"Implicit" Morality

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Post by Sam Gamgee » Wed Jan 14, 2004 7:46 pm

I'm getting sick of going nowhere. This is my observation on this discussion: Idoron asks question. Sam responds vaguely about what she thinks. idoron probes about specific terms and asks for text. Sam never bothers to go all the way to the bookshelf, pull the book out, and flip around, but continues to argue, abstracting from the situation and using logic in general (heavily inspired by Plato, Aquinas, and Augustine, in particular). idoron makes some specific example to try to prove sam's generalizations wrong, and picks apart the weak points of her argument...

We're not getting anywhere. We started out broad and are getting into pickier and pickier issues that aren't moving us forward. Part of it is that you have never once offered your own full view, so I have no idea what I should say and what to omit, what we agree with and what I should spend more time on. :? So how about you tell me what you think, and then we can figure out what we can agree on, and actually go somewhere with this instead of this fruitless repetition. Sound good?
(This wasn't meant to be any kind of personal or sarcastic comment - I'm just trying to make an observation on why this discussion isn't very effective so far. So if you think this is an offensive comment, I'm really sorry and that's not my intent at all! :oops: No ill-will toward the Oak!)
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Post by Bnielsen » Wed Jan 14, 2004 8:47 pm

sheeeeeeesh sam- you didnt spend ANY time at all thinking about THAT retort..... :roll:
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Wed Jan 14, 2004 10:40 pm

Only for the last few pages. Now, though, it came to "Go find text" or redirect our ailing discussion.
That's enough motivation to get me going.
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Post by idoron » Thu Jan 15, 2004 9:25 pm

Well, my conception is still just a scrapbook of ideas.

There are two problems one will encounter in working this out from the text: (1) there are no traces of didactic morality in the texts - almost all discussion of good and evil comes from characters, which can be "flawed" and (2) the voice of Tolkien's narrator is not omniscient, and therefore even the narrator's statements and conclusions cannot be taken as absolute.

(This second point could warrant a discussion of it's own - if desired let's do it in a new thread)

Sample of things that are called "Evil" in the canon and semi-canon:
Orcs as a race
the voice of individual orcs
the creatures of Melkor
Violence
Tyranny
ME is said to be full of it
Treason
The news that a host of Morgoth's army is <i>defeated</i> :?
Men
Fufilling the Oath of Feanor
Breaking the Oath of Feanor
The Ring


Things that are called "Good"
<b>The fact that evil exists</b> <- from the mouth of Manwe & Eru
Orcs, by other Orcs
Lembas
Riding to open war on the plains of Rohan (which would have swept away the people of Rohan)
Valar
War <- by Faramir


Again, all of these things are from imperfect sources, but it presents a complex picture of the way the world works as percieved by those who dwell therein.

I will follow up with a discussion of this later, don't have the time here.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Fri Jan 16, 2004 6:41 pm

:deal: “War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the men of Númenor; and I would have loved her for her memory, and her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom.” -Faramir (TTT, 346)

Oooh, how's that for text?! *pats herself on back* ;) So War cannot be called "good" in the unqualified sense. The orc calling another orc good - is that a text moment? (not asking you to pull it out, but just asking if you're assuming things.) The news of Morgoth's defeat - once again, who says it? What context? I think I pretty much agree with everything else.

Are we ok with what exactly good and evil are? The Thing and its Absence, I'm saying, that all evil is only twisted virtue, virtue with too many holes missing. We can't invent anything that is the opposite of good (as in, with the same force and power), because that would be dualism, and there is no equal to Eru.
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Post by MayorOfLongview » Sat Jan 17, 2004 9:26 am

Sam Gamgee wrote::deal: “War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the men of Númenor; and I would have loved her for her memory, and her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom.” -Faramir (TTT, 346)

Oooh, how's that for text?! *pats herself on back* ;) So War cannot be called "good" in the unqualified sense. The orc calling another orc good - is that a text moment? (not asking you to pull it out, but just asking if you're assuming things.) The news of Morgoth's defeat - once again, who says it? What context? I think I pretty much agree with everything else.

Are we ok with what exactly good and evil are? The Thing and its Absence, I'm saying, that all evil is only twisted virtue, virtue with too many holes missing. We can't invent anything that is the opposite of good (as in, with the same force and power), because that would be dualism, and there is no equal to Eru.


Well said! (you and faramir)
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Post by idoron » Sun Jan 18, 2004 2:09 pm

Faramir also says in TT:

<blockquote>
For as the Rohirrim do, <b>we now love war and valour as things good in themselves</b>, both a sport and an end; and though we still hold that a warrior should have more skills and knowledge than only the craft of weapons and slaying, we esteem a warrior, nonetheless, above men of other crafts.
</blockquote>
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Post by idoron » Sun Jan 18, 2004 2:16 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:The orc calling another orc good - is that a text moment? (not asking you to pull it out, but just asking if you're assuming things.)


It is in TT when the party of Mordor Orcs return to the party of Orthanc Orcs. Shagrat (i think) says there are "good" orcs he would hate to loose.

Sam Gamgee wrote:The news of Morgoth's defeat - once again, who says it? What context?


The narrator! How about that! It is when Feanor and Friends return to ME and in the Glorious Battle destroy nearly all of Morgoth's forces leaving only a "handful of leaves" of his army. The narrator says "Evil was the news" that returned to Thangorodrim of the loss.

Sam Gamgee wrote:Are we ok with what exactly good and evil are?


Well, yes and no. I am evaluating the terms as used in the texts. I understand the way you are using them, but would argue that is not how they are being consistently applied in the text.
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Post by idoron » Mon Jan 19, 2004 5:53 pm

I found a quote that indirectly supports Sam's model of evil as a twisting or abscence of good.

Sil Chapter 3, Of the Coming of the Elves

Speaking of the commonly accepted story of the origin of Orcs (how they were Elves taken by Morgoth and twisted to his ends) we read:

<blockquote><i>This maybe was the vilest deed of Melkor, and the most hateful to Iluvatar</i></blockquote>
Anyway, as I said it is indirect, but is, I think, an important point. I (personally) would be wary of building a whole model of Good and Evil from one short passage, but it is a significant statement.

The corruption of the Elves is at least in the running for the worst thing that the "evilest" of entities in Arda has done.
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Post by idoron » Mon Jan 19, 2004 5:56 pm

Parenthetical:

Sam, I don't have a fully formed "theology" for ME because, as I have indicated, I don't think that a complete theology (or mythology) was presented explicitly. This thread is (hoprefully) a collaborative attempt to find one.
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Post by idoron » Mon Jan 19, 2004 6:02 pm

Aspects of the Corruption of the Elves/Creation of Orcs that might be "evil."

<ul><li>Twisting of the Order of Eru</li><li>Destruction of the "essence" of the elves<br />(meaning the individual elves who were corrupted and ceased being Elves, becoming Orcs)</li><li>Corrupting/Using those individuals for his own purposes</li></ul>
Maybe this was the most evil of his deeds because it was all this and more. Can anyone come up with anything else?
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Post by idoron » Mon Jan 19, 2004 6:06 pm

Another interesting point is that in Sil (would have to look up the exact chapter...) the Narrator says that Sauron was only less evil than Morgoth in that (before turning to evil) he served one other than himself.

So we can deduce that another aspect of evil would be "serving oneself." But to what extent we do not know. We can guess from the "Orc incident" that serving oneself to the harm of others would be evil. But what about serving oneself in a way that was not?
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Mon Jan 19, 2004 6:54 pm

idoron wrote:Faramir also says in TT:

<blockquote>
For as the Rohirrim do, <b>we now love war and valour as things good in themselves</b>, both a sport and an end; and though we still hold that a warrior should have more skills and knowledge than only the craft of weapons and slaying, we esteem a warrior, nonetheless, above men of other crafts.
</blockquote>


But in context, I think it can be safely said that the "we" refers to Gondor, and that he does not approve of this change. Especially when we take it with the other quote.

So the men of Gondor are clearly wrong in taking war as a "good" in the unqualified sense.
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Post by Sam Gamgee » Mon Jan 19, 2004 7:41 pm

Wow, that's a lot of posts. I'm going to get really confused. Ok, here's my attempt to answer them all:

Concerning "goodness" of orcs: Shagrat does not mean good without qulification. He only means good with respect to something else - they're good fighters, good orc soldiers, good at doing whatever it is that an orc does. Don't get this good confused with the good we are discussing. In this vague language of ours, we use good in many ways, both subjective, as related to some sort of use (a good murderer, a good orc), a false opinion (Gondor's war), or the Good itself (such as Manwë, Eru, That Which Is, etc.). Is this point ok?

Same goes for the "evil" of Morgoth's defeat in the battle - it wasn't Evil in the larger sense, but it was evil with respect to Morgoth's aims. It was bad news for Morgoth, in other words. This is a purely subjective evil, and it's not worth our time to dwell on the subjective, because it doesn't get us anywhere. Unless we wanted to delve into the relationship between the subjective and objective good. We could probably make a case for that, but it's still subjective and objective in how it's being spoken of.

Yes - the corruption of the Elves. See, these ideas aren't only made up from my head, or abstracted solely from my philosophy classes. I am certain that there are loads of evidence to support me, but I just don't remember what they are, because it was so natural i may overlook it.
I think the corruption of the Elves was so evil because Morgoth was trying to take the place of God - this is the nature of all sin. it's really the only sin. There are different degrees and places for it, of course, but at the heart of every evil deed is the belief that we are above God - we desire to create our own rules and try to warp our function to do something we were never meant to do; we think we're smarter than him somehow, that he doesn't know what's best and that his laws of virtue are deception. Morgoth was meant to serve and subcreate under Illuvatar, not try to turn this Art into a Power and be God himself.

The Sauron thing - that is very interesting. I remember reading that now that you mention it, but I had forgotten it. So no creature was meant to rule absolutely over the rest of creation. Creatures were all meant to serve. To not serve is to try to take the place of Eru.
To serve oneself and somehow help others is impossible because of the nature of serving oneself. If you're trying to help others (specifically for the good), you're serving them to some degree, not just yourself.
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Post by idoron » Mon Jan 19, 2004 8:26 pm

Sam Gamgee wrote:But in context, I think it can be safely said that the "we" refers to Gondor, and that he does not approve of this change. Especially when we take it with the other quote.

So the men of Gondor are clearly wrong in taking war as a "good" in the unqualified sense.


Without a doubt it refers to "Gondorlindrim" and not solely to Faramir. But in rereading the passage I don't know that Faramir disapproves of it. I think one could argue from the text that he is undecided. He goes on after the quote to say that because of this shift in their culture Boromir was regarded as the "best man" of Gondor, and Faramir seems to agree.

And I also think it would be hasty to say they are de facto wrong in declaring war a good thing.

After all, the only war they know, the war Faramir <b>has</b> to be talking about is the war against the forces of Sauron. And I don't think any one in this forum, anyone with knowledge of ME, even JRRT would say that Gondor's war with Sauron, though fighting alone is hopeless, is a bad thing.

I think in the minds of <i>any</i> citizen of Gondor it would be <i>impossible</i> to seperate "war" from Sauron. I would have to review the tale of years to be certain, but as I recall Gondor has <b>never</b> been to war against a foe that was not allied with Sauron.
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