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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Fri Dec 25, 2009 3:37 am 
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Maju, I agree with pretty much all of your response to Lyger, so it is puzzling to me how, based on the exact same premises and arguments, we have come to opposite views of Ethics and Morality on the Lawful-Chaotic spectrum. My suggestion still is that you have left out the lawmakers in your considerations. Someone who disregards the laws of all, but follows religiously the laws he made up for himself, is still considered "lawful" in the D&D universe, which is how you get "Lawful Evil" vampires and demons. I suppose it is possible to have a longstanding lawmaker who is neutral on the spectrum, I would think that most people, who care enough to write down the customs of the time in the form of laws, would be of the Lawful variety.

My own experience with Ethics is rather specifically with professional ethics, hence my association of "ethics" with lawbooks and written codes, things imposed on the individual; conversely, my experience with Morality has generally been a lot more intuitive and instinctive, hence my association of "morality" with the natural and the organic. These ethics have always been in addition to anything else rather than replacements of existing mores, so that is why I consider Ethics to be not "rebellious" but even more Lawful than average -- since one who accepts them must then adhere to more rules than one who does not.

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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Fri Dec 25, 2009 6:38 am 
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miseri wrote:
[...] it is puzzling to me how, based on the exact same premises and arguments, we have come to opposite views of Ethics and Morality on the Lawful-Chaotic spectrum.


Perhaps because we're dealing with personal, and therefore subjective, definitions and understandings of both Ethics vs. Morality, and Law vs. Chaos? After all, the good people at merriam-webster.com would likely disagree with the distinctions that we're making (and sometimes not making) between "ethics" and "morality."

miseri wrote:
Someone who disregards the laws of all, but follows religiously the laws he made up for himself, is still considered "lawful" in the D&D universe, which is how you get "Lawful Evil" vampires and demons.


See, to me, someone who follows a personal code alone is not Lawful in the D&D sense - that's Chaotic. Therefore, it's likely that a Lawful Evil monster in your would act much differently from a Lawful Evil monster in mine. And I don't know that I could describe either way of doing it as "wrong," per se. After all, I see your point quite clearly, but have come to a much different conclusion myself. And our worlds would have different flavors because of it.

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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Fri Dec 25, 2009 11:16 am 
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miseri wrote:
This is a chicken-and-egg argument. Which came first, the authority figure or the community consensus?


Not really, because I am not saying which came first but how is morality learned and experienced by individuals: for the chicken the egg was always its first experience. For the individual the morals are set on stone. Of course authority can hardly exist without a social consensus that supports it but authority also reinforces intently that social consensus (or sometimes may even weaken and sabotage it, if it is a reformist authority or maybe a corrupt one for which morals can also become a burnden).

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Personally, I believe that the community consensus came first, that morality is formed by the community slowly determining what is good for the community, until some guy decides to write it down in a book of law.


I think it's often the opposite. For instance Christianity would not have spread without making a coup on the Roman Empire and using it for its own purposes (even at the expense of the Empire). Elsewhere religions have most of the time spread by first persuading the elites, who in turn favored that sect or even forced their subjects to convert en masse.

Otherwise there would never be change in morals. We would still have hunter-gatherer Hadza morals, without concepts like property or individualism.

But this is going too far into history/prehistory and speculating about the ethical evolution of humankind for maybe 200 thousand years. For the normal "Medieval-like" individual, what happened two hundred years ago is at best almost legend... what matters is the reality he/she is born and raised in.

So the egg is first from the viewpoint of the individual chicken (though it's also last, as chickens are not immortal).

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With the sole exclusion of the pulpit, I would equate the propaganda machine with the community, not with the authority figure. Only the pulpit exists specifically to teach morality; everything else, though it may be used to teach morality, actually serves another purpose.


Well, the pulpit was a central element in Medieval society. Church and state were not distinct, in fact the Church provided most of the bureaucracy of the state, while the feudal regime protected the Church and enforced its decrees. Do you think peasants paid tithes just because... it was a tax and nobody could get away without paying it. Nor it was possible (unless you belonged to a tolerated minority like Jews) to avoid going to church on Sundays or holidays without being persecuted by the system.

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If we are to accept that anyone who tells us anything about right and wrong, even incidentally so, must be lumped into the collective "authority figure", then there will exist only two entities: the single individual, and the authority.


It's not my point but that would be quite correct within Freudian Psychoanalysis: the Superego (morals) is built on the Alter, the Great Other, which is initially parents but later includes all society, notably its authority figures.

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Finally, the example you give of an "irrational law" is not a law but a prescribed consequence for determining if someone has broken the law; and not only that, but you are going into the literal meaning of "law", rather than to the understanding of "lawful" -- legality rather than lawfulness. There are laws which have nothing to do with morality, and our discussion is concerned only with the question of moral law, some of which is not even written in the lawbooks of the state.


Think always in medieval and not modern terms, as the dialectics between morals and ethics is much more intense today, and hence some laws are well ahead of the traditional morals, which is losing ground everywhere as we speak.

In medieval terms, law and moral are almost always the same thing.

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That said, it must be remembered that what seems irrational to our modern minds may be perfectly rational to the mediaeval mind.


I don't really think they had any strong concept of reason back then. Reason was re-discovered with Illustration and briefly deified in the French Revolution. While I could not argue that people were completely irrational before that (reasoning is an important part of our human nature), it is also true that mostly reason and cold logic was not the foundation of their social imaginary nor their morals, nor it was the main concern or any medieval John Doe. In fact reason was surely perceived as somewhat dangerous, as it could bring you to conflict with the authorities, to prison and the corresponding torture (which was then considered totally valid) and even to a burning death.

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Some things taken as scientific fact then, are considered no more than nonsense today.


I don't think they had any real concept of science either. Remember that in the Middle Ages most ancient philosophy was forgotten and psalms often written on the parchments that contained such old but clearly disdained teachings.

In early Modernity, since Renaissance, we do see some recovery of scientific thought but, on one hand this was often in conflict with the moral authorities (Servet, Galileo...) and, on the other, it often relied more on scholarly authority than real science (like all those early physicians and their horrible therapies, or all those alchemists with their confusing array of theories).

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If it is firmly believed that the sun will not rise if the cock fails to crow, then a law against the silencing of chickens would be perfectly rational.


No. Because the scientific method would demand proof of the belief to begin with, which is easy to do in fact: just kill all the cocks around and wait to see what happens. :biggrin:

It is the belief with is irrational, hence the derivatives are also irrational.


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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Fri Dec 25, 2009 11:33 am 
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miseri wrote:
Maju, I agree with pretty much all of your response to Lyger, so it is puzzling to me how, based on the exact same premises and arguments, we have come to opposite views of Ethics and Morality on the Lawful-Chaotic spectrum. My suggestion still is that you have left out the lawmakers in your considerations. Someone who disregards the laws of all, but follows religiously the laws he made up for himself, is still considered "lawful" in the D&D universe, which is how you get "Lawful Evil" vampires and demons. I suppose it is possible to have a longstanding lawmaker who is neutral on the spectrum, I would think that most people, who care enough to write down the customs of the time in the form of laws, would be of the Lawful variety.


I have never played D&D, so my understanding of the alignment issue is not good enough surely.

I imagine a lawful evil critter as someone who follows the law/morals but is anyhow selfish, while a chaotic good being would be someone who does not follow the law/morals but is altruist.

Laws/morals are not necesarily good. They may be bad or even evil (for example death penalty or a similarly draconian punishment for stealing a slice of bread when starving). But they are anyhow the moral code that keeps a community together and, as I see it, a lawful character would always try to follow them in letter and spirit, while a neutral one can or not do it and a chaotic one will normally ignore them and follow his/her own judgment.

In this comic Gren (lawful evil, repeatedly declared) has at least twice come into this lawful-evil conflict. The first time, when she "stole" King Eric from Arachne, evil dominated but one could well argue that Goblin law does not apply to the Drow. She had a conflict anyhow (as betraying a friend is surely unlawful, even if the friend is a Drow) but "solved" it blaming Dewcup ("ah that's better!").

In the other case she wanted to avoid forced marriage but when faced with the possibility of being unlawful ("... evil!", "lawful!"), she had to drop her natural selfishness for her loyalty.

But I don't think the conflict only applies to lawful-evil characters a lawful-good character can perfectly have similar dilemmas. For example the law can force you to harm someone without sufficient justification in good-evil axis. There can be "evil" laws or instances of their application and a lawful-good character would then be faced with similar ethical problems.

Law can demand from you to report to the police that guy who stole the bread out of hunger, but knowing he will get a severe penalty for it, your good nature would push you not to do it. In this case the lawful-evil character would have no moral dilemma, unless it's a close friend or family (in which case it'd be the opposition of two laws, not of law vs good/evil).

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My own experience with Ethics is rather specifically with professional ethics, hence my association of "ethics" with lawbooks and written codes, things imposed on the individual; conversely, my experience with Morality has generally been a lot more intuitive and instinctive, hence my association of "morality" with the natural and the organic.


The use of the terms are ambiguous sometimes. The terms in colloquial usage are interchangeable, specially in English. However I would not say that the Hippocratic Oath is ethics, because it was established more than 2000 years ago, it's rather moral in the philosophical meaning of the word.

Another reason may be that I was born under a Fundamentalist Catholic regime, more similar in a sense to those of the Middle Ages, so I reckon more easily what is old and structural and what is new and "we created it" in a positive daily fight against such old morals and laws through our lives. I am not sure how "highly ethical" I am but I'm quite sure that I am not "moral".

It might be useful a reference of my teens, when my father scolded me very severely, saying that I was not "immoral" (i.e. someone who betrays his morals) but "amoral" (i.e. someone who does not have morals). Of course the morals he spoke about were the traditional Christian values, not Human Rights, solidarity or whatever I do actually embrace.

Another RL example from my teens: when I was in secondary school, we the pupils had developed a clear ethics of internal solidarity against authority. Reporting anyone for cheating in exams or most other breaches of the "law" was the worst of crimes in our little community (this was common in all schools at that time anyhow, it's probably still true today and also among workers vs. the bosses). In fact I felt ethically compelled to help my peers by passing them the answers to exams occasionally, and in one case I paid for it (the teacher was dumb but up to a point).

So I do have the clear perception that morals are old, rigid an authoritarian, while ethics are new, diffuse and horizontal. They are like Opera and Punk music, so to say.


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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Fri Dec 25, 2009 12:17 pm 
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Furthermore, I came to think now that goodness and evilness are laws of sorts, at least principles by which you abide or try to: the opposite principles of altruism and selfishness.

And if you go a bit farther and accept the modern understanding of orders being just subset of Chaos, and Chaos as the dialectic sum of all orders... well, we go beyond the interesting but nevertheless simplified D&D alignment cross. This would be impractical for gameplay, I imagine, but is closer to reality and therefore convenient to point out for improved understanding of the matter.

In a sense it's all a chaotic mix and conflict of diverse orders or laws. The law of thou shall not steal (law) vs. the laws of hunger and compassion (good), the law of selfishness (evil) vs. the law of friendship (law). The D&D alignment cross simplifies this too much for RL. In fact the cross would be one of many similar crosses or oppositions, each one for a particular principle or law, whose opposite is always "chaos" (but used only as convenient term, not as true description of Chaos, capitalized).

The dominant law of any community would be then the reference for the lawful pole and anything else, creative or alien, would be chaos. That's how I see it right now.


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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 2:31 pm 
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I think you misunderstand the meaning of the phrase "taken as scientific truth". It has little to do with any understanding of science, and more to do with acceptance of "facts"; it means the exact same thing as "taken as Gospel truth". (Maybe it applies more to concrete things, whereas "Gospel truth" applies more to statements; I'm not sure.) In fact, if you have to go out and test it scientifically in order to know if it is true or not, then you have NOT "taken it as scientific truth". And the less you understand about science, the more likely it is that you will accept unscientific concepts as "scientific truth".

The examples you give of "evil laws/morals" are neither laws nor morals. They are consequences for breaking laws, which are not the same thing at all.

The story you tell of your experience with student ethics is something I have heard before. You attribute it solely to a sense of "solidarity against authority", but I attribute it your identity as a student. As I have said before, I equate ethics with personal integrity, honesty and fair play: a lawyer must follow a certain code of ethics which are different from an architect's, and likewise it is not surprising that a group of students would have a code of ethics that applies specifically to them, the students. In the other stories I have heard, there was no sense of any sort of rebellion against authorities; in fact, the teachers were quite likely to frown on anyone who came up to them to report their fellow students, because they supported the student ethics -- the exception being when the thing reported was so severe that it would have been harmful to not seek help in dealing with it.

The bottom line apparently is that you equate "morals" with what is old and "ethics" with what is new, which is not how I would define them at all. Of the ten commandments, for example, I would say that "do not bear false witness" is actually ethics, not morals..... but then I believe that there is quite a significant overlap.

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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 3:32 pm 
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Lyger wrote:
See, to me, someone who follows a personal code alone is not Lawful in the D&D sense - that's Chaotic.


I *totally* disagree with that.

A chaotic character doesn't act on laws or codes of any kind. They impulsively do whatever it occurs to them at the time. By definition, chaos, is the absence of any kind of regular activity or behaviour.

A lawful character will say:
"I will help you, though I don't like you because my king commands it."
or
"I won't help you because I never help people who have done me wrong."
or
"I will kill you because I kill all people who have blue eyes."
or
"I will assist you because all people deserve a fighting chance."

a chaotic character will say:
"I'll help you because I think you might be grateful and give me the shiney necklace you're wearing."
or
"I'll kill you because I'm grumpy right now."
or
"Attack the city? That looks like fun! Let's DO it!"
or
"Of course I'll help you, it would make me happy to see you happy."

Remembering that extremes of ANY sort are highly improbable and the vast majority of characters would be some strain of neutral.

miseri wrote:
I think you misunderstand the meaning of the phrase "taken as scientific truth". It has little to do with any understanding of science, and more to do with acceptance of "facts"; it means the exact same thing as "taken as Gospel truth". (Maybe it applies more to concrete things, whereas "Gospel truth" applies more to statements; I'm not sure.)

I would hazard that "Gospel truth" means accepting a statement based entirely on faith (an expression I have heard before) and "Scientific fact" means accepting a statement based on tangeable evidence (an expression I've not heard before, and imagine came about as a reaction from people trying not to use religious sounding words like "Gospel" in their day to day lives).

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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 4:02 pm 
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Beholder King wrote:
A chaotic character doesn't act on laws or codes of any kind. They impulsively do whatever it occurs to them at the time. By definition, chaos, is the absence of any kind of regular activity or behaviour.


Ah... the good old days. :) Yeah, once upon a time, I was right there with you, but I've mellowed in my old age, and have come to see chaotic as less about randomness, and more about a disregard for the establishment of laws and broad social conventions. Modern anarchists and libertarians are Chaotic, in my current view, where as more statist political stances are Lawful.

But - that's just me. Which is why I said that much of this is subjective. My understanding is based on a careful (and somewhat modern political) reading of the alignment descriptions in the first ed. DMG.

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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 5:04 pm 
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miseri wrote:
I think you misunderstand the meaning of the phrase "taken as scientific truth". It has little to do with any understanding of science, and more to do with acceptance of "facts"; it means the exact same thing as "taken as Gospel truth". (Maybe it applies more to concrete things, whereas "Gospel truth" applies more to statements; I'm not sure.) In fact, if you have to go out and test it scientifically in order to know if it is true or not, then you have NOT "taken it as scientific truth". And the less you understand about science, the more likely it is that you will accept unscientific concepts as "scientific truth".


If you don't test it (or know that it's been tested by people you can trust on such matters) then it's not science. If you don't understand science it is likely that you won't have any concept of "scientific truth" or, more properly, "empirical fact".

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The examples you give of "evil laws/morals" are neither laws nor morals. They are consequences for breaking laws, which are not the same thing at all.


That's only because you equate law and good, I suspect. But there can be and certainly are evil laws and, of course, morally ambiguous ones.

I think it is good to ignore or even actively disobey (a la Gandhi or a la Che Guevara) a law that goes against altruism, and I think it is evil to report someone who breaks the law out necessity. However I can't be described as lawful, at least not the way I understand it, and probably a lawful good character would have an intense contradiction in such cases (not a chaotic good one).

Quote:
The story you tell of your experience with student ethics is something I have heard before. You attribute it solely to a sense of "solidarity against authority", but I attribute it [to] your identity as a student.


It's not contradictory. The law and authority was not in hands of the students, hence we created our own loose and dynamic "alternative law" or ethics. But it can't be said that such attitude was lawful: we were breaking the law all we could (in fact it was part of our "ethics" to break the law almost systematically, as long as you did not get caught - or abused other student). For months our Latin teacher was spit silently and systematically on the back of his priestly robes among the silently laughing complicity of 40-something students... until somehow he noticed and avoided going through the rows of desks thereafter.

That is not lawful...

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As I have said before, I equate ethics with personal integrity, honesty and fair play:


And? Can't you be chaotic and be as much integral as possible, honest (as long as doesn't harm you or your other principles) and fair (except with your foes)? This sounds to me as being good, not lawful.

My ethics allow cheating the state and the rich. In fact it encourages that if possible. My ethics is the poor man's ethics, for whom the police is more often an enemy than a friend, for whom authority means trouble and oppression (at least often enough) and for whom the law almost never applies because you can't pay an attorney.

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a lawyer must follow a certain code of ethics which are different from an architect's


These are guild laws, they call it "ethics" but are more like moral constitutions of the profession.

Quote:
... and likewise it is not surprising that a group of students would have a code of ethics that applies specifically to them, the students.


Maybe it's not surprising but was totally unlawful, unlike the code of architects.

It was more like a code of thieves, so to say. Would you say pirates qualify as "lawful" just because they had codes? I would not really.

Quote:
The bottom line apparently is that you equate "morals" with what is old and "ethics" with what is new, which is not how I would define them at all. Of the ten commandments, for example, I would say that "do not bear false witness" is actually ethics, not morals..... but then I believe that there is quite a significant overlap.


The ten commandments are morals, no matter that you may decide to recycle some of them for your own ethics.

But anyhow, I don't think being honest "per se" is a pillar of my ethics. Being honest in debates or to a friend is surely important, but telling the truth to anyone is not that imprtant. There are things that matter more like justice (not legal justice but real justice), freedom, etc. I would have absolutely no problem in bearing false testimony after due oath if that serves a good cause. For instance I have been witness to a fake marriage to legalize an illegal immigrant. Why should I bother for the marble statues of the palace of justice? Justice was (and is) for me that he got his papers and could live his life a little less persecuted.

So guess you can describe me as "chaotic good". Or at least neutral. But not lawful in the sense of obeying the law blindly. I have principles like freedom, justice and truth, which I consider "good" but I don't follow any code nor would I allow any code to step on them if I can help it.

And most people I know does the same.


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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 5:10 pm 
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Beholder King wrote:
Lyger wrote:
See, to me, someone who follows a personal code alone is not Lawful in the D&D sense - that's Chaotic.


I *totally* disagree with that.

A chaotic character doesn't act on laws or codes of any kind. They impulsively do whatever it occurs to them at the time. By definition, chaos, is the absence of any kind of regular activity or behaviour.


I'm going to disagree with the GM in this. :biggrin:

At least partly.

Quote:
a chaotic character will say:
"I'll help you because I think you might be grateful and give me the shiney necklace you're wearing."
or
"I'll kill you because I'm grumpy right now."


I don't think a chaotic good character, no matter how extremely chaotic, would do that.

If a chaotic character must have no principles whatsoever, then he/she can't be good... or even evil (which is the principle of selfishness). What you are describing here is evil more than chaos.

Goodness is a principle. Evilness is too, I'd say.

If you're good (altruist), you don't kill someone just because you're grumpy. Nor you expect retribution just for helping out...

All that is selfish (evil), not chaotic.

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Remembering that extremes of ANY sort are highly improbable and the vast majority of characters would be some strain of neutral.


Important for realism, sure.


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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 6:50 pm 
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Maju wrote:
If you don't test it (or know that it's been tested by people you can trust on such matters) then it's not science. If you don't understand science it is likely that you won't have any concept of "scientific truth" or, more properly, "empirical fact".


You are missing the point. The point is that the "fact" is ACCEPTED, not that it is scientific or even true. This discussion is not about science or the English language, and this part of it is therefore irrelevant except insofar as the idiom adds to the overall discussion of morals, ethics, law and chaos.

Maju wrote:
I don't think a chaotic good character, no matter how extremely chaotic, would do that.


He said "chaotic", not "chaotic good". The examples you quote are clearly illustrations of "chaotic evil" and/or "chaotic neutral", certainly not "chaotic good".

Maju wrote:
That's only because you equate law and good, I suspect.


No. I think you should reread and reconsider. I do know that there are evil laws, but I maintain that you have yet to give an example of one.

"All first-born sons must be thrown into the river" is an evil law. It applies to the general populace, who are expected to follow it.

"If you don't throw your first-born son into the river, you will face seven years of torture" is not an evil law. It is evil, yes, but it is a CONSEQUENCE of breaking the law. Further, it is carried out by the authorities, not by the general populace.

"You should give some of your surplus wealth to the poor" is a moral, and I think you will agree that it is good. It is not a law.

"You must give 10% of your income to the state welfare department for redistribution to the poor" is a law. It is inspired by the moral, which is good, but whether it is itself good is up for debate. It is not a moral.

"If you fail to give to charity, you will be torn to pieces by wild animals" is a consequence of failing to follow the moral mentioned earlier. I would say that it is evil, even though it punishes those who do not follow the path of goodness indicated by the moral. It is, by itself, not a law.

"If someone fails to give to charity, their neighbours must see to it that this person is torn to pieces by wild animals" is an evil law that punishes a failure to be good. You will note that it is an instruction to the populace rather than a prescribed punishment to be carried out by the authorities; likely there would be consequences for disobeying this law.

I think that as long as someone adheres to any code of behaviour, that person has a claim to being called "lawful"; whether he is or is not "lawful" then depends on how closely he adheres to that code. A pirate who adheres strictly to an established pirates' code is lawful, especially if (or, more likely, "ONLY if") he would rather make a significant loss than depart from the code; he is very likely to be hailed as an honourable "gentleman pirate".

Your story of witnessing to a false wedding, in order to give an illegal immigrant a better life? I would describe that as "moral but unethical".

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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 8:31 pm 
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miseri wrote:
Maju wrote:
If you don't test it (or know that it's been tested by people you can trust on such matters) then it's not science. If you don't understand science it is likely that you won't have any concept of "scientific truth" or, more properly, "empirical fact".


You are missing the point. The point is that the "fact" is ACCEPTED, not that it is scientific or even true. This discussion is not about science or the English language, and this part of it is therefore irrelevant except insofar as the idiom adds to the overall discussion of morals, ethics, law and chaos.


This is just a side discussion that arose because I said that cultural beliefs may be perfectly irrational. I don't know if there can be irrational facts like there are irrational numbers but I'm sure that a fact and a belief are different things. You may believe in things because facts support it (science) or you may believe in things in spite of absence of factual evidence (faith, superstition, etc.)

The latter is called irrational belief, no matter how accepted it is by a given society or culture.

Quote:
He said "chaotic", not "chaotic good".


Chaotic good is one of the three (or two if we only count the extremes) of chaotic alignment in D&D, right?

Quote:
I do know that there are evil laws, but I maintain that you have yet to give an example of one.


I wouldn't like to because this discussion would get political probably. But if you know that they do exist, that's enough.

Quote:
"All first-born sons must be thrown into the river" is an evil law. It applies to the general populace, who are expected to follow it.

"If you don't throw your first-born son into the river, you will face seven years of torture" is not an evil law. It is evil, yes, but it is a CONSEQUENCE of breaking the law. Further, it is carried out by the authorities, not by the general populace.


A good hypothetical (and politically neutral) example indeed. Appreciated.

I understand that all the aspects of the law, including the consequences are one. And such a regime would expect from its denizens to be accomplice of the law, and the denizens would in some cases at least, report those who breach such law because either they are lawful, evil or lawful evil. A lawful good character would have a dilemma in this case, while a chaotic good would not.

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"You should give some of your surplus wealth to the poor" is a moral, and I think you will agree that it is good. It is not a law.


It is a law, however it is an ambiguous law, a generic principle without any clear consequences (though guess you can go to Hell and/or be criticized by your neighbors if you don't at least appear to comply).

But a lot of the morals is much more rigid and the Ten Commandments are a good example ("thou shall", "thou shall not"), even if they don't provide as such other punishments than Godly ire. But if you live in a society where such morals are dominant such as ancient Judah or Medieval Europe, you can expect more mundane punishments, specially if you are a powerless commoner.

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"You must give 10% of your income to the state welfare department for redistribution to the poor" is a law. It is inspired by the moral, which is good, but whether it is itself good is up for debate. It is not a moral.


I'm starting to wonder if you are a lawyer... :mrgreen:

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"If you fail to give to charity, you will be torn to pieces by wild animals" is a consequence of failing to follow the moral mentioned earlier. I would say that it is evil, even though it punishes those who do not follow the path of goodness indicated by the moral. It is, by itself, not a law.


No. This is a law, even if a badly written, ambiguous, somewhat Orwellian one (doesn't go into specifics: how much is enough to be spared such a punishment?).

By the way, remember that Orwell's anti-utopia did not have any single written law: but it had de facto laws which were "morals" (evil morals) of sorts and terrible punishments applied to those who breached them.

Not all laws need to be written in clear terms and in fact in the Middle Ages they most often were not (customs, usages, traditions). Also all modern legal systems I know of acknowledge some validity to custom, which is morals (certainly by etymology), specially where the law says nothing. There's no clear-cut division between law and tradition, and certainly was not the case in Middle Ages or other pre-modern societies.

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I think that as long as someone adheres to any code of behaviour, that person has a claim to being called "lawful"; whether he is or is not "lawful" then depends on how closely he adheres to that code.


Everybody has a code of behavior of some sort, either internalized or imposed by society or, more commonly, both (convergent or in conflict). However the public code (law) is generally more clear cut, while the private code is more intuitive and a matter of principles rather than strict laws.

This reminds me of the distinction that some of my Chinese acquaintances made between guilt (internalized) and shame (social only). However I disagree with them in their claim of moral internalization only happening in the Judaic ("Western") cultural/religious sphere with the concept of sin, I rather think that it is something that all societies try to imbue to their young ones one way or another.

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A pirate who adheres strictly to an established pirates' code is lawful, especially if (or, more likely, "ONLY if") he would rather make a significant loss than depart from the code; he is very likely to be hailed as an honourable "gentleman pirate".


But only among pirates...

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Your story of witnessing to a false wedding, in order to give an illegal immigrant a better life? I would describe that as "moral but unethical".


For me is ethical but unlawful (unless you consider the "law of friendship" and the "law of solidarity", which are more like vague principles). I don't have morals: I rejected them all as I stopped being a kid. I was very radical on that, so I'm pretty confident. If I have any moral remnant it's a sticky nightmare, not something I value but something I haven't been able to destroy.

A fake marriage is immoral for Catholic values (in which I was raised), even a civil marriage (as it was) was perceived as immoral by my fanatic mother and many others in her entourage.


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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:55 pm 
Lich
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Posts: 211
So you have a broader definition of what is "law" than I do; by my somewhat narrower definitions, most morals do not come under the heading of "laws", whereas by your broader definition, they do -- albeit as "ambiguous laws, general principles without clear consequences". In that respect, then, I think we can understand each other, and for the most part agree on the larger principles.

Whether your witnessing to the false marriage is lawful or not, that is not an issue to me. I'm quite sure it was against the law. But if you acted out of altruism, then I would say you acted morally -- because altruism is one of the great cornerstones of morality as it was taught to me.

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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 12:04 am 
Lich
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Oh, here's a thought:

Supposing the person you respect the most in the whole world were to say, "I have seen it proven in a lab that this is true; the general public cannot prove it for themselves because they do not have the equipment to do so, but I assure you that it is true." If you believe him, because you trust him and respect him, then you would have accepted his statement as scientific truth. And if later it is shown that he had been lying, then would he have been behaving immorally or unethically?

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 Post subject: Re: The Banality of Evil
PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 12:13 am 
Costello
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First things first. Wow. This has gone directions that I really hadn't thought of when I opened this topic, but I'll be hanged if it doesn't make for fascinating reading.

Okay, now back to the jungle.

miseri wrote:
"All first-born sons must be thrown into the river" is an evil law. It applies to the general populace, who are expected to follow it.


I, for my part, don't know if there are Evil laws. I suspect that all laws are neutral in this regard, and it is the spirit into which they are enacted and enforced that makes them "Good" or "Evil." (I'm placing Good and Evil in quotes because I don't understand the terms to have any real-world utility, as I mentioned before to Morgana.) If the rule-making authorities sincerely believe that only by drowning the first-born male of every family can the entire group be saved from a greater catastrophe, then such a rule, while gruesome, would not strike me as Evil.

This was one of the great things about Warhammer 40,000's Imperium - there were laws that seemed arbitrary and vile, but they were there for very good reasons that most of populace were blissfully (or angrily, I suppose) unaware of.

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