We Are All Neutral Survivalists: Alignment in a Complex World

Celebrim

Legend
I have to strongly disagree here even though it goes a bit off-topic.

Ok. Sadly, I'm unable to formulate a rebuttle that isn't likely to violate the policies of EnWorld or at least derail the thread. Suffice to say that I think you spend far too little time addressing the cause and ideology being defended and far too much time on the idea that all nationalism is the same. Also, you seem to make the same sort of general error as the OP, arguing that if some benefit accrues (or is percieved to accrue) then its not selfless. But we can always find some benefit accruing or being percieved as accrueing in any sort of selfless behavior. You also seem to be of the delusion that I'm unaware of the nuance involved in my examples and need a history lesson on the subjects, but I really can't address that either.

Most of these cases involve the mechanics of nationalism. If you want to know why people are willing to die for a country in a "selfless" fashion I recommend the classic "Imagined Communities" by Benedict Anderson which is stille the ground-breaking work in nationalism studies.

I suspect that if you are accurately reflecting the nature of the work, I'll find much the same flaws in it.

a) selflessness can be seen as an indicator for being good.

I disagree. Even beyond the very slippery nature of the term, I don't strongly associate a selfless state with the capacity or indication of good, and more importantly I don't think that an indicator of a thing is the thing itself.

b) Real-world examples are of little use when arguing about heroic fantasy roleplay-games

I wouldn't go that far. It's quite possible to imagine a world where the laws governing the world suggest a morality which is different than the morality suggested by the laws we suppose govern this one, but I wouldn't suggest that a real world understanding couldn't inform even that extreme case.
 
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- your basic thesis seems to be "everyone is the same".

I am making a tautological revealed preference argument as follows: people do stuff they like and we know they like to do that stuff cause that is the stuff they do. Therefore everyone is "alike" in the sense that they do the stuff they like to do.

However, this leaves a lot of latitude as to the definition of "stuff they like to do". Some people rob and kill drug dealers, others dedicate themselves to scaling the police bureaucracy until they get to a position where they can work within the system to create positive change (Omar and Daniels, the two LG characters I discuss above from The Wire who obviously have very distinct codes which they both follow), and still others think that is all too much effort and just sit around getting high (Wallace and Duquan).
 

Dausuul

Legend
I am making a tautological revealed preference argument as follows: people do stuff they like and we know they like to do that stuff cause that is the stuff they do. Therefore everyone is "alike" in the sense that they do the stuff they like to do.

This statement is either false or useless, depending on how broad your definition of "stuff they like" is.

By a straightforward and colloquial definition (in other words, the way most people use the phrase), it's false. There are days when I don't like going to work. But I go to work anyway because if I don't, I'll get fired and then I won't have any money and then I won't be able to do other things which I do like to do.

If you invoke your Personal Dictionary and expand the definition to cover "things which enable you to do things you like, or to avoid things you don't like, or which are a response to some instinct or impulse even though they bring you no actual pleasure, or which satisfy your moral sense of what ought to be done," then your statement is, as you say, a tautological truth; to which I reply, as I reply to most tautologies, "So what?"
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
However, this leaves a lot of latitude as to the definition of "stuff they like to do".

Yes, well, I have to agree with Dausuul. I think you have a choice - either people also do things they don't like to do, or your definition of "stuff they like to do" is so broad as to be meaningless, which by extension makes your argument similarly meaningless.
 

This statement is either false or useless, depending on how broad your definition of "stuff they like" is.

Yes. Precisely.

To the extent that everyone is a utility maximizer/ neutral survivalist (i.e. taking the statement as a tautology), that label is undescriptive. This is the core point of my OP.

Everyone must at least implicitly make alignment choices due to the absence of omniscience in mortals. Everyone needs to decide how much time to devote to getting "sure" or "certain" and of the areas where they are unsure, whether to be generous or selfish.

This really boils down to an argument that even if we assume "no unselfish good acts exist" (i.e. assume the tautology) we can still generate reasonable descriptions of alignments without resort to external validations.

The problem with this formulation is that in the gaming universe where alignment is in play, they are NOT entirely internal. As one example, outsiders personfiy in tangible form good, evil, law, & chaos. External influence can be imposed on others due to the fact that everything is not morally relative.

Actually, I should probably mention that I intend this as an intro to a thread describing the 16 Great Wheel places and why certain things are where. There is actually a good natural reason "Baatezu" are in the lower left part, and why being in the lower left part gradually makes you more like what you know as a "Baatezu". The answer has to do with what you call "The Blood War", but which may more appropriately labeled as "The Wars of Resentment," which are of course tied intimately with "The Spooked Hunts," "The Beauty Contests," and "The Intrigue Games" in the "On Cycle"; but I am getting ahead of myself.
 

Azgulor

Adventurer
Actually, I should probably mention that I intend this as an intro to a thread describing the 16 Great Wheel places and why certain things are where. There is actually a good natural reason "Baatezu" are in the lower left part, and why being in the lower left part gradually makes you more like what you know as a "Baatezu". The answer has to do with what you call "The Blood War", but which may more appropriately labeled as "The Wars of Resentment," which are of course tied intimately with "The Spooked Hunts," "The Beauty Contests," and "The Intrigue Games" in the "On Cycle"; but I am getting ahead of myself.

Ok, either this is a Humor thread and I missed it or yes, you're getting ahead of yourself b/c you sure as hades lost me with that...
 

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
The neutral evil guy looks at the order and thinks to himself "the king is ordering me around?! I'll kill him!" The neutral evil guy kills everything that gets in his way. Note the distinction between this and lawful evil: the neutral evil guy is attempting to kill the other thing, not protect himself from its effects. He himself may die in the process of the attempt at killing the other thing. This isn't necessarily less survival oriented: he doesn't have to see the situation coming a mile away to prep for it, he is more able to deal with situations as they arise.

The chaotic evil guy hires someone to rig up a dummy on top of the mountain so it looks like someone wearing his clothes is waving from the top. The chaotic evil person doesn't care about anything but himself, but will deceive sometimes at least. They are unpredictable, and while they might genuinely mean the comforting things they say while saying them, they have no respect for honesty or consistency and will turn on a whim. Note this disregard may come back to bite him in the ass when the king sends up a message saying he needs the guy to collect a rare flower from the top of the mountain. Now he's gotta fake a rare flower.

I think that these two are the other way around - CE is the raving psychopath whose first thought is to kill.
 

Ok, either this is a Humor thread and I missed it or yes, you're getting ahead of yourself b/c you sure as hades lost me with that...

Sry. I assumed people were familiar with the 1e Great Wheel from Gygax (which excludes the 17th "plane" the Concordant Opposition). I've seen several threads using this terminology. "Baatezu" is the 2e name for Devils, resident of the "9 Hells" in the Great Wheel cosmology.

There has been a lot of criticism in old threads of the "forced symmetry" of the Great Wheel cosmology which I eventually took to mean that there are too many boring upper planes that are similar. I wish to address those criticisms. This prime material is largely unaware of the latter three conflicts on the Great Wheel, but the "Blood War" seems to be well publicized here.

@Plane Sailing who posted while I was typing:

If the CE guy went after the king then he would have to stop killing the things he was killing when he got the news! This way he can keep doing the bad things he would rather be doing.
 

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
It's quite possible to imagine a world where the laws governing the world suggest a morality which is different than the morality suggested by the laws we suppose govern this one, but I wouldn't suggest that a real world understanding couldn't inform even that extreme case.

Indeed.

I'm not sure if it follows your point (I'm tired and need to get to bed!) but I found getting into some real-world history about feudal Japan was very helpful when playing "Bushido" back in the 1980's - because the morality of that period and place was very different from the modern european morality which informs what seems 'normal' to me.

Cheers
 

Dausuul

Legend
Yes. Precisely.

To the extent that everyone is a utility maximizer/ neutral survivalist (i.e. taking the statement as a tautology), that label is undescriptive. This is the core point of my OP.

Everyone must at least implicitly make alignment choices due to the absence of omniscience in mortals. Everyone needs to decide how much time to devote to getting "sure" or "certain" and of the areas where they are unsure, whether to be generous or selfish.

This really boils down to an argument that even if we assume "no unselfish good acts exist" (i.e. assume the tautology) we can still generate reasonable descriptions of alignments without resort to external validations.

So... let me get this straight. If I understand you correctly, your argument can be summed up as:

People act based on their own personal motivations for acting. This does not preclude the existence of the alignment system.

My response can be summed up as

1: ...This was in question?

and

2: It took you 2,728 words to say that?
 
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