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D&D General Some thoughts on Moral Philosophies in D&D


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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Something something paladins?

?

Any consistent rule system for TTRPGs will contain rules which cannot be understood.

If all the rules of a TTRPG rule system can be understood then the system is inconsistent, and thus has rules which can be used and ignored at the same time.

Pretty pretty pretty sure that's it. Close enough for horseshoes, hand grenades, and TTRPG theorizing, at least.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Different philosophical code paladins would be kind of interesting.
Hedonistic Paladins going around fighting Villains because it provides the greatest pain-aversion.

Virtue Ethicist Paladins helping the weak, explicitly, out of charity and compassion.

Deontological Paladins bound by the laws of their society and struggling to achieve good ends while holding to the letter, if not the intent, of the law...
 




Voadam

Legend
It's literally how 5e (and 4e) works. The Oath of the Crown is not at all the Oath of Glory
Different explicit real world philosophical paladin codes.

The utilitarian paladin next to the aristotelian ethicist paladin seeking the golden mean while practicing habits of virtues among uplifting friends.
 

pemerton

Legend
Paladins come from an actual context in real-world history. The notion of a Homeric paladin, or a Benthamite paladin, makes no sense.

A Homeric hero may, from time-to-time, be divinely inspired, but that character is not going to have the sort of attitude of chivalry towards the "innocent", or of mercy towards the "guilty", that are part of the distinct moral orientation of paladins.
 

pemerton

Legend
This is why I said that moral philosophy systems were a lot like formal logic - they also have axioms. These are assumed to be true. You cannot use your axioms to prove that another's are false - the logic of moral philosophy only works internally. What you consider to be "good" or "evil" or "harm" depends on your axioms, your base definitions of morality. And yours may be different someone else's, and they lead you to different results. But, yours doesn't disprove theirs logically. The logical statements we'd use for falsifiability depend on the axioms, they don't apply to the axioms.
I don't think this claim is true. It is certainly not a very good account of how moral philosophers pursue their inquiries.

For instance, when RM Hare sets out to show that utilitarianism is true as a principle to govern moral action from moment-to-moment, he presents arguments that he intends to have universal force resting on what he takes to be an unavoidable commitment to universalisability in moral judgement.

When GEM Anscombe sets out to attack "Modern Moral Philosophy", she is certainly not intending to just beg the question against her Kantian and utiltarian opponents.

Etc.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Paladins come from an actual context in real-world history. The notion of a Homeric paladin, or a Benthamite paladin, makes no sense.

A Homeric hero may, from time-to-time, be divinely inspired, but that character is not going to have the sort of attitude of chivalry towards the "innocent", or of mercy towards the "guilty", that are part of the distinct moral orientation of paladins.
Like... Homeric Hero is just a template upon which you apply Medieval Romance from the Renaissance and Later periods in which knights were retroactively made into noble heroes rather than just wealthy well armed folks who were mostly bullies and brutes.

Plus, y'know, Arthurian Fantasy.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I don't think this claim is true. It is certainly not a very good account of how moral philosophers pursue their inquiries.

How they pursue their inquiries, or their intent in writing books, is not the determiner here.

Logic can not determine the absolute truth value of a statement without axioms assumed to be true. That's how formal logic works. Period. End of discussion. Similarly, the axioms of one system do not speak to the axioms of another, because they are both assumptions.

If your philosophical system is fundamentally logical, there are only two choices then - either there are axioms, which are assumptions, or there are not. If there are not axioms, then either the system is flawed, containing a logic error or fallacy that conceals the lack, or the system is circular, an Ouroboros of thought. This latter can be a highly valuable exercise in thought. It can teach you how to turn the wheels, so to speak, but it cannot come to a conclusion.

If your philosophical system is not fundamentally logical, then it amounts to an opinion, which, again, rests on something the person feels is correct - effectively an assumption.

Ergo - moral philosophy systems are belief systems.
 

pemerton

Legend
Like... Homeric Hero is just a template upon which you apply Medieval Romance from the Renaissance and Later periods in which knights were retroactively made into noble heroes rather than just wealthy well armed folks who were mostly bullies and brutes.

Plus, y'know, Arthurian Fantasy.
The values of a Homeric hero are different from, and in many ways incompatible with, the values of a chivalric knight.

Greg Stafford gestures towards this in Pendragon with his contrast between the virtues of a Pagan, a British Christian and a Roman Christian knight.
 

pemerton

Legend
How they pursue their inquiries, or their intent in writing books, is not the determiner here.

Logic can not determine the absolute truth value of a statement without axioms assumed to be true. That's how formal logic works. Period. End of discussion. Similarly, the axioms of one system do not speak to the axioms of another, because they are both assumptions.

If your philosophical system is fundamentally logical, there are only two choices then - either there are axioms, which are assumptions, or there are not. If there are not axioms, then either the system is flawed, containing a logic error or fallacy that conceals the lack, or the system is circular, an Ouroboros of thought. This latter can be a highly valuable exercise in thought. It can teach you how to turn the wheels, so to speak, but it cannot come to a conclusion.

If your philosophical system is not fundamentally logical, then it amounts to an opinion, which, again, rests on something the person feels is correct - effectively an assumption.

Ergo - moral philosophy systems are belief systems.
Newtonian or relativistic physics can be presented as axiomatic systems. But they have empirical warrants: typically when presented as axiomatic systems it is various theorems of the system that correspond to the empirical evidence.

Of course there's a trivial sense in which those physical theories are "belief systems" - ie they are bodies of knowledge/belief. Likewise mathematics, which is genuinely formal as opposed to empirical. But of course (on the premise that the number of primes is not finite) there is a prime number larger than any particular prime number that any human being has ever thought of to date. And in that sense there are mathematical truths that no one has ever believed, because never yet thought of.

Moral philosophy is not normally presented as an empirical field of knowledge (some philosophers think it is). But no philosopher I can think of accepts the proposition that it is a formal system like mathematics. Or that it is a belief system in the sense of being nothing more than beliefs. Even moral relativists will accept that there are, relative to a "perspective"/"framework", moral truths not yet thought of by any human being.
 
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Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
The values of a Homeric hero are different from, and in many ways incompatible with, the values of a chivalric knight.

Greg Stafford gestures towards this in Pendragon with his contrast between the virtues of a Pagan, a British Christian and a Roman Christian knight.
... yes... and..?

I didn't say that medieval writing was -good-. Only that it was derivative of earlier works, like everything else.

Everything in Arthurian Myth involved the different knights, for all their strange adventures, holding to society's expectation of a knight (Or, rather, the romanticized version thereof). Whether it was Galahad's Purity or Bedivere bearing Arthur's body to the ship in accordance with his orders, though he wished for a Christian burial for the king.

The only one who didn't uphold to the courtly social values that were applied to them, in the end, was Lancelot. And his actions wound up a cautionary tale against the rest thanks to the horror and societal upset he created when he bedded Guinevere.

I'll give you that they don't attribute their actions to the "Great Spirit" within themselves, but externalizing that to God isn't a massive stretch.
 

pemerton

Legend
... yes... and..?
I have a similar feeling. Paladins - chivalric knights of the Arthurian or similar romance genre - are not the same as Homeric heroes. Nor does a Benthamite paladin make sense - a Benthamite character, besides being quite anachronistic in a FRPG, would not play much like a knight.

I'm not sure what your disagreement is with this.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
I don't see pragmatist murderhobo. They aren't really hedonists, either.

I don't think subjective morality really fits, either, because of all the ways the game system(s) code "killable" others.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
I have a similar feeling. Paladins - chivalric knights of the Arthurian or similar romance genre - are not the same as Homeric heroes. Nor does a Benthamite paladin make sense - a Benthamite character, besides being quite anachronistic in a FRPG, would not play much like a knight.

I'm not sure what your disagreement is with this.
Homeric Heroes are the same as Cardassian ones. They live a life devoted to the State and the Status Quo, they do their duty nobly, and then they die.

The Arthurian Knights did the same. Their duty was to Arthur, the King, I.E. the State, and to God, I.E. the other half of the State as far as most Romantic period writers were concerned.

Their adventures were wild (Galahad the Green, anyone?) but their core identity is only a twist off center from Homeric Heroes. Because the Romance Writers were -steeped- in Homer and other classical writers, and that investment influenced their own writings.

Because we are, all of us, nothing but the sum of our experiences interpreted through our particular viewpoint.

Tack on some "Chivalry" based on Virtue Ethics, some Courtly Romance, and Homeric Heroes become Arthurian Knights. That's all I'm saying.

I don't see pragmatist murderhobo. They aren't really hedonists, either.

I don't think subjective morality really fits, either, because of all the ways the game system(s) code "killable" others.
Pragmatism isn't a moral philosophy, and is just a way to figure out the shortest path. That said: You're right. Murderhobos could be Pragmatists.

... they almost invariably aren't 'cause they're not actually a serious thing but instead a Flanderization of D&D players and a few individuals influenced by that meme making them think that's how D&D is "Really" played...

But even if they -were- a serious thing? It wouldn't be a matter of Philosophy. It'd just be a matter of pointless in-game violence. No more a consideration of morality or identity than loading up GTA to do cool ramp stunts and blow up everyone on the street with hilarious ragdoll physics.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
Pragmatism isn't a moral philosophy, and is just a way to figure out the shortest path.
On the contrary, I think prioritizing efficiency above all else is a moral philosophy; it's a top level governing value.

Or, as a pragmatist, it's close enough to get things done. (ha ha).

... they almost invariably aren't 'cause they're not actually a serious thing but instead a Flanderization of D&D players and a few individuals influenced by that meme making them think that's how D&D is "Really" played...

I see it pretty often, though - is this band of [intelligent race] really evil or is there some other sort of... oh, wait, Sir Murder of Hobo has already beheaded one of them.

And we can't really call this pointless in-game violence because violence is one solution to the group raiding the village story arc/problem. It has a very neat and clean efficiency to it - a quick resolution to the problem (for the characters) and a quick dose of loot and experience (for the players). Pick whichever intelligent beings you like and replace village with, well, anything. Loads and loads of official and partnered 3rd party modules have setups like this, and the "kill the stuff in front of us" solution is usually the one taken and expected by the module designers, no matter the party makeup.

As someone who is quite happy to play as Sir Murder of Hobo from time to time I am often shocked by how quickly others jump right to the beheading. I don't think there is any other coherent moral philosophy in-game that would explain this sort of behavior, unless it is some bizarre form of subjective morality stacked with a an 80's era Forgotten Realms-esque moral valuation of various intelligent races. When the LG paladin butchers all the [race] in the cave but leaves the nursery unharmed (so the infants later starve, because - hey - every member of [race] is evil!) I think this is also murderhobo pragmatism in play. The pre-existing code marks certain races and occupations as killable, and thus killing those persons is the shortest path to solution.

Thus, for members of the Knightly Order of Homicidium Hobia, their in-game moral philosophy is necessarily disjointed (as tends to be the case in real people, too) as they seek efficiency in gameplay.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
On the contrary, I think prioritizing efficiency above all else is a moral philosophy; it's a top level governing value.

Or, as a pragmatist, it's close enough to get things done. (ha ha).



I see it pretty often, though - is this band of [intelligent race] really evil or is there some other sort of... oh, wait, Sir Murder of Hobo has already beheaded one of them.

And we can't really call this pointless in-game violence because violence is one solution to the group raiding the village story arc/problem. It has a very neat and clean efficiency to it - a quick resolution to the problem (for the characters) and a quick dose of loot and experience (for the players). Pick whichever intelligent beings you like and replace village with, well, anything. Loads and loads of official and partnered 3rd party modules have setups like this, and the "kill the stuff in front of us" solution is usually the one taken and expected by the module designers, no matter the party makeup.

As someone who is quite happy to play as Sir Murder of Hobo from time to time I am often shocked by how quickly others jump right to the beheading. I don't think there is any other coherent moral philosophy in-game that would explain this sort of behavior, unless it is some bizarre form of subjective morality stacked with a an 80's era Forgotten Realms-esque moral valuation of various intelligent races. When the LG paladin butchers all the [race] in the cave but leaves the nursery unharmed (so the infants later starve, because - hey - every member of [race] is evil!) I think this is also murderhobo pragmatism in play. The pre-existing code marks certain races and occupations as killable, and thus killing those persons is the shortest path to solution.

Thus, for members of the Knightly Order of Homicidium Hobia, their in-game moral philosophy is necessarily disjointed (as tends to be the case in real people, too) as they seek efficiency in gameplay.
Murderhobos don't just kill the questionably evil NPC.

They also kill the Tavernkeeper. And the King's Guards. And the Shopkeeper. And the Beggar on the corner. And then they loot all the bodies. And possibly set fire to them.

What you're describing is Role Morality. "We have been given this task. We will complete it independent of the morality of our actions and then get our reward."

Same as the guy working for the insurance company that refuses to pay out on a little old lady's cancer claim because it would affect their bottom line. He'll pretend to care to the woman's face or over the phone, but still refuse to help her because the company he works for has a specific role for him. Then that guy goes home and has all the empathy in the world for his mother in-law who has cancer and is going through a rough time.
 

ph0rk

Friendship is Magic, and Magic is Heresy.
Murderhobos don't just kill the questionably evil NPC.

They also kill the Tavernkeeper. And the King's Guards. And the Shopkeeper. And the Beggar on the corner. And then they loot all the bodies. And possibly set fire to them.
I don't think that's accurate or fair. There are different working definitions of murderhobo, and they don't all necessarily include killing everything that breathes.

A (pragmatic) murderhobo doesn't kill the tavern keeper because there's no value in it. Pragmatic Murderhobos don't kill innocents (in part because of consequences, but also because there is no reward for it - it is thus inefficient). A temporary psychopath (perhaps a murdergodclown in training) might kill everyone they see, but that's different - they really do want to kill everybody.

But, okay, let's call what I'm talking about a MurderPragmatist.

A MurderPragmatist kills 'monsters' for profit, and for a MurderPragmatist the solution to most encounters with people and things that might loosely be called antagonists involves violence. Talk our way out? No, roll for initiative. Does the reason the group of elves is robbing caravans matter? No, not really, kill them and solve the problem. Talking might mean a long sidequest, and this is quicker.
 

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