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Dragonlance Dragonlance Philosophy thread

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Okay, cool. Now let's talk philosophy...
Because it killed a lot of innocent people, and the "good" gods took part in it. Therefore, the good gods committed an evil act, yet the setting still pretends that they are deserving of worship (it's a major plot point in the War of the Lance novels that the clerics of the good gods need to return).
You're begging the question. You're assuming that killing a lot of innocent people is evil. While I subjectively agree, I know that I cannot prove it's actually bad. Most philosophers can't either. The utilitarians had the closest to objective way to resolve these kinds of questions. And the gods of Dragonlance seem rather utilitarian in their approach. As stated in that quote from Fizban. They killed millions to save billions. That's a very utilitarian response. Most people really don't like utilitarian ethics, but it is one school of thought.

For the utilitarians it comes down to math, which makes it more concrete. According to their view of ethics, it's perfectly justifiable to kill one person to save two, to kill two people to save three, etc. Take a look at the Trolley Problem. A utilitarian would throw the switch and kill one person to save five. Fizban reads like a hardcore utilitarian. So from his own perspective, he's perfectly justified in his actions. He saw that the darkness was closing in and would consume the world forevermore if he did nothing, condemning all future generations to misery, slavery, and eternal crapsack world. So he chucked a mountain at Istar and killed a few million people to save a few billion.
And there's that fact that Dragonlance focuses on the "balance of good and evil", which is a bad trope. As you noted, Chaos and Law works for two cosmic extremes that need balance in a setting. Good and Evil don't need balance. Evil doesn't need to and should not exist.
Light cannot exist without dark. Warm cannot exist without cold. Order cannot exist without chaos. Good cannot exist without evil.
Evil is bad. Good is good.
Again, prove it.
Yet, Paladine, the Top God of the Good Pantheon says that too much good is unhealthy and that good having too much power is bad.
Are you familiar with the Euthyphro Dilemma? The short version, modified to fit Dragonlance is: either Paladine commands it because it is right or it is right because Paladine commands it. Meaning, you have two options. Good exists independently of Paladine and he's reporting what's objectively good or Paladine defines what is objectively good.
In other words, "Good" in Dragonlance doesn't actually mean "Good". Because the people that the setting says are good people (the Good Gods, the Kingpriest, the White Robed Mages), aren't actually good people, because they tolerate the existence of evil
So in your estimation for someone to be good they must not tolerate the existence of evil. Okay. That sounds a bit extreme to me. But we'll run with it. What does that look like in practical terms? Armies of holy warriors scouring the land of all evil? Sounds a bit like the Witch Hunters from WFRP. To what degree does one have to be evil to be no longer tolerated to exist? Where's the line between what's good and what's evil? Who defines good and evil? Going back to the Euthyphro, does Paladine define what's good? He can't because if he does your argument doesn't hold water. So how do people know what's good and what's evil? The god of Good that you're calling evil tells them? He's not a reliable source of what's good or evil. They have to figure it out for themselves? What if they're wrong? Does the accused get a trial? Are the trials more like modern day courts of law or are they like the Monty Python witch trial where it's the weight of a wooden duck that determines guilt or innocence?

But back to the practicalities. How much evil must a person commit before they're so far gone they need to be put to the sword? Murder? Sure. Rape? Sure. Torture? Sure. Accidental version of those? Say one of your crusaders accidentally kills an innocent good person in their crusade. Are they now evil and worthy of death? How will the other crusaders know if the murderous crusader covers it up? How about if you cheat on your taxes? Lie? Cheat on your spouse? Is someone who murders in the name of good still evil? Is evil inherited? Are some people born evil and therefore it's okay to kill them as children? How would you know? Wouldn't you need to be 100% sure before just killing someone? But if you're not sure and they turn out to be evil, you've just tolerated the existence of evil and therefore become evil yourself according to you. So shouldn't you kill them just in case? Doesn't that make you evil? How corrupting is evil? Can it taint innocent people by its mere presence? Do you have to destroy the village to save it?
and allow for terrible things to happen because they believe in the Stupid Neutral belief that Evil should exist.
In your view good should utterly eradicate evil, so it isn't looking so hot in regards to letting terrible things happening either.
"Good and Evil are both valid and need to exist" works as a meta-justification to create never-ending story hooks in the setting. Not as an in-world justification used by a Good God for why good is actually bad.
Again, I'll point back to the Euthyphro Dilemma. If the god of Good defines what is or isn't good, then it's a perfect in-world justification because he literally gets to define what's good and what's bad. He says murder's good, then it's good. There's also utilitarianism. He killed a few million to save billions.
 

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Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
You're begging the question. You're assuming that killing a lot of innocent people is evil. While I subjectively agree, I know that I cannot prove it's actually bad. Most philosophers can't either. The utilitarians had the closest to objective way to resolve these kinds of questions. And the gods of Dragonlance seem rather utilitarian in their approach. As stated in that quote from Fizban. They killed millions to save billions. That's a very utilitarian response. Most people really don't like utilitarian ethics, but it is one school of thought.

For the utilitarians it comes down to math, which makes it more concrete. According to their view of ethics, it's perfectly justifiable to kill one person to save two, to kill two people to save three, etc. Take a look at the Trolley Problem. A utilitarian would throw the switch and kill one person to save five. Fizban reads like a hardcore utilitarian. So from his own perspective, he's perfectly justified in his actions. He saw that the darkness was closing in and would consume the world forevermore if he did nothing, condemning all future generations to misery, slavery, and eternal crapsack world. So he chucked a mountain at Istar and killed a few million people to save a few billion.
The "disaster" Fizban and the other good gods are trying to avoid through the Cataclysm was one where the Kingpriest achieved apotheosis. The Kingpriest was terrible, but so are plenty of other gods in Dragonlance, and killing a ton of people and setting back the world hundreds of years through an apocalypse is hardly a measured response to another terrible god being added.

The Cataclysm was an act of self-preservation by the gods. Not something that would actually benefit the people of the world. In fact, if Paladine actually thinks that the Kingpriest is good, having another good god would make Team Good have more gods than Team Evil, which would further his agenda. If Paladine truly thought "the ends justify the means, it's okay to do something bad for a good reason", then he would have let/helped the Kingpriest become a god, not actively prevent him.

Paladine isn't utilitarian. He's Stupid Neutral.
Light cannot exist without dark. Warm cannot exist without cold. Order cannot exist without chaos. Good cannot exist without evil.
The concept of good depends on the concept of evil to exist. Good things existing is not dependent on bad things also existing.
Again, prove it.
If good is not good, then it doesn't carry its own meaning and needs to be called something else. "Good" is good. It has to be. That's evident in its name.
Are you familiar with the Euthephro Dilemma? The short version, modified to fit Dragonlance is: either, Paladine commands it because it is right or it is right because Paladine commands it. Meaning, you have two options. Good exists independently of Paladine and he's reporting what's objectively good or Paladine defines what is objectively good.
I've been introduced to the dilemma.

I'm an agnostic atheist, and I think good and evil objectively exist in the world. The terms existence is not dependent on a god existing. Child abuse is evil. Rape is evil. Genocide is evil. Those statements aren't reliant on a godly or religious definition.
So in your estimation for someone to be good they must not tolerate the existence of evil. Okay. That sounds a bit extreme to me. But we'll run with it. What does that look like in practical terms? Armies of holy warriors scouring the land of all evil? Sounds a bit like the Witch Hunters from WFRP. To what degree does one have to be evil to be no longer tolerated to exist? Where's the line between what's good and what's evil? Who defines good and evil? Going back to the Euthephro, does Paladine define what's good? He can't because if he does your argument doesn't hold water. So how do people know what's good and what's evil? The god of Good that you're calling evil tells them? He's not a reliable source of what's good or evil. They have to figure it out for themselves? What if they're wrong? Does the accused get a trial? Are the trials more like modern day courts of law or are they like the Monty Python witch trial where it's the weight of a wooden duck that determines guilt or innocence?

But back to the practicalities. How much evil must a person commit before they're so far gone they need to be put to the sword? Murder? Sure. Rape? Sure. Torture? Sure. Accidental version of those? Say one of your crusaders accidentally kills an innocent good person in their crusade. Are they now evil and worthy of death? How will the other crusaders know if the murderous crusader covers it up? How about if you cheat on your taxes? Lie? Cheat on your spouse? Is someone who murders in the name of good still evil? Is evil inherited? Are some people born evil and therefore it's okay to kill them as children? How would you know? Wouldn't you need to be 100% sure before just killing someone? But if you're not sure and they turn out to be evil, you've just tolerated the existence of evil and therefore become evil yourself according to you. So shouldn't you kill them just in case? Doesn't that make you evil? How corrupting is evil? Can it taint innocent people by its mere presence? Do you have to destroy the village to save it?
Being intolerant of evil doesn't mean killing evil. It means working against its existence. Incarceration works most of the time.

As for who defines good and evil? Preferably experts that study the topic and are able to come to conclusive definitions of good and bad actions. We have scientific evidence that certain styles of raising children are unhealthy physically and/or mentally (spanking kids, for example, is an ineffective and harmful form of discipline). Science can prove things are objectively bad. Steps to prevent child abuse can be taken. Eventually, as public awareness about the problem increases, things get better and child abuse becomes more and more uncommon, hopefully until it is basically completely removed.
In your view good should utterly eradicate evil, so it isn't looking so hot in regards to letting terrible things happening either.
Eventually. And not all forms of evil are equal and deserve extreme punishment. You can incentivize against bad behavior, punish egregiously evil acts (murder, rape, etc) through the justice system, and reward good behavior. "Goodness" is a process. Not something that can be achieved immediately.
Again, I'll point back to the Euthephro Dilemma. If the god of Good defines what is or isn't good, then it's a perfect in-world justification because he literally gets to define what's good and what's bad. He says murder's good, then it's good. There's also utilitarianism. He killed a few million to save billions.
If a god says that murder is good, the god isn't good. Especially in D&D, where evil gods exist.

And Takhisis, who is Evil, supported the Cataclysm, too. If she's the goddess of evil and she thinks that an action is good, how can Paladine agree with her? He's the ultimate good god and she's the ultimate evil one.

If two different gods, one Lawful Good and the other Chaotic Evil, both say that "murder is good", how can you trust either one of them? If both of them say that the action is moral, and they're of completely opposite moralities, how can they agree?
 

gban007

Adventurer
The "disaster" Fizban and the other good gods are trying to avoid through the Cataclysm was one where the Kingpriest achieved apotheosis. The Kingpriest was terrible, but so are plenty of other gods in Dragonlance, and killing a ton of people and setting back the world hundreds of years through an apocalypse is hardly a measured response to another terrible god being added.

The Cataclysm was an act of self-preservation by the gods. Not something that would actually benefit the people of the world. In fact, if Paladine actually thinks that the Kingpriest is good, having another good god would make Team Good have more gods than Team Evil, which would further his agenda. If Paladine truly thought "the ends justify the means, it's okay to do something bad for a good reason", then he would have let/helped the Kingpriest become a god, not actively prevent him.

Paladine isn't utilitarian. He's Stupid Neutral.

The concept of good depends on the concept of evil to exist. Good things existing is not dependent on bad things also existing.

If good is not good, then it doesn't carry its own meaning and needs to be called something else. "Good" is good. It has to be. That's evident in its name.

I've been introduced to the dilemma.

I'm an agnostic atheist, and I think good and evil objectively exist in the world. The terms existence is not dependent on a god existing. Child abuse is evil. Rape is evil. Genocide is evil. Those statements aren't reliant on a godly or religious definition.

Being intolerant of evil doesn't mean killing evil. It means working against its existence. Incarceration works most of the time.

As for who defines good and evil? Preferably experts that study the topic and are able to come to conclusive definitions of good and bad actions. We have scientific evidence that certain styles of raising children are unhealthy physically and/or mentally (spanking kids, for example, is an ineffective and harmful form of discipline). Science can prove things are objectively bad. Steps to prevent child abuse can be taken. Eventually, as public awareness about the problem increases, things get better and child abuse becomes more and more uncommon, hopefully until it is basically completely removed.

Eventually. And not all forms of evil are equal and deserve extreme punishment. You can incentivize against bad behavior, punish egregiously evil acts (murder, rape, etc) through the justice system, and reward good behavior. "Goodness" is a process. Not something that can be achieved immediately.

If a god says that murder is good, the god isn't good. Especially in D&D, where evil gods exist.

And Takhisis, who is Evil, supported the Cataclysm, too. If she's the goddess of evil and she thinks that an action is good, how can Paladine agree with her? He's the ultimate good god and she's the ultimate evil one.

If two different gods, one Lawful Good and the other Chaotic Evil, both say that "murder is good", how can you trust either one of them? If both of them say that the action is moral, and they're of completely opposite moralities, how can they agree?
The clarification on intolerant stuff is good here - as otherwise the Kingpriest arguably was the only one of the good people you were listing that was being intolerant of evil, but the actions he was taking went too far / became evil himself.

I don't think that Good and Evil can be objectively described, even if I agree with you on what are evil acts, it does still feel a subjective opinion - on the other hand, I agree that what is good and bad for people's health (physical and mental) and wellbeing can be objectively defined, and over time we are getting better at it as well thanks to science, and what the Kingpriest was doing was objectively bad. Bad doesn't necessarily equal evil, hence one being more objective than the other to my mind - e.g. your list og egregiously evil stuff I believe is evil as well, but things like smoking / getting drunk - are bad for people's health, but not evil, to demonstrate at extremes that the Venn diagram of bad and evil isn't a perfect circle.

My memory of the novels isn't as good as others, but I do wonder if part of the issue is that perhaps the Twins trilogy tried to retcon a bit of the original trilogy - from my sketchy memory the original trilogy didn't really get that detailed into what the Kingpriest did, when Paladine outlined him as good, whereas the Twins trilogy showed a lot more of what the Kingpriest was up to, but at that point didn't seem to call him good anymore, with the events of the true believers being taken up only really mentioned in the second trilogy I think? Thus as the authors delved deeper into the lore of the setting, they may have themselves felt they needed to backtrack / contradict a bit on what was said previously, at least that is how it appears to me.
 

gban007

Adventurer
And as a further bit, hopefully okay to post this quote in full from the late great Terry Pratchett, but I think applies to the ideas of overarching Good / Evil:

“All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable."

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—"

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

"So we can believe the big ones?"

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

"They're not the same at all!"

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point—"

MY POINT EXACTLY.”
― Terry Pratchett, Hogfather
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
I don't think that Good and Evil can be objectively described, even if I agree with you on what are evil acts, it does still feel a subjective opinion - on the other hand, I agree that what is good and bad for people's health (physical and mental) and wellbeing can be objectively defined, and over time we are getting better at it as well thanks to science, and what the Kingpriest was doing was objectively bad. Bad doesn't necessarily equal evil, hence one being more objective than the other to my mind - e.g. your list og egregiously evil stuff I believe is evil as well, but things like smoking / getting drunk - are bad for people's health, but not evil, to demonstrate at extremes that the Venn diagram of bad and evil isn't a perfect circle.
I don't think smoking is evil. But I think that the companies that knew that it was bad for you and lied about it were evil. If anything, smokers are mostly victims that are taken advantage of by powerful companies. Smoking doesn't make you evil, but knowing that it's addictive and causes lung cancer, hiding the evidence that proves that, and then lying to your customers in order to profit off of the addictions they're fueling is evil.

I don't think goodness and evilness exist as cosmic terms that exist throughout the universe. Terry Pratchett's Death is correct that "Justice", "Mercy", "Good", and "Evil" don't exist on an atomic level. However, I do think that they exist on a human level. Murdering innocent people is definitely objectively evil, because of the harm and suffering it causes. There is definitely a difference between "things that are harmful/bad for you" and "evil", but intent to do harm without sufficient provocation is evil.

Good and evil have to exist in relation to the human experience. If they don't, then the terms are pointless and not worth discussing. We're human. We made up the terms. If "good" and "evil" don't exist in relation to what is good and bad for us, then good and evil don't exist at all.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I shouldn't think "mass murder is objectively bad" is something that you need proof for. It's kind of a thing most people agree with. I mean, what would you consider proof to even be?
Then why haven't they changed it already? They just had a perfect opportunity.
 


Vaalingrade

Legend
Okay. Prove it. Prove that the Cataclysm is objectively, verifiably bad.
Well let's interview the children, visitors, prisoners, and other non-Kingpriest-affiliated people who were in Ishtar on that day and... Oh.

Okay, but what about the generations that grew up in squalor and suffering due to it? I'm sure they'll have some glowing reviews.

Or the Queen of Evil Dragons who directly benefited and was almost able to take over the world thanks to it. She LOVED it.
 

“The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

Kingpriest didn’t do things out of malice. He honestly thought he was doing good.
he intended to do good... but he objectively did evil. At some point wiess even labeled him LG DURING the evil... that is wrong, D&D alignment isn't intentions, its actions.
 

And the Authors and several characters in the books and some of your peers on this site…

“I’m right and Everyone else is wrong.”
by the book (D&D 5e) he could not be Lawful Good and still do these things... either there needs to be acarve out exception for DL alignment or he can't be good.
 

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