The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum


Visit The *EVEN NEWER* Barrow-Downs Photo Page

Go Back   The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum > Middle-Earth Discussions > The Books
User Name
Password
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 11-26-2002, 04:09 PM   #1
Legolas
A Northern Soul
 
Legolas's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Valinor
Posts: 1,850
Legolas has just left Hobbiton.
Sting Of Evil, Free will, and Fate (from 'Gollum')

The discussion eventually reached a point where it was about free will, and good and evil. I decided to move it to a new thread. We were talking Gollum - evil or not? I mentioned him being ultimately good since he was part of Eru's design. You can catch up on anything we covered there if you'd like.

Kiara's last post in that thread:

Quote:
I was using "ultimately" as a bad replacement for "inherently", sorry (need to define my terms better)! But, I do want to clear that up and say: though I believe Eru, as the creator of ME, had ultimate control (and therefore the good accomplished or the evil committed had the conclusion of "ultimate good", I also believe that he created the individuals to have their own wills as well (The Ainur being a great example of this). I think this was written as a reflection of Tolkien's own beliefs about Christianity (free-will and predestination) or have I misinterpreted? (highly possible).

So my next question is this: when someone does evil, and yet the end result is good, does that make the evil-doer good, or perhaps the Being who has authority over that evil-doer? And how does a being tainted by evil ever become "good" again (in the pure form of good, which is what I'm using throughout my comments, to define it appropriately)?
My reply...

You're right. Every being in Ea has free will.

About free will...

This quote from The Silmarillion (that I quoted earlier) shows exactly what you speak of. In part, the free will of his beings is what brings Eru's plan together.

Quote:
And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument, in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.
Tolkien wrote a lot about free will in Letter No. 153:

Quote:
To conclude: having mentioned Free Will, I might say that in my myth I have used 'subcreation' in a special way (...) to make visible and physical the effects of Sin or misused Free Will by men. Free Will is derivative, and is.'. only operative within provided circumstances; but in order that it may exist, it is necessary that the Author should guarantee it, whatever betides : sc. when it is 'against His Will', as we say, at any rate as it appears on a finite view. He does not stop or make 'unreal' sinful acts and their consequences. So in this myth, it is 'feigned' (legitimately whether that is a feature of the real world or not) that He gave special 'sub-creative' powers to certain of His highest created beings: that is a guarantee that what they devised and made should be given the reality of Creation. Of course within limits, and of course subject to certain commands or prohibitions. But if they 'fell', as the Diabolus Morgoth did, and started making things 'for himself, to be their Lord', these would then 'be', even if Morgoth broke the supreme ban against making other 'rational' creatures like Elves or Men. They would at least 'be' real physical realities in the physical world, however evil they might prove, even 'mocking' the Children of God. They would be Morgoth's greatest Sins, abuses of his highest privilege, and would be creatures begotten of Sin, and naturally bad. (I nearly wrote 'irredeemably bad'; but that would be going too far. Because by accepting or tolerating their making - necessary to their actual existence - even Orcs would become part of the World, which is God's and ultimately good.) But whether they could have 'souls' or 'spirits' seems a different question; and since in my myth at any rate I do not conceive of the making of souls or spirits, things of an equal order if not an equal power to the Valar, as a possible 'delegation', I have represented at least the Orcs as pre-existing real beings on whom the Dark Lord has exerted the fullness of his power in remodelling and corrupting them, not making them. That God would 'tolerate' that, seems no worse theology than the toleration of the calculated dehumanizing of Men by tyrants that goes on today. There might be other 'makings' all the same which were more like puppets filled (only at a distance) with their maker's mind and will, or ant-like operating under direction of a queen-centre.
Here we're told Melkor and all of the Ainur had free will. From Osanwe-kenta:

Quote:
They are, of course, open to Eru, but they cannot of their own will "see" any part of His mind. They can open themselves to Eru in entreaty, and He may then reveal His thought to them.
Manwe could be considered purely good because he acted in accordance to the thoughts of Eru. From Osanwe-kenta:

Quote:
Some say that Manwe, by a special grace to the King, could still in a measure perceive Eru; others more probably, that he remained nearest to Eru, and Eru was most ready to hear and answer him.
Quote:
Manwe was wiser; or being ever open to Eru he did His will, which is more than wisdom. He was ever open because he had nothing to conceal, no thought that it was harmful for any to know, if they could comprehend it. Indeed Melkor knew his will without questioning it; and he knew that Manwe was bound by the commands and injunctions of Eru, and would do this or abstain from that in accordance with them, always, even knowing that Melkor would break them as it suited his purpose.
Thus comes the matter of tainted evil becoming good again. In Osanwe-kenta, evil's repentance is possible:

Quote:
Melkor had the right to exist, and the right to act and use his powers. Manwe had the authority to rule and to order the world, so far as he could, for the well-being of the Eruhíni; but if Melkor would repent and return to the allegiance of Eru, he must be given his freedom again. He could not be enslaved, or denied his part. The office of the Elder King was to retain all his subjects in the allegiance of Eru, or to bring them back to it, and in that allegiance to leave them free.
Quote:
The release was according to the promise of Manwe. If Manwe had broken this promise for his own purposes, even though still intending "good", he would have taken a step upon the paths of Melkor. That is a perilous step. In that hour and act he would have ceased to be the vice-gerent of the One, becoming but a king who takes advantage over a rival whom he has conquered by force. Would we then have the sorrows that indeed befell; or would we have the Elder King lose his honour, and so pass, maybe, to a world rent between two proud lords striving for the throne? Of this we may be sure, we children of small strength: any one of the Valar might have taken the paths of Melkor and become like him: one was enough.
Later on, we're told how Melkor finally fell, which may be the ultimate good in him. He was such a vile spirit, capable of mass destruction and corruption in Middle-earth - yet he bound himself to his physical incarnation and weakened himself, providing a means for his own destruction.

Quote:
Melkor alone of the Great became at last bound to a bodily form; but that was because of the use that he made of this in his purpose to become Lord of the Incarnate, and of the great evils that he did in the visible body. Also he had dissipated his native powers in the control of his agents and servants, so that he became in the end, in himself and without their support, a weakened thing, consumed by hate and unable to restore himself from the state into which he had fallen. Even his visible form he could no longer master, so that its hideousness could not any longer be masked, and it showed forth the evil of his mind.
So I pose Kiara's questions to you along with some others. I'm interested in your thoughts.

How can a tainted spirit become good again? More importantly, can a tainted spirit bring itself to repent and become good again? Does it require encouragement or special conditions? We saw Melkor fall, and told of his possible repentance and restoration. He chose not to take that route though. Did he think there was another way? Is there another way out of evil? Are there other examples from Middle-earth that come to mind?

We know all beings have free will - they can choose good or evil. For a being to fall in completely to evil from day one can't be innate. How does evil get it's start? Does characteristics tend to stir evil that could also yield good? Where does it go wrong? Again, are there examples of these in Middle-earth?

When someone does evil, and yet the end result is good, does that make the evil-doer good, or only the being who has authority over that evil-doer?

Was the Ring's evil irreversible? Were there ways around it? What flaws do you see in the characters (that are mentally) so affected by Ring that make them forget their goodness? Why did the evil take in Boromir when Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn, Gandalf, Merry, and Pippin weren't so notably affected by it? Why weren't they? Aragorn and Gandalf easily let the Ring away from them when Boromir and Galadriel could not. In each pair mentioned, there's a great soldier of Gondor and a very wise member of the White Council. How did the evil creep up in Boromir/Galadriel but not Aragorn/Gandalf?

I could probably go on forever, but I'd like to hear others' thoughts.
__________________
...take counsel with thyself, and remember who and what thou art.

Last edited by Legolas; 02-02-2012 at 11:17 PM.
Legolas is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-26-2002, 05:32 PM   #2
Kalessin
Wight
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Earthsea, or London
Posts: 175
Kalessin has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

I think that the question of free will has represented a challenge to reasoning and insight on many levels over the ages - philosophical, religious, and scientific - and continues to do so. For example, the current notions of genetic determinism, from Dawkins' 'selfish gene' supposition, to oppositional theories of teleological evolution (Shepherd et al), is a hot area.

So I don't come to the debate with answers, and perhaps not expecting them, either. But in terms of Tolkien's narrative and cosmology, the inherent conundrum of free will within a creation (or subcreation) mythos was something he identified and reflected upon, as shown in the quotes above, and in his letter to Milton Waldman -

Quote:
the problem: that (this) frightful evil can and does arise from an apparently good root ... is a recurrent motive (in The Silmarillion)
There are a number of diverting but perhaps unnecessary offshoots to the discussion which take us into semantics and chains of causal reasoning - such as the question of whether 'evil' is something one does, or something one is ... or whether within each hypothesis it can effectively be considered either a cause or an effect (or both) ... or whether we should accept that we cannot overlay the subtle and awesome complexity of an omnipotent creator (from world religions or Tolkien [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]) with a man-made system of rationalisation such as logical reasoning, which is so deeply flawed and human, and can only be applied by subclassifying elements which we actually experience as a simultaneous whole ... and so on.

Whilst all of these are interesting (to me, at least), I think it is important first of all to refute as far as possible the notion of a clumsy determinism such as " 'Evil' A murdered 'Good' B, and 'Evil' C murdered 'Good' D, but then 'Evil' A murdered 'Evil' C before being brought to justice by 'Good' E, so A was in fact 'Good' in the end". Does anybody really think life is that simple? We all commit and are subject to small and large injustices and acts of selfishness throughout our lives - if you do not accept that divine judgement takes place then there are no grounds for assuming things are or should be neatly wrapped up or resolved, and if you DO believe in divine judgement then surely it is equally impossible to resolve the vast and jumbled array of positives and negatives that we can perceive.

I have told with some authority that the "inner peace" of any believer comes not from a logical rationalisation of empirically observed incidents, but from a transcendental act of faith and/or moment of revelation. Can we therefore actually say that redemption is the same as "turning out alright in a causal way in the end"? I think redemption in a spiritual sense is something different from any kind of abstract justice (or return to equilibrium), and can occur as a result of free will - therefore being considered seperately from the notion of a divine plan or inevitable resolution.

The 'toleration' of free will, as Tolkien puts it, even to the extent of subcreation by powerful beings such as Melkor exercising that free will, is half of the conundrum to which he refers above. The concept that, in the presence of a (or the) Creator, free will operates within limited boundaries is not really a workable axiom ... it's a bit like saying "You can do what you want, as long as what you want is what I want". In the end, free will is either free or not, the concept itself cannot be subject to gradations and still exist as that concept.

But to make matters more complicated [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img], the other half of the conundrum is the only way in which can attempt to address the first! That is to say, how does any evil arise from utter goodness (at any level of subcreation). If something - anything - is complete, consistent and all there is, for example a blank piece of white paper, how do black spots suddenly appear on the whiteness? If they were not there to start with, they must have been created ... even in order to be 'permitted', they must have been created.

The way in which each sub-contradiction addresses the other is that through the presence of free will, evil can arise as a result of good. But for that free will to occur, it must be willed (created) and tolerated. You can indeed argue that an acceptable axiomatic principle cannot be created from two flawed axioms ... and you would inevitably end up in a reflection on a priori and a posteriori assertions, or descend into Kantian analytics and synthetics (oh yes, lets [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]).

Behind all this is the logical problem of causality itself. You cannot really logically have a first cause (or final cause) which are somehow exempt from empirically observable causality.

I hope I haven't gone too way out (in other words I think I have). But what my line of argument is intended to illustrate is the irreconcilable nature of causality (which is our only rational means of measuring justice, good, evil and so on) with divinity (which is our only means of rationalising the actual existence of good, evil etc. - if you accept that existence).

It seems clear to me that Tolkien never resolved this level of philosophical problem, or indeed attempted to. And perhaps we could consider that 'contradiction' as an inherent and inevitable state might be something with which we can accept or acknowledge our humanity. And humanity is what the narrative is about .... not a dry system of determinist pinball or deus ex machina reassurance.

Somebody else say something [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] ....

Peace

Kalessin

[ November 26, 2002: Message edited by: Kalessin ]
Kalessin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-26-2002, 06:20 PM   #3
Thenamir
Spectre of Capitalism
 
Thenamir's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Battling evil bureaucrats at Zeta Aquilae
Posts: 987
Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
Sting

Wow. Nice post, Legolas.

I am not the Tolkien Scholar that you seem to be, with the quotes you so aptly provided, but I do think I can answer some of your questions on some philosophical level.

In any transgression, whether falling from the grace of the Creator, or getting a parking ticket, the transgressor can only receive absolution and forgiveness from the ultimate authority. The fact that you pay your parking fine and then go free is not the point -- you are still "guilty" of having committed the crime, you have merely endured the punishment for that crime. Nor is it a matter of having the matter tried in court and being found "not guilty" of the parking violation -- in that case, you are found to have *never committed the crime* to begin with, and so you have no need for restoration and redemption.

The only way to be redeemed after having been found *guilty* is to be "pardoned" by the giver of the law, or by his appointed surrogates. If you appeal to the Governor of your state and ask for a pardon for your parking ticket, only he has the authority to grant that pardon. The pardon means that, regardless of the fact that you were indeed guilty parked in a red zone, you are to be treated as if the crime had never occurred, as if you are innocent.

The question then becomes, why does the Creator not grant such pardons as a matter of course? And the answer is, He cannot pardons all such cases, because that would be the same as not having the law to begin with. Why have a law if violators will always be pardoned?

Why indeed. Laws are made, whether in the human realm or the higher realms, to restrain certain actions which will harm the greater good. In the case of Eru, he sets boundaries upon Creation, within which the Valar have free will to act, because Eru, being all-knowing, knows which actions are likely to result in the greatest possible good for His creation. To violate those boundaries means to step away from the greatest possible good to something lesser - and the only reason a being would do that is becuase he/she/it is not interested in good for all, but only in his/her/its own "good", at the expense of others. The laws exist as a guide within which the "righteous" (for lack of a better word) will voluntarily remain, and to reveal the one(s) who are acting in selfish interest without regard for the consequences. This then becomes the definition of "evil", i.e. acting to benefit or please oneself reagrdless of the damaging consequences to others" -- in one word, "selfishness."

But back to the main question -- how does a tainted spirit become good again? Tolkien made it so that all Melkor would have to do was place himself voluntarily back within the boundaries he had violated. The problem with Melkor was that he, like Satan in the Christian tradition, wanted to be numero uno. He didn't want to serve Eru's purposes, he wanted to BE Eru. His journeys into the void to find the Flame Imperishable were made to set himself up as a potential rival for Eru's position.

He was not trying to find "another way", he wanted to be THE way, aggandizing power unto himself and crushing all who oppose. He did not want to submit to Eru's definitions of "good" and "evil" (by the boundaries He set), he wanted to be "evil" (to have all creation please and serve his whims) and escape the personal consequences.

To the question of "Is there another way out of evil," again, the bounds of the law and the release from the consequences of violating that law are the sole province of the law maker. Eru says that he only need submit to Eru's authority and he will be free to act -- he will be "forgiven". Melkor's reply, to misquote Dante, "Better to reign in the Void than to serve in Valinor." At all times it was his choice to continue in his rebellion -- at any time he could have chosen to stop rebelling and serve. I suppose you *could* say that there is another way out of evil, and that is to overpower the One who lawfully calls you evil and then change or abolish the law. Melkor found out the hard way that his arms were too short to box with Eru.
Quote:
When someone does evil, and yet the end result is good, does that make the evil-doer good, or only the being who has authority over that evil-doer?
The only answer to that can be that the good only comes about because of the intervention of the being in authority over both the evil-doer and the rest of creation. The quote you gave...
Quote:
And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument, in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.
...can only mean that an all-knowing Creator can foresee and incorporate the volition of evil into his plans for good. The transgression is still a transgression of the law laid down, but it cannot impede or hinder the inexorable march of the will of the Creator. He holds all the cards! He knew the thoughts of Melkor for all the plans he might devise, and planned for his selfish braying in advance.

As for the Ring's effect on characters, it seems to have more influence on those, like Melkor and Sauron, who desired power to dominate the wills of others. The hobbits, being a quiet and peaceful folk, seemed to have the greatest resistance to the Ring's evil becuase they were not raised to desire to rule over others. They were pretty much a live-and-let-live society. Aragorn had a pretty good handle on his destiny, but did not desire to rule as a tyrant, but as a great freeing benevolence. He was confident within himself, and thus was less affected by the Ring than Boromir, who (in my opinion)appeared to be a bit less confident in his leadership, and wanted the Ring to "shore up" his ineffectiveness. Gandalf more than any knew the corrupting power of the Ring in advance, and so actively resisted it. Galadriel, well, she had some rebellious "history" way back around the time of Feanor and the Doom of Mandos, and might have been more tempted to the power than some.

Just my two cents worth, folks. Feel free to counter, riposte, and flame away!
__________________
The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.
~~ Marcus Aurelius
Thenamir is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-26-2002, 10:15 PM   #4
Aiwendil
Late Istar
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,184
Aiwendil is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Aiwendil is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Sting

Quote:
How can a tainted spirit become good again? More importantly, can a tainted spirit bring itself to repent and become good again?
I think the examples of Morgoth and Sauron demonstrate that repentance is possible - even though neither of them chose it, it was named as a real possibility. I would guess that the only criterion for one to become good again is that one wills it.

Quote:
We know all beings have free will - they can choose good or evil. For a being to fall in completely to evil from day one can't be innate. How does evil get it's start?
I think the start of evil in Tolkien's world cannot be reduced beyond free will. Of course, we could say that pride and, apparently, the desire to create new things lead to evil; but the question then becomes: whence pride and desire? And again, we must say "free will". Free will is sort of like a quantum wave - it can basicly do anything, without any cause.

Quote:
When someone does evil, and yet the end result is good, does that make the evil-doer good, or only the being who has authority over that evil-doer?
I think (and keep in mind that I'm talking strictly about Tolkien's universe now, not reality) that good and evil depend solely upon the will of the subject. This is a rather Augustinian view: that actions are not good evil; will is. I think that Augustine can be applied fairly well to Tolkien's mythology in general.

Quote:
What flaws do you see in the characters (that are mentally) so affected by Ring that make them forget their goodness?
This and the other questions you ask about the Ring seem to point at the ambiguity in its nature identified by Tom Shippey in Author of the Century. That is, they point at the ambiguity between the Manichean view of evil and what he calls the Boethian view. The Manichean view is that evil is a thing; it is a force, the equal and opposite of good. The Boethian view, and the standard view of Christianity for over a thousand years, is that evil is not a thing. It is merely the absence of good. A Manichean interpretation of the Ring would be that it has some evil power in it that controls those who use it or desire it. The Boethian view would be that the Ring is a sort of "psychic amplifier" that draws out whatever evil tendencies or flaws exist in those who use it or desire it. There is textual evidence for both interpretations - on the one hand, it is said that a part of Sauron's power went into the Ring, and that the Ring seeks to return to its master. On the other hand, the most virtuous characters are less affected by it than others - as you point out. I think the answer is that the Ring is both, and this ambiguity is one of Tolkien's brilliant touches.

Quote:
I think that the question of free will has represented a challenge to reasoning and insight on many levels over the ages - philosophical, religious, and scientific - and continues to do so. For example, the current notions of genetic determinism, from Dawkins' 'selfish gene' supposition, to oppositional theories of teleological evolution (Shepherd et al), is a hot area.
I think that the greater part of this inquiry into the question of free will is somewhat misguided. There are two questions that people tend to confound, one about free will and one not, and the aspect to which very much attention has been given is that which is not. Free will is not a psychological question; it is metaphysical. But the point of so much contention is not really free will; it is, rather, the question of which is more influential in determining a person's behavior: long-term, identifiable factors or short-term cognitive factors.

That was a digression, but I couldn't help myself. The question here is of course not about the real world. It is about Tolkien's universe and, perhaps, the Christian universe.

Quote:
I think it is important first of all to refute as far as possible the notion of a clumsy determinism such as " 'Evil' A murdered 'Good' B, and 'Evil' C murdered 'Good' D, but then 'Evil' A murdered 'Evil' C before being brought to justice by 'Good' E, so A was in fact 'Good' in the end". Does anybody really think life is that simple?
Some people do. A somewhat simplistic utilitarian argument might be exactly that (provided that the good done by murdering C is greater than the evil done by murdering B). I would personally make the distinction between absolute good - the net change in the situation of the universe as a result of an action - and relative good - the degree to which an individual acts in accordance with morality. But within Arda, I think you are right; in fact, I think that no action can make a person good.

Quote:
The concept that, in the presence of a (or the) Creator, free will operates within limited boundaries is not really a workable axiom ... it's a bit like saying "You can do what you want, as long as what you want is what I want".
I agree with you in general, but cautiously. The fact is that constraints do not necessarily contradict free will. For example (and let's assume for a moment that free will exists): I can will that I walk up a vertical wall, but I am constrained by the laws of physics, and I cannot. So it is certainly possible to imagine a creator establishing certain limitations on the free will he/she/it has created. However, if we assume a Judeo-Christian sort of God, it seems somewhat illogical for that God to create beings with free will and then confine them to a very narrow range of actions.

Quote:
That is to say, how does any evil arise from utter goodness (at any level of subcreation).
I don't think that, in a Judeo-Christian-Tolkienian context, the origin of evil can be any further reduced than to free will. Free will is a strange and in some ways paradoxical concept, but one thing it does very well is act as a metaphysical device for the creation of evil. The paradox lies, I think, not in the generation of evil by free will, but in the generation of free will by supreme good. This is in my opinion an unanswerable question, and an unresolved contradiction. If you're going to suspend disbelief and accept Tolkien's world though (or, I would add, Judeo-Christian theology), you simply have to accept it.

Quote:
But for that free will to occur, it must be willed (created) and tolerated.
Ah. I should really read the whole post I'm responding to before answering - this is exactly the point I just made.

Quote:
You can indeed argue that an acceptable axiomatic principle cannot be created from two flawed axioms ... and you would inevitably end up in a reflection on a priori and a posteriori assertions, or descend into Kantian analytics and synthetics
Yet it is surely true that an axiomatic principle cannot be created from two flawed axioms. Just because you don't like where a thing leads doesn't mean that you can refuse to accept that thing.

Quote:
Behind all this is the logical problem of causality itself. You cannot really logically have a first cause (or final cause) which are somehow exempt from empirically observable causality.
This is entirely true (it's actually so obvious that it's hard to see how Aquinas didn't notice it). Nevertheless, we are speaking about Middle-earth, wherein there is a supremely good, omipotent, omniscient first mover. Within this context, that is axiomatic.

Quote:
It seems clear to me that Tolkien never resolved this level of philosophical problem, or indeed attempted to.
Agreed.

Quote:
And perhaps we could consider that 'contradiction' as an inherent and inevitable state might be something with which we can accept or acknowledge our humanity.
I'm not sure I follow you here. The contradictions we have been considering arise out of the postulation of both a supremely good God and free will/evil. They are perhaps inevitable within religions, but I don't think they are inevitable universally.

Quote:
The only way to be redeemed after having been found *guilty* is to be "pardoned" by the giver of the law, or by his appointed surrogates.
This is a very good point.

Quote:
The transgression is still a transgression of the law laid down, but it cannot impede or hinder the inexorable march of the will of the Creator.
I think this is a fundamentally different thing from redemption. What you are talking about here is that the existence of evil is tributary to good. That alone does not redeem the one who committed the evil, however. Morgoth is never redeemed, yet the evil that he caused is ultimately tributary to the good of Eru.

[ November 27, 2002: Message edited by: Aiwendil ]
Aiwendil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-27-2002, 12:40 AM   #5
HerenIstarion
Deadnight Chanter
 
HerenIstarion's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2000
Posts: 4,301
HerenIstarion is a guest of Tom Bombadil.
Send a message via ICQ to HerenIstarion
Sting

I would have liked to plunge into the midst of this pool, those being my favorite subjects, but alas, I'm too busy for a moment. So, for now, I present to your attention this and this, with the promise to come bakc later on [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

[ November 27, 2002: Message edited by: HerenIstarion ]
__________________
Egroeg Ihkhsal

- Would you believe in the love at first sight?
- Yes I'm certain that it happens all the time!
HerenIstarion is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-27-2002, 12:55 AM   #6
greyhavener
Wight
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: austin
Posts: 169
greyhavener has just left Hobbiton.
Silmaril

Great topic.
Every post is thoughtful and interesting. I'm no theologian but find this sort of conjecture interesting and enlightening. Here's my take:

Although I tend to fall on the Arminian end of Christianity, I think free will and sovreignty are not diametrically opposed. Both are forces at work in the fall and redemption of middle earth and (in Christian context) real earth.

In Christianity there is an understanding that God created mankind to have fellowship with Him. Several attributes of God that are generally accepted are that He is good, He is love, He does not abide with evil, He is sovreign, omnipotent and omnipresent. (In middle earth one gets the sense that some of this involvement is delegated to Manwe, et al.) Within these parameters it makes sense to me that free will would have to be inherent to any being that has a relationship with Him. It is not possible for will-less beings to love or be loved. Presupposing the necessity of a redemptive experience to restore relationship, then it would seem that beings would need to submit their wills to him in order to receive redemption.

Sam's journey from servant to mayor; from gardener to ring bearer and warrior represent a sort of redemptive process that occurs when free will is used to submit to a transforming process. Sam submitted to Gandalf and Frodo in the matter of Gollum. The moment when in despair Sam finds himself crying out in elvish (a language he does not speak) illustrates this sort of free will submission. He is willing to approach his source of help on whatever terms necessary rather than trying to define his own terms for the relationship. Sam's willingness to carry the ring, return it, carry Frodo, abide Gollum are all ways in which Sam submits himself to the quest and undergoes a redemptive transformation.

I find Tolkien often balances free will with destiny.

Although the ring was never supposed to be made, once it came into existence, provision was made to deal with it. It came into the hands of Isuldur, but he chose to act outside good. Gollum chose evil from the moment the ring entered his life in his murder of Feagol. Though he was utterly ruined he "still had some part of play in it's destruction." Gandalf says that Frodo and Bilbo were "meant" to bear the ring. Sam makes the comment "what a story we are in." From the time the ring came into existence through the free will of Malikor, there was an adaptation on the part of Ea and the Valinor to redeem the situation and restore Middle Earth to an existence that is reconciled to the intents of it's creator.

The Dwarves is another example of this sort the redemption. Dwarves were not an intended, but rather a result of Aule's impatience. Once they existed, in spite of their shortcomings, they were incorporated into Middle Earth and given a place in it's workings for good in that they were enemies of orcs and entered into alliances with men and elves culminating in Gimli's participation in the fellowship. His relationship with Galadriel and Legolas represent a transforming redemption.

Finally there is Frodo's moment at the Cracks of Doom. He has willed himself to do what he was "meant" to do and yet in the final moment he doesn't have the will within himself to throw in the ring. Gollum acting out of evil motives completes the good task and plays the role Gandalf hints at. Yet free will gestures like Bilbo's pity, Frodo's pity, Sam's submission are as as instrumental in getting Gollum in place as his own evil intents or any fate that may have brought him there.

It is further complicated in considering that at any moment Gollum might have repented. This would be the outcome desired by a good and loving diety. Yet an omniscient Supreme Being would know Gollum's choice and fully comprehend whether or not this is sane choice. There are moments when Gollum creeps into camp and almost submits to a transforming redepption, but the desire for the ring is too strong. This raises the question as to whether sin is irresistible to human will. Frodo's experience at the Cracks of Doom almost suggests that Tolkien thinks redemption might require a measure of divine intervention coupled with free will.
__________________
Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
greyhavener is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-27-2002, 10:55 AM   #7
Kalessin
Wight
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Earthsea, or London
Posts: 175
Kalessin has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Thenamir, some interesting reasoning, but - like Tolkien - you do not resolve the essential contradictions that I outlined above. You said ...

Quote:
... Eru says that he (Melkor) only need submit to Eru's authority and he will be free to act ...
As I described earlier, this pretty much equates to "do what you want as long as it's what I want". You can't call that 'free' will, and never mind Melkor, no upright and moral human being would consider it just - UNLESS you accept the omnipotent benevolence of a Creator that transcends human understanding, and therefore submit as an act of faith. And, as I pointed out, submitting through faith doesn't square with a valid axiomatic system of punishment, reward and responsibility for one's own actions.

You address the seond part of the puzzle as follows -

Quote:
... (in Tolkien etc.) an all-knowing Creator can foresee and incorporate the volition of evil into his plans for good. The transgression is still a transgression of the law laid down, but it cannot impede or hinder the inexorable march of the will of the Creator. He holds all the cards! He knew the thoughts of Melkor for all the plans he might devise, and planned for his selfish braying in advance.
This again I discussed in my earlier post, the philosophical conundrum of how a Creator that is both omnipotent and omniscient can allow Evil without in some way bearing responsibility for that Evil. Again, in Western Christian theology from St Augustine onwards this has been a thorny issue.

If everything has been foreseen and predestined, nothing can be called 'free' will. We may as well be robots, programmed with a delusion of consciousness and unable to perceive that all our acts are guided. Perhaps there is some link here to current developments in artificial intelligence, but I won't go there [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img].

Now, you don't need to to believe in divine intervention to accept that ALL actions are predestined and inevitable. If you simply follow the principle of empirical causality to it's inevitable end it is an unavoidable conclusion that whatever happens is the only thing that could possibly happen in those given circumstances (and all the circumstances leading up to it). In pure logical science there is no such thing as 'coincidence' or 'choice'. But with a nod to Chaos theory, what keeps it interesting is that the multiplicity of variables and precendents to any given moment are generally impossible to account for sufficently to enable US to know what the (inevitable) next step will be.

I should stress I do not personally adhere to absolutist causal determinism, and I have real problems with the Dawkins 'selfish gene' supposition. But if you are attempting to assert a valid and logical morality in which both divinity and free will play a part, you are going to have to address these contradictions.

And, as discussed, it is only through Faith or through blurring the definitions of words such as 'destiny' that one can accept that free will can exist alongside omniscient omnipotence, or that any negative consequences of free will do not in effect morally tarnish the Creator.

If 2000 years of theology and philosophy have failed to really resolve these issues, I'm not suggesting I can [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img].

But what I will say is that somehow, we CAN and do intuitively accept and understand this dichotomy, and the technical contradictions do NOT invalidate the profound effect of morality. Hume discussed this, the ability to incorporate 'assumptions' into consciousness rather than only accepting empirical absolutes - and in this case, the assumptions themselves are contradictory but NOT irreconcilable with our humanity. This is the great leap of human consciousness, the fluidity of mind and ability to create and dismantle artifice ... and through this we can find Tolkien inspiring, moving and meaningful without needing to, or being able to, entirely rationalise a worldview in absolute and logical terms.

Aiwendil [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

I have a feeling you've agreed with me more on this post than on any other I can remember! Hopefully my responses above address part of your excellent post, and I take your point about free will and the laws of physics, except that if free will is a 'created' factor and the laws of physics/morality etc. are likewise 'created', then our freedom is constrained by 'moral design' rather than amoral causality, and therefore would require faith to simply accept the constraints as just. If Angels came and interacted with men, I'm pretty sure within a short term some right-minded citizen would take them to litigation on the basis that their ability to fly and pass between dimensions gave them an unfair competitive advantage and led to discrimination [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

The issue of redemption in itself, is a particularly interesting concept. Are we saying that ALL redemption is contingent on the judgement of the Law giver or Creator? Is it NEVER possible to redeem oneself through conscience, voluntary acts of contrition or compensation? This presents a challenge that has again been addressed in theological studies ... as before perhaps,it is only Faith that can allow us to accept this arbitrary rigor.

I also agree strongly that if you place the discussion within absolute boundaries - how do things work on Middle Earth / what did Tolkien intend etc. - you can straightforwardly accept the fact that within this narrative such axioms ARE, whether or not they can be entirely "valid". But our ability to accept them in a world created by Tolkien AND in 'our' real world is not so different - and our challenges to these assertions here can just as much be made to Tolkien's world as part of this discussion. After all, as I pointed out Tolkien himself was at least aware of the philosophical problems - and I still maintain he did not resolve them.

By the way, I'm enjoying your 'subjective / objective' discussion on another recent thread, and am exercising great self-discipline in not butting in ... we've been there before [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img].

In your articulate reflections on the Manichean vs Boetheian hypotheses you make the point that Tolkien's ambiguity is a strong point. I agree whole-heartedly, and believe that this illustrates the two key points - one, that he did not resolve the philosophical problems into a a dry and mechanistic moral causality - and secondly, that contradictions, ambiguities and mysticism are an essential part of humanity and creativity, as much a given as any empirical absolutes. This is really the thrust of my whole argument ... in relation to the wider issues and in the bubble of ME. That contradictions and ambiguities, in perception, action and morality are what being human is, and are arguably at the root of our creative experience.

Good posts, everyone [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Peace

Kalessin

[ November 27, 2002: Message edited by: Kalessin ]
Kalessin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-27-2002, 12:26 PM   #8
Mhoram
Dead and Loving It
 
Mhoram's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: The land of fast cars and loud guitars.
Posts: 363
Mhoram has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Quote:
How can a tainted spirit become good again? More importantly, can a tainted spirit bring itself to repent and become good again? Does it require encouragement or special conditions?
Osse
Mhoram is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 11-27-2002, 01:50 PM   #9
Kiara
Animated Skeleton
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: wish 'twere Ireland
Posts: 50
Kiara has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

I have been skimming, so forgive me if this goes off track again or repeats something someone else has said. My thought is this, and it's related to the "how can black spots form on a pefectly white [object]" and someone along there replied that free-will is where the possibility even arises----

Well, what about an object that has become black? Is there any way for it to become pure again? (I know this is a re-statement of some of my previous questions and of those of others, though in illustrative form, but I plead indulgence as I am yet trying to wade my way through all this heavy and quickly satiating talk and therefore have to remind myself of what's going on).

My own thought is that it is impossible to make it white again, unless there is a new white object with which to exchange it (and obviously my illustration points to the need of a redeemer). It is interesting, to me, that Tolkien's work points to that need, and yet does not supply it. This is not because I feel that it is required in order to make his work complete, but rather because his world is so much reflective of ours, that I wonder if it could have continued on with out the "necessary" (in my opinion) intervention of Eru to redeem those that have no hope of "fixing" themselves.

I doubt that anyone could have truly resisted the ring, or from committing at least one "bad" or "evil" action in their lives, and yet would all their good out-weigh the one bad that they had done? It seems to me that the redemption of Tolkien's character is dependent solely upon their final decision in life--is their final action good or evil? Anyone following me?

What do you think?
__________________
"What if you slept, and what if in your sleep you dreamed, and what if, in your dream, you went to paradise and there plucked a beautiful flower...and what if when you awoke, you held that flower in your hand? Ah, what then?"
Kiara is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-02-2002, 06:09 PM   #10
Thenamir
Spectre of Capitalism
 
Thenamir's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Battling evil bureaucrats at Zeta Aquilae
Posts: 987
Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
Sting

Kalessin

I did not expressly address the issue of free will versus causal determinism for two reasons. One, the topic is way way off Tolkien, and has been debated by theologians for thousands of years, and two, I posted my opinions on the topic in another thread, the title of which utterly escapes me at the moment, but which I will diligently attempt to find and post a link. A summation of that post follows.

We as finite and limited beings can have little or no concept of the import and consequences of *creating* (as Eru creates, not as a couple bearing a child) a wholly autonomous independent being apart from oneself. The closest analogy would be parents having children. You train them in the ways you believe to be just and fair and right, but they will still have their independent streak - they are unique beings whose inputs and information-base are not identical to the parents, and therefore will be able to come, eventually, to their won conclusions about life, the universe, and everything. They are not as the dwarves were initially created by Aule, utterly dependant on their creator for movement and thought, and lifeless should the creator turn his attention elsewhere.

The point being, once you create a truly autonomous, rational, independant intelligence, capable of weighing options, seeking alternatives, and evaluating the terms and consequences of independantly-made decisions and then acting without the intervention or assistance of the creator, that being is then "on its own". Whatever decisions it then makes cannot be attributed to the maker. It has become an actor/reactor *choosing* its direction and actions. The maker can reason, persuade, inform, demonstrate, in an effort to get the being to make decisions that agree with the intentions of the maker, but once the being is "activated" by the maker its reasoning and thought processes are to be left completely untouched by the coercive hand of the maker, otherwise you are indeed a puppet, a robot. Thus Eru did. He informed his creations that, as an omniscient being, he knew there were certain principles by which each and all should abide in order to make the universe "harmonious" (an appropriate word considering the music of creation) in all aspects.

Quote:
this pretty much equates to "do what you want as long as it's what I want". You can't call that 'free' will, and never mind Melkor, no upright and moral human being would consider it just - UNLESS you accept the omnipotent benevolence of a Creator that transcends human understanding, and therefore submit as an act of faith.
Although I would hesitate to speak ill of someone so well read as to have encompassed the work of Hume, which I have not, that is not what I meant. Melkor was indeed free to act -- Eru demonstrated that time and again. Even though everything Melkor did was an act of supreme selfish ambition, destroying and marring so as to increase his role and power in Ea, Eru knew of his plans and allowed him to act freely. He warned, he persuaded, but he did not take away Melkor's Eru-given freedom to act according to his own reasoning and decisions. He made an informed decision to oppose Eru, knowing Eru intended at some unspecified point in the future to imprison or destroy him.

The question is then begged, why would Melkor, knowing the consequences as laid down by Eru, continue on his course? Well, I heard somneone once say that if someone is going to kill you, you have three ways to prevent it -- run, talk them out of it, or kill them first. Obviously Melkor knew he could not run from the creator of the universe in which he lived. Perhaps, but not likely, he thought he could get Eru to change his mind ("talk him out of it") if he could take over Ea and hold it hostage. More likely, he thought he could find the Flame Imperishable and become a rival to Eru, perhaps even "kill him before he kills me" type of reasoning.

The point is, Eru left him free to act. My children are free to act, but they know that certain actions will result in disciplinary moves, and others will result in rewards. But their freedom of choice cannot be removed from them. The disciplinary actions are intended to motivate the children to do the "right" thing. I as a human parent can be mistaken about what is "right", but an omniscient being cannot. When a benevolent, all-knowing, all-powerful being says to you "You *really* shouldn't go down that road", it is not free-thinking to go there anyway -- it is suicide.
__________________
The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.
~~ Marcus Aurelius
Thenamir is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-02-2002, 08:37 PM   #11
Aiwendil
Late Istar
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,184
Aiwendil is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Aiwendil is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Sting

Kalessin:
Quote:
This again I discussed in my earlier post, the philosophical conundrum of how a Creator that is both omnipotent and omniscient can allow Evil without in some way bearing responsibility for that Evil. Again, in Western Christian theology from St Augustine onwards this has been a thorny issue.
And I don't think Tolkien's answer to this would be much different from Augustine's: the evil is ultimately tributary to the good, and will lead to greater good. I find that an unsatisfactory answer, but neither Augustine nor Tolkien went further.

Quote:
In pure logical science there is no such thing as 'coincidence' or 'choice'.
Not true! See below.

Quote:
I should stress I do not personally adhere to absolutist causal determinism
Anyone who adheres to total causal determinism today is either poorly informed or in possession of some science more advanced than anything the rest of the world knows. Quantum mechanics rules out total causal determinism. On a macroscopic scale, things become extremely predictable, but not precisely deterministic. And in situations where a small scale system governs the behaviour of a large scale system, such as the human brain, the non-determinism has a greater effect.

Quote:
if free will is a 'created' factor and the laws of physics/morality etc. are likewise 'created', then our freedom is constrained by 'moral design' rather than amoral causality, and therefore would require faith to simply accept the constraints as just.
True.

Quote:
The issue of redemption in itself, is a particularly interesting concept. Are we saying that ALL redemption is contingent on the judgement of the Law giver or Creator?
I think so.

Quote:
Is it NEVER possible to redeem oneself through conscience, voluntary acts of contrition or compensation?
Through acts of contrition or compensation - I think not. Through conscience - sort of. I think the Tolkienian view might be that an individual cannot redeem oneself through consience or actions, but that God will redeem those that have good conscience/will. Also, those with good conscience will tend to do good deeds. So it is practically the same, if essentially different.

Quote:
But our ability to accept them in a world created by Tolkien AND in 'our' real world is not so different - and our challenges to these assertions here can just as much be made to Tolkien's world as part of this discussion.
Perhaps. But as for me, I have many points of contention with Christian theology, and thus must either refuse to suspend disbelief and to accept Middle-earth or simply not ask things like "how can Iluvatar allow evil to exist?"

Quote:
By the way, I'm enjoying your 'subjective / objective' discussion on another recent thread, and am exercising great self-discipline in not butting in ... we've been there before
It seems you've overestimated your self-discipline. For my part, though, I'm glad that you broke down and joined the discussion.
Aiwendil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-03-2002, 01:06 PM   #12
Kiara
Animated Skeleton
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: wish 'twere Ireland
Posts: 50
Kiara has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Quote:
Through acts of contrition or compensation - I think not. Through conscience - sort of. I think the Tolkienian view might be that an individual cannot redeem oneself through consience or actions, but that God will redeem those that have good conscience/will. Also, those with good conscience will tend to do good deeds. So it is practically the same, if essentially different.
Isn't that a contradiction? If an individual cannot redeem himself through conscience or actions, but God would accept him and redeem him on the BASIS of those actions or of that good conscience, then it is still all action-related and not "forgiveness"-related. Remember the comment about the law-giver being the only one who can wipe the record clean (i.e. redeem)? I think you are coming from the stand point of Equinus and Aristotle (if I am not mistaken) who believed the will to be pure and infallible: but if that were the case, wouldn't that mean that all choices out of that will would therefore be pure and infallible? And therefore make this debate moot (sp?)?

I have never studied "causal determinism" so I claim ignorance on this part and hope you will condescend to still read my comment, but:

If we (or any of the characters in LotR) cannot determine to do good all the time, then there must be a greater (and pure) will that can determine and act good out of the evil that "we" had committed, and that makes for a very unique relationship with that entity of a pure (as in goodness) will. Your argument seems to skirt that issue (which is fine), but I think it is based to much on the humanistic standpoint that we can "fix" ourselves and the world. Does it leave room for an amazing possiblity of an intimate relationship with a higher-power (akin to the idea of Illuvatar)? Am I completely off-base here?

[ December 03, 2002: Message edited by: Kiara ]
__________________
"What if you slept, and what if in your sleep you dreamed, and what if, in your dream, you went to paradise and there plucked a beautiful flower...and what if when you awoke, you held that flower in your hand? Ah, what then?"
Kiara is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-06-2002, 06:54 PM   #13
Thenamir
Spectre of Capitalism
 
Thenamir's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Battling evil bureaucrats at Zeta Aquilae
Posts: 987
Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
Sting

You can never make yourself "un-guilty" once you are guilty, unless you are pardoned by the law-giver. Therefore the conditions of becoming un-guilty are set by the law-giver.
Quote:
Is it NEVER possible to redeem oneself through conscience, voluntary acts of contrition or compensation?
I say no, and here's my reasoning: what good are acts of contrition or compensation if you have not changed your intention to do evil? If your conscience has changed, then your intention has changed, and that was all Eru required. Just as in the Judeo-Christian view, Eru is not looking for recompense, he is looking for repentance, a change of heart that results in correct behavior.

Think of this: which is the more serious crime, punching one of your peers, or punching a policeman? Is it considered a greater crime for someone to murder a co-worker or the leader of their country? Insofar as the victim is higher in lawful authority over the perpetrator, even so is a crime against that authority more serious. It follows logically that if a Being is infinitely high in authority over a subordinate, a crime against that Being would be infinite in its seriousness and require an infinite punishment.

Now take Eru, the Infinite, Almighty, Just, and Benevolent lawgiver of Arda and Middle Earth. Violating Eru's principles would be a crime of infinite seriousness against a Being of Infinite Authority. Melkor, a finite being, can NEVER make any acts of contrition or compensation to atone for himself in this case -- he is completely at the mercy of the lawgiver. The Lawgiver is, at any time, perfectly just in inflicting upon the perpetrator whatever punishment he sees fit to impose, for as long as he wishes.

And yet Eru does not -- he has mercy. He stays his judgement. He says all that you need to do is "stop being bad," or better yet, "stop wanting to be bad," and you are welcome, and gives opportunity after opportunity to come back into the fold...opportunities that are rejected again and again. After waiting a suitable period so that none can doubt his justice, the unrepentant one is removed to a place where he can do no more evil -- the void.

The point is, in Middle Earth as in the real world, doing what *you* think will "make up for" whatever you did wrong will get you nowhere, unless it coincides with what the lawgiver says is to be done.

Thenamir of Rohan
Chaplain, Rohan Theological Society

[ December 06, 2002: Message edited by: Thenamir ]
__________________
The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.
~~ Marcus Aurelius
Thenamir is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-06-2002, 09:28 PM   #14
Kalessin
Wight
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Earthsea, or London
Posts: 175
Kalessin has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Lots of great posts since my last foray here [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Thenamir, you make a valid point about how, in the context of LotR, free will can be considered valid as an outcome of an initial creation. I still think the notion of omniscience is problematic, even in this context, of which more later - but I take your point. Later, in relation to redemption, you say -

Quote:
Think of this: which is the more serious crime, punching one of your peers, or punching a policeman? Is it considered a greater crime for someone to murder a co-worker or the leader of their country? Insofar as the victim is higher in lawful authority over the perpetrator, even so is a crime against that authority more serious. It follows logically that if a Being is infinitely high in authority over a subordinate, a crime against that Being would be infinite in its seriousness and require an infinite punishment.
Now, I would argue that your analogy doesn't work. A law that places a higher value on the life of one victim over another is unjust. Is it a worse crime to murder a rich and powerful man than a poor beggar? Surely not, if one's laws are intended to reflect the sanctity of life itself. One can reasonably discriminate in terms of the intention behind a murder - from self-defence to terrorism, and so on. And it is no doubt true that in today's world, lives are valued like commodities. But your constitution has some well-intentioned words about "all men being equal", which I would suggest is a more inspiring template.

However, I can accept in a fairly pragmatic way that, in a divinely created world, one who attempts to destroy the creator is going to get a pretty big slap [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

In relation to redemption, you and others are positing that the favourable judgement of the lawgiver/creator is the only way in which individual redemption can be achieved. My question would be, is that the case even if in deed AND in thought AND intention, the wrongdoer is contrite, remorseful and repentant? If so, does that square with the notion of forgiveness?

Aiwendil, my knowledge of quantum mechanics is limited to say the least. Schrodinger's Cat seems like a modern version of Xeno's Arrow, more of a semantic duality based on the protocol of scientific statements ... and the last piece I read on the wave/particle duality seemed to give credence to teleological hypotheses - but at any rate, the more uncertainty the better, as far I can see [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img].

Accepting the rejection of causal determinism at face value (you've got quantum mechanics, I'm still relying on Hume's rather older refutation) presents us with a different problem - the notion of omniscience itself. Is it feasible that the Divine will, or first cause, can indeed have foreknowledge of infinite chains of variability? And I think we may be raising the same question here - if so, does not that first cause bear some responsibility for Evil? The parent-child analogy is unsatisfactory here ... no parent would allow their child to burn down the neighbourhood, just because they knew that in a few years the descendants and relatives of the victims would get their own back. And this, the conundrum that Tolkien himself identified as a recurrent theme (Evil arising from apparent Good), is an aspect of ongoing theological debate, and, in individual cases, crises of faith.

I do not believe it is resolved in a neat way by Tolkien, or that even a working definition of free will is acceptable if we also assume omniscience. But I don't think this particular issue is some flaw in Tolkien's writing, or even his own theology. His work touches on these profound themes from a perspective of traditional faith, in which there is an inference of mystery and the unknowable in human terms.

However, I do think that these narrative involvements with ultimate divinity and cosmogony make The Silmarillion a different piece of work from Lord of the Rings. However one reads Tolkien's contextual notes into LotR and incorporates the short chronology of events into his wider mythos, it seems to me that the morality fable in LotR is more self-sufficient, a narrative integral to meaning and vice versa. Perhaps this explains its appeal ... but of course this is only one humble opinion, and indeed it is probably unfair to consider The Silmarillion as a work completed to the author's satisfaction. No doubt there was more to come [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Peace.

Kalessin

[ December 06, 2002: Message edited by: Kalessin ]
Kalessin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-07-2002, 05:05 PM   #15
Thenamir
Spectre of Capitalism
 
Thenamir's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Battling evil bureaucrats at Zeta Aquilae
Posts: 987
Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
Sting

Kalessin:

Re: punching a rich man versus a beggar -- the rich man and the beggar, though very different in social stature, are on equal footing before the law. In an ideal society, a rich man has no authority over the poor man, and no right to force or coerce obedience from him -- they are equals in the eyes of the law, and that is certainly how it should be, and how Tolkien's world was written.

The difference is not one of social standing, but of lawful authority. Thus, the crime committed is not against the person, (else the punishments would be equal) but against the authority represented by that person. That authority is usually granted by a greater authority to a lesser one. In the case of a policeman, it is the authority granted by all the people of the locality which that policeman represents. Thus, punching a peer is a crime committed against one person, while punching a policeman is a crime committed against all the law-abiding persons of that city who have placed their combined will in the office of that policeman to protect them from criminals.

It follows, therefore, that punching a policeman is actually two crimes, first of harming the man, and second, of rebelling against the authority represented by the fact that that person is in uniform. Ergo, punching a policeman is a more serious act than punching a peer.

It follows, therefore, that if the authority being resisted or rejected is greater, then the seriousness and consequences increase in proportion to the level of authority of the entity being resisted or rejected. In the case of the President, it is the authority granted by all the people of the United States via the vehicle of the U.S. Constitution. In the case of resisting or rebelling against Eru (or God), it is the authority of the creator, owner and sustainer of the entire universe, the benvolent almighty being who represents the greatest good for every created thing. Now *that's* Authority!

Trying to overthrow the school board might be local news, and might not even be a crime. Trying to overthrow the government of the United States (whether you think it's a good idea or not) is a much more serious crime. Trying to overthrow the Almighty Creator Eru so that you can take his place...that's a crime of infinite magnitude.

And if you think about it, every time anyone rejects the law of God and does something contrary to His principles, isn't that an attempt to overthrow the rightful authority of Eru/God over that life?

[ December 08, 2002: Message edited by: Thenamir ]
__________________
The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.
~~ Marcus Aurelius
Thenamir is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-08-2002, 05:34 PM   #16
Kalessin
Wight
 
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Earthsea, or London
Posts: 175
Kalessin has just left Hobbiton.
Sting

Thenamir, I am still unsure about your argument concerning justice as a validation of the state, the executive - or status quo.

You say

Quote:
... punching a policeman is actually two crimes, first of harming the man, and second, of rebelling against the authority represented by the fact that that person is in uniform. Ergo, punching a policeman is a more serious act than punching a peer.

It follows, therefore, that if the authority being resisted or rejected is greater, then the seriousness and consequences increase in proportion to the level of authority of the entity being resisted or rejected.
The problem I have is that whilst the hierarchy of crime, so to speak, makes sense, it has absolutely nothing to do with justice or morality. For example, an African-American slave that attempted to escape, or resisted enslavement with violence, may indeed have committed a crime against the legislature and office, and even against the will of the majority, over and above any harm to those particular individuals attempting to enslave him. But is this a crime that is invariably punished by the highest of authorities? You have 'render unto Caesar' on the one hand and 'they that are persecuted in My name' on the other.

In the end, surely true justice would be that the act itself is judged (the intention, circumstances etc.) and punished, not that any judgment is based upon the authority of the victim.

You could then argue that, yes, in an ideal world this would be the case - yet still a non-human being such as Eru would have overarching powers to punish any direct challenge to Divine authority. Eru is not bound to accept any human concept (or gesture) of redemption. But if this is the case, the question of first cause again arises.

If a punishment so terrible will inevitably follow a damning judgement, the crime itself must be of awesome magnitude. If this crime was foreknown, and allowed, and either a result of, or an aspect of, a Free Will which is no more than a gift (or act of will) from the original Creator, then Free Will was given with this knowledge ... and, it is certainly possible to argue, with this purpose.

As I said, I am not convinced Tolkien or 2,000 years of theological philosophy provide a satisfactory answer to the conundrum. Unlike the 2,000 years etc., Tolkien was perhaps not attempting to, nor should he bear any responsibility for leaving the question unanswered. That the question is asked, and explored, with such resonance and depth is his contribution.

Peace [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Kalessin
Kalessin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2003, 11:55 AM   #17
Thenamir
Spectre of Capitalism
 
Thenamir's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Battling evil bureaucrats at Zeta Aquilae
Posts: 987
Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!Thenamir has reached the Cracks of Doom and destroyed the Ring!
Sting

Kalessin

Quote:
For example, an African-American slave that attempted to escape, or resisted enslavement with violence, may indeed have committed a crime against the legislature and office, and even against the will of the majority, over and above any harm to those particular individuals attempting to enslave him.
Forgive me. I never intended to imply that the will of the majority is an infallible judge of what is right. Someone once said that pure democracy is 3 wolves and a sheep voting on dinner. Your example of slavery is an excellent case in point. But it does show rather well that there is a "higher standard", a better yardstick, that the will of the majority is hardly the last word in justice.

Enter Eru. The principles set down by an all-knowing Being of pure benevolence, One Who seeks only the greatest good for the universe as a whole and each individual in particular, can not be judged on the same level as laws made by limited and fallible men. There is no higher standard.

In the case yo mention of a resisting or escaping slave, he would be prosecuted by the laws of the day and found guilty of disobeying an unjust law. Laws change. The Creator does not. Slavery was wrong from the get-go by the Highest Standard, but men failed to see it. The 20-20 hindsight provided by history vindicates the actions of those who fought slavery.

As an aside. it is interesting that you mention the Biblical quotes ("rendering unto Caesar" etc.), because there is a particularly applicable principle in the book of Acts. When the disciples of Christ were given an unjust command by the lawful authorities of the day, they responded, "We must obey God rather than men."

True justice, as you say, will judge the intentions (the "heart") of the guilty. To apply this to my prior posts, let me amend the scenario thusly. If a man punches a policeman, he is already guilty of the crime of assault against a person -- this much is given. If the pugilistic man is unaware that the victim is a policeman, and not just a policeman but one on-duty and acting in the lawful course of his duties, then true justice will not convict the man of the more serious crime of assaulting a police officer.

On the other hand, if the man does know that the man being punched is a policeman, and is punching him with the purpose of resisting or hindering him from his just and lawful purposes, then true justice will convict him of figuratively punching the hundreds or thousands of people whose collective will gives the policeman his authority. I think the best word is rebellion.

To tie this all together, there can be no question that Melkor and Sauron knew just exactly Who they were rebelling against. This makes their crime heinous indeed.

Lastly, I do not claim to have the last word on the free-will/predestination debate -- I don't even know if I properly grasp the question in all its complexity. All I have is a framework that explains enough for me not to worry about the question. And enough faith to hope that the Creator does not deceive when he makes everyone think that they are independent wills, choosing their actions.

Thanks, Kalessin, for the interesting debate.
__________________
The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.
~~ Marcus Aurelius
Thenamir is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-02-2006, 08:36 PM   #18
Son of Númenor
A Shade of Westernesse
 
Son of Númenor's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: The last wave over Atalantë
Posts: 519
Son of Númenor has just left Hobbiton.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
I don't think that, in a Judeo-Christian-Tolkienian context, the origin of evil can be any further reduced than to free will. Free will is a strange and in some ways paradoxical concept, but one thing it does very well is act as a metaphysical device for the creation of evil. The paradox lies, I think, not in the generation of evil by free will, but in the generation of free will by supreme good. This is in my opinion an unanswerable question, and an unresolved contradiction. If you're going to suspend disbelief and accept Tolkien's world though (or, I would add, Judeo-Christian theology), you simply have to accept it.
I have often tried in vain to grapple with the concept of free will as something bestowed upon mankind by a Creator. I wonder the extent to which Tolkien felt the weight of the paradox while creating Middle-earth and, more importantly, while contemplating his own faith. I gather (possibly entirely inaccurately) from the Legendarium and Letters that he considers the Almighty capable of creating a will separate of His own, for the simple fact that he is omnipotent in the purest possible sense of the word. Many find this paradoxical simply because, logically, the Creator must create inherently of Himself; where would any separate building blocks come from?

The old Vedic concepts of Brahman and Purusha seem particularly pertinent to any discussion of will (though how pertinent they are to Middle-earth is debatable). Forgive me, Hindu Downers, if my knowledge of the Vedas proves skewed. Purusha, to my understanding, is deemed by the Vedas to be the Ultimate Self (Atman): it encompasses -- is -- everything. Brahman is the 'physical' manifestation of Purusha: a split in the Self occurs literally infinitely, on an infinite planes, wherein Brahman becomes the physically limited entity 'the universe'.

The Vedas posit that each of us is none other than the Purusha, and that individual egos merely reflect a 'dream' of Purusha, a stream of consciousness in the physical Brahman which feels it is its own Atman because it is given a name and told that it is, for example, 'you', 'him', 'John', 'my son', 'his brother', etc. and that the collection of ever-dividing and -dying cells that forms the physical body is 'your body', or even is 'you'. So on some level every unenlightened person -- that is, everyone who has not rid himself of ego and recognized himself as the All-One -- is really just Purusha playing games with Itself, dreaming something that is not inherently 'real'. Although the leaps of faith that those of us who remain unenlightened have to take in order to believe that God is playing mind games with himself are staggering, this model explains free will rationally in the sense that it is logical within the confines of the Vedic canon.

How would Tolkien react to this notion? Does the concept of the All-Knowing Creator as, on some level, thinking wrongly that he is creating something that inherently Not Himself appalling to Catholics? How would he react to a fan asking of him, 'Is Gollum, on some level, Eru?' (These questions are not rhetorical, by the way. Although none here can speak on Tolkien's behalf, there are some who are far more versed in Catholic canon -- and in the Professor's own beliefs as laid down in his extensive body of work -- than I.)
__________________
"This miserable drizzling afternoon I have been reading up old military lecture-notes again:- and getting bored with them after an hour and a half. I have done some touches to my nonsense fairy language - to its improvement."
Son of Númenor is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-02-2006, 11:15 PM   #19
Formendacil
Dead Serious
 
Formendacil's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Perched on Thangorodrim's towers.
Posts: 3,275
Formendacil is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Formendacil is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Formendacil is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Formendacil is lost in the dark paths of Moria.
Send a message via AIM to Formendacil Send a message via MSN to Formendacil
Quote:
Originally Posted by Son of Númenor
How would Tolkien react to this notion? Does the concept of the All-Knowing Creator as, on some level, thinking wrongly that he is creating something that inherently Not Himself appalling to Catholics? How would he react to a fan asking of him, 'Is Gollum, on some level, Eru?' (These questions are not rhetorical, by the way. Although none here can speak on Tolkien's behalf, there are some who are far more versed in Catholic canon -- and in the Professor's own beliefs as laid down in his extensive body of work -- than I.)
As you say, none here can speak on Tolkien's behalf, but as a professor (not a teacher, but one who professes) the same faith as the Master, I'll throw in my two bits about what I'm thinking.

You ask if an All-Powerful Creator thinking wrongly about something different than Himself is an idea that appalls Catholics. My answer is that it shouldn't.

According to Catholic belief, the REASON God created Mankind, and the whole world to sustain it, is that God desired other beings to Love and to Love Him. God, being God, can do whatever He wants. He is, in other words, omnipotent.

Since omnipotence is not limited by anything, God could create, were He to want to, a world that is totally opposed to all that we consider right and good. He does NOT do this, however, because of the love which He bears. God loves us, and wants us to love Him in return, so the natural world He creates is one in which love is a powerful force, in which love is naturally able to function.

(And yet, one could say, the very reason love is so powerful is that it is a SUPERnatural force, a force that is not inherently found in creation, and is thus so powerful simply because it comes from God.)

However, in order for love to be true love, it must come freely. Hence, free will. God wanted true, complete, free love. Love, in other words, that parallels the love He has for us. It was natural and necessary therefore that those who were to be the recipients of His love, and who were to love Him in return: us humans, be given the free will to choose to love- or to choose not to love.

Although many people choose to love, this free will means, and has always meant, that people would choose NOT to love, which is the cause of much of the EVIL in this world.

So, the short answer is that Catholics do NOT find the idea of God creating beings that choose to do evil abhorent.



How would Tolkien react to someone saying that, on some level, Gollum is Eru? To be honest, I think he would agree.

According to Christian faith, we are all called to treat every one of our friends and neighbours as Christ- as God. What we do to them, we do to God. What we fail to do, we fail to do to God.

On a similar note, God uses each and every one of us as His instruments, to perform his works on earth.

However, your original meaning of the question here seems to be "What would Tolkien say if you said that Eru, as Gollum's creator, naturally exhibits Gollum's less-than-savoury tendencies". In this case, I think that Tolkien would have to disagree with you.

Again, this goes back to the idea of free will. Gollum's more abhorent natures are the results of him choosing NOT to do Eru's (God's) work, to love. His less-than-pleasing attributes are the hallmarks of his exercising his free will AWAY from his creator, rather than indications of him being the work of that same creator.

Anyway, I hope I got the gist of the questions right, and I hope that my Catholic-based view of Tolkien's opinions doesn't overly offend anyone. I'm just stating what appears to me to be the case.
__________________
I prefer history, true or feigned.
Formendacil is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 09:19 AM.



Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.