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Old 06-30-2016, 08:15 PM   #1
Marwhini
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The Metaphysics and Ontology of a, Arda, and Middle-earth

This is a subject on which I have been utterly consumed for many years.

It seems to have been neglected by most in considering Tolkien's works.

As I have pointed out elsewhere, Prof. Tolkien seems to have believed that Arda/Middle-earth was a "Real World" (in what way he believed this is certainly open to question), as this seems to be the Philosophical Definition of a "Sub-Creation" (something given reality/life by the Creator for the work of one of his Creations - we fall down a murky rabbit-hole of Philosophy here).

But it seems as if there exists in Middle-earth a set of rules by which the world operates, and Tolkien does seem to have suggested this (I can't cite Letters here, as I don't have my digital copy with me, and searching a physical copy isn't easy for me, seeing as I have not re-read it in about two years - I need to fix that).

I do have a solution for a Metaphysical Foundation for a, Arda, and Middle-earth, which allows everything we see within Tolkien's work to be explained without the need to resort to Kludges. I.e. both the "Natural" and "Supernatural" in Middle-earth are both "Natural".

In other words:

*That Gandalf can light a fire in the snow on the Redhorn Gate with a few Words of Power is, within Middle-earth, Natural.
*That Lthien can cause the walls of Sauron's fortress on Tol-en-Gaurhoth to collapse by singing, or to lull Morgoth to sleep by the same.... Natural.
*That Sauron can create Rings of Power that prolong life, and cause the bodies of Mortals to fade into insubstantial Wraiths... Also Natural within Middle-earth.

These things can be explained with a few simple assumptions about Middle-earth, some of which Tolkien tended to be rather dismissive of. Yet regardless of whether he was dismissive of them, these things tend to be predicted and indicated by his works. Tom Shippey points them out in The Road to Middle-earth, yet he never goes so far as to look at an underlying Metaphysics, out of which falls an Ontology, and Unified Physics (and thus Chemistry - which is applied Physics, and thus Biology - which is applied Chemistry, and so on....) that collectively seem to explain everything that exists within Middle-earth assuming that it is indeed the Sub-Creation Tolkien suggests.

Has anyone else fallen down this Rabbit Hole?

MB
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Old 07-02-2016, 12:25 AM   #2
Marwhini
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I hate replying to my own thread before anyone else.

But I found the quote for which I was thinking, when I wrote the original post, coming from The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 10: Morgoth's Ring regarding JRR Tolkien's goals in revising and finishing the earlier works, and Cosmology of a, Arda, and Middle-earth:

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJR Tolkien in The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 10: Morgoth's Ring
. . . It seems not to have been until the end of the 1950s that he [JRR Tolkien] turned again seriously to the Silmarillion narrative (for which there was now an insistent demand). But it was too late. As will be seen in the latter part of this book, much had changed since (and, I am inclined to think, in direct relation to) the publication of The Lord of the Rings and its immediate aftermath. Meditating long on the world he had brought into being and was now in part unveiled, he had become absorbed in analytic speculation concerning its underlying postulates. Before he could prepare a new and final Silmarillion he must satisfy the requirements of a coherent theology and metaphysical system, rendered now more complex in its presentation by the supposition of obscure and conflicting elements in its roots and its tradition.
Among the chief 'structural' conceptions of the mythology that he pondered in those years were the myth of Light; the nature of Aman; the immortality (and death) of the Elves; the mode of their reincarnation; the Fall of Men and the length of their early history; the origin of Orcs; and above all the power and significance of Melkor-Morgoth, which was enlarged to become the ground and source of the corruption of Arda. For this reason I have chosen Morgoth's Ring as the title of this book. It derives from a passage in my father's essay 'Notes on the motives in the Silmarillion' (pp. 394 ff) ,in which he contrasted the nature of Sauron's power, concentrated in the One Ring, with that of Morgoth, enormously greater, but dispersed or disseminated into the very matter of Arda: 'the whole of Middle-earth was Morgoth's Ring'.
Specific in my speculation of the Metaphysics of Middle-earth in the above account is the following passage:

"Meditating long on the world he had brought into being and was now in part unveiled, he had become absorbed in analytic speculation concerning its underlying postulates. Before he could prepare a new and final Silmarillion he must satisfy the requirements of a coherent theology and metaphysical system, rendered now more complex in its presentation by the supposition of obscure and conflicting elements in its roots and its tradition."

Also of importance is the capitalization of the word "Light" in the second paragraph. This indicates that Tolkien gave special significance to the "Light" of Aman, and the Two Trees compared to the "light" that existed in the everyday world.

As I mentioned... I believe I have solutions to these problems (not just the Metaphysics and Theology, but to the underlying problems listed in the second paragraph).

But before I lay out the specifics, I would be interested to see what others might be thinking along these lines, because I have discovered that the solutions I have outlined tend to be highly contentious among many fans of Tolkien's works who have not really pondered the mechanisms by which the world works, the:

". . . analytic speculation concerning its underlying postulates. . . [and] requirements of a coherent theology and metaphysical system."

These few phrases mean that Tolkien was concerned with discovering the means by which his world could contain things often considered to be "Supernatural," yet Tolkien clearly considered "Natural." Again, not having a digital copy of The Letters of JRR Tolkien is a hindrance, as one of those Letters laid out a distinction between "Magic," which Tolkien considered to be "Necromantic" or "Occult," and the Natural Abilities of the Ainur, Elves, and even some among Men/Mankind who were especially tuned to the Fa within Arda. This is illustrated in Sam's desire to see "Elven Magic" while in Lothlrien, yet which Galadriel denied was "Magic," yet explained that her Mirror was likely what Sam meant by "Magic."

And if we say something is "Natural," that means that it is subject to sets of Laws and Sciences that make it knowable to those who would bend their minds toward the understanding of such things. It is here where many of Tolkien's fans rebel; at hearing that "Laws of Science" will describe the Nature of the World of Arda tends to set them on edge.

Yet this is what Metaphysics is: The Underlying Postulates of a world or system that define the mechanisms of its operation.

By the literal meaning of the word, Metaphysics is: The Physics or Physics (from the Greek: Μετά - Meta - for "beyond," "upon," "after", and Φυσικα - Physika - for "Nature," or "the stuff of the Body"). From Metaphysics are derived the Sciences.

And thus with the right Metaphysical Assumptions, everything following arises out of "Nature" through consistent mechanisms which operate the same way every time they are encountered.

Tolkien seems to have desired that Middle-earth operate in a similar fashion. He ultimately failed to see a unifying Metaphysics because of his inability to reconcile Christian Faith with the Pagan nature of the world he constructed (remember, the occupants of Middle-earth are not Christians). Yet such a Metaphysics was within his grasp if he was just willing to accept a greater degree of Syncretism between his own faith and the reality of the characters within Middle-earth.

MB
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Old 07-03-2016, 06:05 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marwhini View Post
Specific in my speculation of the Metaphysics of Middle-earth in the above account is the following passage:

"Meditating long on the world he had brought into being and was now in part unveiled, he had become absorbed in analytic speculation concerning its underlying postulates. Before he could prepare a new and final Silmarillion he must satisfy the requirements of a coherent theology and metaphysical system, rendered now more complex in its presentation by the supposition of obscure and conflicting elements in its roots and its tradition."
I must confess I'm in two minds about this endeavour of Tolkien's. On the one hand I find his reinterpretation of his own work in the essays making up the Myths Transformed section of HoME X highly fascinating as an insight into the working of his mind, and some (such as the passages dealing with the 'psychology' of Morgoth) are valuable independent of the rest; on the other hand I can't help feeling that his attempts to bring his sub-created world into concordance with real-world cosmology were tragically misguided and rode roughshod over some of the most powerful images of his mythology (such as the Sun and Moon being made from the last fruit of Laurelin and the last blossom of Telperion).

I'm not saying this to dissuade you from your enterprise, quite the contrary - the stress you put on the Myth of Light (light of Aman vs everyday (sun)light) seems to indicate this has been on your mind, too, and I'm curious to hear what solution you've come up with.

Since you mentioned an interest in the physics, chemistry and biology of Arda over on the Minor characters thread I was reminded of this old thread of mine inquiring into an apparent oddity about life in Aman. Maybe you'll have some new answers to offer to the questions posed therein, or otherwise it may lead you to ask some new questions.
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Old 07-04-2016, 09:12 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Pitchwife View Post
I must confess I'm in two minds about this endeavour of Tolkien's. On the one hand I find his reinterpretation of his own work in the essays making up the Myths Transformed section of HoME X highly fascinating as an insight into the working of his mind, and some (such as the passages dealing with the 'psychology' of Morgoth) are valuable independent of the rest; on the other hand I can't help feeling that his attempts to bring his sub-created world into concordance with real-world cosmology were tragically misguided and rode roughshod over some of the most powerful images of his mythology (such as the Sun and Moon being made from the last fruit of Laurelin and the last blossom of Telperion).
Myths Transformed was a doomed endeavor. And it was not necessary for the Universe of a to remain in concordance with a Unifying Metaphysics and Science.

The attempt itself shows that he intended Middle-earth to be a place that operates via consistent Laws of Science as does our world.

For instance, there are means of having the Sun and Moon being the product of Laurelin and Telperion that would be completely in accord with a Science derived from a Metaphysics internal to Middle-earth.

There would be MANY areas where Middle-earth and our world are in correspondence, but they would be accompanied by other areas where they are at variance.

Yet these variances would be a direct product of Laws of Science internal to Middle-earth, derived from the Foundational Assumptions of Metaphysics, and Cosmology that Tolkien himself sought.

I hit upon the solution to this problem long ago, but did not even realize it, when I was in school (University) the very first time, and Joseph Campbell asked a question:

"What would the world look like if these Myths were Literally True?"

The question was one that was Very Contentious, as it was aimed directly at the heart of the distinction between Christian Mythology and older Pagan Mythology.

But the class, in exploring the answers came up with a series of previously failed Philosophies (which we know to be false in our Universe) that would need to be True for the Myths to have physical form.

Christianity maintains that some of these Philosophies remain True (and struggles to continually redefine terms to keep them "True" in the face of Advancing Science).

But.... The Solution to Middle-earth's conundrums is that these Philosophies ARE True.

The core Philosophies are Cartesian Dualism (also known as Property or Substance Dualism: Where both the Body - Molecular Matter - and the Soul - some other form of "Matter" not made of molecules - both have some form of "Substance), and a form of Manichean Dualism (where Good/Evil and Light/Dark are "tangible" and "physical" things - or, at least they can be Physical and Tangible things at certain times and places).

This provides a Foundation out of which everything else in Middle-earth Naturally Falls.

It explains the seemingly Supernatural Elements as being just a Natural Property of the inhabitants of Arda.

It explains the distinction of the Fa and Hra.

It explains how Evil (Capital-E) is able to corrupt things and change their nature.

It explains the difference between the Natural Magic of the Elves, Ainur, and even some Humans and Dwarves and the Unnatural Magic (often called by Tolkien "Occult," "Sorcery," or "Necromancy") that was used by those who were corrupting the Natural functioning of a/Arda/Middle-earth.

It explains how Life-span can be affected by the nature/properties of the Fa of the being in Middle-earth, such that Elves seem to be immortal, yet Dwarves and Humans are Mortal (yet the former have exceedingly long life-spans).

......

And I have yet to find a feature of Middle-earth that the collective assumptions do not explain.

Some things, though, aren't dependent upon these assumptions (such as the Physical "Shape" of Middle-earth, which is explainable through a Simple Topological Configuration that allows for a Flat-Earth to be transformed into a Round-Earth), and just require using different values for known variables, or a different Topology for the underlying space(-time).

But having what seems to be a coherent solution allows for being able to derive a lot of unknowns regarding Middle-earth that would likely have been arrived at by Tolkien himself (since these Philosophical Properties seem to have been accepted, in one form or another - even if just implicitly, or unconsciously - by Tolkien in his ongoing work).


Quote:
I'm not saying this to dissuade you from your enterprise, quite the contrary - the stress you put on the Myth of Light (light of Aman vs everyday (sun)light) seems to indicate this has been on your mind, too, and I'm curious to hear what solution you've come up with.

Since you mentioned an interest in the physics, chemistry and biology of Arda over on the Minor characters thread I was reminded of this old thread of mine inquiring into an apparent oddity about life in Aman. Maybe you'll have some new answers to offer to the questions posed therein, or otherwise it may lead you to ask some new questions.
Thanks for the link.... I'll have a look at the other thread.

MB
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Old 07-04-2016, 10:01 AM   #5
Marwhini
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And, regarding the other thread about the Nature of Aman.

That isn't a very complex issue, and many of the threads of a solution were contained within it.

I did noticed quite a few errors, though, such as thinking that Trees still grew in the period between the Springtime of Arda (the Days when Illuin and Ormal lit the world from the North and South, similar to the Two Trees - indeed, with the same Light; the True Light of the World before the Sun) and the Years of the Trees.

In both The Silmarillion and in The History of Middle-earth (several Volumes dealing with the Ambarkanta and the Annals of Aman) it details how Yavanna put a Sleep upon the Growing Things, and Animals of Middle-earth after the destruction of the Lamps.

And during this time Varda made the Greater Stars. Given the Cartesian and Manichean Realities of Middle-earth, this could have provided sufficient energy for the growth of smaller plants and animals, which would have sustained the Elves upon their awakening....

But back to Aman...

The term "Death" and "Decay" refer to "Corruptions" and not "Natural" death of plants and animals without Fa.

The plants and animals would have lived natural lives, and only "died" when they reached old-age (and thus died "Naturally"), or they would die when killed for food.

We have to remember that in such a world, we have a great many terms where new definitions are required to be attuned to the State of that World.

So, what we think of as decay, which would feed an ecosystem would not be "decay" in a world where Cartesian and Manichean Dualism was True, and that thus "Decay" would be associated with "Evil" (Capital-E), rather than with natural cycles of Life-Death.

Some might think that an Equivocation. And it would be if we were talking about the Earth we live on and the Universe in which we live.

But it would not be an equivocation for a, and Arda, as we have yet to actually formally define these things (and are prevented from doing so explicitly in an Operational Fashion, through experimentation, and formalization of the discoveries in the form of a Formal Definition or Law).

But we can look at what we see described in Arda, and look at how such descriptions fit with an underlying Assumption about what is taken to be True.

As a form of Shorthand.... I have come up with a couple of things to help think about what it would mean for Cartesian and Manichean Dualism to be True in a/Arda.

In our Universe, we have, as the Foundation for all our Sciences: Physics.

Upon Physics, Chemistry is Founded as Applied Physics.

Upon Chemistry, Biology is Founded as Applied Chemistry.

Upon Biology, the Cognitive Sciences and Medicine are Founded as Applied Biology.

And so on.

So... This means we need some Foundational Terms to give us a means to describe things that function in Middle-earth (or a, Arda, and Middle-earth, respectively).

In our Universe, we have, as the Foundation of Physics, Einstein and Newton.

This are Formalized as:

F = ma (Newton's Physics).

e = mc^2 (Einstein's Physics).

But these terms only address Time, Matter, and Energy (Matter and Energy are the same thing - this is the identity of Einsteinian Physics).

For Middle-earth, you need to account for the Fa; you need to account for the Light/Dark that is also a "tangible Stuff." Whether you call it "Matter" or "Material" or "Physical" is irrelevant. It is simplest to just think of it as another form of "Matter" that isn't made out of molecules, much like Dark Matter in our Universe.

So... To account for the Fa in a/Middle-earth, and for the various properties of Middle-earth we would call "Supernatural" (yet here would be Completely Natural), you simply add a term to these equations for Fa = .

Thus:

F = ma

and

e = mc^2

"", like "m" isn't just one thing. "m" in physics is "mass" and it comes about through the interaction of Baryonic Matter (atoms and molecules, and their respective binding particles and force carriers) and Space-Time.

Which means that "" (a Substance - or "a Mass") would itself be a collection of "a particles" that make up the "body" of the Fa (similar to molecules making up the "body" of a physical object), and a particles that operate to hold the Fa together (as in the Nuclear Forces for Atoms), and a particles that carries the forces and charges of the a particles that make up the body itself.

This would mean that the various quantum-states of the a particles would determine the Nature of the Fa itself (Good/Evil), and combined with Photons, would create the tangible "Light/Dark" that we see exhibited in some instances in Middle-earth.

This would be, for instance, the distinction between the True Light of the Two Lamps or Two Trees, and the Light of the Sun/Moon which was a "Second Best Thing."

Some people might at this point be saying:

"Huh!???"

or:



But this does allow for everything you see within Middle-earth to be explained.

Even how Aman could be a realm that is "without Taint, Corruption, or Decay" (unless one bring those things TO Aman, as did Melkor-Morgoth).

And this not only allows for an explanation for everything seemingly "supernatural" as just another Natural Process, but it does so in a way that is predictable.

This even explains why Mechanization and Industrialization fails to take hold in Middle-earth; why Middle-earth remains a pre-industrial civilization even though many times the number of years have passed in Middle-earth between the founding of the basis of Civilization (Agriculture and Cities) and when humanity began to develop Industry in our Universe.

All because of the introduction of the term '' into traditional Physics.


MB
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