WTF is "cold iron", and why's it so special?

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Um....

Humans only occur by action of humans. We do not spontaneously generate and spring forth from spoiled meat, or something - it requires human action to create a human. And even more human action to craft another human that talks and does mathematics and engineering...
I'm going to have to have a serious conversation with my mother about storks.

Seriously, though, reproduction is a natural act. It's not as if we have to go smelt a bunch of metal to forge us some babies.

Cars only occur by action of humans....

I agree with the general posit that there is a practical dividing line between natural occurrences and the actions of sentient beings. But this logic doesn't hit the mark.
It takes more than an act to make something unnatural, though. See my comment on the difference between an ant hill and a beehive. Yes reproduction and cars both require human acts, but one is an act of nature and the other involves unnatural acts.
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
Well, Stocism, at least, does not serve you here. "Virtue consists in a will that is in agreement with Nature," is a basic Stoic tenet. However, this admits that human will can be in *disagreement* with nature.

Similarly, with Epicurians, we have the idea that there are three kinds of desires: the natural and necessary, the natural but not necessary, and those that are neither natural or necessary. This, again, admits to humans having unnatural desires - there is something about humans that is not natural.

So, I say both of these early philosophies fall rather short of the idea that anything that humans do is natural, by definition. Rather, both accept that humans have issues when they step away from their natures - though they have *major* disagreements about what those natures are :)
Okay, true enough. I was thinking about their physical theories of matter with regards to the "what is iron?" question, but I should have thought about it a bit more broadly.

In general, once we've hit the Christian era, we have the three major religions of Europe and the Middle East all claiming that humans, as created by the divine, have a special place in the universe, outside of the natural order. And, since the highest accomplishment of these cultures was iron, that iron becomes symbolic of mankind's special status. The Western World doesn't make major steps away from that until after Darwin, IMHO.
As you note, though, iron is already described as anti-magical by pagan writers. And if iron's status were tied to the Judeo-Christian worldview, I'd expect to see it appear as part of official Church doctrine in some way. Instead, it's folk superstition that stands outside the Church and which the Church kind of frowns upon. In short, it looks very pre-Christian to me.

We may note that it is during Pliny's life that the Romans come to the British Isles - bringing with them wealth and relatively advanced technology. The idea that iron and human works are inimical to the fae powers probably has a lot to do with Roman occupation of Britain. Romans were all about taming the lands around them - roads, aqueducts, and so on....
What of the iron lore outside of Britain? Pliny was not British any more than he was Christian.
 

Mike R

Visitor
That's a load of philosophical BS, though. You wanted to know when the car stops being natural, and that's at the point where it doesn't occur in nature all by itself. That's how the world defines it outside of philosophy. You know the, practical, real world.

Amino acids occur in nature all by themselves. Proteins occur in nature all by themselves. Cells occur in nature all by themselves. Humans occur in nature all by themselves. A car doesn't. Full stop. It's unnatural.
Humans don't occur in nature all by themselves. They only occur among a particular combination of particles, like carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorous; and environmental factors, such as atmospheric pressure, gravity, temperature. The combination of all these elements is in fact so exact that we only know of a single planet in the entire observable universe where they exist.

The above paragraph is also true for cars. Since you agree humans are natural ("occur all by themselves") you also agree cars are natural.
 

Mike R

Visitor
Um....

Humans only occur by action of humans. We do not spontaneously generate and spring forth from spoiled meat, or something - it requires human action to create a human. And even more human action to craft another human that talks and does mathematics and engineering...

Cars only occur by action of humans....

I agree with the general posit that there is a practical dividing line between natural occurrences and the actions of sentient beings. But this logic doesn't hit the mark.
Why does "occurs by action of humans" remove the state of being natural? And how does it do this?

Why is it only humans? If a human sanded down a rock in such a way that the process was indistuinguishable from air and water weathering, would that rock then be unnatural? Why or why not? How would you determine the rock's naturalness after the fact, without the benefit of knowing any human had interacted with it?

I'm going to have to have a serious conversation with my mother about storks.

Seriously, though, reproduction is a natural act. It's not as if we have to go smelt a bunch of metal to forge us some babies.



It takes more than an act to make something unnatural, though. See my comment on the difference between an ant hill and a beehive. Yes reproduction and cars both require human acts, but one is an act of nature and the other involves unnatural acts.
Why are the acts of humans unnatural?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yes. Answer my question.
Was very obviously answered by my question. Person 1:"Hey Mike! You wanna go to Vegas with us?" Mike:"Did Mike Tyson hit like a ton of bricks?"

Humans don't occur in nature all by themselves. They only occur among a particular combination of particles, like carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorous; and environmental factors, such as atmospheric pressure, gravity, temperature. The combination of all these elements is in fact so exact that we only know of a single planet in the entire observable universe where they exist.
Humans are naturally occurring. Nature provided them, unless you are arguing creationism.

Why are the acts of humans unnatural?
Dunno. I didn't say that. What I said is that some acts are natural and some, probably most, are not.
 

Sadras

Adventurer
It is neither modern nor old, it simply is.
Whether it is or isn't in any which you try to define it, humans perspectives have changed through the ages.
Imagine the wonderment of various cultures and people witnessing horses and larger beasts for the first time, the use of gun-powder, forged steel...etc - one can easily imagine that it would be deemed unnatural by those unfamiliar with it.

It is that perspective (at some point in time), that cold iron was viewed as unnatural, which has been integrated within the D&D mythos. You may not like it and that is your prerogative, but you cannot deny that particular point of view existed at one time.
 
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Imaculata

Adventurer
Why are the acts of humans unnatural?
Whether they are (or are not) natural is irrelevant in the context of nonsensical fantasy. No one ever said that fantasy had to make sense. High fantasy has a lot of internal ideas and rules regarding what is natural, that have no basis in reality what so ever. It seems to me like a pointless endeavor to then argue against it.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
It takes more than an act to make something unnatural, though. See my comment on the difference between an ant hill and a beehive. Yes reproduction and cars both require human acts, but one is an act of nature and the other involves unnatural acts.
Note, I've already said I basically agree with you, but I find your stated logic flawed. Here, you are basically assuming the conclusion. You haven't clearly stated what makes one act by a human natural, and another act by a human unnatural.

Your bee analogy is confusing. How is human mating more natural than bees making a hive? Both are instinctual behaviors.

And, by the way, piles of dirt may be natural, but *anthills* are constructions by ants - the dirt doesn't pile itself up - it is dug out and placed there by ants. Why is bee construction less natural than ant construction?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Note, I've already said I basically agree with you, but I find your stated logic flawed. Here, you are basically assuming the conclusion. You haven't clearly stated what makes one act by a human natural, and another act by a human unnatural.

Your bee analogy is confusing. How is human mating more natural than bees making a hive? Both are instinctual behaviors.

And, by the way, piles of dirt may be natural, but *anthills* are constructions by ants - the dirt doesn't pile itself up - it is dug out and placed there by ants. Why is bee construction less natural than ant construction?

As I said, the end result is the determining factor. Yes ant construct the dirt hill, but dirt hills are as common as, well, dirt. Beehives, not so much. What bees construct are not found nature. Sure, you can find hex shapes in nature, but not made out of wax and built into a home. That's also the reason that reproduction is a completely natural act, but building a house/hive is not.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Beehives, not so much. What bees construct are not found nature.
Yeah, so we agree on the end point, but the reasoning? No so much.

Because, try this: you say reproduction is a perfectly natural act. For bees, the beehive is a required part of that perfectly natural act. Bees cannot reproduce without the hive.

So, either bee reproduction is not really natural, or the hive is. Take your pick.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yeah, so we agree on the end point, but the reasoning? No so much.

Because, try this: you say reproduction is a perfectly natural act. For bees, the beehive is a required part of that perfectly natural act. Bees cannot reproduce without the hive.

So, either bee reproduction is not really natural, or the hive is. Take your pick.
Okay. So maybe the hive is a bad example. :p A car isn't required for any sort of natural process and doesn't come from any sort of natural process. The same goes for houses and many other acts that humans engage in.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Okay. So maybe the hive is a bad example. :p A car isn't required for any sort of natural process and doesn't come from any sort of natural process. The same goes for houses and many other acts that humans engage in.
Yah. And, to bring it back around to the OP, that's kind of the distinction made for iron. There is a point somewhere between bees and humans where we are doing things that are not clear results of natural processes. If you have a seed, and plant it in the right place, you get a tree. If you have a queen bee, and put her in an appropriate place, you will get a beehive. If you put a person down... you probably *won't* get smelted iron. If you put an entire village down, you still probably won't get smelted iron.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
In case anyone wants to merge this mighty discussion of science in D&D and fantasy with another recent one:... it starts around post 450.
And goes on for another 500 pages. Not a morass to step into.

Plus, your discussion of "what is magic" seems much more about game design - what can a character do before we consider it "magic". We are talking a bit more about myth and metaphor here.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
It appears to me that there's a consesus forming around cold iron being an unnatural creation and that's why it harms fae. Isn't this a bit backwards, myth-speaking? The lore is that the fae themselves were unnatural. It's only recent myth that fae are part of the natural world. Iron was used because it was the hardest, densest natural element known to man abd therefore the condensation of the natural world, anathema to the unnatural fae and other monsters.

As an aside, for the decision that technology isn't part of the natural world you need a definer of the natural. What's being used? It appears to be "made by man," which is a fraught distinction as it removes man from the natural. Or, is it some suoernatural definer that is a concept of natural that's perverted by man's delving into unnatural knowledge? Either way, there diesn't seem to be a useful demarcation that isn't based on modern philosophy or supernatural belief.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The lore is that the fae themselves were unnatural.
There is no one "the lore" on this subject. Five minutes with Google game me no fewer than a dozen different origins for fae folks and faeries. Only a couple of which would place them as "unnatural". Generally they are no more unnatural than any other being with magical powers.

Some sources say they are demons. Others say they are angels placed to mediate natural processes. Others place them as former angels, not relegated to Hell, but not allowed in Heaven either - and there are multiple versions of this theme. Some say they are children of Lilith, children of Eve, children of Nephilim - and these are just the variations connected with Christianity. Earlier mythological traditions have other origins, sometimes tying their origin to creation to various members of the pantheons, and other just saying "they just are".
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
There is no one "the lore" on this subject. Five minutes with Google game me no fewer than a dozen different origins for fae folks and faeries. Only a couple of which would place them as "unnatural". Generally they are no more unnatural than any other being with magical powers.
Emphasis added. I'm really not sure what to do with this argument.
Some sources say they are demons. Others say they are angels placed to mediate natural processes. Others place them as former angels, not relegated to Hell, but not allowed in Heaven either - and there are multiple versions of this theme. Some say they are children of Lilith, children of Eve, children of Nephilim - and these are just the variations connected with Christianity. Earlier mythological traditions have other origins, sometimes tying their origin to creation to various members of the pantheons, and other just saying "they just are".
All those seem unnatural to me. Demons, angels, kids of angels... where are you going here?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I was out buying my wife a new pan and I discovered that cold forging still exists.

FUNNY.jpg
 
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