(urth) All is Shadow and dust

maru marudubshinki at gmail.com
Thu Apr 7 19:47:42 PDT 2005

Chris wrote:

> To summarize before trying to answer, what I take it you're asking is 
> (shifting the focus from Severian to the Hieros, since on this view 
> Severian is just a tool of the Hieros) whether the Hieros, as higher 
> beings, are above judgment with regard to their plans for Urth. 
> (Although to be honest I'm not sure that the Hieros plan for things to 
> be this way, or if they simply accept it as an inevitability and 
> willingly play their roles).
> Following Aquinas, God is beyond human judgment and the Hieros could 
> be themselves just tools of God, or else beings who operate, like God, 
> in a sphere where our judgments are not qualified to reach. 
> Theologically speaking once you've taken this first move, of allowing 
> that Sev is really a tool of a higher power with no choice in the 
> matter, you've mooted the whole question before you begin; this way of 
> looking at Sev is not a perspective which allows us to *ask* ethical 
> questions in the first place.
> To move things one step down and more safely answer the direct queries 
> here:
> Personally I think rights do follow a continuum scale to an extent, 
> and I think this accords *generally* with our intuitions in how we 
> ought to deal with animals and other people in a variety of 
> circumstances. It's certainly arguable, though, so I'm not going to 
> claim my opinion is obviously or self-evidently true.
> What I can say is that thinking of rights along a continuum scale do 
> not automatically authorize the move you suggest. On a simplistic 
> level, we can imagine a limited continuum scale on which "rational 
> beings" form one endpoint, and insenate matter (rocks, let's say) the 
> other; by this scale the Hieros would stand on an equal level with 
> humans, cacogens, etc. And if you don't like rationality as an 
> endpoint, others are imaginable ("moral agents" perhaps).
> But this is a tricky question because it is very easy to slip back 
> toward the theological standpoint, wholly or partially. For example we 
> could imagine the Hieros having "super-rational powers", etc. To this 
> end just remember that our ethical judgments are bound to *our* way of 
> thinking, what we call rationality, and we can judge things by no 
> other standard. What I am calling the "theological move" is not a way 
> of saying that we *can't* judge godly or super-rational beings on our 
> own terms - we can - but it is a normative claim that we *ought not* 
> do so.
Just a minor point- Are you sure about that definition of the 
'theological move'?  It strikes more as a way to say that godly beings' 
concerns reach so far beyond ours, in areas beyond our experience, 
dealing with such vast quantities of time/space/creatures/data that our 
intuitions and flawed, merely human logic is essentially guaranteed to 
be wrong, simply because we lack the necessary data or heuristics.  
Which is not a normative claim, but more a pratical one, like a monkey 
trying to understand calculus, 'don't even bother trying'.  Personally, 
I see little of the normative claim in UOTNS- things *are* explained and 
justified, if not well or completely, and the Hs do not act utterly 
superior; they go so far as to repeatedly test Autarchs and get some 
semblance of permission from Urthians (the battle), so they definitely 
don't believe in the normative claim, and if the Hs don't accept it, who 
could have the right? The Increate? But the Increate never intervenes.

> And, yes, if we make such a move then we will end up exempting 
> Severian from judgment; this was one of my original points in the post 
> about judging Severian. But if so we should be aware that this is what 
> we are doing, and try to reach an understanding of why we're doing it, 
> how we got to this point of view.

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