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Ignorance as motivation/plot device
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PannionDude
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alright, I want to come at this from a few angles here.

First off, please don't think I'm being condescending. A genuine attempt to change someone's publicly stated and strongly held position has almost a 0% chance of succeeding, but please accept that I'm earnestly striving towards that end, not trying to signal that I'm a big smarty pants and you are double wrong.

1. I think you are seeing Consequentialism where there is none. (Here is a better explanation of this, but it has politics in it http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/05/30/fetal-attraction-abortion-and-the-principle-of-charity/ ) That is, I think you are judging the good guys in this story by a moral yardstick they don't use, and expressing surprise at how low they score on it.

In SRD's world the non evil timeless entities do not give the benefit of their foresight to those trapped in time. This is not because doing so will give rise to evil outcomes. It is because doing so is a 'sinful' action for them. The necessity of freedom that they keep going on about.

Lord Foul's gig is to change the choices of beings in time. The good guys don't do this, not because it will result in evil, but for the same reason Linden won't possess TC. It is a moral wrong.

I know I just repeated myself in slightly different words, but in my experience this is really hard to get across. For the Timewarden or the Elohim or the Creator to just remote control LA would be a LF thing to do, and in SRD's book people don't use each other's playbooks.

You've heard this (or variations thereof) before in this thread, and objected, so I'll try and handle each of your objections.

First you raised the king + no advisors viewpoint, generalizing the timeless to finite information prohibition to a general one, and then pointed out that that's preposterous. You are right. It is ok for Liand to say whatever to LA, but the Timewarden/Creator cannot. No one is argueing that informing is wrong in the real world, or between beings in time in SRD's world. The necessity of freedom means essentially that beings that can choose (ie, beings with a time based viewpoint) must be allowed to make their choices.

(Remember once again that the 'must' above refers to what amounts to the honor of the beings in question. No one is argueing that communicating vital info would produce a worse outcome, rather that it would be the equivalent of 'dishonorable'.)

You also pointed out the Timewarden's actual communication and the Dead's cryptic answers, asking why do they not break this particular rule. Linden herself asked the question in the next book, and I think it was well answered.

The Timewarden admits he shouldn't have spoken at all, but he couldn't bear to let her think she was abandoned. So he spoke to her and tried not to influence her choices. Similarly the Dead encourage the living, and give the boons that they are allowed to, insofar as they can, without determining the living's destiny. They did all that they could, but they are not allowed to be as explicit as they'd need to be to stop her from making the attempt.

There's actually some in setting justification for this rather bizzare handicap that the good guys have elected to impose on themselves. In SRD's world they believe that good choices cannot make evil triumph (TC saving the girl instead of a whole world), and it follows that evil choices ( Informing finite creatures from a beyond time perspective) can only make evil triumph. You don't need to think that that's true, just that all of the important folks believe it.

Your post has a lot more stuff in it, but this will get too long if I go on, and if you don't agree on this its meaningless anyway, so I'll pause and get your reaction here before we go on.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'Dude, I think what you are saying makes a lot of sense, and I encourage you to get it all out.

My point I would add is this: the things that Donaldson wants to explore are the things his characters do when they don't know what is the right choice.

In the first Chronicles, Donaldson explored how an unheroic person can become heroic. That's a heck of a lot more interesting than watching a heroic person be heroic. Not to mention, there's a lot more to say about the human experience.

Similarly, Donaldson is also exploring how characters make the right choices for personal reasons. It's a heck of a lot more interesting that watching people make the right choices for tactical reasons. Not to metion, there's a lot more to say about the human experience.

If you disbelieve ... consider the rattlesnake incident. "Anything worth saving won't be destroyed by choices like that." In this story, in this universe ... it's the choices that count, and they count far more than tactics or logic or strategy. You could say that the universe was built around that idea.

I could go on and on about how choice is tied to power in antithesis to futility. Suffice it to say, however, that Choice is big in the Chronicles. Knowing exactly the correct path to take is nice, but it also limits the kinds of choices people can make, and it certainly limits their reasons for making them.

Given that ... Donaldson as an author is left with a dilemma ... how does he create the "answer vacuum" that he needs to have his characters make interesting choices? Do his characters move through an empty universe, and that is why they have no answers? Or do they move through a universe populated with powers that are worthy opponents -- but who somehow don't answer their questions? It seems to me he chose the latter way.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2013 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PannionDude wrote:

That is, I think you are judging the good guys in this story by a moral yardstick they don't use, and expressing surprise at how low they score on it.
No, I'm not judging anyone, much less characters in a book, by a moral yardstick. I'm judging the writing technique of Stephen R. Donaldson, and pointing out that it's overused/contrived. I understand the invented moral positions of the characters, but I think these are rationalizations or excuses for actions that are chosen more for effect--usually reader suspense/surprise--as the overriding concern.

PannionDude wrote:

In SRD's world the non evil timeless entities do not give the benefit of their foresight to those trapped in time. This is not because doing so will give rise to evil outcomes. It is because doing so is a 'sinful' action for them. The necessity of freedom that they keep going on about.
I think SRD would like you to think that his characters operate this way when he needs to explain the times when they abstain from giving knowledge, but they don't actually behave this way. Non-evil timeless characters give knowledge and foresight all the time, they just do so in a way that is cryptic enough that the readers can later think, "Oh that's what they meant by ''beware the halfhand' or 'there is a glamor on love.' How clever!"

Dead Mhoram told Covenant all kinds of things about the plots of the next two books. Why didn't that foreknowledge violate TC's freedom? It pretty much determined exactly where he went and what he did. The Ranyhyn tell Linden in the horserite that she's going to wake the Worm. Why didn't that violate her freedom? If she already knew from the horserite (earned knowledge?), why couldn't others talk about something she already knew?

These characters who supposedly care so much about Linden's freedom have no problem whatsoever trying to stop her nonetheless. Why doesn't it violate Linden's freedom for Infelice to try to persuade her to stop? Why doesn't it violate Covenant's freedom to put him in a damn Elohim stasis? Why doesn't it violate Covenant's freedom to give him Vain and send him on a quest for the One Tree? Why doesn't it violate freedom for Seadreamer to try to stop Covenant at the One Tree? Donaldson's characters are all manipulating each other and violating each other's freedom all the damn time. The ONLY thing SRD doesn't "violate" are explicit descriptions of the end of his books, and the ONLY reason he does that is to keep from spoiling the ending for the readers. Everything else is just bullshit. I can't believe he has convinced so many people that it makes sense.

What good does it do Linden to know that the Mahdoubt was warning her about Roger, if Linden only realizes what it meant after the fact? That "warning" was absolutely pointless in affecting Linden's actions, which is usually what you're trying to do when you're warning someone. And if she didn't want to affect her actions with this warning (maintaining Linden's freedom), why say anything at all? Well, because Mahdoubt would seem like a heartless bitch once we learn the truth, and realize that she knew, but didn't try to warn Linden. Plus, there wouldn't be this cool, mysterious quote to keep teasing us with in the 1st half of Fatal Revenant.

So why didn't Mahdoubt just tell Linden the truth? Well, in the 2nd half of Fatal Revenant, I think Mahdoubt said something about Linden needing to go on that journey, presumably to get the runes on her Staff. Which means that she withheld giving knowledge not for some lofty moral tenet, but because she was manipulating her "friend" into taking a dangerous, painful journey for purposes that involved her own foresight and goals. Which violates her freedom. It's bullshit.

PannionDude wrote:


Lord Foul's gig is to change the choices of beings in time. The good guys don't do this, not because it will result in evil, but for the same reason Linden won't possess TC. It is a moral wrong.
It's a "moral wrong" that Linden has done multiple times when the story called for it.

PannionDude wrote:

I know I just repeated myself in slightly different words, but in my experience this is really hard to get across. For the Timewarden or the Elohim or the Creator to just remote control LA would be a LF thing to do, and in SRD's book people don't use each other's playbooks.
Telling someone the likely consequences of their actions doesn't control them. It gives them the necessary information they need to make an informed decision. They're still free! They can choose whatever they want.

PannionDude wrote:

It is ok for Liand to say whatever to LA, but the Timewarden/Creator cannot. No one is argueing that informing is wrong in the real world, or between beings in time in SRD's world. The necessity of freedom means essentially that beings that can choose (ie, beings with a time based viewpoint) must be allowed to make their choices.
Fine, but there were plenty of people who knew about Roger or the Worm. Why couldn't the Mahdoubt tell Linden? Hell, why couldn't Roger tell Linden? He *wants* to violate her freedom and stop her from going to Andelain. Why wouldn't he say, "If you do this, you'll wake the Worm"?

In any other story, this would be basic knowledge ... for instance, Gandalf warning Frodo that if Sauron gets the ring, he'll be too powerful to stop. Does Frodo earn that knowledge? No, it comes to him from an angelic/timeless being. Did it violate Frodo's freedom? No, he could still refuse the journey. Knowing the stakes and the danger are usually basic parts of story-telling ... except when you're trying to manipulate the readers into a false sense of surprise.

PannionDude wrote:


(Remember once again that the 'must' above refers to what amounts to the honor of the beings in question. No one is argueing that communicating vital info would produce a worse outcome, rather that it would be the equivalent of 'dishonorable'.)
Do you think that makes sense? Are the Ranyhyn dishonorable for giving Linden knowledge in the horserite?

PannionDude wrote:

( Informing finite creatures from a beyond time perspective)


How is the knowledge that using too much power will wake the Worm "beyond time perspective?" Does this also apply to the fact that using too much power will break the Arch of Time? Why is it okay for Covenant to know the latter point in the 2nd Chronicles, but it's wrong for Linden to know the former point in Fatal Revenant? Aren't they virtually equivalent points? Why is it okay for Seadreamer and Linden to warn Covenant that he's about to wake the Worm in The One Tree? Seadreamer's knowledge comes from magical foresight. Linden possesses Covenant to tell him to stop. These moral tenets are violated over and over, whenever the story needs it.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alright, I feel like things are clarifying nicely. I think in three or four more back and forths we'll be able to arrive at a position of mutual agreement.

"Telling someone the likely consequences of their actions doesn't control them. It gives them the necessary information they need to make an informed decision. They're still free! They can choose whatever they want."

I think that this is the core of your objection, the main thrust of it, and you feel like the guy in Zoolander "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!". I want to state, as strongly as possible, that no one disagrees with this point. You Are Completely Correct. In the real world, this is the truth. Decisions from knowledge > decisions from ignorance.

In SRD's world, this is not the truth. For a timeless being to inform a being within finite time they are controlling their destiny. They destroy their freedom. Important note is that I'm in no way saying that this would be true if their were timeless beings in the real world, just that this is how SRD has set things up.

I was trying to use 'honorable' to mean a thing that was intrinsically, non consequentist worthy in SRD's world, but that still got conflated with the actual definition of honor. I'm going to use SRD:Honorable (and similar constructions) in this post, we'll see if that works better.

So here we are at time A, as TC is approaching Andelain. The Dead know what he will do if they say nothing, or if they say A, or B, or whatever. That's important.

If they say A he will do A*. If they say B he will do B*. They see the future. His decision will be determined by their answers + his reactions, all of which they can foretell, and indeed are constantly evaluating. You say that he is still free to choose, but you are wrong about that. They know what decisions he will come to based on whatever they tell him.

So they only do things that don't take him off of the path he's on. He was heading from TC to TC*, they push him along that path. This is not because TC* is inherently the right path (from a consequentialist viewpoint it is emphatically not), but because doing so is SRD:honorable.

You object because they don't tell him X and then somehow let him decide for himself, but that's SRD:impossible. When you are a timeless being, and know how a real being will react to what you say there's no 'self' to respect. You forsee how he will react to anything you do.

So that's the Dead, and the Timewarden and other ethical timeless beings (Creator) in the bargain. They talk with TC and can only say things that don't stop him from going to TC*. But they try and help to the best degree they are able.

The Elohim are another matter. They have the self image of being SRD:Good, but they aren't really. Infelice's efforts and their messing with TC are SRD:evil. They don't do more because they think they are SRD:Good, and it would violate their self image to just kill the outsiders.

The Ur-Viles are allowed to make Vane and give him to Covenant because they are not timeless. They can strive as they will and its SRD:Good.

The Mahdoubt is not incredibly complicated. She doesn't alter Linden's freedom, and feels bad about it (since LA* is dreadful), and commits suicide by cop with her race's strange consensus madness curse thingy.

You mentioned that Linden has committed a moral wrong as though that's a reason to think that it isn't SRD:Wrong. It needs to be pointed out that SRD's main philosophy is that only the guilty are powerful. TC is a rapist, LA is a murderer and a mind controller. His main characters are fairly universally heinous. He still has a moral vision of his universe.

"Telling someone the likely consequences of their actions doesn't control them. It gives them the necessary information they need to make an informed decision. They're still free! They can choose whatever they want. "

It doesn't, but it SRD:does. I feel like once you get this we'll be almost finished.

Get me? If you ask me if there is beer in the fridge I can give you an answer (say, yes, no, whatever), and you can, no matter what I say, decide to get a beer or not.

If I'm timeless then I know that saying yes will cause you to go and open the fridge, saying no will mean that you disbelieve me and go anyway, but if I say "Pegasus" you will chuckle and sit back down.

What should I say not to control you? There's no answer to this question. I see all your futures. There's no 'you' there at all. You aren't in any meaningful way a person, just a tiny subsection of the Matrix that I'm observing.

So the SRD ethical timeless would observe what you were already going to do re:the fridge, and give an answer that would not deflect you, not change the choice that you already had regarding getting up or not. LF would piss in your face and set you on the path to break the arch of time, perhaps by pointing out that you were unworthy of beer.

You might point out that this is arbitrarily worshiping your choice if I don't intervene, and you'd be reality:right, but its the SRD:right thing to do.

Can you be a little more clear about when you are confused about Roger's behavior? It looks like you are asking why he doesn't tell Linden about his own masquerade, but that doesn't make much sense. When do you think he keeps secrets solely to raise dramatic tension?

Lastly, I'd like to point out that Linden is aware in the abstract that too much power will break the arch of time. I mean, she was there at the One Tree. She doesn't care though. She is 'contemptuous of consequences'. She has become Gallows Howe. Insert your metaphor here. She makes an error, despite being corrected by everyone she meets. The timely beings she disregards because she thinks she's more knoweldgeable/whatever than they. The timeless beings don't use the arguments that could push her away from LA* because they are SRD:good. The timeless beings that are SRD:evil are what pushed her to LA* in the first place.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PannionDude wrote:
I think in three or four more back and forths we'll be able to arrive at a position of mutual agreement.
Yes, we're there. We must agree to disagree. I haven't seen a single point you've made that has reversed any of the conclusions I've made.


PannionDude wrote:
For a timeless being to inform a being within finite time they are controlling their destiny. They destroy their freedom. Important note is that I'm in no way saying that this would be true if their were timeless beings in the real world, just that this is how SRD has set things up.
I think I understand the point you're trying to make, but I don't agree with it. The only thing that "timeless being" adds to the equation is merely their magical foreknowledge. I've dealt with that issue: the identity of Roger isn't magical foresight into the future. Nor is waking the Worm ... no more than breaking the Arch was in the 2nd Chrons. If it's okay for Covenant to know the outcome of his overuse of power, then I don't see why it would be a big deal for Linden to know something virtually identical in the Last Chrons.

Infelice tells Linden, "Don't do it!" That's an immortal (timeless?) being trying to control Linden. If she's willing to attempt to sway Linden's mind, then why isn't she willing to sway it well? With explicit knowledge? Linden already knows that Infelice thinks 'Something Bad' will happen, and she knows what Infelice wants her to do (i.e. refrain from her purpose). How is that not already an attempt to control Linden? How would an explicit description of that Something Bad significantly add to the violation of Linden's freedom which Infelice is already committing?

As for your comments about the dead knowing which path TC would take: they knew he'd remake a Staff of Law? Even without their help? How could they have known that, when it was impossible to make a Staff without Vain? They gave him Vain (instead of letting the urviles do it) because they knew TC wouldn't trust the urviles. So the Dead very clearly intervene to make Covenant do something he wouldn't have done without their vouching for Vain. This contradicts your points about the Dead merely pushing TC along the path to TC*. They changed his path. Otherwise, there was zero point to that scene. If Covenant would have done exactly the same thing regardless, why do they have to act at all? You don't evade one criticism of contrivance by adding another. You only multiply contrivances.

PannionDude wrote:
The Mahdoubt is not incredibly complicated. She doesn't alter Linden's freedom, and feels bad about it (since LA* is dreadful), and commits suicide by cop with her race's strange consensus madness curse thingy.
That's an interesting take. It would have been a welcome addition to the text if Donaldson had given a hint that Mahdoubt was allowing herself to be killed because she felt guilty for how she handled Linden. I did not get that sense at all.

PannionDude wrote:

If I'm timeless then I know that saying yes will cause you to go and open the fridge, saying no will mean that you disbelieve me and go anyway, but if I say "Pegasus" you will chuckle and sit back down.
Isn't causing me to sit back down also controling my fate, since--as a timeless being--you knew I'd do precisely that in reaction to your response? How is controling me to sit down any different from controling me to go to the fridge?

If timeless beings know what you're going to do, then they also know how you'll react to their silence. So by that logic, even silence is a violation of freedom.

PannionDude wrote:

So the SRD ethical timeless would observe what you were already going to do re:the fridge, and give an answer that would not deflect you, not change the choice that you already had regarding getting up or not.
If that's the case, then Covenant could have talked to Linden, and not remained silent, if he knew what to say to not deflect her.

PannionDude wrote:
Can you be a little more clear about when you are confused about Roger's behavior? It looks like you are asking why he doesn't tell Linden about his own masquerade, but that doesn't make much sense. When do you think he keeps secrets solely to raise dramatic tension?
Roger doesn't want her to go to Andelain and retrieve the krill. He could stop her from doing this by telling her that she's going to destroy the world if she tries to bring Thomas back. He has knowledge given to him by the Elohim, so he'd know just as much as, say, Infelice on these matters.

PannionDude wrote:
Lastly, I'd like to point out that Linden is aware in the abstract that too much power will break the arch of time. I mean, she was there at the One Tree. She doesn't care though. She is 'contemptuous of consequences'. She has become Gallows Howe. Insert your metaphor here. She makes an error, despite being corrected by everyone she meets. The timely beings she disregards because she thinks she's more
But that undermines everything you just said about Timeless beings. If she's 'contemptuous of the consequences,' then it wouldn't change her actions for someone to tell her the consequences! If she already knows this is bad, and doesn't care, then what's the harm to her freedom to tell her why it's bad? She probably already knows. If she already knows that too much power will break the Arch, and her entire purpose is to get the krill to wield unlimited amounts of power, and the entire Land's Historical Society of the Dead come to witness her actions, and the Elohim and Masters are telling her to stop, and the Ranyhyn have foretold that she'll wake the Worm, don't you think she already has a pretty good idea that she might wake the Worm? If so, why on earth can no one say this now?

The only benefit for all these characters to remain silent is for the readers, so we wouldn't knowing what's coming. It's the same reason Linden thinks about her "hidden purpose" without naming it. She knows what it is. Therefore, she must have thought about it. Why isn't this thought captured on the page? Because we're reading, and it's a spoiler. It makes no sense otherwise.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 6:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess I can agree, easily, that there is an air of contrivance about the lack of knowledge some characters have imposed on them. Once again, in the case of the threat that Linden will wake the Worm, while I agree that this contrivance is for the reader's "benefit," I also think that it is absolutely only for the reader's benefit, since Linden must have known that she was going to wake the Worm by resurrecting Covenant. We are never shown a sentence in italics or w/e expressing her thought, "I am on the verge of waking the Worm," but after almost everyone told her that she was going to destroy the world/trigger some extreme horror and calamity by doing what she intended to do in Andelain, well, I think she must've, on some level, inferred what would take place.

So that's also my defense of SRD's technique: cryptic phrases/lacks of knowledge on POV characters' parts are meant for the reader as clues to use to figure out what will happen. Once we've figured it out, we can then assume that the POV characters themselves could have figured, or on some subconscious level already did also figure, this stuff out (e.g. Linden realized easily that something was terribly wrong with "Covenant" and Jeremiah during the FR time-travel gig, for instance).
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the previous example where you (timely being) ask me (timeless being) whether there is beer in the fridge it does not matter how I learned that there is beer in the fridge. Maybe I used my Time Powers. Maybe I looked before you sat down. My knowledge of the fridge state isn't important. Its my knowledge of your future.

Telling you what will happen in your future is a small subset of the ways I can change Zarathustra* to PannionDude*. Telling you about the present (that guy is really Roger, not Thomas!), or the past (Long ago you fetched your staff of Law, go time travel and do that) are others. Z* is what you will do before I intervene. It is the outcome of your necessary freedom. Altering it would be SRD:unethical.

So the give Linden warnings that they know she won't heed. So does the Timewarden. This is important. They know LA*, how can they not? They see the future. They know she'll wake the worm.

Why? They answer this question in the books. They are doing their (SRD:ethical) best. Its incumbent upon them. Timewarden can't bear that she think she's abandoned.

Remember further that the elohim are not in the same category as the dead and the Timewarden/Creator. We can talk about them next post. For this one I just want to get us on the same page in regards to why the dead and TC don't help Linden.

Finally, please don't respond to this by pointing out that this philosophy is realworld:silly, or that it was done purely for SRD's narrative convenience. Those are both true, but those statements are true about everything in the books.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 02, 2013 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another convenient possibility (convenient for SRD) is: inasmuch as the characters Linden deals with from the Land's Earth are, in theory, partly projected from her subconscious, then her unwillingness to know for herself what resurrecting Covenant will do might be why no one told her, word-for-word, that resurrecting Covenant would wake the Worm. For they are her, and if she won't say something to herself, neither will they, maybe.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 11, 2013 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PannionDude wrote:
For a timeless being to inform a being within finite time they are controlling their destiny. They destroy their freedom.

Speaking of this, I read something in AATE yesterday. I thought it bears on this topic.

In Against All Things Ending was wrote:
For a few moments, Covenant studied the strict set of the Manethrallís shoulders. He ached for Mahrtiir: hell, he ached for everybody. Maybe, he mused sourly, it was a good thing that most of his former memories lay in ruins. Maybe it was crucial. If he could have remembered why he had spoken to Mahrtiir on the plateau of Revelstone - or to Liand, or to Pahni and Bhapa - he might not be able to resist the impulse to explain himself. Doubtless Mahrtiir would be comforted to hear that he still had an important role to play. But the knowledge would shape his decisions, affect everything about him. Directly or indirectly, it would affect the whole company. And Covenant would be responsible for the change. Linden and her friends would be guided by insights which they should not have been able to glean, except by their own efforts. In effect, they would no longer be truly free.

But Covenant had been spared by his imposed mortality, for good or ill. He was in no danger of saying too much -

Hellfire, he muttered in silence. No wonder only people like Roger and creatures like the croyel wanted to be gods. The sheer impotence of that state would appall a chunk of basalt - if the basalt happened to care about anything except itself. Absolute power was as bad as powerlessness for anybody who valued someone elseís peace or happiness or even survival. The Creator could only make or destroy worlds: he could not rule them, nurture them, assist them. He was simply too strong to express himself within the constraints of Time.

By that standard, forgetfulness was Covenantís only real hope. No matter how badly he wanted to remember, he needed his specific form of ignorance; absolutely required it. Nothing less would prevent him from violating the necessity of freedom.

I quoted a whole passage because I think it makes something clear: the Necessity of Freedom demands that the omniscient cannot provide unearned insights to those people on whom fate depends. It indeed destroys their freedom.

Of course, we already know why Freedom is Necessary: if someone isn't free, they are a "tool". As a tool, they cannot do anything that the user of the tool could not do him/herself.

If you put these things together, this is what you get: the omniscient cannot provide unearned insights to those on whom fate depends if the omniscient desire an outcome that only the fated can achieve.

Which makes sense in that, if they could do it themselves, Covenant and then Linden and then Linden's Army would not be needed.

In an odd way, as long as Infelice or the Dead aren't telling Linden what the best thing to do is, they demonstrate that they have hope, and that they have faith in Linden.

Which has been Covenant's position all along, hasn't it?
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 12, 2013 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Infelice did tell Linden the "best thing to do." She tried to get her to abandon her intent at the end of FR. And they give people unearned knowledge all the time ("Beware the Halfhand"). And the Dead tell plenty of people "the best thing to do." I'm not saying that Donaldson's excuses and justifications aren't plausible. I'm just saying he doesn't apply his own rules consistently, and breaks them for purposes of increasing tension, but then also fails to break them for the same reason. Let me repeat: I understand Donaldson's reasoning and justification. Explaining it over and over again doesn't address my criticism.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 1:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:
Explaining it over and over again doesn't address my criticism.

No, but I thought it worth pointing out where the text states something remarkably similar to PannionDude's opinion.

The passage also makes clear that Covenant, knowing full well that he should not meddle with Linden while he was Dead, could not resist doing so anyway. His love was too strong for him to adhere completely to the Necessity of Freedom. Furthermore, he even admits that his doing so is in no small part the reason for the mess that they are now all in during AATE.

I imagine that the Elohim and the Dead and anyone else in a similar omniscient position has the same issue: on the one had, the necessity of silence; on the other, the compulsion of love and/or concern and/or desire to influence affairs.

So, yeah, the rules get bent and broken. And when they are, there are consequences. That seems to be inevitable when emotional beings are involved in maintaining the integrity of space/time. As Covenant says, it's damn hard being a god.

But I don't see this as a lack of consistency in the author. I see it as a part of the story that the author expressly explores.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

But his "explorations" of these topics are always info-dump expositions that end up justifying his narrative choices, not really exploring all the ramifications (especially the ones that undermine his explanations). They aren't truly exploring the consequences of either meddling or not meddling in someone's freedom, they are just shoring up the text in a way that implies (for instance), "See, this inconsistency has an explanation. Covenant cared too much. And something bad did happen. So it makes sense both ways."

What else have we learned from this "exploration" you've quoted? That it's okay to interfere with someone's freedom if you love them? Or is the point that it's bad to interfere with someone's freedom--even if you love them--and the proof is that bad things will happen (e.g. the "mess they are all in")? If this "mess" that they're in is TC's fault for having interferred with Linden, then why wasn't it his responsibility to warn her from making mistakes that she'd only make due to his interference? Sure, there's a possibility he might end up violating her freedom again to correct this mistake, but that's not necessarily a given. If you've made someone a tool such that they commit mistakes you've caused them to make, then stopping them wouldn't violate their freedom--it would prevent them from doing what you've caused them to do, thus reversing the effects of your influence, if not entirely preserving their freedom. And if you've already influenced them such that they'd "no longer be truly free" (as TC says in the quote), then it would be much worse to allow that "mess" to continue to happen, than it would to repeat a violation of freedom against someone who is no longer free, anyway.

Those questions aren't explored, because they would undermine the apparent consistency in Covenant simultaneously violating and not violating her freedom, whenever the story needed it. So this isn't a true exploration of philosophical points. It's the appearance of an exploration that stops precisely when a plot hole has been patched. Damage control. Rationalization.

And that's fine. He has to do it, given that he's written himself into a few corners. I admire how he writes his way out of them. I'm just noting the mechanics of it all, and where the mechanics are more glaring to me, and hence take me out of the story.

It's pretty damn convenient that the precise memories that would spoil the story are the ones Covenant can't remember. Convenient for those Covenant-POV chapters. A built-in justification for yet more ignorance necessary to the plot. And we even get the main character himself being grateful for that plot device, and insisting (for this book's literal Creator--SRD himself) that it's crucial. That's a great technique! The characters themselves explaining the necessity of the author's techniques for withholding info from the readers! Laughing

Mighara Sovmadhi:

I largely agree with your 10/1/13 post, up until the point where you claim Linden must have known. If this is true, then she's in denial in AATE when she first claims Covenant should have told her, and then accepts the blame by admitting she should have known. That's not necessarily an inconsistency, but it does seem odd that so many characters (the Dead, etc.) found it absolutely necessary to stay silent about something she already knew.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's where the contrivance, for the reader, comes in. The only reason we don't find a passage like, "Linden, by doing what you are doing, you know you'll wake the Worm up, right?" is not because no one is thinking that, but the reader can't be shown that they're thinking that. Just like, as you pointed out I think, Linden could never clearly be shown thinking that she intended to resurrect Covenant in the first place.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Zarathustra wrote:

Those questions aren't explored, because they would undermine the apparent consistency in Covenant simultaneously violating and not violating her freedom, whenever the story needed it. So this isn't a true exploration of philosophical points. It's the appearance of an exploration that stops precisely when a plot hole has been patched. Damage control. Rationalization.


I don't QUITE think so. It matters that violating the rules results in actual bad consequences for doing so.
It is purely human to act out of irrational emotion DESPITE knowing full well the fact of one true thing.
[Plenty of atheists rail and rant against the universe/god/fate/purpose about "why did my child die!?" knowing full well there is no why, what is is, what happens happens....plenty of the faithful wail and whine to god/fate/the universe/purpose about why...knowing full well it's cuz God said so, and he's always good/right.]
TC warns her out of weakness...human weakness, despite consequences.
LF, OTOH, "warns" out of weakness BECAUSE of the consequences.
And don't forget an important thing: The good guys, even the only semi "good guys" like the Elo, when they warn at all, do so in very nebulous/non-specific ways. Sometimes from caution [the real good guys] often to win...the semi and the bad guys. [I mean...the Elo warn of the "half-hand."
Exactly how the fuck many half-hands ARE there running around now? And when they issued the warning there were a lot less...and they were all Haruchai. Yet the insist "we warned you about the halfhand."

yea...there's mechanics and corners...but this is a helluva lot better than major characters solving problems cuz they suddenly remember their sleazy uncle Mac showing them how to make sure the pea wasn't under ANY of the cups back when they were a toddler.

Really, though, I think the punishment makes it matter.
The bad result isn't a hole-filler. The bad result is one of the few things
that makes it possible for LF to LOSE.
Because he, almost but not quite literally, has NO power EXCEPT limiting free choices.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vraith, I'm not sure where we disagree. You've basically made an argument that TC's justifications make sense, and I've said that SRD listed those justifications to patch a plot hole--rather than for the purpose of exploring themes--because he stopped his analysis precisely when he listed enough justifications for it to make sense. I agree: it makes sense that people can be weak enough to do something they know they shouldn't do, especially when doing it out of love. And the fact that TC claims their mess was his fault because of this loving mistake seems to smooth over the apparent inconsistency, because something "bad" happened by interferring, proving the philosophical point. [Note: however, this is a strange way to justify that philosophical point ... I thought violating someone's freedom was inherently bad due to what it does to that person, not for any external reasons or outcomes. It's a moral point, not a pragmatic one.]

But you're also right in your last point: no reader actually expects for Linden's "mess" to be bad. After all, that's how we got our favorite protagonist back. SRD expects us to fret about that? Right. We're all expecting that "mistake" to turn the tide and allow for a surprise victory in the end.

But that makes TC's justifications insincere plot hole filling! If it's not really "bad" because it ends up saving the day, then there was never any danger in interfering with her freedom. After all, TC even thinks to himself, "Good sometimes comes from cruel means." So on both levels--pragmatic and moral--TC is justifying a violation of freedom while ostensibly insisting upon its necessity. That's more than a paradox, it's a contradiction.

As for the Elohim's vague warnings ... I don't see how it's okay to interfere with someone's freedom if you do it in a nonspecific way. If it's so ambiguous that the person you're trying to warn has no clue what you're saying, then it's pointless (except to heighten reader suspense! which is the whole point!). But if it's specific enough to actually do some good, then it violates their freedom. So you can only justify the Elohim's warning as consistent with the Necessity of Freedom by claiming it was entirely pointless for the characters, and just a gimmick for the readers. Which is what I'm saying.

However, the Elohim thought they'd given enough warning. Infelice acts stunned that Linden didn't heed their "beware the halfhand" comment. So regardless of what we think about all the halfhands making this ambiguous, the Elohim's intent--as they understood it themselves--was to interfere in people's freedom by giving them knowledge none of them had earned. It makes no difference if it didn't work, for the purpose of this argument.
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 16, 2013 12:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just discovered this topic and it's a fascinating one.

Z, I've also been uneasy with the whole "necessity of freedom" thing, because as you rightly say, it seems to be applied sketchily and inconsistently - as far as TC is concerned, anyway. And it's pretty much only TC, and TC as Timewarden at that, who is the problem. Everything else is a red herring.

I personally don't see any issue with any being living under the Arch of Time supplying any other with any information, whether prescient or not. This includes the Ranyhyn and their horserite, any of the Insequent or the Elohim, or the Dead of Andelain or indeed LF himself as well. No problems with any of that - okay the Elohim are ageless, but just like LF, they live within Time under the Arch, as do the Dead (for a given value of "to live" anyway). So no other characters' necessitous freedom is being invalidated by any information (or indeed misinformation) conveyed by any of these parties. It's simply an intent to influence and manipulate Linden's decisions in all cases - those on the side of Good (e.g. the Ranyhyn. the Mahdoubt, the Dead of Andelain) for good purposes, those on the side of Evil (e.g. LF, the Ravers, Roger) for evil purposes, and those up their own asses (e.g. Infelice and the entirety of the Elohim) for their own self-serving purposes.

All of that seems IMO to be seamless and not an obvious narrative clunk - and doesn't destroy the necessity of freedom one bit. Linden is given all sorts of information, some of it turning out to be accurate, by parties looking to either help guide her steps or lead her down the path of desecration. She gets to choose what she accepts as true from this slew of advice and she also gets to choose to ignore stuff and do her own thing, even if she believes that warnings as to dire consequences are true.

Okay this is a little different from ignorance being used as a plot device... well, not so much ignorance rather than that information which is supplied being authorially made abstruse and nebulous. I suppose one can accept that the warning of the Ranyhyns' horserite was as clear as they could make it, and I also suppose that the Elohim, in being so other-worldly (and frankly so up themselves) would not necessarily be capable of being clear when communicating with mere mortals. As for the Insequent, well, the Theomach, the Mahdoubt and the Ardent at least, well, their lore only goes so far, as they themselves often point out.

As a side note, yes the fact that unearned knowledge is very liable to be a dangerous thing runs thematically throughout all the Chronicles - Elena and the Seventh Ward, anyone? But gaining unearned knowledge does not in itself damage the necessity of freedom - all it does is increase one's capacity for power, and as we all know, the use of power = guilt, but innocence is powerless, and only the damned can be saved. Moreover, omnipotence is every bit as useless as impotent innocence - only in the hands of those mortal beings living under the Arch can power be used to effect, whether for good or ill.

So, the core of the problem solely lies with TC's advice to Linden when speaking through Anele, when he tells her that a) she'll need the Staff of Law and b) to find him, because at that stage, he is still the Timewarden and as such does not live under the temporal constraints of the Arch.

This is where WF's point applies - just like the Creator, TC as Timewarden should by the narrative's own established philosophical logic have invalidated Linden's "necessity of freedom" by giving her such guidance. It turns her into no more than a tool - and is effectively just another form of possession.

But then again, even while within the Arch, TC seems to have retained vestiges of his humanity, which by default makes him flawed - after all, he is the white gold, remember, and therefore inevitably bound to be flawed, an imperfect alloy of the human and the super-human. It's not his omniscience, his "super-humanity" that leads to his giving guidance to Linden via Anele on the plateau at Revelstone. Instead it's the remnants of his humanity, his love and need for Linden that engenders his error - and that error directly as dire consequences in waking the Worm. I don't think that result was part of some omniscient plan of TC's as Timewarden - I think the Worm's awakening was solely caused by TC's lingering humanity. Well, that, and Linden's subsequent choosing to interpret TC's "find me" advice as meaning "resurrect me".

However, now that TC is back within the confines of Time and the Arch, is it not possible to consider that Linden's now got her "necessity of freedom" back? It's not like TC as Timewarden gave her a full "paint by numbers" guide on how to defeat LF and save the world.
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