(urth) silk horn

Chris rasputin_ at hotmail.com
Wed Dec 8 11:09:15 PST 2004

Turin said:
>As far as the "complex" and "simple" views are concerned, I think the first 
>class if complex and the second simple.  We would call them instead the 
>dynamic and static self, though this isn't very desciptive either.  Here is 
>a question.  Descartes believed the soul is an "object" outside of time and 
>space which somehow corresponds to consciousness and is interact with the 
>meat world.  This is of course logically impossible.  However, for Wolfe it 
>does not seem the soul is the mind, otherwise why the distinction between 
>the cases we've looked at, if of course, you think the the distinction is 
>valid.  However, does Wolfe think of the soul outside of time?

I should clarify something here, the way I was using the terms, none of 
these examples are in themselves complex or simple. There are just complex 
and simple *views* you can take of each case. Example:

A complex view of Severian/Thecla would say that Sev's body actually 
combines both identities, Severian and Thecla, sometimes acting as one, the 
other, or a combination of the two. From this view you can either argue that 
both Severian and Thecla's souls are present, *or* alternately that they 
have become a single entity that is neither Severian nor Thecla but a sort 
of Theclaverian.

A simple view of this same case would say that Severian is Severian, period; 
Thecla is not present in soul, it's just that Severian sometimes behaves 
like Thecla sometimes. (I leave out the possibility that you could argue, 
even with the simple view, that Thecla's soul really was transferred to 
Severian by some other means - it's just that such a transfer could not be 
accomplished by the mere ingesting of memories).


The case of Rose in Marble has a breakdown that is more or less similar. 
What I think Silk (and possibly Wolfe) is doing with that case is, finally, 
throwing his hands up and giving up on the attempt to answer, in truth, 
whether Rose is really in there (in soul) and instead focussing on the moral 
aspect: if it thinks it is a moral agent (thinks it is, more specifically, 
Rose) and behaves like a moral agent (Rose) then you should treat it as 
such, lacking any realy way to know for sure. This would apply to all 
ethical issues, including reward/punishment and promise-keeping - if you had 
made a promise to Thecla and she spoke to you through Severian, you would be 
bound to keep that promise. Similarly, Silk feels a duty to apologize to 
Rose-in-Marble for problems he had had with Rose.

This ethical synthesis doesn't favor either the complex or simple views. In 
fact, a "true believer" of either of these views would be unlikely to adopt 
such a stance: the "simple view" would tend to say that you're only bound by 
your obligations to *Severian* (since Thecla isn't really there), and the 
die-hard proponent of the "complex view" generally has only the most tenuous 
grounds for honoring any promise/obligation at all - because identity is 
changing constantly your obligation isn't to that person, who no longer 
exists, but rather your obligation is *at most* to uphold the institution of 
promise-keeping, which would pretty much allow you to violate any promise so 
long as nobody knows about it (as long as nobody witnesses your violation, 
their faith in the institution of promises won't be undermined). So you 
would be as likely to honor a promise to Thecla as to Severian, unless 
nobody was looking.

This is something of an oversimplification. The complex and simple views 
don't really lock you into an ethical position, but they do make certain 
ethical positions easier to hold than others.

Silk/Horn is a more complex case which I don't have time to go into right 
now, but what's interesting there is that there are 2-4 alternate accounts 
of what happened to choose from if you take the simple view, and 2-4 more on 
the complex view (just choosing the obvious possibilities). And these 
alternate accounts end up being substantially different when it comes to 
describing what happened in the Short Sun series, to the point where it 
might actually be possible to eliminate one of the views as being 
incompatible with Wolfe's overall theme. But I haven't really worked all 
that out yet.


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