to do. He just convinces himself that he doesn't need to do it, and that he wants to be his own god and create his own universe. He convinces himself that taking over the world is the "good" he should follow. But he's wrong and (I argue) he knows it.

Make more sense?
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Post by idoron » Sun Jan 11, 2004 5:42 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:So Eru creates the world. He creates it in a certain way, and creates creatures to fulfill certain functions, such as discerning good with reason and choosing it with will. Are we ok so far?


No. The question of morality is by definion linked to the definition and source of Good and Evil. You say creatures have the function of discerning Good and Evil, and choosing them. Where does good come from? It's not an easy question. Some might argue, and rightfully so, that Good in ME has to be derived from the gods, the Valar and Eru himself. The evidence for this is mostly circumstantial: Tolkien was Catholic. However, Eru has little involvement with anyone in the physical plane other than Manwe. So how can the understanding of Good come from him? Men, for example, cannot trace their epistemology et. al. to Valinor, not having been there and returned.

So what is Good in the context of ME?

Sam Gamgee wrote:Sam answers: Morality is still there, as always. Morality is doing what the creature was made to do, basically.


Ok. So let's take a create with Reason and Will. Dragons for example. Or Trolls. They were "created" by Morgoth for destruction and harm. Are they fufilling their moral obligations at the Nirnaeth? Was Smaug being moral in the desolation of Erebor?

Or even better, Eru says after the ceasing of the first Music that all things created he knows the end of, and all things that are ultimately have their source in him. So he knew all that Morgoth would do throughout the ages of Arda and in the Final Age when he returns from the Void to make the Last Battle. Is Morgoth being moral in all his actions?

I don't define morality as fufilling one's reason for being, and that is probably where our confusion is coming from. I define it as the knowledge and adherence to principles of conduct based on evaluation against the standard of right/good and wrong/evil. My question is Where do these standards come from and get their authority in ME, and how are they enforced/what are the consequences?
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Post by idoron » Sun Jan 11, 2004 6:15 pm

Regarding the Actions of Melkor I said I would come back to:

Sam Gamgee wrote:I think Melkor is knowingly, maliciously doing wrong...It does not seem that you would be able to pull that off without being excessively arrogant, selfish, and malicious.


Here I would argue--and think that there is textual evidence--that Melkor was not in deliberate rebellion until after the end of the Music. I don't believe that this is the only interpretation, but one of many. And it is not, per se, <i>my</i> interpretation. So as brief as I can make it:

Melkor first introduces new strains into the Music because "desire grew Hot within him to bring into Being things of his own." Because of this desire, Melkor had went "often alone into the void places" and was "impatient with it's emptiness" and in those times he started to "concieve thoughts of his own unlike those of his brethren." Surely creativity and the creative desire are not "evil" or immoral? All the Ainur have this urge and display it throughout the Sil. Aule, for example, creates the Dwarves. All the Valar create things in Arda.

One might argue that the fact that Melkor's thoughts were unlike the rest of the Ainur demonstrates that they are evil. However, this is not what the text states or even implies. Melkor is the <b>only</b> Ainur and Vala who had a "share" in all gifts. Every other of the Ainur were specialists, that is, knew only specific things and areas given by Eru. Melkor had more power and knowledge and was knowledgable in more things than every created being. He was second only to Eru. So having different thoughts than the rest of the Ainur can't be bad, can it? An Architect with no knowledge of interior design will build terrible houses. A musician with no knowledge of poetry or (song) lyric writing will produce boring songs, yes? Melkor's thoughts were probably a result of his broad "education."

After the Music Eru tells Melkor that "no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source" in him (Eru). And those that attempt to bring their own music will prove to be part of Eru's plan. This could be a turning point for Melkor because this is the first time we learn anything of Melkor's feelings. From this "confrontation" comes "shame, of which came secret anger."


Anyway, my points here are this:
1. It is not clear that what Melkor did <i>during</i> the Music was "evil" or "malicious." After that, I think either way he was.

2. Eru says he knew what Melkor wanted and would do. And all that Melkor would do and bring about is part of and subject to the glory of Eru and his creation. So, it reads to me that Melkor was fufilling his purpose by doing what he did throughout the ages, because the Music including Melkor's part was ultimately of Eru. So Eru's purpose for Melkor was to eventually come to Arda as a dominator, destroyer, etc. Moral? By your definition, yes.
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Post by Theremin » Sun Jan 11, 2004 9:48 pm

idoron wrote:1. It is not clear that what Melkor did <i>during</i> the Music was "evil" or "malicious." After that, I think either way he was.

I'm with idoron. Every time that I've sat down to start reading the Sil, I usually only get through the first couple of chapters before school starts to interfere again. Also, the Music of the Ainur was always one of my favorite parts anyway. So, for now, that is the only part that I really have a (valid) opinion on. I've got finals this week, but I'm going on vacation for the five day weekend, so I'll finish up TTT and read RotK then. I'm not even going to try to start the Sil though, its just not the kind of thing I could read with two screaming siblings in the car. :D
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Sun Jan 11, 2004 11:18 pm

"...Then again Illúvatar arose, and the Ainur perceived that his countenance was stern; and he lifted up his right hand, and behold! a third theme grew amid the confusion, and it was unlike the others. For it seemed at first soft and sweet, a mere rippling of gentle sounds in delicate melodies; but it could not be quenched, and it took to itself power and profundity. And it seemed at last that there were two musics progressing at one time before the seat of Illúvatar, and they were utterly at variance. The one was deep and wide and beautiful, but slow and blended with an immeasurable sorrow, from which its beauty chiefly came. the other had now achieved a unity of its own; but it was loud, and vain, and endlessly repeated; and it had little harmony, but rather a clamorous unison as of many trumpets braying upon a few notes. And it essayed to drown the other music by the violence of its own voice, but it seemed that its most triumphant notes were taken by the other and woven into its own solemn pattern."

So Melkor was just singin along, minding his own business? I really seems to me that a "loud, vain, and endlessly repetitive" theme trying to dwon out Illuvatar's theme is not ignorant. Really - what kind of pride does it take to sing out over everyone else, comepletly trying to ruin all the beauty of harmony they're creating? Does anyone ever do this to you? My brothers occasionally do this *meaningful cough* when our family is trying to sing christmas carols. We may not be creating a world in our singing, but they know they're being irritating nevertheless. In fact, I find it difficult to imagine anyone deliberately ruining others' beautiful music without some kind of evil purpose.


idoron wrote:Surely creativity and the creative desire are not "evil" or immoral? All the Ainur have this urge and display it throughout the Sil. Aule, for example, creates the Dwarves. All the Valar create things in Arda.


Ah, but there you have captured the essence of sin. It's not something totally separate from the good - sin is warped virtue. So it's not that his creative desire is evil, but it's that through his pride and impatience, he begins to warp this gift of desire to create into lust for power. The Enemy always is concerned with pure domination, but "not in the beginner of evil - his was a subcreative fall." (-The Man Himself) So agreed there's something a little different going on here. But still. Melkor was not patient to wait for Illuvatar's Divine PLan - he wanted to do his thing, now. He considered himself better than Illuvatar. Why would someone who was humble and obedient sing so defiantly against Illuvatar's great theme?

Sin is understandable, yes. We sympathize with the person who committed it because his aim is close to virtue - no matter what we do we cannot entirely escape virtue; that's how embedded in our nature it is (ha, this sounds like my argument a page ago! now it's all coming together). Sin is when someone warps or ignores their reason to pursue (with the will) an object that is not good, and he knows is not good, but he still perceives it to be good in some way. Maybe it satisfies him at the moment, even though he knows he will regret it later. But the fact is, the object he pursues is NOT good (whether it be the ultimate goal or the means to get there that's at fault) and he IS wrong. And he knows it. I think that Melkor fits nicely into this category.

And as for the will of God, and whether Melkor was really fulfilling it, and if not, that's bad, and if so, God wills bad things, etc. etc. etc.... Let's deal with one thing at a time. I don't think we have to go there.

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Post by Theremin » Sun Jan 11, 2004 11:23 pm

Since when is malice a prerequisite for pride?
I gotta admit that I'm a little bit confused
Sometimes it seems to me as if I'm just being used
Gotta stay awake, gotta try and shake off this creeping malaise
If I don't stand my own ground, how can I find my way out of this maze?

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Post by Sam Gamgee » Sun Jan 11, 2004 11:41 pm

Huh? I don't think I said that... Will you please elaborate a little on your question? I'm a little confused as to what you mean.
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Post by idoron » Mon Jan 12, 2004 9:26 am

Sam Gamgee wrote:So Melkor was just singin along, minding his own business? I really seems to me that a "loud, vain, and endlessly repetitive" theme trying to dwon out Illuvatar's theme is not ignorant.


Well, I have to assume that you mean he was not ignorant that what he was doing is wrong. That can be only speculation because it is not until after the music that we start to read of negative or hostile emotions on the part of Melkor.

I suspect he was, in a way, ignorant. But this is just speculation.

Sam Gamgee wrote:Really - what kind of pride does it take to sing out over everyone else, comepletly trying to ruin all the beauty of harmony they're creating...In fact, I find it difficult to imagine anyone deliberately ruining others' beautiful music without some kind of evil purpose.


Is Melkor "deliberately ruining"? There is no textual evidence suggesting that is his purpose. His purposes, as given in the text, are to bring into being things of his own imagination and to increase his part in the music. One would be <i>hard</i> pressed to argue the first is wrong because Yavanna, Manwe and Aule all do this later. The second one could make a case that it is wrong, but <i>only</i> if your definition of Morality is <i>not</i> "Doing what you are made to do" because it seems Melkor is made to do this. IF morality is adherence to good/right vs evil/bad then you have a much more solid argument that the second purpose is wrong, but textually there is no evidence for evil purpose.

By your definition of Morality, if Melkor didn't sing at all or did just sing along with the Music, that would have been wrong/immoral because that was not his purpose.

Sam Gamgee wrote:
Melkor was not patient to wait for Illuvatar's Divine PLan - he wanted to do his thing, now.


And Aule did not? But Eru says all that is comes from him, despite the ideas and machinations of the actor. yes?

Sam Gamgee wrote:He considered himself better than Illuvatar.


Textual evidence?

Sam Gamgee wrote:But the fact is, the object he pursues is NOT good (whether it be the ultimate goal or the means to get there that's at fault) and he IS wrong. And he knows it. I think that Melkor fits nicely into this category.


But what is Good and Evil? (in the context of ME/Arda, etc.) If you can't define them, other than in conjunction with the "according to your created purpose" definition of morality, then, well, you can't say that Melkor was being Evil.

Sam Gamgee wrote:And as for the will of God, and whether Melkor was really fulfilling it, and if not, that's bad, and if so, God wills bad things, etc. etc. etc.... Let's deal with one thing at a time. I don't think we have to go there.


Well, it is central to the text at hand, so I don't think we can get away from it. But we <i>are</i> talking about ME, so we can talk about what Eru wills, and not God, which will make it a little easier. But I was asking this question because it highlights an issue with your definition of morality. If Eru created everything <i>with knowledge</i> of its end then it can be fairly said Eru created everything <i>to</i> fufill the end it came to. Which means that Eru created Melkor <i>specifically to do the things he did</i>. The text of the Music <i>absolutely</i> agrees with this conclusion. Then, by your definition, Melkor is acting morally, fufilling his purpose. I peronally would argue that he <i>is</i> fufilling his purpose, but that he is not acting in line with the principles or Good/Right, even if Eru turns the results of his actions to those ends.

I know it's tough, but we are talking about Eru and Melkor not God and Lucifer.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Mon Jan 12, 2004 11:28 am

Eru=God. If I say God in this context, I mean Eru.
Lucifer = Melkor. (almost. Slight differences, agreed, but pretty much the same. But that God is Eru, I will argue to my last breath. ;))

No matter what anyone does, he will be used as an instrument to glorify God. He can try to fight it, like Melkor does, but in the end, he cannot succeed in escaping this purpose of glorifying God. Eru uses him anyway.

But there are degrees of glorifying God. Just because everyone will glorify him no matter what does NOT mean they are excused from responsiblility from their actions. God gave rational beings a will to choose the good freely, not a will to choose for the sake of choosing. So if a man or vala, dwarf, elf, or maia uses his free will to choose something that is not good, it is an abuse of this faculty of will. They are still able to do it, however (but the more they choose the more they become limited and unable to chose the good again, so they enslave themselves. but that;s a side note not completely relevant).
So the fact that Melkor will glorify Illuvatar no matter what does not excuse his actions - he is still responsible for trying to avoid Eru's will. He is punished for this. Of course, punishment could be viewed as Eru simply giving him what he had chosen for the rest of eternity. However you choose to view it, being separated from Eru is hell.

As for the music and ignorance:
Ok, so GH is playing live at NEARfest. All of a sudden, Walter doesn't think he can be heard well enough - he wants all the attention to focus on him. So he cranks it up to notch 11 and belts out his part in Portrait, thus drowining out everyone else (including rich williams). But Fred doesn;t like that. He wants to be heard. So he starts pounding on those keys with all fifty of his elvish Keyboard Wizard fingers and creates an irritating, loud, banging sound that is able to be heard even over Walter. Finally, Steve decides that the only way he's going to be heard over walter and fred is feedback, so he walks right next to the speaker. Meanwhile, Flo, Susie, and Bethany are still trying to make beaufitul harmonies... (they don't sing on portrait but never mind!)
So Walter, Fred, and Steve are not ignorant? (Any similarity of this example to actual persons, places, and things is purely accidental. New Line Cinema does not take responsibility.) What are they, then? Or would you say that there's nothing wrong about this situation at all, and that they are all completely innocent of fault? Even if they can't be charged with fault, have they done anything that is wrong?

Melkor's purpose is to glorify God, to use his reason to discern the good and his will to choose it, and through all of this, fulfill his potential and subceate beautiful and powerful things to reflect Eru's majesty. Did he do that, in the song or otherwise? No.
Good=Eru, and what is of Eru.
Evil=absence of Good
No act can be completely isolated from all Good, but many acts can be devoid of crucial parts of it. (are you familair with this philosophy with the Thing and it's Absence? If not, I won't need to elaborate, if so, I probably will because it's confusing at first.)

Ok, are we using end in two different ways? I mean end=goal. Reading your final paragraph it seems to me like you are using end=final result/state of the creature. We have knowledge of our goal, our function, yes. we don't have knowledge of our final state. So can you repeat the question again once you clarify "end"?
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Post by idoron » Tue Jan 13, 2004 8:51 am

Sam Gamgee wrote:But there are degrees of glorifying God. Just because everyone will glorify him no matter what does NOT mean they are excused from responsiblility from their actions.


Textual Evidence? We don't read anywhere of responsibility for actions beyond the immediate situation (i.e. after death).

Sam Gamgee wrote:So the fact that Melkor will glorify Illuvatar no matter what does not excuse his actions - he is still responsible for trying to avoid Eru's will. He is punished for this. Of course, punishment could be viewed as Eru simply giving him what he had chosen for the rest of eternity. However you choose to view it, being separated from Eru is hell.


Textual Evidence?

Sam Gamgee wrote:Ok, so GH is playing live at NEARfest...would you say that there's nothing wrong about this situation at all, and that they are all completely innocent of fault? Even if they can't be charged with fault, have they done anything that is wrong?


Well, it depends on the "moral guidelines" that govern band dynamics. Granted it makes a bad show, but is still not entirely relevant to this disucssion. We haven't established a moral structure for GH or for ME.

Sam Gamgee wrote:Melkor's purpose is to glorify God, to use his reason to discern the good and his will to choose it, and through all of this, fulfill his potential and subceate beautiful and powerful things to reflect Eru's majesty.


Textual Evidence? Where do we read what his purpose is?

Sam Gamgee wrote:Good=Eru, and what is of Eru.
Evil=absence of Good
No act can be completely isolated from all Good, but many acts can be devoid of crucial parts of it.


Textual evidence?

Sam Gamgee wrote:Ok, are we using end in two different ways? I mean end=goal. Reading your final paragraph it seems to me like you are using end=final result/state of the creature.


That assessment is correct, you already addressed it.
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Post by idoron » Wed Jan 14, 2004 11:49 am

I'm not asking for textual evidence just to be a jerk. There is a lot that Tolkien left undiscussed and if there are things that I missed or haven't considered I want to know about them. Projecting into the story doesn't get us any further along in the evaluation.


Plus my degree is in literature and language, so I'm conditioned to look for quotes taken in context.
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