We Are All Neutral Survivalists: Alignment in a Complex World

Real world people are indeed often driven by sincere belief in ideologies which, from their own perspective, are as real and important to them as anything a Paladin believes in.

I can't help myself from pointing out that the real historical basis for Paladins was a story about some xenophobic French dudes robbing (and killing) a bunch of Spanish Moors simply because they were Islamic.

And so long as I am making Celebrim mad at me, I need to point out that Quag, Lord of Ignorance is not a Slaad lord (actually several "Slaad" lords are miscategorized by your source). He actually is one of my better allies in the war against Chaos and resides on Acheron. There are very few beings as impervious to change as Quag, something noted in passing by your source:

In appearance, Quag is one of the most consistent of the slaad, seldom bothering to change his natural form.

Not to hijack my own thread.
 

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Celebrim

Legend
I can't help myself from pointing out that the real historical basis for Paladins was a story about some xenophobic French dudes robbing (and killing) a bunch of Spanish Moors simply because they were Islamic.

While I quite happily will agree with you that the real examples of knighthood seldom excercised the idealic chivilric virtues if that is your point, as far as your specific example goes I don't interpret the stories that way.

I would also like to point out that I've actually read the Song Roland and Fierabras, and have 9 credit hours of medieval history and a number of textbooks on the shelf here if you really want to give a go at it. But, feel free to show my how the central story of the chansons de geste is robbing and killing a bunch of Moors simply because they were Islamic. I think you'd be pretty hard pressed to show that the Carolingian kings were the aggressors at the stage of history you say is the 'historical basis' for Paladins. Certainly the tale of Fierabras isn't one of killing people and taking your stuff except to the extent that it is a robbery of a Christian church that initiates the action.

And so long as I am making Celebrim mad at me, I need to point out that Quag, Lord of Ignorance is not a Slaad lord (actually several "Slaad" lords are miscategorized by your source). He actually is one of my better allies in the war against Chaos and resides on Acheron. There are very few beings as impervious to change as Quag, something noted in passing by your source.

The definition of Chaos is slippery even in comparison to terms like 'good' and 'evil' that people have been arguing about for thousands of years. In other places, I've offered what I think is a fairly robust definition of the attributes of Chaos as a moral code. Under that definition, Ignorance is part of Chaos because it represents indifference to the external world. Quag is the preemenent example of this indifference to all things not self. Quag changes solely compared to some other aspects of Chaos, and not really at all to external forces, but that isn't to say that he doesn't change. Quag's relatively fixed appearance is a sign of his indifference to the outside world. Quag lives only in his mind and creates his own reality. That is how he is Chaotic. Other Slaad Lords capture different aspects of chaos.

Your are also missing from your analysis the underlying 'deep dark secret' of the Slaad, which has to do with the question, 'Why toads?', or 'Why have any organization at all?' This is a much more mysterious problem than Quags relatively fixed appearance compared to some other Slaad on the list, but there is a very good explanation for it and it requires looking at the tension inherent in Chaos between the notion of individuality and change. This tension between the desire to be an individual and assert oneself and constant change lies very much at the heart of Slaad as I concieved them, and explains much of the mystery of the strangest Slaad of the bunch - Ygorl. Not to give too much away, but the problem for an individual that embrases change is the issue of how you survive with an identity.

And this is a really important issue, because Chaos can't maintain the notion of self, then it become indistinguishable from Law. You end up with a situation where there is no distinguishment between absolute symmetry and the absolute lack of symmetry. In other words, Chaos has to have some essential element to it that makes it more than just random, but allows it to manifest complexity. Because if Chaos doesn't manifest complexity (as personified by the Slaad) then Chaos is merely another form of uniformity.
 

pemerton

Legend
Actually, at least one of them is not a matter of opinion. 'Ethics,' just like all systems of value are necessarily subjective.
I'm not sure what counts as something being a "matter of opinion" or not, but the claim that all systems of value are necessarily subjective is a highly controversial one.

I think it is fair to say that the majority of English-speaking philosophers working in the analytic tradition, and probably a fairly solid majority of English-speaking philosophers who actually work in the field of analytic moral philosophy, take the view that systems of moral value are objective (in the sense of independent of human choices and subjective states).

Furthermore, on the best account of an expressivist meta-ethic that I'm familiar with - namely, Barker, "Is Value Content a Component of Conventional Impicature?" in Analysis (2000) - values turn out to be subjective only in a rather complex way, and statements that predicate value turn out to be truth-apt in the same way as any ordinary descriptive statement.

It may be that a majority of philosopher working in the continental European tradition take the view that systems of value are necessarily subjective - I don't think that this is the best way of describing the critical theoretic line of thought, or even the Neitzschean approach, but I don't know the other European approaches well enough to have a view on them - but I think the existence of widespread disagreement among professional philosophers is enough to show that it is, in some tenable sense, a matter of opinion.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Actually, at least one of them is not a matter of opinion. 'Ethics,' just like all systems of value are necessarily subjective....Thus 'ethics' are subjective, because they don't exist without subjects.

This is one of several competing ways of describing good and evil. It is by no means universally accepted. It is merely something some people suppose to be true about the real world. Thus, the claim that all systems of value are necessarily subjective, is itself merely an opinion and not objective fact.

We of course agree that it need not be the case than an imaginary world be described in any particular way, and the world of the imagination can obviously be described in any of the ways that people have attempted to describe the real one (plus presumably several ways that they haven't, though this in my opinion would be a great effort of imagination indeed).

To try get this pulled back to terms we can freely debate without breaking the rules, from the perspective of a Chaotic Neutral believer or a Lawful Neutral believer the position that good and evil are purely subjective and the distinctions between them are abitrary is a natural one. Such a character would argue that extreme good is the same as extreme evil, and so forth. We can easily imagine a character in our imaginary world coming to another one and asserting this philosophy and getting in an argument with some other character who asserts something else (perhaps that Chaos and Law are meaningless arbitrary distinctions). But of course, we don't have to choose for the characters. We don't have to assert that we know the answer and choose which character is correct, because the debate itself is interesting. In our imaginary world, it may be the case that it is actually true that the Chaotic Neutral character is correct and the world really is the sort imagined by existentialist philosphers (for example). Or we can imagine that the world is one in which Lawful Evil's description of the world as being a contest between tribes in which power and success are the only real measurments and in which good is merely how a coward or a deciever hides his weakness is actually correct. Under such a description, mercy is merely the plea of a coward unwilling to accept the true nature of the universe. Or perhaps the Neutral Good believers are actually correct and there is only goodness and its absence. What is most interesting to me as a story teller is I don't have to pick sides. The characters within my imaginary world can be ultimately ignorant about the exact nature of the universe.

In this way, it seems to me that my imaginary universe has quite a lot in common with the real one.
 

Leontodon

First Post
The only person who obviously searches for attacks directed at itself here is you. You bring into the whole discussion your own personal background that is not at all relevant to the matter. What for instance is the significance of your ancestors homecountry? Is there any? My point is that a persons socialisation is the singel most important factor that defines his definition of moral behaviours. You just refuse to acknowledge that and try to escalate the discussion.

At least we can agree that the real-world example of paladins were not just a bunch of xenophobic guys. Though I would say that relying on highly stylized works of fiction is a scientificly unclean approach to proove it.
 

pacdidj

First Post
We need to get our terms strait here. Subjects = thinking entities capable of making observations. Objects = those things that thinking entities observe. Subjective = something that inheres in subjects exclusively or to a great degree. Objective = something that inheres in objects regardless of its observation by a subject.

Since subjects are the only things that talk about the abstractions 'ethics,' 'law,' 'chaos,' 'good,' and 'evil' however they are defined, they are necessarily subjective. In a world comprised solely of objects none of these things exist, since they depend on a subject's ability to abstract them from social processes (to say nothing of the fact that without subjects there are no social processes, and likewise no social-ethical evaluative systems with which to measure 'good' and 'evil').
 

I am officially putting on my neckbeard for Celebrim.

[Neckbeard]

Being an "aggressor" is obviously not necessary. The Kamikaze were employed explicitly to defend the Japanese mainland from invasion. Likewise, the Suicide Bomber could argue very strongly that they are responding to aggression (not that I am taking a position).

That said, there is a good argument that Charlemagne was in fact the "aggressor". The Song of Roland is said to parallel the historical events surrounding the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, which was Charlemagne's retreat from an intervention in a conflict between the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates.

Even in The Song of Roland there is ample evidence of xenophobia:

VIII

Merry and bold is now that Emperour [Charlemagne],
Cordres he holds, the walls are tumbled down,
His catapults have battered town and tow'r.
Great good treasure his knights have placed in pound,
100 Silver and gold and many a jewelled gown.
In that city there is no pagan now
But he been slain, or takes the Christian vow.
...
So he conquers Cordres and kills the "Sarrazins" who won't "take the Christian vow." i.e. he killed people 'cause they weren't Christian. BTW 100 is a verse #.

XXX

Says Blancandrins: "A cruel man, Rollant,
That would bring down to bondage every man,
And challenges the peace of every land.
395 With what people takes he this task in hand?"
And answers Guene: "The people of the Franks;
They love him so, for men he'll never want.
Silver and gold he show'rs upon his band,
Chargers and mules, garments and silken mats.
400 The King himself holds all by his command;
From hence to the East he'll conquer sea and land."
And he runs with "The people of the Franks" [technically, here Blancandrins is talking about Rolland, but the Franks are also Charlemagne's posse] who are clearly motivated by the "Silver and gold he show'rs upon his band,"

XXXVI

Before King [Marsilie, Charlemagne's enemy]'s face Guenes drawing near
Says to him "Sire, wherefore this rage and fear?
470 Seeing you are, by Charles, of Franks the chief,
Bidden to hold the Christians' right belief.
One half of Spain he'll render as your fief
The rest Rollanz, his nephew, shall receive,
Proud parcener in him you'll have indeed.
475 If you will not to Charles this tribute cede,
To you he'll come, and Sarraguce besiege;
Take you by force, and bind you hands and feet,
Bear you outright ev'n unto Aix his seat.
You will not then on palfrey nor on steed,
480 Jennet nor mule, come cantering in your speed;
Flung you will be on a vile sumpter-beast;
Tried there and judged, your head you will not keep.
Our Emperour has sent you here this brief."
He's given it into the pagan's nief.
Here Charlemagne's negotiator is telling the Islamic king that either the Islamic king converts and gives half his kingdom to Rolland or he will be killed. No other conditions: just conversion and concession or humiliation and death.

So it seems Paladins (as portrayed fictionally in The Song of Roland) are just as "evil" as any Kamikaze or Suicide Bomber in that they violate contemporary Western conceptions of "good".

[/Neckbeard]
 

pemerton

Legend
Since subjects are the only things that talk about the abstractions 'ethics,' 'law,' 'chaos,' 'good,' and 'evil' however they are defined, they are necessarily subjective. In a world comprised solely of objects none of these things exist, since they depend on a subject's ability to abstract them
This argument, if sound, is an argument for thoroughgoing idealism, because it is as true of concepts like "gold", "tree", "hydrogen" as it is of evaluative concepts.

In my view the argument is unsound. For the best discussion of the issues that I'm aware of, see Alberto Coffa, The Semantic Tradition from Kant to Carnap: to the Vienna Station.

From the fact that the argument is unsound it doesn't follow that there is no argument that value is subjective. But it must appeal to something distinctive about value, not general features of the processes of cognition and conceptualisation.
 

Celebrim

Legend
The only person who obviously searches for attacks directed at itself here is you. You bring into the whole discussion your own personal background that is not at all relevant to the matter.

Hey, you're the one that thought my position could be refuted by saying that it was "American-Centricist".
 

Azgulor

Adventurer
Wow. Seriously, thanks to everyone for reminding me how pointless alignment discussion threads are on this board.

I'd forgotten about the propensity to assign a narrow view to each alignment as objective fact, the attempts to reinforce viewpoints by skimming the surface of politics & religion, the cheap-shot personal attacks whilst taking the "I did no such thing" stance, and the college/university undergraduate view of debate that by citing resources of tangential relation (at best) to the topic and of zero interest outside of academia one sway their opponent. Or at least sound educated when doing it. The off-hand anti-American swipes are gravy, I'm sure.

After years of gaming without alignment, I was considering using it in my upcoming Pathfinder game. Thanks for reminding me that it's probably not worth using.

Celebrim, good luck brother. Your stomach's stronger than mine.
 

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