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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Do Elves have free will?

visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 21 2008, 3:53pm

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Do Elves have free will? Can't Post

On the surface of it, this might sound like one of those perennial, unanswerable questions (like those old favorites to do with Balrogs' wings, pointed ears, and so forth); but as it happened, this became a point of major debate at this year's Mythcon (last weekend in New Britain, CT). You can read my full Mythcon conference report online, including details on the debate and reviews of the papers and panels I attended (and gave).

Scholars of no lesser stature than Verlyn Flieger and Carl Hostetter argued the two sides of the point in their papers. Verlyn contended that Elves do not have free will (though Men do), relying on a close reading of the Ainulindalë, semantics, and etymology to back up her claim. On the other hand, Carl argued that Tolkien's intent was clear: to endow the Elves indeed with their own free will. Carl had the strength of some unpublished linguistic notes from Tolkien (written in late 1968 or 1969) on the Elvish words ambar and umbar to back up his position, and we were lucky enough to get to hear about three pages' worth of unpublished Tolkien in his paper. In between and after their two talks, the conversation continued, and the debate was played out again and again in hallway and meal-time conversations over the course of the whole weekend.

So what do all of you think? Free will or no free will? To choose or not to choose, that is the question ...

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 21 2008, 5:18pm

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Could you provide some ground rules? [In reply to] Can't Post

I read your report (and very interesting it was!) but it didn't enlighten me much about what the issues are surrounding the free will (or not) of the Elves. To start with, is the question whether or not Tolkien intended the Elves to have free will? Or whether, on the basis of the published work, they appear to do so? Do we assume that the Silmarillion is the work of the Elves themselves and therefore represents their own philosophy (possibly as incomplete or as multi-faceted as our own), or that it represents the "truth" as decreed by Tolkien?

Free will is a tricky enough topic just in terms of Men (and hobbits) - getting past that to look specifically at the Elves sounds like a pretty tall order!

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 21 2008, 5:52pm

Post #3 of 157 (10386 views)
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Yes, good questions! [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I read your report (and very interesting it was!) but it didn't enlighten me much about what the issues are surrounding the free will (or not) of the Elves.



Thanks. And yes, I didn't recapitulate the arguments themselves in my report. That was mainly for the sake of brevity there. Here, one might say it's so as not to prejudice people's opinions too much. We're all capable of marshalling quotations in support of one view or the other, so it seems unnecessarily limiting to enumerate those presented in the papers. Your questions —


Quote
To start with, is the question whether or not Tolkien intended the Elves to have free will? Or whether, on the basis of the published work, they appear to do so? Do we assume that the Silmarillion is the work of the Elves themselves and therefore represents their own philosophy (possibly as incomplete or as multi-faceted as our own), or that it represents the "truth" as decreed by Tolkien?



— are all worth grappling with, I think. You raise some of the same issues I did in hashing this out with others. Verlyn's approach might be characterized as relying solely on the published material (extending that to include some of the now published drafts in The History of Middle-earth). As such, one isn't certain whether (as you point out) these writrings represent the Elves' own Weltanschauung, or whether they accord with Tolkien's larger intentions to convey the "truth" (if that was in fact his intention). Putting it another way, we don't know for certain whose voice we're actually reading. The fact that Tolkien thought to relate the "Silmarillion" through a frame narrative, but that this device was eliminated from the published Silmarillion, further muddies the water. But thinking of Carl's paper, referring as it did to unpublished linguistic notes by Tolkien, we have to assume this is Tolkien's own voice, I think, and therefore a more definite assertion of "truth". Even so, it seems to conflict with parts of the Ainulindalë, quoted by Verlyn in defense of her thesis. And there is the issue of whether Tolkien may have changed his mind at some point, mid-stream.

Tricky stuff. We really don't know for certain and for all time, I think, but we can venture opinions of our own. Either bounded with the story, or extended outside it to bring in our guesses about Tolkien's intent and purpose. Does that help to establish some ground rules?

Now what do you say? Wink

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 21 2008, 9:53pm

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Mandos and Aule [In reply to] Can't Post

To me the fact that Mandos judges elves indicates to me that they do indeed have free will. Why judge them, otherwise? Why confine some to the Halls of Mandos longer than others as part of their re-education?

I also recall the sub-creation of dwarves by Aule. When Aule repented and would have destroyed them, they pleaded with him for life, proving that they had free will separate from their maker--a gift from Illuvatar. However, Illuvatar also ruled that he would not have them supercede his own creations, and so they had to sleep until the Children of Illuvatar should awaken. If Illuvatar would not have them come first in the matter of waking, then he certainly would not give them free will yet deny it to his own creation.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 21 2008, 10:05pm

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Yes, yes, I agree. [In reply to] Can't Post

The issue of the fairness of punishment was one of my own major arguments in favor of free will in debates last weekend (and I’ve made this case before, and in published work, no less). Without it, you can’t very well make judgments or take punitive action, can you? As to the Dwarves, I actually raised this very question during the Q&A at the end of Verlyn Flieger's paper, and she asserted forcefully that only Men have free will — not Elves, not Dwarves, just Men. (Hobbits, being a branch of Men, would have it too, of course.) I suppose one could say that the behavior of Aulë’s children was mere puppetry under the control of Eru, no longer of Aulë, but still puppetry. But I don’t buy that. It feels hollow, and I can’t imagine it’s what Tolkien intended. I’m with you on this one, Dreamdeer.

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 21 2008, 10:18pm

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No. But I will have to get to this later. [In reply to] Can't Post

Fate has placed a moving van in my way: my job site has changed buildings and I have been shepherding my flock (more like herding cats, maybe) as we do this difficult thing. It's always hard to leave "home", even when it's your job site. And these old bones aren't up to all this packing and unpacking.

However, I have thought some more since Mythcon, and still fall out on Verlyn Flieger's side of the argument. We'll see how I feel about it when this discussion is all over...

Hoping to hear all other opinions, and get to mine by Saturday.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 21 2008, 11:05pm

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Would anyone have thought to ask this question before 1977? [In reply to] Can't Post

Is there any indication in the works that Tolkien published in his lifetime that Elves (and Dwarves) do not have free will?

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Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Aug 21 2008, 11:54pm

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I have long argued ... [In reply to] Can't Post

... that the question is more complex than simply saying that men have free will and elves do not (based primarily on the statement that the Music was not as Fate to men in the same way that it was to all others). For example, quoting perhaps my favorite passage in all of Tolkien's work:

'But behold!' said he, 'in the armour of Fate (as the Children of Earth name it) there is ever a rift, and in the walls of Doom a breach, until the full-making, which ye call the End. So it shall be while I endure, a secret voice that gainsayeth, and a light where darkness was decreed. Therefore, though in the days of this darkness I seem to oppose the will of my brethren, the Lords of the West, that is my part among them, to which I was appointed ere the making of the World. Yet Doom is strong, and the shadow of the Enemy lengthens; and I am diminished, until in Middle-earth I am become now no more than a secret whisper. The waters that run westward wither, and their springs are poisoned, and my power withdraws from the land; for Elves and Men grow blind and deaf to me because of the might of Melkor. And now the Curse of Mandos hastens to its fulfilment, and all the works of the Noldor shall perish, and every hope which they build shall crumble. The last hope alone is left, the hope that they have not looked for and have not prepared. And that hope lieth in thee; for so I have chosen.'

Consider the full depth and breadth of these words, my friends. With the Noldor caught between the darkness of Melkor and the darkness of the curse of Mandos that they brought upon themselves through their own actions, Ulmo chooses a Man as his unalterable instrument in levering that rift in the Armour of Fate, that breach in the walls of Doom. This really turns the scheme that Tolkien has laid out, with the Music being as Fate to the Elves, while Men are supposedly free to choose their own destiny, on its face. Because we see that the Noldor are trapped into deepening darkness through their own choices, while we see a Man having no choice but to play the role that Ulmo has chosen for him. Nowhere does Tolkien make a more telling description of the true interaction between fate and free will then in this passage.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 22 2008, 1:12am

Post #9 of 157 (10480 views)
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The Great Tolkienic Contradiction Conspiracy... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
... that the question is more complex than simply saying that men have free will and elves do not (based primarily on the statement that the Music was not as Fate to men in the same way that it was to all others). For example, quoting perhaps my favorite passage in all of Tolkien's work:

'But behold!' said he, 'in the armour of Fate (as the Children of Earth name it) there is ever a rift, and in the walls of Doom a breach, until the full-making, which ye call the End. So it shall be while I endure, a secret voice that gainsayeth, and a light where darkness was decreed. Therefore, though in the days of this darkness I seem to oppose the will of my brethren, the Lords of the West, that is my part among them, to which I was appointed ere the making of the World. Yet Doom is strong, and the shadow of the Enemy lengthens; and I am diminished, until in Middle-earth I am become now no more than a secret whisper. The waters that run westward wither, and their springs are poisoned, and my power withdraws from the land; for Elves and Men grow blind and deaf to me because of the might of Melkor. And now the Curse of Mandos hastens to its fulfilment, and all the works of the Noldor shall perish, and every hope which they build shall crumble. The last hope alone is left, the hope that they have not looked for and have not prepared. And that hope lieth in thee; for so I have chosen.'

Consider the full depth and breadth of these words, my friends. With the Noldor caught between the darkness of Melkor and the darkness of the curse of Mandos that they brought upon themselves through their own actions, Ulmo chooses a Man as his unalterable instrument in levering that rift in the Armour of Fate, that breach in the walls of Doom. This really turns the scheme that Tolkien has laid out, with the Music being as Fate to the Elves, while Men are supposedly free to choose their own destiny, on its face. Because we see that the Noldor are trapped into deepening darkness through their own choices, while we see a Man having no choice but to play the role that Ulmo has chosen for him. Nowhere does Tolkien make a more telling description of the true interaction between fate and free will then in this passage.



The section you quoted is excellent, Voronwe, excellent at showing the contradictory nature of Tolkien's fate and free will. Consider, did Tuor have a choice of refusing Ulmo? If he did not, then he lost his free will to make a decision, and merely became a tool of fate. In any event, one wonders how one could refuse a behemoth Valar come roiling from the sea in full regalia.

But let's look at a basic definition of Free Will. There are two basic definors of Free Will:
1. The ability or discretion to choose; free choice.
2. The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will.

If one looks at the first aspect of the definition, then Elves do indeed have Free Will (Some chose to follow Orome to Aman, some did not, and likewise many Noldor willfuly chose to leave Aman even under the threat of Mandos' ban); however, if one goes by the second aspect of Free Will, then Elves do not. HOWEVER #2: Men, particularly in the Silmarillion, also fall under the second aspect of Free Will, and in the cases of Tuor and Turin are agents of fate and not Free Will. Then there is the conundrum of the peredhil: Were Earendil, Elrond, Elros or Arwen Elvish or Mannish when they made their decisions on race? It would seem that Free Will, not Fate was the impetus of their choices. In the case of Arwen, she was over 2900 years old when she decided to become mortal, which of course is decidedly beyond all age actuarials for men, even of Elros' line, and indicative of an Elf; therefore, there is room to answer like an Elf: both yes and no...and I don't think anyone can offer a debate that can move me from sitting on the fence regarding this topic.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)

(This post was edited by Morthoron on Aug 22 2008, 1:13am)


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 22 2008, 1:58am

Post #10 of 157 (10308 views)
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There is no answer, of course [In reply to] Can't Post

Ainulindalë is an unfinished story that Tolkien never saw fit to publish, ergo it's a mistake to take it too exclusively.

In all of your discussions, however, I think there is one thing more that is perhaps the true meaning of the Elves' lack of free will. It is fated in the Music that the Elves will fade before Men. Even though the Elves may have their choice of how to fade, and what fading actually means, it is nonetheless true that the world that is peopled and dominated by Elves will one day be supplanted by one that is run by Men.

Men, by contrast, have ultimate control over their own destiny, as a race, whether or not Men have that control at the individual level. Mankind may destroy himself by his neglect for the world the Elves left him and his disregard for nature and the natural order. Alternatively, Men may rise to the occasion, live as the Elves did in harmony with other things that live, and thereby prosper, until the Great End and the Second Music, and Men may even have some say in what the outcome of the Great End might be.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 22 2008, 2:42am

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Be careful... [In reply to] Can't Post

... about what terms are used in this discussion. Tolkien does not ascribe Free Will to Men (and by implication deny it to Elves) in any text save the very first pencil draft of what became "The Ainulindale". Already in the next, fair copy version Tolkien replaced the term "will" with "virtue"; and these terms are not interchangeable. Virtue is power (i.e., ability and/or efficacy), not (simply) will (i.e., intent/choice). I submit that the usual dichotomy drawn between Fate and Free Will in these discussions is false. Tolkien makes it quite plain that Will is operative only within "provided circumstances" (i.e. of the World (ambar) and of Fate (umbar); see Letters p. 195): thus they are not mutually exclusive terms.

--
Carl F. Hostetter


(This post was edited by Aelfwine on Aug 22 2008, 2:43am)


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 22 2008, 2:46am

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Fickle Finger of Fate [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree, come to think of it, with your complexity model. I do, no doubt in my mind, believe that elves have free will. However, like ents, they are not quite as bendable as men; they have a harder time moving out of whatever rut they dig for themselves, perhaps simply because they have more years in which to establish deep habits.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 22 2008, 2:48am

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The Big But... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Ainulindalë is an unfinished story that Tolkien never saw fit to publish, ergo it's a mistake to take it too exclusively.

In all of your discussions, however, I think there is one thing more that is perhaps the true meaning of the Elves' lack of free will. It is fated in the Music that the Elves will fade before Men. Even though the Elves may have their choice of how to fade, and what fading actually means, it is nonetheless true that the world that is peopled and dominated by Elves will one day be supplanted by one that is run by Men.

Men, by contrast, have ultimate control over their own destiny, as a race, whether or not Men have that control at the individual level. Mankind may destroy himself by his neglect for the world the Elves left him and his disregard for nature and the natural order. Alternatively, Men may rise to the occasion, live as the Elves did in harmony with other things that live, and thereby prosper, until the Great End and the Second Music, and Men may even have some say in what the outcome of the Great End might be.


Ainulindalë is an unfinished story because Tolkien ran out of time, not because he didn't think it fit to publish. I seem to remember that he made his son Christopher his literary executor for the express purpose that The Silmarillion (with the Ainulindalë as a component) be eventually published.

So, what you are saying is that as individuals Elves may have Free Will, but as a race, they do not; whereas, Men may not necessarily have Free Will as individuals, but have it as a race. But even that definition is not complete, because there is no textual evidence that Elves faded in Aman; therefore, the lack of Free Will (in this case regarding an ultimate destiny, fading) is conditional upon place and not time. In addition, there is the reincarnational aspect of Elvish existence, which indicates that it is possible for regeneration even after a natural death (which does not seem to be the case for Men in Tolkien's cosmology).

Again, I am not at all certain there is a definite yes or no to this question without adding caveats. Tolkien's Free Will is relational and spatial, but not finite.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 22 2008, 2:55am

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Not so, actually: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Ainulindalë is an unfinished story that Tolkien never saw fit to publish


"The Ainulindalë" in fact was finished (in the sense of "complete"), and in fact it was Tolkien's intent to publish it. He was thwarted in this intent only by a reluctant publisher and because other parts of "The Silmarillion" were unfinished.

--
Carl F. Hostetter


Elizabeth
Half-elven


Aug 22 2008, 4:16am

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Yes. [In reply to] Can't Post

This argument makes sense. Besides, if Elves don't have free will, the whole of the Sil falls apart. Its entire thesis deals with bad and good choices (of Elves, Dwarves, and Men, not to mention a dog) and their consequences.

But then, folks don't even agree on the extent to which Primary World people have free will, so there's really no hope of an ultimate answer.





Sunset, July 3, 2008

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Aug 22 2008, 6:35am

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Have You Seen It? [In reply to] Can't Post

Christopher describes the final version of The Ainulindalë (which he labels as version "D") as a "manuscript of unusual splendour, with illuminated capitals and a beautiful script." I would dearly love to see that manuscript. I am sure that it is quite spectacular. Have you seen it?

The text of the Ainulindalë published in The Silmarillion has relatively few editorial changes from that version, mostly related to the removal of Pengoloð, Ælfwine, and Rumil from the narrative. However, only the portion of the work that is identified by Tolkien as having been made by Rúmil is included in the published version. Much of the rest of "versions D" (which is identified as additional words of Pengoloð) was actually incorporated into what became Chapter One of the published Quenta Silmarillion, "Of the Beginning of Days."

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 22 2008, 7:25am

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So what does 'fading' mean? [In reply to] Can't Post

I said that although the Elves are destined to fade, the way in which they fade may be up to them, i.e. they can't choose not to be succeeded by Men as the dominant intelligent race on Arda, but they may be able to choose how they are succeeded. The choice made by the Calaquendi, both those that remained in Valinor and those who returned there after the exile, was to seal themselves in a realm that is no longer consequential to the events transpiring in the rest of Arda. Those who remain in Middle Earth have several options: they can fade into obscurity, again still surviving but not mattering; they can be made incorporeal by the taint of Melkor, thus literally fading from material reality; finally, they can be killed.

Most of the Noldor and Sindar chose to be killed. The fate of the Avari is less clear. Nonetheless, even though Thranduil and his people may still exist, the movers and shakers of the world from the Fourth Age onward are nations of Men: Gondor, Rohan, Harad, and their descendent nations.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 22 2008, 10:57am

Post #18 of 157 (10246 views)
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yes, and the answer is more complex, too [In reply to] Can't Post

I think.

I really wish Flieger had already published her paper so I could read it and see if I agree after reading (she presented a paper at Mythcon that basically said Elves do not have free will).

But even though I'm becoming mush in the remembering-what-people-have-said department, I still think the answer (as well as the question) is more complex than yes/no. And it has to do with the intersections of Fate, Providence, and Free-Will of Created Creatures. Which is what I think LOTR is all about, too.

More when my brain has time to think.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 22 2008, 11:16am

Post #19 of 157 (10282 views)
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I say "Tolkien and Free Will" is very popular this year [In reply to] Can't Post

Do you have any of the papers presented at The Tolkien Society Seminar 2008? The topic was: Freedom, Fate and Choice in Middle-earth.

I need some help if I'm going to argue the opposite side (from you, I mean). Ammunition, as it were.

Cool

I'm just saying.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 22 2008, 12:26pm

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Indeed. [In reply to] Can't Post

Free will entailing moral responsibility has to be a given in order for any of Tolkien's stories to have a point. But free will doesn't have to be in opposition to Fate, or to God's will.

From a Catholic Encyclopedia entry:

The doctrine that God has created man, has commanded him to obey the moral law, and has promised to reward or punish him for observance or violation of this law, made the reality of moral liberty an issue of transcendent importance. Unless man is really free, he cannot be justly held responsible for his actions, any more than for the date of his birth or the colour of his eyes.

Here's how I read this: God has a Plan for us, but he doesn't force us to follow it - we are given the opportunity to follow it willingly, out of love and devotion, for which we will be rewarded. Or we can choose not to follow it, but if we do that we will be held responsible for our disobedience and God's design will still be accomplished in some other way (just as the Music is reconstituted after Melkor's intervention). To be without free will would be to be like the orcs - forced to follow their master's plan out of fear and despair. But either way there is a Plan - the difference is in the way that Plan is accomplished - either willingly, out of love, or forcibly, out of fear.

The point of free will isn't to do exactly what one wants, but to do one's duty freely and willingly - to accept one's Fate (the Plan) and do one's best no matter what that Fate may be. In fact that's what the Ring would take away - even if Galadriel were to be a loving mistress and ask nothing but good of her subjects, she knows that if she ruled with the Ring her subjects would have no will in the matter, and would be forced to obey her only in despair.


In Reply To
But then, folks don't even agree on the extent to which Primary World people have free will, so there's really no hope of an ultimate answer.



Maybe that's what intrigues me most about Tolkien's depiction of the issue of Free Will - his texts have the same kind of ambiguity and complexity that Primary World philosophies do. Personally, I prefer to read the Sil as the Elves' equivalent of the Bible, which for me means the basis of Elves' own philosophy rather than "revealed truth". But the strength of Tolkien, as we have seen so often in LotR, is that he leaves these questions open enough that the different readings not only work but actually add depth and complexity to his world.

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Aug 22 2008, 2:06pm

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Was Flieger's Basic Thesis Different Than What She Previously Has Said? [In reply to] Can't Post

I am curious to know whether Flieger's paper divurged significantly from her previously statements on the subject, particularly in Splintered Light in which basically stated (I'm paraphrasing, probably badly, from memory here) that the Elves' fate was influenced by Men's free will, and Men's free will was influenced by the Elves fate. (I'll try to pull out a quote at some point when I have time.)

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 22 2008, 2:06pm

Post #22 of 157 (10326 views)
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Good point! [In reply to] Can't Post

I can't think of any compelling evidence from the works published under Tolkien's own imprimatur to argue for predestination. The closest things that occur to me are a kind of powerful and "genetic" compulsion, which, though not the same thing as predestination, does tend toward the attenuation of free will:

(1) For the Elves, the lure of the sea. It's a pretty powerful force and pretty hard to resist. (2) For the Dwarves, the lure of gold. Greed, too, when built into the species, must be a pretty hard thing to turn one's back on. Still, it's clearly possible for Elves and Dwarves — at least the stronger-willed among them — to resist these forces; there are several notable examples in the writings Tolkien published before 1973.

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 22 2008, 2:09pm

Post #23 of 157 (10396 views)
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I simply can't help myself ... [In reply to] Can't Post


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'And now the Curse of Mandos hastens to its fulfilment, and all the works of the Noldor shall perish, and every hope which they build shall crumble. The last hope alone is left, the hope that they have not looked for and have not prepared. And that hope lieth in thee; for so I have chosen.'



"No. There is ... another ... Skywalker ..."

Tongue

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 22 2008, 2:51pm

Post #24 of 157 (10224 views)
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Yes, this is one of the most central issues [In reply to] Can't Post

We must define our terms!

I have long felt, even without the benefit of some of the unpublished texts to which Carl has access Wink, that fate and free will are not mutually exclusive. Nor is fate the same thing as determinism (in the Laplacian sense usually intended in these kinds of discussions). In a paper I wrote almost three years ago now (which has only recently been published), I attempted to set up an analogy to chess. There are rules governing how the game may be played, how pieces are permitted to move, and so forth. This is fate, if you like; or you may call it the Music of the Ainur. Within those rules, however, individual players are free to choose any permitted move they care to make. There could be many "legal" moves; but almost always, at least two to choose from. In some cases, players' choices can affect the outcome of the game; in others, they will not. I thought it a pretty good analogy. Tolkien summed this up beautifully and much more succinctly, I think, in the phrase "moderated freedom with consent" (Letters, p.178).

In that paper, I wrote:


Quote
And while fate (or providence or grace – whatever one calls the finger of the divine reaching down into each person’s life) may help to set the rules of the game, the individual moves are up to the players. And whether they win or lose in the end is partly up to them. (emphasis added)



Also, later:


Quote
Melkor, like all the Ainur, is free; however, that freedom is bounded by the permission of Ilúvatar. Putting it another way: Melkor is free to move his pieces in the great game that is the struggle for dominion over Middle-earth, but Ilúvatar made – and can change, if he wishes – the rules of that game.



For what it's worth, I also explain how foreknowledge (i.e., Eru's omniscience) does not preclude free will. I strengthen the argument (I hope) by turning to Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy, and I give examples of how C.S. Lewis built directly on Boethius with a clear and compelling argument to the same effect (in The Screwtape Letters and in Studies in Words).

This was not meant as a shameless plug, so I should stop before I embarrass myself, hahae. The point here was not to promote my essay (despite possible appearances to the contrary), but rather to demonstrate that I've been thinking about this issue for some time. And I think I have some pretty strong evidence for my viewpoint. The paper Carl gave at Mythcon (and the unpublished notes he quoted in it) add the weight of Tolkien's authority (I think).

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 22 2008, 2:55pm

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Those sound interesting, but no. [In reply to] Can't Post

I wasn't there and don't have any of those papers.

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 22 2008, 4:46pm

Post #26 of 157 (6828 views)
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Fading and will? [In reply to] Can't Post

I personally do not see a connection between fading and will. Elves are doomed to fade--that is, they become less noticeable in this world, but not due to any choice on their part. I am doomed to be female, which throughout a large chunk of history would have rendered me invisible, too. That doesn't mean that I don't have free will, just that in some places to this day it doesn't matter to anyone else there. Elves can do whatever they want, just no longer in plain sight.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 22 2008, 4:59pm

Post #27 of 157 (6836 views)
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Gimli [In reply to] Can't Post

Galadriel foretold that Gimli would attain much gold, and yet gold would have no power over him. I think she based this on his character, rather than bestowing this upon him. So when it comes to dwarves and greed, it's an inclination, not a doom.

When it comes to genes and personality, traits are what you inherit, but character is what you do with them, by the exercise of your free will. I come from a passionate family that just naturally feels things intensely; many in my family are therefore hot-tempered, but I have made the decision not to be, and have studied the means by which one may control temper, and i have practiced mildness until I do not autumatically lash out when hurt anymore. I still feel everything intensely, good and bad alike, but I no longer let the intensity of these feelings rule me.

Gimli can still gaze on gold and jewels and other mineral wealth, and his heart will still sing with joy for the beauty of Aule's works, yet these feelings do not rule him nor determine his decisions. He chooses not to strive to possess all of the beauty that he sees. Because of his character, he can express this trait, as well, in appreciation of the natural beauty of the Glittering Caves of Aglarond. Perhaps falling in love with Galadriel was a turning point in this regard, for plainly he could never possess her and had no right to even try. But he himself chose to learn the lessons of love without ownership.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 22 2008, 9:44pm

Post #28 of 157 (6652 views)
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I don't think so; however [In reply to] Can't Post

I didn't take notes. There may have been additional supporting statements, for instance, that aren't included in Splintered Light, and I don't remember her reiterating the interesting point that Elvish fate (which is tied to the physical world) is influenced by the free will of Men (whose fate extends past the physical world)--which is also paraphrasing, I'm sure.

But I believe the basic thesis is the same: Men have free will; Elves don't.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 22 2008, 9:56pm

Post #29 of 157 (6667 views)
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Did you believe it before reading "The Silmarillion"? [In reply to] Can't Post

Say, when you first encountered Galadriel choosing not to accept the Ring from Frodo?

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a.s.
Valinor


Aug 22 2008, 10:15pm

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I never even thought about it prior to that [In reply to] Can't Post

Let's see: I read the Sil in 1977 as a 23 year old who had, to that point, been reading and re-reading LOTR for many years. And I can't claim to have gotten much out of the Sil at that time. I couldn't even tell you if I noticed that Elves might not have free will after reading it the first time. It wasn't until years later that I even began to discuss Tolkien with other fans. And then I began to read references to the Sil and the question was often raised (then as now): Do Elves have free will or not?

By that time--older and more concerned with mortality--I had already thought a great deal about Providence and Free Will and etc. And so I had began gradually to understand LOTR from that viewpoint.

But as for Elven free will or lack thereof, I don't think this was an issue for anyone until 1977--and then only for those who had read the Sil with more attention than did I!

LOL

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Aug 22 2008, 10:47pm

Post #31 of 157 (6623 views)
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Why Does It Matter [In reply to] Can't Post

N.E.B., I'm curious as to why you keep harping on this question of what people would have thought before the Silmarillion was published. The fact of the matter is that has been published, as has HoMe, and UT, and the various linguistic works, etc. Sure you can say that all that really matters is what Tolkien actually published himself, but how boring would that be? Tongue

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 22 2008, 11:43pm

Post #32 of 157 (6630 views)
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"There isn't time to dig trenches. We'll have to buy them ready made." [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd rather grouch than harp. But come now, I only asked the question twice. Or three times, counting Mythcon, but Flieger didn't offer an answer. And there I was also asking, as FFH did here, who it is that's saying these things about the Elves and Men? But my point is: why in the works that Tolkien managed to get published, and in the narratives themselves as opposed to the comments on the narratives (and here I include the key remark from "Of the Beginning of Days" -- and who is it that reports on Ilúvatar's decision made an "age" after the Valar have decamped for Eä?) is there no indication that the characters lack free will? And why did he include a hint of that idea in the other works?

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Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 23 2008, 1:59am

Post #33 of 157 (6612 views)
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Limited free will [In reply to] Can't Post

I would not call the non-empowerment of women for most of human history to be a good example of what we are talking about here, since it is the result of domineering/underriding assumptions about women by men, not some divine mandate. However, taking the analogy for what it is worth, if you had been a woman in the eleventh century let's say, then you would have had three options: (1) you could have accepted your unremarkable place in society; (2) you could have rebelled against the societal standards, and failed; (3) you could have rose to become one woman in a sea of men who actually became prominent and noticeable. What you could not have done - or, at least, what nobody did until the twentieth century - would be to change societal standards to the point where men and women begin to approach some level of equality. And arguably that still hasn't happened, even now in the early twenty-first century, at least in some fields (e.g. most national leaders are still men).

My point is that Elves, in Arda, are doomed to fade - indeed, as you say, to become less noticeable in the world. They do not have the freedom to escape this fate. In this sense, their free will is constrained. They do have the freedom to make choices that will influence whether they disappear entirely (i.e. become extinct), or instead simply become less numerous and less dominant than Men. In this sense, Elves do have free will.

The difference, then, between Elves and Men is that Men can make choices that will determine whether they remain the dominant species in Arda until the Second Music, or whether they themselves subsequently fade, and if so, how.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 23 2008, 2:14am

Post #34 of 157 (6639 views)
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Apart from Ilúvitar's underlying plan... [In reply to] Can't Post

The only argument that I can think of that really claims that the characters have no free will is because the dooms pronounced by the Valar (Melkor included) all become true. Everything the Noldor try in Middle Earth crumbles to dust, from Hithlum to Imladris. The cursed Túrin causes misfortune and death everywhere he goes. Gandalf accurately forsees Bilbo's sparing Gollum winds up saving Middle Earth. Even fairly minor prophecies still come true. Do the characters have free will or not?

I think it is worth bringing up the following for consideration: suppose that there is a divine plan set out for you, but you can choose whether or not to follow it. Because there is such a plan, if you choose rightly, you can do things against incredible odds, where nobody else could even really consider. Yet, if you don't answer destiny's call, or you answer it badly, then you can unravel the divine plan and cause some awful catastrophe to happen as a consequence. You could liken it to some kind of a computer game - it's built for you to be able to win it, but your choices will determine whether you actually do.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Aug 23 2008, 2:59am

Post #35 of 157 (6634 views)
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The works in question were in existence when LOTR was published [In reply to] Can't Post

I could see your point more if the works in question weren't in existence when LOTR (really, I mostly discount the Hobbit for this discussion) was published. But they were. And, of course, Tolkien wanted them to be published with LOTR, which would have completely changed our perspective about LOTR from the beginning. I would say the bottom line is that the issue simply doesn't come up in LOTR because the focus is elsewhere, and perhaps because Tolkien had addressed them elsewhere. The idea of Men having free will and the ability to "fashion their life .. beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else" was already in existence in the pre-LOTR versions of the Ainulindale - in fact, it already was stated in the original Tale of the Music of the Ainur! It seems that it was an awfully well-settled concept in Tolkien's mind by the time he wrote LOTR, even if it is not reflected in that work.

As for the question of who is saying that, it is the Elves saying it, for sure. The Elvish origins of the Ainulindale was never lost (until it was largely removed by the editors of The Silmarillion). But Tolkien made a clearly distinction between "Elvish histories" and "Mannish myths". I think he clearly intended to have material that was reported by the Elves to be much more representative of "the truth" than material reported by Men.

Although LOTR does not directly address the question of whether the Elves had free will, it certainly addresses the broader issue of fate versus free will. One of my favorite discussions of Tolkien's treatment of this issue is Verlyn Flieger's discussion of the scene at the Cracks of Doom, in Splintered Light (apologies for the long quote):


Quote

At the Cracks of Doom it is otherwise. There, weakened by his long journey and his wounds, finally broken under the strain of his burden, Frodo succumbs to the force of darkness. Working on the growing darkness within him , the Ring has eroded his will so that he is no longer, as he was on Amond Hen, himself. He is separated from his true being and has become what Gollum so dreadfully embodies. Frodo's words as he sets the Ring on his finger and claims it are filled with awful irony: "I do not choose now now to do what I came to do," and "I will not do this deed" (LOTR 924). His use of choose and will makes it clear that he believes he is acting freely. But the negative, the repeated not is telling evidence that his will has been perverted and his choice preempted.

The moment is shocking and powerful. The mind wants to reject it. It is unthinkable that the best hobbit of them all, after his long struggle, his sacrifice, and the humility and mercy he has shown, should go bad. It is the triumph of evil. Having engineered such shock, Tolkien with consummate timing shifts the spotlight to Gollum, shows his reaction to Frodo's action -- more overwhelming than the reader's -- and brings the scene to a close with the final triumph of evil undoing itself.

An yet, what has happened has happened. It was not necessarily destined, not necessarily foresung in the Music, and yet the concatenation of events is such that nothing else could have happened. The ring is governed by fate, its very creation foresung in the Music. Gollum and Frodo, each as a Hobbit of the race of Men, of human kind, have the power to act beyond the Music and to have their actions shape events. In a letter, Tolkien described the destruction of the Ring and the salvation of Frodo as "grace," the unforeseeable result of free actions by Sam, Frodo, and Gollum. [Golllum] "did rob and injure [Frodo] in the end -- but by a 'grace,' that last betrayal was at a precise juncture when the final evil deed was the most beneficial thing anyone cd. have done for Frodo!" (Letters 234). Fate and free will have come together to produce the inevitable, unpredictable, and necessary end.


'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'


ElanorTX
Grey Havens


Aug 23 2008, 4:25am

Post #36 of 157 (6606 views)
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Peter Kreeft, in his book The Philosophy of Tolkien [In reply to] Can't Post

pp. 61-65 Are we both fated and free?

[edited for brevity] [itals orig]
"Free will and destiny are always present in every story we find realistic, "true to life." A story without predestination means one without an author or a plot and thus without authority. But a story without free will, a story about machines or falling raindrops, is not a story either. Every story must have free persons making free choices that could have been made differently -- otherwise there is no drama....

"We may not know how destiny and freedom can both be true, but we know that they must both be present in true-to-life stories because they are both present in life."

Kreeft goes on to discuss Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy and its argument that God is not in Time. He also cites Thomas Aquinas, saying man is free because God is all-powerful. "God not only gets everything done that He designs, but gets everything done in the right way: subhuman things happen unfreely, and human things happen freely. Just as in a novel, the setting is not free and the characters are."

"I shall not wholly fail if anything can still grow fair in days to come."


Elizabeth
Half-elven


Aug 23 2008, 4:33am

Post #37 of 157 (6587 views)
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What you would have done [In reply to] Can't Post

...if you were an exceptional woman in the middle ages would be to enter a convent and rise through the ranks to become Abbess. They were as powerful as a lot of corporation heads nowadays.

As to your main point, I really don't think the Elves fading has anything to do with the issue of free will. I think that issue really involves freedom of choice in one's life and actions, by both of Morthoron's definitions above, as well as FFH's quotation from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

We've discussed whether Frodo was freely making the choice to take the Ring to Mordor. Was Fëonor free to choose to lead his rebellion? To burn the ships? Was Luthien free to choose to love Beren in defiance of her parents? For that matter, was Huan free to leave his master and follow a new one? Or were they all puppet-tools in the working out of the Music? I think the answer in all these cases is 'yes'.





Sunset, July 3, 2008

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


Elizabeth
Half-elven


Aug 23 2008, 5:03am

Post #38 of 157 (6590 views)
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Predictions are not requirements. [In reply to] Can't Post

The standard answer to your question is that some beings are gifted with foresight, but that doesn't make them puppet masters. Gandalf may have had some insight as to what would happen, but did not cause it.

Morgoth is more powerful. But even his curse meant that whatever Turin chose to do would have a bad outcome, but he made his choices freely. Had he made better choices, he still would have ended badly (maybe falling to an unexpected assassin, a wild animal, a falling meteor, ...).





Sunset, July 3, 2008

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 23 2008, 5:18am

Post #39 of 157 (6609 views)
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By 1952, Tolkien knew that "The Silmarillion" wouldn't be published. [In reply to] Can't Post

...with The Lord of the Rings. And yet he did not choose to include anything in LotR to indicate that Elves lacked free will (which is what I'm focused on -- I think most LotR readers take it for granted that Men have free will, as most readers assume that to be true of themselves). Why not? Did the Elves acquire free will after the First Age? To get back to my question for Flieger: has Galadriel read the Quenta Silmarillion and that troublesome passage in "Of the Beginning of Days"? As she passes the test, does she know that Fëanor didn't have free will when he refused to surrender the silmarils? Did she know that her apparent choice will be corrected by Ilúvatar if she makes the wrong decision?

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a.s.
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 11:36am

Post #40 of 157 (6636 views)
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free will and other runimations [In reply to] Can't Post

Since I am--at bedrock level--only a relatively uneducated person and that education in a practical art and science (Bachelor of Nursing) who has become interested in the subject of Providence and tried to read without instruction so that I may miss points others have been taught, I am going to have to start by getting some kind of definition of free will. I'm not trying to imply that only highly educated people can understand these concepts; I'm trying to convey that I have learned them in an unusual way and may have gaps in my knowledge that a person with a PhD or DD degree might take for granted "everyone knows".

I might not know. So have some patience.

Cool

Free will must mean more than just the ability to make a choice. Free will must mean--first of all--that our wills are not controlled. Such an argument presupposes that there is a force or forces capable (at least in theory) of controlling our wills. Perhaps free will as a concept is only truly important if we propose that there is a God who made the universe, who is individually interested in each human soul, who remains in control of final outcomes for each individual soul, and who exists out of time forever--always was and always will be.

For example, someone who believes we are simply physical matter that lives while we live and ceases to exist in any way when we die might state that we can make choices and even that our choices obviously affect other people's choices and effect change in our finite world and that therefore our wills are free.

And yet, what we choose to do in such a scenario cannot affect our own personal infinite fate: we aren't infinite and we aren't going to heaven or hell and so what we do matters only while we are alive (I mean, matters to us personally).

So the argument about free will in the context of God's existence must be an argument about our destinations, as well as an argument about how our choices are made while here, in time, in a physical realm. Our free will must not only be unconstrained by an external force at the moment we make our choice and act upon it; our free will must be unconstrained by God's will for our soul's destination, or predesitination.

If this is the working definition of free will in the context of God's (Eru's) existence, (and it's the definition I understand and am arguing from), then it appears that Elves and Men do not share the same kind of will. Men have the ability to make choices that change the final destination of their immortal souls.

Elves are constrained by the existence of the physical Earth, are in time bound to the Earth and immortal only as long as the Earth exists and so the fate of all Elves is the same: they cease to exist when the world ends. They are ultimately bound to the Music in a way that Men are not.

Therefore their wills are constrained by God's (Eru's) will--and they do not have free will.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 12:25pm

Post #41 of 157 (6643 views)
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why does "fairness" enter the argument? [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
The issue of the fairness of punishment was one of my own major arguments in favor of free will in debates last weekend




If there is a God who created all things and governs the very workings of his personal creation, how does the issue of whether or not his rules are "fair" matter? If he, in fact, made all the rules then "fairness" is moot.

Isn't it?

Is it "fair" that God made us with diminished capability to obey his will--fallible and capable of sin and unable to resist it--and created a Hell for sinners? It doesn't matter. If God makes the rules, he makes the rules, and we can't constrain him by saying what he did was not fair.

Similarly, if Tolkien the sub-creator made the rules for the characters in his story, it is moot to argue that those rules aren't "fair".

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.

(This post was edited by a.s. on Aug 23 2008, 12:26pm)


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 12:36pm

Post #42 of 157 (6596 views)
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*if* there is free will for any created being, then [In reply to] Can't Post

it remains a gift from the Creator, and only always exists in the context of Providence anyway ("operative only within 'provided circumstances'"). Isn't that the mystery at the heart of religious belief in free will?




Quote

I submit that the usual dichotomy drawn between Fate and Free Will in these discussions is false. Tolkien makes it quite plain that Will is operative only within "provided circumstances" (i.e. of the World (ambar) and of Fate (umbar); see Letters p. 195): thus they are not mutually exclusive terms.




a.s.


"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 12:45pm

Post #43 of 157 (6617 views)
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free will implies the ability to sin [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
The closest things that occur to me are a kind of powerful and "genetic" compulsion, which, though not the same thing as predestination, does tend toward the attenuation of free will:




I think this is the same as saying one's free will is capable of being thwarted by temptation to sin (which is why Catholics pray for avoiding the "near temptation of sin") and that we are also incapable of not sinning and thus the need for grace.

The ability to sin is, in fact, a hallmark of a free will, is it not?

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 23 2008, 1:46pm

Post #44 of 157 (6914 views)
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Constrained by the Music [In reply to] Can't Post

"A.S.", you are certainly right so far as you go, that the one sense of "fate" as meaning our "ultimate destiny" is part of what the Ainulindalë passage is concerned with. Tolkien makes it quite clear there and elsewhere (including The Lord of the Rings) that it is in "ultimate destiny" that Elves and Men chiefly differ.

What is tricky, though, is that it is equally clear in the Ainulindalë passage that Tolkien is not thinking only of this, for the passage reads: "Therefore he willed that the hearts of Men should seek beyond the world and should find no rest therein; but they should have a virtue to shape their life, amid the powers and chances of the world, beyond the Music of the Ainur, which is as fate to all things else" (emphasis added). Very clearly this special virtue that Men are given is operative within the World and throughout Men's lives, not merely in their ultimate destiny.

And so I can readily understand Verlyn's take on this: if one uses this passage as the basis upon and lens through which all other published evidence is evaluated, and if one equates this "virtue" with "free will", it is easy to argue that Elves do not have free will. I'm not saying it makes for a convincing or satisfying argument -- after all, none of the Elves ever act as though they don't have free will, and in fact they are often presented as having to make crucial choices with serious consequences (moral and otherwise); while Frodo and other Men are often described as fated (or possibly so) -- but it is an easy and obvious argument to make.

But I begin my paper by noting that Tolkien does not say here that Men have a unique gift of "free will", but rather that they are given a "virtue". Verlyn assumes they mean the same thing; I submit they do not: virtue is ability and strength and efficacy, not merely will (i.e., purpose or intent). Moreover, if Verlyn is right, it is very hard to explain (in addition to the points I allude to above) the existence and content of the unpublished notes I presented, which discuss the Elvish thought on the roles of fate and free will within the World and make no mention of any limitation of free will to Men. What it does do is draw distinctions between what Men mean by "fate" and what Elves mean by it, and as to the "given conditions" within which will is constrained to operate. And that, I think, is what we must do as well: what does "fate" mean in the Ainulindalë passage? What does the Music of the Ainur, which is "as fate", encompass, and so what exactly are its constraints, that Men alone can go beyond? And just as importantly, what does the Music not encompass and constrain? And what are the "powers and chances of the world", amid which the special virtue of Men operates? And are fate and free will really at odds with each other? (As I have said, I submit in my paper they are not.) Tolkien touches on all these points, both in the unpublished notes and in numerous published writings (particularly Letters).

--
Carl F. Hostetter


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 23 2008, 2:02pm

Post #45 of 157 (6593 views)
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Machine stories [In reply to] Can't Post

"A story without predestination means one without an author or a plot and thus without authority. But a story without free will, a story about machines or falling raindrops, is not a story either."

Tolkien makes a remarkably similar point in the unpublished note on "Fate and Free Will".

--
Carl F. Hostetter


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 2:38pm

Post #46 of 157 (6745 views)
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*if* free will, by definition, [In reply to] Can't Post

does not include a property of determining the final destination of an immortal soul (or immortal essence) of an individual person, then I agree that Elves have free will.

Certainly Elves are shown making moral choices with consequences, both for themselves and for others--one of the hallmarks of a free will (that what we choose to do matters and we are not puppets being moved by a someone else).




Quote

Moreover, if Verlyn is right, it is very hard to explain (in addition to the points I allude to above) the existence and content of the unpublished notes I presented, which discuss the Elvish thought on the roles of fate and free will within the World and make no mention of any limitation of free will to Men. What it does do is draw distinctions between what Men mean by "fate" and what Elves mean by it, and as to the "given conditions" within which will is constrained to operate.




I can (and do!) get lost in some of the linguistics; however, I can see that we are shown two sides of a coin: an immortal race of Children of Iluvatar who all end when the physical realm they exist in ends, and a mortal race who continue in some form or other after the physical world ends. I think Tolkien is working out how Providence might come into play if we have these two scenarios, and so perhaps this discussion of "free wills" is a discussion about a concept that doesn't apply. Maybe I am attempting to use a definition that only ever applies to Men in the Primary World of our Earth anyway?

The context of free will "within the World", in other words, is not the same concept as free will in a world only inhabited by mortal men with souls that go to eternal glory or eternal hell dependent upon the actions of their free will--our real world. Tolkien might be showing how "free will" would look if we had it as a gift of Iluvatar but had no final destination beyond the physical world--if we were Elves, in other words.

Thanks for this conversation, by the way.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 3:44pm

Post #47 of 157 (6582 views)
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The "fairness" relates to moral responsibility [In reply to] Can't Post

At least, that's how I read it. God can make up any rules he likes, presumably. And he can punish us if we fail to follow them. But if he doesn't allow us to make a free choice about following the rules, it would surely be unfair to punish us if we don't. He couldn't, for example, have a rule decreeing that everyone should have blue eyes, and punish the brown-eyed, because we have no will in the matter. Or at least, he couldn't do that and remain a just God. That seems to be a point of Catholic doctrine, according to what I read in the Catholic Encyclopedia entry - there can be no moral responsibility without free will. And without moral responsibility there can be no just punishment.

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 4:15pm

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Turin's Curse [In reply to] Can't Post

I have always believed that the nature of Turin's curse was not inescapable, yet structured so that escape would go counter to his character. Every single misfortune that befell him came from pride. Morgoth, in my opinion, could exert his influence to keep laying snares before Turin's feet that the man could have sidestepped at any time had he changed direction. Morgoth knew that he would not. he could not directly exploit Turin's virtues, but through pride he could pervert them into something that he could exploit.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 4:16pm

Post #49 of 157 (6561 views)
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Are you defining "free will" [In reply to] Can't Post

in terms of predestination?


In Reply To
The context of free will "within the World", in other words, is not the same concept as free will in a world only inhabited by mortal men with souls that go to eternal glory or eternal hell dependent upon the actions of their free will--our real world.



That has certainly been a major difficulty in Christian thought over the centuries - whether or not we humans are able to affect our final destiny by our actions on earth. But I don't think that's the same thing as "free will". Even if we can't affect our final destiny, we can still have the moral responsibility to do our best during our lifetime, which implies free will.

(I'm not sure it's quite accurate to say that it's in "our real world" that souls go to eternal glory or punishment - it may be the "real world" of the adherents of certain faiths, but it's certainly not the only "real world" out there!) WinkEvil


...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 4:36pm

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Hell [In reply to] Can't Post

But did God create Hell? Or is it just a side-effect or byproduct, a cosmic accident, as it were? Consider that if you have an infinite being, His emotions would also be infinite--infinite joy, infinite sorrow. In order to have a perfect heaven, one must dump the infinite sorrow outside its parameters. Imagine one's dismay when beings you created to love persist in attaching themselves to things associated with your sorrow! Then you enter into various attempts to de-attach them and save them from the mess.

(For Biblical support, I cite Jesus's use of the word "Gehenna" for Hell, which was actually the location of the Jerusalem municipal dump. If he had meant a place of deliberate punishment, wouldn't he have referred to a jail or prison?)

According to Catholic theology, anyway, Hell is not actually a place, but a state. It is the absense of God, equivalent to Tolkien's Outer Darkness. People can be living and breathing right here on earth in a state of Hell.

The "Hellfire and Brimstone" goes right back to Gehenna, where civil servants burned sulfur (brimstone) day and night in the belief that the fumes would kill the maggots and solve the fly problem. "Where the fire burns without ceasing and the worm dies not" refers to the futility of such measures, a metaphor for the insanity of damnation, where one endlessly repeats the same mistakes, expecting different results.

There is the vision of the Lake of Fire, to be sure, yet visions deal in symbols all the time. Some say that it represents the burning frustration of hungering for God and not admitting that God is precisely what one needs.

My point being, Hell is a consequence, not a punishment. Fairness, therefore, would not be an issue of whether or not a divine being punishes people for things that he knows that they will do, but whether or not said divine being does his utmost to clean up the mess that keeps luring people into misery. One could interpret the death and resurrection of Jesus as God confronting His own Shadow side and taking responsibility for it, thereby creating an exit from damnation. In any case, whether one treads on such thin ice with me or not (thin ice on a burning lake? Guess what just froze over!) there exists in most religions some provision to make damnation or condemnation less than inevitable.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 6:19pm

Post #51 of 157 (6011 views)
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"allowed for the possibility of Hell", then [In reply to] Can't Post

If God did not create Hell but simply allowed for the possibility of eternal damnation there, and also created us with the possibility that we will use our free will to sin and thus earn eternal damnation, then is that "fair" from our point of view?

I say it's moot.

If there is an all-powerful Creator God, then he makes the rules. We can't use "fairness" as an argument when talking about God and his creation, or Tolkien and his sub-creation. That's really my only point.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 23 2008, 6:37pm

Post #52 of 157 (5999 views)
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yes, and no [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Are you defining free will in terms of predestination?




Well. I am including as part of the definition of "free will" the possibility of eternal destination in either Heaven or Hell based on the use of free will, yes.

I am not saying that predestination exists.

I am suggesting that the concept of "free will" may have no particular meaning in the absence of 1) a Creator God who grants part of his creation the capacity for free will and 2) a destination earned by the exercise of that free will.

If we are just finite creatures living in a physical realm and there is no God who created us and/or we have no ultimate destination for some essence of ourselves for all eternity, then how can we speak of "free will" anyway?

We may still be making moral choices with consequences, choices based on unencumbered wills. "Free" in that sense.

In fact, we might think of a Creator God who made us and gave us the ability to freely choose what to do: to make real moral choices which cause real consequences, good or bad. But those real choices don't have any effect on our eventual existence in eternity; we all die and cease to exist anyway, we all have the same ultimate fate in this scenario.

And if this is what is meant by "free will", then Elves have it, too.

But I don't think that's entirely what we mean by the concept of "free will", which to me means our wills are not constrained by either interference at the point of action (or even at the point of willing something) and likewise are not rendered meaningless based on our eternal destination. What we do earns us our eternal destination. If our eternal destination isn't based on our own actions but is instead arbitrarily assigned by God, then our wills are not free. Or perhaps they have the illusion of freedom of choice but in reality they amount to no choice. If wills don't cause actions that have real consequences based on those actions, then how are they real choices to begin with?

Or maybe I just can't wash the Catholic out of me.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 23 2008, 7:06pm

Post #53 of 157 (5998 views)
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We're arguing over "canon" [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien, when he first tried to publish LotR, did indeed try to publish the Sil as well. He was turned down, by the editors, because the editors did not want Tolkien's grand synopsis, but a story. They wanted LotR. When Tolkien did publish LotR, it was such a resounding success, that he almost certainly could have published the Sil at any time thereafter. Yet, he did not. This implies to me that Tolkien's decision to submit the Sil along with LotR the first time around was one of some measure of wanting to get it published in some form, if not the form that he ultimately wanted. Once he could wait as long as he wanted, he could actually try to finish it - which he never did. Therefore, even though a draft of the Sil and many of the chapters in it did indeed exist at the time LotR was published, it nonetheless is not 'canonical' as a description Tolkien's universe.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 23 2008, 10:47pm

Post #54 of 157 (6060 views)
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Alrighty then... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Tolkien, when he first tried to publish LotR, did indeed try to publish the Sil as well. He was turned down, by the editors, because the editors did not want Tolkien's grand synopsis, but a story. They wanted LotR. When Tolkien did publish LotR, it was such a resounding success, that he almost certainly could have published the Sil at any time thereafter. Yet, he did not. This implies to me that Tolkien's decision to submit the Sil along with LotR the first time around was one of some measure of wanting to get it published in some form, if not the form that he ultimately wanted. Once he could wait as long as he wanted, he could actually try to finish it - which he never did. Therefore, even though a draft of the Sil and many of the chapters in it did indeed exist at the time LotR was published, it nonetheless is not 'canonical' as a description Tolkien's universe.



So, what you're saying is that only The Lord of the Rings is canonical. We, of course, must then preclude The Hobbit from canonicity, because it was rewritten in parts after its 1937 publication, and Tolkien intended an even more extensive rewrite after that (part of which still remains in unfinished form). We must also exclude The Silmarillion, because, as you inferred, it was published after Tolkien's death (by his son, Christopher, who was made literary executor for the express purpose of collating and editing Tolkien's unfinished works), the 12 volume HoMe series (again published after Tolkien's death), Unfinished Tales, The Children of Hurin and The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (because, after all, the letters were not necessarily meant for publication). In your stifling view of canonicity, we must ignore everything Tolkien wrote beyond The Lord of the Rings, even though he himself quoted freely from the unpublished material to explain the nuances and historical perspectives of the War of the Ring.

I will have to disagree with your view, and quite vociferously. Tolkien was the patron saint of procrastination (his letters brim over with his inveterate putzing); in fact, it is amazing he wrote the Lord of the Rings at all (considering how many rewrites he did of the book). If we are to consider that The Silmarillion, imperfect as it may be, is not canonical (and by inference the rest of his works unpublished at his death), then we drastically limit the scope of Tolkien's universe, and eliminate its cosmogony and cosmology, and the truths and beauty of entire ages that preceeded the very brief span of time (relatively speaking) described in Lord of the Rings. How dull and unfulfilling that would be.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 23 2008, 11:05pm

Post #55 of 157 (5983 views)
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Post-script... [In reply to] Can't Post

There is a reason that Tolkien and his wife's graves are marked 'Beren' and 'Luthien', and not Aragorn and Arwen. I haven't heard any complaints that the names there inscribed should be rewritten to be within the bounds of canonicity.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 23 2008, 11:08pm

Post #56 of 157 (5979 views)
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Beren [In reply to] Can't Post

...and Lúthien are mentioned in The Lord of the Rings. Tongue

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We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Aug. 18-24 for "Shelob's Lair".

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 23 2008, 11:12pm

Post #57 of 157 (5995 views)
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No canon. [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien even modified The Lord of the Rings for its second edition.

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We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Aug. 18-24 for "Shelob's Lair".

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 23 2008, 11:14pm

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Why does it matter? // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Aug. 18-24 for "Shelob's Lair".

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Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 23 2008, 11:43pm

Post #59 of 157 (6003 views)
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Hmmm... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Tolkien even modified The Lord of the Rings for its second edition. Why does it matter?



*Boggles*

Ummm....Why does it matter? Because you claim that The Silmarillion (and again, by inferrence, everything unpublished at Tolkien's death) is not canonical in an attempt to dismiss pertinent information from the Ainulindalë as unimportant or not germane to the discussion. Humorously, Verlyn Flieger, who believes Elves do not have free will (which, I believe, is your position), is "relying on a close reading of the Ainulindalë" to support her points. You should e-mail her and tell her to only use canonically-approved works in defense of her stance.Crazy

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 24 2008, 12:53am

Post #60 of 157 (6002 views)
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"Not canonical" does not mean apocryphal. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
So, what you're saying is that only The Lord of the Rings is canonical. We, of course, must then preclude The Hobbit from canonicity, because it was rewritten in parts after its 1937 publication, and Tolkien intended an even more extensive rewrite after that (part of which still remains in unfinished form). We must also exclude The Silmarillion, because, as you inferred, it was published after Tolkien's death (by his son, Christopher, who was made literary executor for the express purpose of collating and editing Tolkien's unfinished works), the 12 volume HoMe series (again published after Tolkien's death), Unfinished Tales, The Children of Hurin and The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (because, after all, the letters were not necessarily meant for publication). In your stifling view of canonicity, we must ignore everything Tolkien wrote beyond The Lord of the Rings, even though he himself quoted freely from the unpublished material to explain the nuances and historical perspectives of the War of the Ring.


You exaggerate.

I do consider The Hobbit to be 'canonical', albeit secondary to LotR. I do not consider anything else to be; However -

Just because the Sil, HoME, Unfinished Tales, the Letters, etc. I do not consider to be 'canonical' does not mean that we should ignore them. All it means is that we should take them with a grain of salt. For example, it is said in the Sil that Beren said nothing about the things that he encountered in the Ephel Duath, but we know that can't be the case because otherwise there is no way anybody would know about it. This is an inconsistency and a mistake. At the same time, there is no reason to suggest that Beren did not face fell monsters in the Ephel Duath, even if it were not mentioned in the chapter whose discussion I just led.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 24 2008, 1:28am

Post #61 of 157 (5982 views)
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And even LotR was fluid. [In reply to] Can't Post

Not even the published Lord of the Rings stayed written in stone.

I once got hold of one of the evil Ace paperbacks that preceded the legitimate Ballentine edition. In order to legally publish the Ballentine version, Tolkien changed a few lines here and there. Imagine my surprise when I read the scene of Legolas and Gimli confronting an exhausted and almost-crazed Aragorn who had just gazed into the Palantir. In this earlier version, when Gimli asks whether Aragorn said anything to Sauron, Aragorn snaps back with a sarcastic, "Yes, I asked him whether I could trade a rebel dwarf for a serviceable orc!" And only after that calms down and says, "Nay, I said naught to him."

I wish he'd kept that line.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 24 2008, 1:33am

Post #62 of 157 (6029 views)
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I agree with your premise... [In reply to] Can't Post

...but not with the vehemence. I respect Beren IV a great deal, even if I do sometimes disagree with him. Heck, academics don't even agree on which historical references to trust in this world.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Samamir
Registered User


Aug 24 2008, 1:43am

Post #63 of 157 (5986 views)
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Aragorn said that!?!?! [In reply to] Can't Post

Ha! Thats hysterical coming from a very sarcastic person such as myself.
Wouldnt think Aragorn would say something like that though....sounds more like an elf comment


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 24 2008, 1:47am

Post #64 of 157 (5968 views)
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I disagree... [In reply to] Can't Post

Now see, I do not consider much of The Hobbit as canonical (at least in the presentation and tone of the piece), because Tolkien himself was bothered by the story and the manner in which he presented it; hence he felt the need to completely rewrite the Hobbit after it was published -- so obviously he didn't consider it 'canonical'. The Elves of the Sil and of LotR are unrecognizable in The Hobbit, trolls mangle the King's English, Orcs are goblins, and there is a twee fairy tale approach which is almost alien to the former and the latter (Sil and Lotr). One also notices in Tolkien's letters a reverence for his earlier writings and a decided annoyance by The Hobbit (almost to the point where he feels the Hobbit blundered into his real history). You mention errors in Beren's story, but you fail to mention the many errors in The Hobbit and LotR, which, because they were published, Tolkien amended along the way in later editions. Tolkien did the same with passages from The Silmarillion; that was his nature. He was a tinker -- a mythical cobbler -- and he tinkered all the way up to his death. That does not make those works published after his death non-canonical; particularly since he wished them to be published.

Your definition is far too limiting if one wants to put Tolkien's mythos in context. Are there aspects of HoMe that are conjectural and uncanonical? Certainly. But one can't blithely wave off the Lays of Beleriand as mere inconsistent and precursive practice for the 'real thing'. They are, rightly, part of the historical record of Middle-earth (if one were taking a historiographical approach to Tolkien's cosmos), just as The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales provide a foundation and historical backdrop to the events that occur during the War of the Ring, and in many instances surpass that epoch in sweep and grandeur. And, from a historiographical sense, even the inconsistencies are consistent with our own real-world record. The further one goes back, the less likely is the data truly factual. If one reads the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles or the writings of Joinville and Froissart, the truth is certainly there (beyond a simply apocryphal nature); however, the emphasis is decidedly different than that of modern medieval historians (and there is a noticeable difference in the idiom and tone Tolkien's former, as opposed to his latter works). That does not mean that a modern medievalist brushes aside such documentation as apocryphal or non-canonical simply because of certain inaccuracies, particularly since much of it is very consistent.


P.S. My apologies to N.E. Brigand for mixing him up with Beren IV in my replies. To many B's in the names.Wink

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 24 2008, 1:47am

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Cut for a reason? [In reply to] Can't Post

Maybe that's why Tolkien cut it. I'm sure that Aragorn did have that side to him--his comments to Merry after healing him being an example, but maybe Tolkien thought that this was a bit over the top. I loved it, though.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 24 2008, 2:04am

Post #66 of 157 (5970 views)
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FWIW, _I'm_ not arguing over canon [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm interested in what Tolkien's thoughts on Middle-earth were at any and every stage of his development of the Legendarium. "Canon" (whatever that means, and however defined) doesn't enter into it for me.

--
Carl F. Hostetter


squire
Half-elven


Aug 24 2008, 3:11am

Post #67 of 157 (5988 views)
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I'm confused. What is "canon" and what is it good for? [In reply to] Can't Post

If I'm following this, Beren IV is contending that only The Lord of the Rings and (secondarily) The Hobbit is "canon" in arguing about Middle-earth, because Tolkien approved their publication and subsequent modifications. Morthoron is arguing that everything Tolkien wrote about Middle-earth (including, primarily, The Sil, Unfinished Tales, and The 12-volume History of Middle-earth) is "canon" in the sense of being at least "mythologically" consistent enough to support arguments about the nature of Middle-earth.

I guess I thought "canon" was something useful in judging fan fiction - i.e., what is and isn't "consistent" with the original author's (Tolkien's) storylines and backstory. I've never heard it suggested that "canon" has much meaning when discussing Tolkien's deepest philosophical thoughts about the nature of his secondary world - like whether Elves or Men have "free will" in any meaningful sense, whether as individuals or as races, when they are only literary constructs that mimic to some degree a real-world humankind which still debates whether it has free will!

In such a discussion, surely everything Tolkien wrote must be considered - and nothing is "canon", since in this moral and theological realm which totally transcends narrative issues, Tolkien never even came close to constructing a consistent universe. As Aelfwine suggests, we should look at what Tolkien was thinking at different times, when he wrote different works. LotR is just another work here. The publishing issue is totally irrelevant. It wasn't until he was halfway through the epic that he realized he was writing a continuation of the Quenta Silmarillion, not a Hobbit-world sequel. When he finished it, and rewrote it "backwards" (as he put it) to make it internally self-consistent, he also went and attacked his Silmarillion manuscripts, to try to make them consistent with the newly completed LotR. Yet he did not rewrite The Hobbit by choice - he refused to alter it although he could have, and it is for us to accept that the Elves, Gandalf, Gollum, etc. in the two works are not entirely consistent in their essential natures.

It is entirely possible to argue that (for instance) in 1937 Elves had Free Will, but in 1957 they did not. I'm not saying that's what I believe about this particular issue - I'm just giving it as an example of the nature of Tolkien studies. At this level of argument, I do not see what use a term like "canon" has at all.



squire online:
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a.s.
Valinor


Aug 24 2008, 3:48am

Post #68 of 157 (5952 views)
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To the Elves? Or to us? [In reply to] Can't Post

Or were you just asking visualweasel?

Cool

It matters to me because I thought I had found some kind of clue to try to decipher what Tolkien was attempting to do (good heavens, how many qualifiers can I fit in one sentence?) in showing how Providence must appear to characters who have bodies and souls that are "immortal but not eternal", vs. those who have mortal bodies but immortal souls that continue in an alternate setting.

Now I'm back to square one.

Just to answer for only me and myself on the subject.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 24 2008, 7:00am

Post #69 of 157 (5934 views)
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To whom are you responding? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
Tolkien even modified The Lord of the Rings for its second edition. Why does it matter?



*Boggles*

Ummm....Why does it matter? Because you claim that The Silmarillion (and again, by inferrence, everything unpublished at Tolkien's death) is not canonical in an attempt to dismiss pertinent information from the Ainulindalë as unimportant or not germane to the discussion. Humorously, Verlyn Flieger, who believes Elves do not have free will (which, I believe, is your position), is "relying on a close reading of the Ainulindalë" to support her points. You should e-mail her and tell her to only use canonically-approved works in defense of her stance.Crazy


A little confusion here: you're quoting statements I made in two different posts.

First, responding to your argument that more than just LotR was canon, I wrote, "No canon. Tolkien even modified The Lord of the Rings for its second edition." Second, responding to visualweasel's original question about whether Elves have free will, I wrote, "Why does it matter?" without reference to the side issue of canon.

However, you seem to have meant to reply to Beren IV, not me. I never dismissed the statements in the Ainulindalë -- I only asked why Tolkien chose not to include that information in works he saw through to publication.

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We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

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FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 24 2008, 7:32am

Post #70 of 157 (5942 views)
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Not only that... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It is entirely possible to argue that (for instance) in 1937 Elves had Free Will, but in 1957 they did not.



It's not just that Tolkien's thought evolved over time. He's sometimes also clearly writing from the point of view of one racial group or another, at varying periods of their "history". They might have conflicting (or evolving) beliefs themselves about their own destiny. If the Silmarillion (and similar writings) are the Elves' equivalent of the Bible, why shouldn't there be contradictions? There are contradictions in the Bible. And Christian thought has taken many different and contradictory views of these questions too, over the centuries. Tolkien was under no constraint to make up one immutable theory to explain everything (even if in later life he may have felt the desire to do so).


...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 24 2008, 8:24am

Post #71 of 157 (5943 views)
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Except that this question [In reply to] Can't Post

is of extreme interest to fanfiction, then yes, you would be absolutely right.

But, for example, I have a character that I have used as an NPC in some roleplays I have run in Middle Earth who is a female elf named Neithaniel. Neithaniel is, by ancestry, a Sinda, living around the time of the War of the Ring. Neithaniel believes that it is her calling to remain in Middle Earth, even if the Free Peoples defeat Sauron, helping people and the world in every way she can, until her death. Despite being an elf, she does not regard herself as immortal, since she sees it inevitable that one day something will kill her. Thus, if Manwë and Mandos want her soul back in Valinor, they can have it once she is no longer using it, her being dead (notice the reversal of the usual placement on the significance of the soul versus the body - this is also part of her belief).

Based on the different factions of Elves that Tolkien created and their dooms as placed upon them by various Valar, Neithaniel really doesn't fit well into any of them. For her character to work, she sort of has to have free will, at least at the level of the individual. Does this clash with Tolkien's "canon"? This is the reason why the "canonical" question regarding the nature of fate and free will in Arda comes up.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 24 2008, 9:10am

Post #72 of 157 (6021 views)
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Fade to Black (or Dark Elves)... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
But, for example, I have a character that I have used as an NPC in some roleplays I have run in Middle Earth who is a female elf named Neithaniel. Neithaniel is, by ancestry, a Sinda, living around the time of the War of the Ring. Neithaniel believes that it is her calling to remain in Middle Earth, even if the Free Peoples defeat Sauron, helping people and the world in every way she can, until her death. Despite being an elf, she does not regard herself as immortal, since she sees it inevitable that one day something will kill her. Thus, if Manwë and Mandos want her soul back in Valinor, they can have it once she is no longer using it, her being dead (notice the reversal of the usual placement on the significance of the soul versus the body - this is also part of her belief).

Based on the different factions of Elves that Tolkien created and their dooms as placed upon them by various Valar, Neithaniel really doesn't fit well into any of them. For her character to work, she sort of has to have free will, at least at the level of the individual. Does this clash with Tolkien's "canon"? This is the reason why the "canonical" question regarding the nature of fate and free will in Arda comes up.



Refusing a summons from Valinor is nothing new for Elves in Middle-earth, and many of the remaining Sindar (as well as the bulk of Silvan Elves) remained in Middle-earth after the War of the Ring. Even the sons of Elrond withheld their final decision on Elvish immortality far into the 4th Age (or at least, after the written record runs silent). Honestly, I don't feel, based on countless readings, that the Moriquendi felt compelled to leave Middle-earth at all, and eventually faded in accordance with their nature. In any case, your Sinda character was not under the doom imposed by Mandos (as she was never in Valinor in the first place); therefore, the question would be why she even considered leaving at all, or the belief that someday something would kill her.

But back to the idea of fading and elvish free will; I don't feel they are necessarily congruent. The elves made choices independent of fading (whether or not the majority of elves knew of this fading factor is another question), and suffered consequences for those choices. The ability to make choices independent of fading thus harkens back to the idea they did indeed to have free will. As someone mentioned previously, it was not fate that drove Feanor to his rebellion, the kinslayings and the burning of the ships, it was free will -- unless someone can show me in the text that Feanor was predestined to commit these acts, which seems highly unlikely. Again, the ability to make choices, even in the face of divine retribution, seems to me consistent with free will. The fading factor is a matter of nature, not a matter of free will, whether or not said fading would cause a younger race to lay claim to Middle-earth.

P.S. N.E. Brigand, I already apologized in my last post for mixing up replies from you and Beren IV.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)

(This post was edited by Morthoron on Aug 24 2008, 9:13am)


squire
Half-elven


Aug 24 2008, 1:55pm

Post #73 of 157 (5934 views)
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I suppose you are right. [In reply to] Can't Post

If fan writers have the cheek to make new stories about the destiny and self-image of Elves in the house of Tolkien, it is their affair.

As interesting as Neithaniel is, it doesn't sound to me like any definition of "canon" would satisfy all comers that she fits within Tolkien's literary concept. Shouldn't you should just keep writing what you like based on your enjoyment and understanding of Tolkien, and not worry so much about finding exact, "legally defensible" textual support for it?



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 24 2008, 4:22pm

Post #74 of 157 (5916 views)
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Ah. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
P.S. N.E. Brigand, I already apologized in my last post for mixing up replies from you and Beren IV.


I see it now. Thanks for clearing that up!

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We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Aug. 18-24 for "Shelob's Lair".

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Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 24 2008, 6:45pm

Post #75 of 157 (5925 views)
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Fëanor's destiny [In reply to] Can't Post

The only thing that I can think of that implies that Fëanor is destined to commit the acts that he does is that he shows evidence of his hot-headedness and disregard for Elven life, particularly of the other houses, beforehand. The former is foreshadowed even in his name, "spirit of fire". But Fëanor does draw steel on his half-brothers when he fears his father loves them more than he, and his wife does divorce him apparently because he's basically a jerk, even though she's got a fairly fiery personality herself. Basically, Fëanor is a tragic anti-hero with a fatal flaw. Tolkien's legendarium is full of those; Túrin is another spectacular example. Túrin in particular is cursed, but like any good curse, there are perfectly mundane aspects of Túrin's personality that lead to the curse's fulfillment.

So is this destiny or is this fate? In an ultimate sense, it's fate, if only because the Author wanted to write the story that way, so that's how He wrote it (whether he liked it or not, Tolkien was more-or-less God of his sub-creation - he did create it, after all). But did Tolkien mean for Fëanor to have had the ability to choose to take another path, but merely didn't? Unless Fëanor is an allegory for something in the real world, I'm not sure that question even has an answer. And, to quote Letter 131, Tolkien "dislike[d] allegory".

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 24 2008, 7:31pm

Post #76 of 157 (6082 views)
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Well... [In reply to] Can't Post

There were many elves who made their own choices (and exhibited free will) during the fateful kinslaying. In addition to Feanor and his sons attacking the Teleri, there were: Noldor choosing to fight with the Teleri against their kin, Noldor withholding the use of the sword but leaving Aman for Middle-earth, Noldor staying out of the fray altogether and remaining in Aman, and Noldor who harkened to the pronouncement of Mandos and returned before the imminent ban (like Finarfin). There were too many individual choices being made during that 'fateful' encounter to issue a blanket edict of preordination on the whole (that is, until Mandos proclaimed his 'Doom of the Noldor').

Regarding Mandos and free will, that he had foreknowledge of events (as when he uttered "Not the first" in regards to the murder of Finwe) implies that, although he had such prescience, he was not allowed to stop the Noldor (and Feanor in particular) from making their choice of action. Whether this was allowing fate to run its course, or if indeed free will took precedence over averting a disaster such as the Kinslaying is, I suppose, the crux of this whole debate.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 24 2008, 8:45pm

Post #77 of 157 (6025 views)
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I have to agree in general [In reply to] Can't Post

that if there is true fate for the Elves, it's only for some of them, incidentally, the ones that matter, like Fëanor. But really I don't even think that.

I think that the real question in a world like Middle Earth is whether characters have constrained, but not locked, will, i.e. you can choose A, B, or C, but you cannot choose D or E. Another recurring theme is commitment - once you choose to do something, you can't go back. An example with Fëanor and his sons might be their oath - before they swore that, they might have had the free will to avoid their fates, but once sworn, it was all over.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 24 2008, 9:54pm

Post #78 of 157 (6069 views)
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What rhymes with Hostetter? [In reply to] Can't Post

I think we're at the edge of what can be meaningfully discussed in an online forum. So much work is needed just to establish terms! I apologize for being unclear. In this case, I was thinking of the literary importance of visualweasel's question -- Tolkien's fiction is story first, philosophy second. For instance, when Glorfindel says that the Elves have chosen, in acceding to the destruction of the One Ring, to sacrifice the beauty achieved through the power of the Three Rings, is the tale weakened if we think that this choice was foreordained?

Hmm... bossed, cost, lost, moss'd, paused, sauced, tossed, better, debtor, feather, fetter, get her, header, heather, leather, led her, letter, met her, net her, nether, pet her, setter, tether, weather, wetter... anyone got another clerihew?

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We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Aug. 18-24 for "Shelob's Lair".

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Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 24 2008, 11:19pm

Post #79 of 157 (6037 views)
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Hmmm...Hostetter? [In reply to] Can't Post

In honor of Hostetter
Perhaps we should post better.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 24 2008, 11:42pm

Post #80 of 157 (6048 views)
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LOL! [In reply to] Can't Post

But please note that the first syllable of my last name rhymes with "ha" not with "hoe". (We linguists are sticklers for these things!)


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 25 2008, 12:47am

Post #81 of 157 (6152 views)
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picks up the gauntlet [In reply to] Can't Post

Saving the discussion about predestination for another time:

Carl Hostetter:
For linguistics, there's never a better.
On Torn he discussed Elves and free will,
And it must not have been too bad, because he's here still.

Cool

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.

(This post was edited by Kimi on Aug 25 2008, 1:54am)


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 25 2008, 1:32am

Post #82 of 157 (6027 views)
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LOL! (nt) [In reply to] Can't Post

 


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 25 2008, 1:42am

Post #83 of 157 (6042 views)
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ack!!! Only I would mis-spell a word in a post about linguistics! Help, admins [In reply to] Can't Post

before Carl runs away screaming, can someone change guantlet to gauntlet? Thanks.

Blush

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 25 2008, 4:15am

Post #84 of 157 (6089 views)
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Ode dear! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
But please note that the first syllable of my last name rhymes with "ha" not with "hoe". (We linguists are sticklers for these things!)



Ah, but in poetry the rule of rhyme word-form and syllabification precedes actual pronunciation.

Hostetter's Soliloquoy

Free will or not free will -- that is the question.
Whether 'tis Noldor using minds that suffer
The slings and arrows of cruel orkish fortune,
Or else disarmed amongst the Berens and Brigands,
who thus oppose will's inclination. To fade, to rule --
No more -- and by fading to say we end
The debate and the thousand following posts
This forum is heir to (the cause of constipation
Not devoutly wished). To fade, not die --
Not die perchance by fate? Ay, there's the rub,
For before that fade what choices come
While snuggling mortals coil 'neath sheets
Safe from fate's shadow'd claws, with no respect
For the fading caused from so long a life.
For who would bear the banning scorn of Mandos,
The Balrog's thong, Bauglir's brash obloquoy,
Pangs of sundered love, the last ship's delay,
The Silmarils' sad passing, and fighting
The long defeat so worthily we held,
When elves themselves no choices make,
But by doom alone end. How would Feanor fare,
To grunt and sweat to craft his gems,
But that the dread of something after death,
The green country under a swift sunrise
Where no traveler returns (not e'en Halflings),
And makes him surrender his jewelled prize,
And broken he goes where he knows not of?
Thus conscience does reside in each and all,
And thus the native hue of Aftercomers,
Sicklied o'er with the pale cast of Man,
Does not warrant by its singular gift
The whole regard of free will imbued,
Or Elves lose by fading, choice -- But sink me now!
The fair Magpie -- And A.S., in thy replies
Be all my posts remembered.

Please forgive the stilted iambic pentameter.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 25 2008, 4:20am

Post #85 of 157 (6044 views)
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LOL!!! [In reply to] Can't Post

<wiping tear from eye!!>


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 25 2008, 11:15am

Post #86 of 157 (5985 views)
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Brilliant!! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 25 2008, 1:38pm

Post #87 of 157 (5981 views)
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Now that impressed me! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 25 2008, 3:03pm

Post #88 of 157 (6019 views)
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A triumphal note in an otherwise endless (but still fun) debate! [In reply to] Can't Post

You all have certainly given much more to the question than I ever expected (though I suppose I shouldn't be surprised; the topic kept coming up all weekend during Mythcon, too). But the "ode" was definitely the high point for me!

Bravo Morthoron!! Laugh

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 25 2008, 4:45pm

Post #89 of 157 (5988 views)
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Come on, now you're just being silly, [In reply to] Can't Post

and there is no end to that. We all know you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some wa'ery tart threw a sword at you!

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Magpie
Immortal


Aug 26 2008, 1:20am

Post #90 of 157 (5996 views)
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How did I end up in the Reading Room? [In reply to] Can't Post

I woke up this morning to find myself in the Reading Room with no memory of how I got here.

Morthoron, that was stunning. I memorized that soliloquy for high school English. I only remember the first few lines, anymore.



magpie avatar gallery ~ LOTR soundtrack website ~ Torn Image Posting Guide


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 26 2008, 1:57am

Post #91 of 157 (5963 views)
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The Dark Elf bows... [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you, one and all, and particularly those I plopped into the piece (willingly or more likely unwillingly). I had been working on a satiric version of Hamlet's Soliloquoy for a script piece I am doing for two other Tolkien forums (or fora) titled Monty Python's 'The Hobbit' (and yes, it is exactly what it sounds like), and Master Elrond uses part of that poem to bemoan the dullness of Rivendell, and elvishness in general. Taking it in another direction, it seemed applicable here as well. So I rewrote it to fit our debate. Here's the original as spoken by Elrond:

An Elf or not an Elf...that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler to be mortal and suffer
The twinges and hair-loss of mankind's fortune,
Or to take up Elfdom and unlimited potential,
and by inference become immortal. An Elf -- to sleep no more --
Because Elves rarely sleep given their high metabolism.
But there is heartburn -- a thousand years of eating lembas --
Does not aid in my digestion. 'Tis not a bowel movement
One would wish on an enemy. And sheep -- the sheep of which I've dreamed --
Ah, I've lost count. For in that count of sheep no dreams may come,
While snuggly mortals coil all soundly 'neath comforters and nap wihout pause,
There's only insomnia that makes a calamity of so long a life....


See? Who says six years of English lit. was a waste of money?

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Aug 26 2008, 2:21am

Post #92 of 157 (5953 views)
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Ah, magic! [In reply to] Can't Post

The Good Admins have saved you! And that's a most appropriate clerihew for Carl.

(Although I am a bit disappointed that his family has muted the proper Deutsch "-och" in the original surname into an Americanized "-ah".)

Speaking of clerihews...*looks around* Hm, has NEB yet posted his winning entry?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Aug 26 2008, 2:23am

Post #93 of 157 (5961 views)
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*applause* Well done! // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915


Peredhil lover
Valinor

Aug 26 2008, 5:50am

Post #94 of 157 (5946 views)
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*applauds* [In reply to] Can't Post

These poems are great - both of them!

I do not suffer from LotR obsession - I enjoy every minute of it.


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 26 2008, 10:59am

Post #95 of 157 (5953 views)
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no, NEB has not posted his winning entry [In reply to] Can't Post

I think he needs to, don't you? I only remember the first line...

Cool

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Darkstone
Immortal


Aug 26 2008, 2:02pm

Post #96 of 157 (5959 views)
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Do Men? [In reply to] Can't Post

(Go not to the Elves for advice for they will say both "free will" and "determinism".)

Certain Men, such as Aragorn, seem part of The Elect, those Predestined for a high seat.

On the other hand, other Men, such as Túrin, seem Predestined to be part of The Reprobates.

Though I wonder if this is more Germanic Wyrd than Christian Determinism.

(In any case, that's the book of course. Jackson's films gave Aragorn Free Will and a choice to become King.)

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 26 2008, 2:19pm

Post #97 of 157 (5969 views)
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Wyrd and Fate [In reply to] Can't Post

The Germanic concept of wyrd (which you mentioned), as well as the etymology of fate, were among the points Verlyn Flieger marshalled in defense of her deterministic thesis.

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 26 2008, 3:26pm

Post #98 of 157 (5985 views)
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Aragorn did have free will. [In reply to] Can't Post

If Aragorn did not have free will, Elrond would not have had to light a fire under his tail by telling him, "No crown, no girl!" He had a destiny, but it was up to him to strive for it. Many of us have destinies that we never fulfill.

Turin was a reprobate because his overweening pride made him putty in Morgoth's hands. His curse was that Morgoth kept throwing bait in front of him and he just couldn't resist nibbling at it.

In my humble opinion, anyway.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Darkstone
Immortal


Aug 26 2008, 3:26pm

Post #99 of 157 (5938 views)
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But... [In reply to] Can't Post

...at least in Germanic lore, Men can turn away from their predetermined Wyrd of their own free will. Which is the most evil and perverse act they can do.

It's like the philosophy that God predetermined all Men to be Good and go to Heaven, but Men can choose to be Evil and go to the other place.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 26 2008, 3:29pm

Post #100 of 157 (5957 views)
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No buts ... [In reply to] Can't Post

Verlyn agrees with you in principle. Men have free will. It’s the Elves, she says, who do not.

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 26 2008, 7:38pm

Post #101 of 157 (6307 views)
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And THAT is the point I've been trying to make! [In reply to] Can't Post

There may be a destiny, but destiny and fate are two very different things.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 26 2008, 10:06pm

Post #102 of 157 (6496 views)
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Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
There may be a destiny, but destiny and fate are two very different things.



Not really. Fate and Destiny are virtually the same; in fact, they appear as direct synonyms within each word's overall definition:

Fate --
1. the will or principle or determining cause by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do : destiny
2. a: an inevitable and often adverse outcome, condition, or end b: disaster; especially : death
3. a: final outcome b: the expected result of normal development.

Destiny --
1. The inevitable or necessary fate to which a particular person or thing is destined; one's lot.
2. A predetermined course of events considered as something beyond human power or control.
3. The power or agency thought to predetermine events.

However, a destiny of a race does not preclude free will for the individual, and there is sufficient evidence that Elves had free will over the several thousand year spans of their lives. As a matter of fact, given this extraordinary, multi-millenial lifespan, the whole issue of fading being tied to fate is a non-sequitir, particularly when even the fading is conditional on remaining in Middle-earth, and a death from non-natural causes (murder or accidental death) may inevitably lead to reincarnation.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)

(This post was edited by Morthoron on Aug 26 2008, 10:07pm)


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 26 2008, 10:21pm

Post #103 of 157 (6301 views)
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Yes but [In reply to] Can't Post

Explain again to me what the difference might be between the concept of Wyrd and the concept of "The Music" vis a vis the Elves.

If Men are Predestined, they do not have free will. Is that a true statement?

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 26 2008, 10:24pm

Post #104 of 157 (6283 views)
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It would be, but ... [In reply to] Can't Post

I do not think it's accurate to say that Men, in Tolkien's legendarium, are fully or completely predestined — not in the sense of predetermined, anyway. This is where Carl's caution about defining our terms becomes more important again.

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 26 2008, 10:42pm

Post #105 of 157 (6304 views)
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I did not say "in Tolkien's legendarium" [In reply to] Can't Post

And I am generally careful in my definition of terms.

I am trying to figure out how, in the primary world, when we discuss free will as a concept, it is said that predestination ("predetermination") and free will are mutually exclusive: one cannot be said to have free will if one also has a predestined ultimate fate. You must not only have the ability to sin, in other words, but also BY THAT SIN earn your just reward for eternal life in the hereafter.

And yet, when I apply this concept to the Elves (for whom The Music serves as a sort of predetermination), this does not seem to satisfy.

So: does The Music=Predetermination (Predestination) for the Elves?

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Aug 26 2008, 11:03pm

Post #106 of 157 (6295 views)
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Men, Elves and the Music [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I do not think it's accurate to say that Men, in Tolkien's legendarium, are fully or completely predestined — not in the sense of predetermined, anyway. This is where Carl's caution about defining our terms becomes more important again.



One thing that we know for sure is that Tolkien explicitly stated that Men are not "bound" by the Music. And yet they (we) still live within the actual history that the Music pre-ordained. So even though they (we) presumably have free will to determine their (our) own fates, they (we) do not have the power to change the ultimate fate of the world.

Elves, on the other hand, are presented as being bound by the Music in some fundamental way that Men are not. Certainly they have at least the appearance of having free will. Certainly, they seem to be able to make decisions that affect their personal destinies. Yet it seems clear to me that nonetheless their ultimate fates are pre-determined by the Music in a way that the ultimate fates of Men are not.

There is one factor to consider that may or may not have been considered in the talks at MythCon by Carl and Verlyn, or the subsequent debates on this topic. In the published Silmarillion it is stated that both Elves and Men came with the Third Theme that Eru propounded in the Music. However, in later edits and particularly in the commentary to the Athrabeth, Tolkien suggested that the Elves came with the Second Theme, and only Men came with the Third Theme. Could this potentially be significant to this debate? I'm not really sure.

I do know that I sure would like to see those unpublished notes on this subject that Carl has!

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 27 2008, 12:10am

Post #107 of 157 (6280 views)
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Well, if you're going to bring the Primary World into this ... :) [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
And I am generally careful in my definition of terms.



Yes, you're right. I apologize if I misspoke. I really meant just to caution all of us, myself included. It's much too easy to say things like fate, destiny, freedom, without acknowledging the many assumptions underlying them. What do we mean, each of us individually? What did Tolkien mean? How do we know that? What did early man mean? How do we know that? And so on ...


Quote
I am trying to figure out how, in the primary world, when we discuss free will as a concept, it is said that predestination ("predetermination") and free will are mutually exclusive: one cannot be said to have free will if one also has a predestined ultimate fate. You must not only have the ability to sin, in other words, but also BY THAT SIN earn your just reward for eternal life in the hereafter.



This gets very sticky, very quickly. For example, since you brought up the Primary World, how do we know there is any such thing as one's "just reward" or "eternal life in the hereafter" ...? If we're talking about Tolkien's assumptions of what is true in the Primary World, that's one thing; but obviously, we can't generalize. I, for example, am not a Christian. But let us set that on one side, or we will never get anywhere.

You say, "one cannot be said to have free will if one also has a predestined ultimate fate" — I'm not sure that's true, and I will fall back on the "dinosaur defense" I used in some of my conversations at Mythcon. Suppose we are all here on Earth, making free choices one after the other, each affecting other people as well as our own futures ... to a point: to wit: unknown to us, a meteor which will end all life on Earth is headed inexorably straight for our little island in space. In this scenario, we are all "destined" to die, one could say, and yet we are still perfectly free now. I do not think some aspect(s) of fate need necessarily preclude some aspect(s) of free will.

I've given my chess analogy previously. Let me try Aquinas now, instead:


Quote
The will's mastery over its own activity, its inner poise to decide or not, excludes predetermination by another particular cause and violence from an external agent, but not the influence of a higher cause which is the principle alike of its being and of its activity. The causality of the first cause flows into movements of will, and so God in knowing himself knows these as well. — I Contra Gentes, 68 (italics mine)



Daring to overstep the bounds of what I can reasonably know, I daresay Tolkien subscribed to this view. Lewis as well. Is it true in any "verifiable" sense? I can't say, but it "feels right" to me, with respect to what I know of Tolkien's personal theology — and which he then made some effort to reflect in his Secondary World.

I keep falling back on this question, but I will ask it again — if the Elves are not free to make their own choices, how is their entire history not completely hollow and meaningless? And how is it fair to punish Fëanor and those who follow him? One might beat a puppet precisely for doing what one's hand has made it do, but such a person would rightly be regarded as a madman. If that "person" were God, well, then maybe we should call him Demiurge and agree, sadly, that the Gnostics were right after all. (Which I find difficult to accept.)

Thoughts?

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 27 2008, 12:48am

Post #108 of 157 (6270 views)
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I officially wash my hands of this discussion. [In reply to] Can't Post

We are now arguing over the definitions of words and their connotations. What point the discussion originally had is no longer relevant.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 27 2008, 3:21am

Post #109 of 157 (6264 views)
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I wouldn't say that. [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually, in a more formal setting we would have started by agreeing on all the appropriate definitions --what is fate? what is destiny? what is free will? etc.-- and then moved to how they apply in different cases. But this is conversation, so we didn't do that.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Aug. 25-31 for "The Choices of Master Samwise".

+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
How to find old Reading Room discussions.


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 10:55am

Post #110 of 157 (6302 views)
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That is exactly what I have been saying [In reply to] Can't Post

Perhaps you said it better:



Quote
One thing that we know for sure is that Tolkien explicitly stated that Men are not "bound" by the Music. And yet they (we) still live within the actual history that the Music pre-ordained. So even though they (we) presumably have free will to determine their (our) own fates, they (we) do not have the power to change the ultimate fate of the world.

Elves, on the other hand, are presented as being bound by the Music in some fundamental way that Men are not. Certainly they have at least the appearance of having free will. Certainly, they seem to be able to make decisions that affect their personal destinies. Yet it seems clear to me that nonetheless their ultimate fates are pre-determined by the Music in a way that the ultimate fates of Men are not.



a.s.


"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 11:36am

Post #111 of 157 (6349 views)
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I am going to try this one more time [In reply to] Can't Post

   
And then just give up.

In the definition of free will that I was taught in Catholic Religious Education, there are the following truths:

· God made man and foredestined him for Eternal Paradise ("God made me to show His goodness and make me happy with Him in Heaven", to say it as I said it as far back as first grade).
· God knows everything, God made everything, God is timeless and always was and always will be, forever and ever.
· God made man of body and soul, individual and inseparable until death, and at death that individual soul will continue as an eternal individual person.
· God's intention is that we will do His will, which is always good (all things God created, including human nature, are good).
· However, God also granted angels and men the ability to make moral choices, including the ability to sin.
· If we sin, and it is serious enough to invoke it, we can possibly earn eternal damnation in Hell.
· The devil is a fallen angel who chose to disobey God's will and earned his reward.

That is the part that is not foredestined: Hell. We use our free wills to make our own individual eternal reward.

Can you at least grant that this is one possible understanding of free will? I am not saying it is the only possible explanation. I am not saying you have the same explanation. Perhaps it reflects my being taught by nuns and priests who leaned to the Augustinian side, I don't know. I am asking: is this one definition of free will, that free will of necessity involves the ability to sin and be eternally damned?

IF it is one possible definition of free will, then I am asking this:

Can Elves change their eternal destination based on the moral choices they have made using their free will on Earth?

If Elves cannot change their eternal destination because they cease to exist when the world ceases to exist (which was my understanding of Elven nature, prior to Mythcon), and the above is one possible definition of free will, then by that definition Elves do not have free will.






Quote

I keep falling back on this question, but I will ask it again — if the Elves are not free to make their own choices, how is their entire history not completely hollow and meaningless? And how is it fair to punish Fëanor and those who follow him?




Again, I have to say it does not matter if it is fair--the author or Author makes the rules, and not the reader or created being. Elves would retain the ability to make free choices and effect change and affect others and all those things I have already stated. They affect what happens on Earth while they are on Earth. They may even effect how the Earth itself ends.

They would not be puppets. No one is making their choices for them. Mt. Doom is one example of what happens when Elves make choices for what to do on and with Earth, isn't it? The kinslaying was an actual choice, Elves made the choice and were not fore-ordained to make that choice in any way. Elves make free choices.

What they cannot do is change their INDIVIDUAL FATES, because they all have the same fate, and that is to cease to exist when the world ends.

It's the same explanation those who don't believe in God might use for our Primary World: there is no eternal life based on Divine Judgement. We do what we want on Earth, we make our own choices, no one is constraining our choice.

In fact, I've always sort of assumed Tolkien was working something out, when he made Elves "immortal but not eternal" (immortal while on Earth but ceasing to exist when the Earth ceases to exist) and Men "mortal but eternal" (their spirits go "somewhere" after they die). I have been trying for years to work out how Tolkien used LOTR to portray the workings of Providence (as others here will attest, this is my most favorite of favorite topics on Torn). What would "fate" look like to us if we had no afterlife to earn? Would not "fate" or "doom" look the same to us as we went about our daily lives? Would we ever recognize the difference if we attribute what happens on Earth to either an impersonal coincidence or Providence?

I don't think it would make any difference.

I think this discussion is going to drop off the page, and I think that because Carl has information that I have not seen (and I will need to read the explanation for umbar/ambar in context before I truly understand what it means), and I think that because I am now repeating myself and still not being clear, I'll end this.

But I did want you to know that I am using a definition I learned for free will, which very importantly includes both the ability to sin and the consequences of using free will to sin (the possibility of eternal damnation). I didn't pull it out of a hat or make it up. I don't have a PhD but have been worried about free will and Providence for many years and have tried to understand how it works, in LOTR and in our real world. Currently, I don't believe in Providence or free will and think it is all an illusion.

But I always pray to be wrong.

a.s.


"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 27 2008, 1:45pm

Post #112 of 157 (6244 views)
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Good point! [In reply to] Can't Post

And there's a reason these issues haven't been settled in all the, oh, two thousand or so years people have been discussing them. Wink

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 27 2008, 2:00pm

Post #113 of 157 (6263 views)
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Getting frustrated? I'm sorry about that ... [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I am going to try this one more time
And then just give up.



Perhaps we should just agree that we aren't going to "settle" the philosophical and religious debates that have raged for centuries in just a few days — if it's even possible to settle them at all. I do think there's value in the discussion, but I don't like to see people getting frustrated. So, that being said, I'll refrain from replying in detail to your last post. I think you've made some fair and valid points, but I remain fundamentally unconvinced that Tolkien could have intended for his Elves not to have free will.

My goodness, this post has generated a lot of conversation! Smile

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 2:07pm

Post #114 of 157 (6259 views)
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This is a sticking point for me... [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
What they cannot do is change their INDIVIDUAL FATES, because they all have the same fate, and that is to cease to exist when the world ends.



Is that really what the legendarium says? I thought that what happens after death (contemporaneous, for the Elves, with the end of the world) is a mystery to both Men and Elves. And even for Men, I don't recall that there's any mention of eternal glory or damnation in the afterlife (as pre-Christians, they would not be entitled to salvation anyway, according to Catholic teaching, IIRC). I could be quite wrong about all this - I'm not that familiar with the Sil and have never read HoMe at all. But for me, the afterlife as such is a red herring in terms of Tolkien's legendarium - the fates play out within the stories, and glory and damnation happen before our eyes.


...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 4:16pm

Post #115 of 157 (6242 views)
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On the contrary! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
We are now arguing over the definitions of words and their connotations. What point the discussion originally had is no longer relevant.


When I was on the debate team in high school, the very first thing we did, together with the other side, was define our terms. No debate could be meaningful without first agreeing on exactly what we meant by the words we used.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 4:23pm

Post #116 of 157 (6249 views)
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Regarding Catholic Teaching... [In reply to] Can't Post

...the official doctrine is that those who predate Christ met Him when He descended into death for three days, giving them the same opportunity as anyone else. Presumably the habits which one forged while alive would shape the decision that one makes while dead. Therefore Tolkien would not see his characters as ineligible for salvation.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


FarFromHome
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 5:01pm

Post #117 of 157 (6241 views)
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Maybe but... [In reply to] Can't Post

... the legendarium takes place entirely before Christ's sacrifice. So no-one at that time could have been eligible for heaven - all would have died in original sin and would have gone to 'limbo'. At least, that's the way it was taught when I was a young Catholic student. And that was after the time Tolkien was writing (just!) Wink

(Not that any of this concept applies to the legendarium, as far as I can see. In fact, I think it's misleading to apply Catholic teaching directly to Tolkien's legendarium. I think he tried hard not to make it actually conflict with Catholic teaching, but I don't get the impression that he intended us to assume Catholic doctrine as a subtext.)

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 5:57pm

Post #118 of 157 (6227 views)
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That was what I thought was meant by... [In reply to] Can't Post

...The Music being as fate to the Elves, to paraphrase (I'm sneaking in from work and without the Sil to reference). That is, I understood that part of the Sil to mean that the Elves ceased existing when the world ended.

However, I am willing to change my mind on that; I didn't particularly like it and am happy that there is evidence that Tolkien did not mean it and that I (and others) am misinterpreting it.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Darkstone
Immortal


Aug 27 2008, 6:02pm

Post #119 of 157 (6277 views)
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Yes buts. Elves have free will. [In reply to] Can't Post

But let us continue and compare Elves to Angels.

Do Angels have free will? They can rebel against God, so it would appear that they do. But unlike Man they cannot be redeemed. They cannot choose to become Good again. Their Fall is irrevocable, their fate sealed. Arguably they have free will, just not as much as Man.

So what about the Elves? Elves can indeed rebel, so they have at least as much free will as Angels. But can an Elf repent? Has any Elf been redeemed after their rebellion? Yes. Galadriel immediately comes to mind. So Elves have *more* free will than Angels. They have as much free will as Man. (If they do not then the entire Temptation of Galadriel, which Tolkien thought central to FOTR, is a meaningless farce.)

QED, Elves have free will.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



(This post was edited by Darkstone on Aug 27 2008, 6:05pm)


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 27 2008, 6:17pm

Post #120 of 157 (6257 views)
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Although Galadriel's fall [In reply to] Can't Post

is not nearly as hard as the fall of many other rebellious Noldor that I can name. One could make the argument that Galadriel was allowed to repent because her sins were not severe enough to damn her, even if she did commit some. Some of the other major Elven characters of the Silmarillion on the other hand don't get that luxury.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 27 2008, 6:22pm

Post #121 of 157 (6223 views)
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The way in which the Elves arguably do not have free will, then, [In reply to] Can't Post

is that Elves, unlike Men, are confined to Arda, whether they are good or bad. They can make Arda a living heaven or a living hell at their discression, but it's the same place: they do not go to heaven or to hell, at least not until the Second Music.

Kind of an artificial distinction if you ask me: they certainly do have the freedom to choose good or to choose evil.

I will also note that the reward of the soul once it is separate from the body (i.e. dead), and its connection to the integrated living person (body and soul) that it was once part of, is murky.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 27 2008, 6:24pm

Post #122 of 157 (6234 views)
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Well said, and I agree. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 6:30pm

Post #123 of 157 (6235 views)
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I'm not trying to, I'm just trying to define "free will" [In reply to] Can't Post

I would not like people to think I am trying to make LOTR or any part of Tolkien's writing fit into Catholic theology. I was only using the Catholic teaching on free will to come up with a working definition (because that's the only one I really know or understand--or thought I did, until I began this conversation) with which to compare what I thought I knew about Elves, which also appears to have been mistaken.

Crazy

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Darkstone
Immortal


Aug 27 2008, 6:33pm

Post #124 of 157 (6249 views)
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The most sinful Elves [In reply to] Can't Post

The farthest fallen Elves are the Orcs who were Elves once. But Tolkien felt even they were redeemable:

"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)."
-Letter #153

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



(This post was edited by Darkstone on Aug 27 2008, 6:34pm)


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 6:40pm

Post #125 of 157 (6240 views)
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if Elves do not, in fact, exist after Arda ceases to exist then, yes, they do not have free will by my definition of free will. [In reply to] Can't Post

That does not mean their lives are meaningless or that they do not have freedom of choice on Arda, nor that what they decide to do does not have consequences. It means that they do not have free will the way I have--to this point--understood the concept of free will, which necessitates by its defintion the ability to sin and therefore to earn individual eternal damnation if unrepentent.

I had understood that Elves all die when Arda dies and they cease to exist. Perhaps Tolkien meant us to think about free will within the hypothetical possibility that those parameters would entail (in a fictional realm): there is no Hell or Heaven except what one makes for oneself on Arda. And so, within the confines of Arda, and the impossibility of eternal damnation for one's individual soul, the ability to make moral choices and experience the consequences of same would equal Elven free will.

So: Elves have free will, in that hypothetical situation.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 27 2008, 6:42pm

Post #126 of 157 (6298 views)
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So what did the three 'C's look like? [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien admittedly gives us precious little in the way of physical description of his various races, but it is quite apparent that the Elves are strikingly beautiful and that the Orcs are profoundly ugly.

The "three C's" - Celegorm, Caranthir, and Cúrufin - wind up behaving truly despicably as they more-or-less bring down the civilization of the Elves in Beleriand. If Orcs are what results when Elves truly become evil, did these three sons of Fëanor begin to physically resemble Orcs as well as in their behavior?

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 27 2008, 6:48pm

Post #127 of 157 (6304 views)
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That's quite helpful. [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for that effort, a.s., it helps a lot. Using your (and the Catholic Church's) definition of Free Will, and based on what I know of Tolkien's published texts, I agree with you, and apparently with Verlyn Flieger (although she didn't specify what she meant by Free Will) that Elves don't have that: they can't change their ultimate fate (except for the exceptions, like Lúthien and Arwen). I wonder if Carl Hostetter (who is Catholic) is using the same definition? And if Tolkien's unpublished works to which he refers indicate that Elves do have some say in their eternal fate? I now realize I wasn't paying enough attention to Hostetter's talk.

On the other hand, I think FFH raises a good point, that the characters in Tolkien's stories seem unaware either of eternal reward and punishment, or of the lack thereof; and I'll repeat myself in response to your comment that:

Quote
If Elves cannot change their eternal destination because they cease to exist when the world ceases to exist (which was my understanding of Elven nature, prior to Mythcon), and the above is one possible definition of free will, then by that definition Elves do not have free will.


Most of Tolkien's readership has no reason to believe this. Galadriel expresses doubt that she can get back to Valinor, but at the end of the story off she goes, having made the right choice. How can readers be expected to think that she nonetheless will be shut out, killed off in the end?

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We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Aug. 25-31 for "The Choices of Master Samwise".

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a.s.
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 6:54pm

Post #128 of 157 (6303 views)
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if they cannot go to Hell, they do not have free will [In reply to] Can't Post

Men cannot be redeemed from Hell. Once you go to Hell, you go there for all eternity. Angels or men. Angels had one choice: follow Lucifer or obey God. The ones who obeyed stay in Heaven; the fallen Angels are in Hell forever.

I agree that is not the same choice that Man has; we have lots of chances to avoid Hell. But once we make the final choice, we are the same as Angels in that regard. Once we are in Hell, we are in Hell.

I did mention that I personally do not believe in Hell, didn't I?

IF Elves do not have eternal souls which continue after Arda ceases to exist (a big if, apparently) THEN they cannot be compared to Angels as they do not need to repent. They make their own virtual Heaven or Hell of Arda, and then they die. They face no final judgement.

I have already said that if Elves do not leave Arda, then perhaps they have free will in an Elven definition, which is hypothetical. But I suppose all free will is.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Darkstone
Immortal


Aug 27 2008, 6:58pm

Post #129 of 157 (6304 views)
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Probably still pretty fair. [In reply to] Can't Post

The key to turning beautiful Elves into ugly Orcs seems to have been long years of torture and mutilation. For example, after 14 years of being held captive by Morgoth, the Elf Gwindor was unrecognizable by his kin. (Though he was still "good".)

However, Orkish behavior does seem to be what turns regular looking Men into ugly Orcs.

One might suggest that it would take a very long time of acting evil to turn a beautiful Elf ugly as opposed to the relatively faster shake-and-bake method of torture and mutilation.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



Darkstone
Immortal


Aug 27 2008, 7:33pm

Post #130 of 157 (6421 views)
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So do The Elect have free will? [In reply to] Can't Post

Men cannot be redeemed from Hell. Once you go to Hell, you go there for all eternity.

What about the Offertory of the Requiem Mass:

"Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, free the souls of all the faithful departed from infernal punishment and the deep pit."


I agree that is not the same choice that Man has; we have lots of chances to avoid Hell. But once we make the final choice, we are the same as Angels in that regard. Once we are in Hell, we are in Hell.

Like Aquinas said: “Therefore the damned, perceiving God in His punishment, which is the effect of His justice, hate Him, even as they hate the punishment inflicted on them.” Once you're that far gone there's no turning back.


I did mention that I personally do not believe in Hell, didn't I?

There are many who do not believe in the rationality of Eternal Punishment. (But then does one has to argue against the rationality of Eternal Reward?)


IF Elves do not have eternal souls which continue after Arda ceases to exist (a big if, apparently) THEN they cannot be compared to Angels as they do not need to repent. They make their own virtual Heaven or Hell of Arda, and then they die. They face no final judgement.

I seem to remember that Elves will add their voices to the Music when Arda is remade. Not a bad immortality that.


I have already said that if Elves do not leave Arda, then perhaps they have free will in an Elven definition, which is hypothetical. But I suppose all free will is.

The Elves will become part of the Music, part of Arda Remade.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



(This post was edited by Darkstone on Aug 27 2008, 7:36pm)


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 7:44pm

Post #131 of 157 (6468 views)
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Ah, but what about the Outer Darkness? [In reply to] Can't Post

The sons of Feanor feared to break their oath, because they bound themselves to be plunged into the Outer Darkness if they failed it. Therefore there is a potential bad fate for reallllllly bad elves, so there must be a good fate that they enjoy if they dodge the bad fate.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 8:15pm

Post #132 of 157 (6344 views)
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Yes and No [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Tolkien admittedly gives us precious little in the way of physical description of his various races, but it is quite apparent that the Elves are strikingly beautiful and that the Orcs are profoundly ugly.

The "three C's" - Celegorm, Caranthir, and Cúrufin - wind up behaving truly despicably as they more-or-less bring down the civilization of the Elves in Beleriand. If Orcs are what results when Elves truly become evil, did these three sons of Fëanor begin to physically resemble Orcs as well as in their behavior?


To some extent maybe they did, but not entirely. Abraham Lincoln once said that "Everyone is responsible for his own face after forty." Part of that would not apply--after forty, the wrinkles that we mortals develop follow our life's habitual expressions, yet elves don't wrinkle. Part would apply, however, for our habitual expressions also shape which muscles in our faces bulge or atrophy. Multiply this by centuries, and the three C's could become fairly grotesque. The scowls and sneers would really shape out ugly over time, even as they do on people whose bone structure ought to go with beauty. And have you ever noticed that bullies always peer from heavy-lidded eyes, as if they cannot bear to open them the whole way, see the whole truth? These bad boy elves would have developed quite an orkish squint.

(I was rather disappointed in Bilbo's make-up job in the final movie--he didn't look like someone who had aged in Rivendell, but sort of like a melted hobbit. In my dreams he has many, many laugh lines, layered around his mouth like petals on a rose, or radiating from his eyes like starlight, and the lines of his brows have an amusing kink in them, from the habit of raising one eyebrow in his cockeyed view of the world. But hey, that's just my dreams.)

Yet other factors in orkish ugliness wouldn't affect the three C's. They would not have become bent-backed and bandy-legged from living in tunnels, for instance.

Then there's the matter of hygiene. One may presume that, like elves, orcs don't suffer from the same diseases that plague mankind, the "frail folk" that elves look down on. That would make hygiene an aesthetic decision, not a survival necessity. Morgoth or Sauron could keep orcs in all kinds of foulness without the bother or expense of clean-ups; they might develop fungoid deformities, eruptions of the skin, lumps and bumps and runny sores--yet none of this would kill them, merely make them still more irritable.

And I still maintain that if you have an immortal creature who never suffers a toothache or loses a tooth unless it gets knocked out, then he must generate teeth continually, like certain animals do, and need to gnaw on wood periodically to keep them trimmed. I assume that orcs have fangs because they don't chew on a nice piece of wood every night like good little elven girls and elven boys learn from their mothers to do, just as we would brush our teeth. And the claws result from ages without manicures.

Also let's not leave out the matter of diet. Eating rotten, junky food (whatever was most convenient to churn out to fuel the armies of a Dark Lord) might not kill an orc, but it would tend to promote a horrible complexion, body odor, and figure problems. I expect that the Sons of Feanor had healthier eating habits.

There's also the matter of breeding. Morgoth and Sauron bred orcs to suit an agenda other than aesthetics. Elves breed themselves, and aesthetics do matter to them. Guess who has the prettier children?

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 27 2008, 9:15pm

Post #133 of 157 (6289 views)
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What a lovely image [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
( [..] In my dreams he has many, many laugh lines, layered around his mouth like petals on a rose, or radiating from his eyes like starlight, and the lines of his brows have an amusing kink in them, from the habit of raising one eyebrow in his cockeyed view of the world. But hey, that's just my dreams.)



Thanks for that. Smile

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 27 2008, 9:27pm

Post #134 of 157 (6304 views)
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I disagree fundamentally, but we can still be friends :) [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
if they cannot go to Hell, they do not have free will



I don't see Heaven or Hell (assuming they exist) as having anything whatsoever to do with the nature of free will. Where you end up in the hereafter may be a consequence of your choices, sure, but to me, free will is simply the ability to act predominantly free from external duress. Defining free will in those terms may be Catholic, but for me, Heaven or Hell is beside the point. In fact, one might say that the more you believe in Hell, the less free you are, since extraordinary fear of Hell would be a kind of duress, attenuating free choice. Wouldn't it?

Or let me put this another way: you said that you don't believe in Hell, so by Catholic dogma, how do you have free will? Tongue

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Aug 27 2008, 9:30pm

Post #135 of 157 (6294 views)
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It's not [In reply to] Can't Post

...in the same class as Morthoron's effort, and I'm sure it only won (in just one of three categories, remember) because there were no other entrants.


Quote
Fëanor
Felt that he could pay no more.
To surrender the silmarils he wasn't eager.
Why? You'd have to ask Hostetter and Flieger.



The second line in particular doesn't work, because what had Fëanor already paid? Also, though Joe Christopher argues that near-rhyme is preferred to rhyme in clerihews, the first and second lines aren't that near.

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We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

Join us Aug. 25-31 for "The Choices of Master Samwise".

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Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 27 2008, 9:35pm

Post #136 of 157 (6287 views)
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Yes, but there is always a Tolkienic contradiction... [In reply to] Can't Post

Such as Tolkien's apocryphal ending and then regeneration of Arda (the Middle-earth version of Ragnarok) which has Feanor breaking open the Silmarils and a new day dawning. Was he the only Elf allowed to exist at that point, and did Manwe bump him off after he completed his task? Then there's also the dwarvish belief that they will help Aule refashion the new world. Do dwarves have free will and a destiny, or do they just return to the spit and stone used by Mahal to make them?

It would seem the argument that Elves have their end when Arda ends is like a sieve, always watering those darn weeds of contrariness.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 27 2008, 9:37pm

Post #137 of 157 (6495 views)
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I don't think that's an accurate definition of Free Will from the Church's perspective. [In reply to] Can't Post

Man's eternal destiny -- i.e., Heaven or Hell -- is certainly a consequence of his exercise of Free Will; but this very fact demonstrates that Free Will precedes and is therefore distinguishable from this ultimate consequence. In other words, Man does not have Free Will because he can select for Heaven or Hell (and certainly not only because); rather, Man can select for Heaven or Hell only because he has Free Will.

Nor could that definition of Free Will obtain among the Elves and Men of Middle-earth, since so far as they knew, there was no moral distinction, indeed no distinction at all, in the ultimate destiny of Men: all Men departed "beyond the circles of the world", and so far as anyone knew they all existed there in the exact same state regardless of their moral choices. (Similarly, all Elves remained bound within the circles of the world: so Men have no more moral consequence of their actions than do Elves: again, so far as Elves and Men in Middle-earth then knew.)

But in any event it is plain that Tolkien was not speaking only of ultimate destiny: he wrote that Men were given a "virtue to shape their lives amid the powers and chances of the world" (emphasis added), not merely to select for an ultimate destiny beyond the world.

Furthermore, Tolkien's own discussion in the unpublished note on "Fate and Free Will" certainly makes no claim or even implication that Free Will obtains only when there is an ultimate consequence to its exercise. Rather, there, "free will" is defined as obtaining when (and only when, but by implication always when) a determination of course (action or inaction) is made for a "fully-aware purpose", amid the physical conditions and processes of the world (ambar) and the network of chances within "fate" (umbar). As Tolkien says in Letters, Free Will is "derivative" (i.e., I take it, of God's will and of His creation of the world and of rational creatures which He endows with will) and therefore always operates "within provided circumstances". As these unpublished notes explain, these "circumstances" are both ambar 'the world' and umbar 'fate': and these are "provided", of course, ultimately by Eru himself. Obviously, exercises of Free Will so defined can have moral valuation, can even be "sinful", within the world and apart from questions of one's ultimate destiny, since they can either accord with or violate the moral standards of the world that ultimately also derive from Eru.

They can also have moral consequences within the world, not just for ultimate destiny, and not just for Men: consider, for example, when Tolkien conspicuously notes that had Feänor chosen to surrender the Silmarils, things might have gone better for him subsequently, even though in the event he could not actually have surrendered then, since Morgoth had by then already stolen them. Feänor was presented with a choice, amid ambar and umbar, and whichever decision he made had a consequence for him, even though neither choice would in the event have effected the restoration of the Trees. That sure sounds like a moral consequence to me, even if as an Elf it had no (known) effect on his ultimate destiny.

--
Carl F. Hostetter


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 9:50pm

Post #138 of 157 (6265 views)
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OK, I can accept that [In reply to] Can't Post

I can accept that my definition of free will is mistaken; that the ability to sin and be condemned for it is a consequence of free will and not a determinant.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 10:09pm

Post #139 of 157 (6261 views)
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oh stop! It won because it was funny, it was topical [In reply to] Can't Post

and everyone got a chance to laugh one more time about the ongoing weekend debate.

And only incidently because there were no other entrants in your category!!

Cool

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 27 2008, 10:27pm

Post #140 of 157 (6264 views)
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But, what we really need to decide once and for all... [In reply to] Can't Post

Do Balrogs have wings?

*The Dark Elf ducks in anticipation of flying coffee mugs and statuary*

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)


visualweasel
Rohan


Aug 27 2008, 10:28pm

Post #141 of 157 (6266 views)
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And are they *free* to use them? ;) // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 27 2008, 10:29pm

Post #142 of 157 (6257 views)
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Or better, do they have the free will to use them? [In reply to] Can't Post

 

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 10:42pm

Post #143 of 157 (6248 views)
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it would depend upon how you define free will [In reply to] Can't Post

and we are back at the beginning.

I am not certain there is any such thing as free will, not really. Not per se. I don't think the debate is very interesting outside of a belief in Providence (or "God's plan for the world"). It's only the way free will and Providence work that interests me, because it's such an unsolvable mystery.

And I don't think it matters if it's just an illusion anyway. I don't think our lives would change. If I convinced you tomorrow that free will was just an illusion, would you run out and kill someone? No (well, probably no!), you would continue to act in the decent manner of most ordinary human social animals. We do what we do, and then try to explain it. One explanation: God made me and gave me free will. But it could just as easily be: that's just the way humans are programmed to act in given circumstances and any illusion of choice is just a story we tell ourselves.

I mean, I am aware of the deeper philosophical questions about man's nature that have been debated for millenia; I am interested in ethics. I am interested in how man lives an ethical life in social groups. But I personally see no dilemma if there is no Providence at work, after all. Then free will is just a term we are applying to something inherent in human nature.

Carl has already informed me that my definition is incorrect; I can accept that. I can accept that eternal damnation is a consequence of free will and not a required component.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 27 2008, 11:23pm

Post #144 of 157 (6421 views)
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I don't know. I think so, but [In reply to] Can't Post

they cannot sin. So maybe they don't. Or maybe the ability to sin isn't part of free will at all. Maybe I always just thought that. And now I don't. Or don't think I think that. I think I thought it at one time, but now can't remember my original thoughts (as opposed to Original Sin. I remember that.)

I am now aware of how much I don't know and wish I had not tried to argue the Flieger side.

I think we are praying the Offeratory for the souls in Purgatory, to be honest, and not those in Hell. Hell is eternal and irrevocable; we cannot free those in Hell.

I am almost positively absolutely sure I know that. 12 years of Catholic Education can't really leave one as stupid as I appear to be at this moment.

I don't think.

Which may be the problem.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 28 2008, 12:00am

Post #145 of 157 (6265 views)
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Please don't be so hard on yourself, "a.s."! [In reply to] Can't Post

We're all just "thinking on screen" here, feeling our way around a very complex and profound and, ultimately, for any Catholic, mysterious issue -- to say the least, in light of the history of thought on the matter! -- and one that frankly may not have a single, "yes or no" answer with respect to Tolkien, at least, not a single answer that applies to all his writings through all the decades of his work on the legendarium. You're certainly helping me find my way through the tangle (even if at times chiefly in reaction to what you write), so please keep at it!

--
Carl F. Hostetter


a.s.
Valinor


Aug 28 2008, 12:18am

Post #146 of 157 (6250 views)
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You are a nice guy, aelf :-) [In reply to] Can't Post

Perhaps I was just feeling a little petulant. I don't really think I'm stupid. I should not pretend to be...people may take me for being serious and agree with me.

Cool

I may not have known what I thought I knew about free will, however. So it is a good thing to think out loud, however humiliating it might be.

LOL

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Pooh began to feel a little more comfortable, because when you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 28 2008, 2:41am

Post #147 of 157 (6343 views)
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My understanding was [In reply to] Can't Post

that all of the Children of Ilúvitar would partake of the Second Music, which implies that the Elves will continue to exist at least until that point.

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Beren IV
Gondor


Aug 28 2008, 2:45am

Post #148 of 157 (6230 views)
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Angels in the apocrypha [In reply to] Can't Post

There are accounts that almost all of the named Angels fell from grace at one time or another, perhaps all except for Michael (even Gabriel). Most of these accounts have been declared apocryphal, though. If my understanding of what that meant is that it means that these accounts are simply unsubstantiated and non-canonical, but not necessarily false. If taken as true, then that would imply that some Angels, at least for some infractions, can fall from grace and later be forgiven. This may not be true for all infractions, obviously.

Is my understanding of what the word "apocrypha" means in this context wrong, or does what you have just said indicate that these particular "apocrypha" are not merely apocryphal, but are in fact heretical?

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 28 2008, 3:51am

Post #149 of 157 (6243 views)
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The Dark Elf recalls his Catholic education... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
There are accounts that almost all of the named Angels fell from grace at one time or another, perhaps all except for Michael (even Gabriel). Most of these accounts have been declared apocryphal, though. If my understanding of what that meant is that it means that these accounts are simply unsubstantiated and non-canonical, but not necessarily false. If taken as true, then that would imply that some Angels, at least for some infractions, can fall from grace and later be forgiven. This may not be true for all infractions, obviously.

Is my understanding of what the word "apocrypha" means in this context wrong, or does what you have just said indicate that these particular "apocrypha" are not merely apocryphal, but are in fact heretical?



Let me put on my Christian thinking cap. Let's see...Apocrypha, according to the earliest definition means "that which is hidden". There are many books of Apocrypha that are considered either "protocanonical" or "deuterocanonical" (either originally accepted as canonical or accepted later). There were many Councils of the Roman Catholic that wrestled with the idea of adding or deleting books (the Council of Nicea, for one), but the Council of Trent in 1565 basically set the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible in...ummm...stone. Protestant and Greek Orthodox bibles have different levels of acceptance for the same Apocrypha, and its all rather confusing. The finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed the age of many of the Apocrypha as predating Christ (such as the Book of Enoch, for instance). Generally, these are the books of Apocrypha:

Tobit
Judith
The Additions to the Book of Esther (contained in the Greek version of Esther)
The Wisdom of Solomon
Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach
Baruch
The Letter of Jeremiah
The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews
Susanna
Bel and the Dragon
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees
1 Esdras
The Prayer of Manasseh
2 Esdras


In addition, there are books banned from the bible (whether because of heresies such as the Arian Conspiracy, or, in the case of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, because it confounded the patristic and conservative church leaders). There are hundreds of these, but the most popular at the time of their expulsion from biblical canonicity were:

The Life of Adam and Eve
The Book of Jubilees
The Book of Enoch (my personal favorite)
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas
The Protovangelion of James
The Gospel of Mary (the Gospel that made Da Vinci Code the literary marvel it is *rolls eyes*)
The Gospel of Nicodemus
The Apocalypse of Peter

Whether these should have been removed from the bible is up for conjecture. My friend the bible scholar firmly believes that several of them (including the Gospel of Mary) are genuine, and used them in her doctoral thesis. To me, it's all fiction, and worthwhile enough to argue about as Tolkien is (except people don't kill each other over Tolkien, whereas...well)

P.S. Beren, the book you are speaking of is the Book of Enoch, that speaks of fallen angels, and the bloodthirsty giants, the Nephilim.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)

(This post was edited by Morthoron on Aug 28 2008, 3:57am)


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 28 2008, 12:37pm

Post #150 of 157 (6378 views)
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Er... [In reply to] Can't Post

... It would really be better if you put on your historian thinking cap. The Biblical canon was fixed long before Trent, in fact no later than 363 A.D. And the Gospel of Mary was never considered for inclusion in the canon, because like all the so-called Gospels of the Gnostics, it was denounced early and often as plainly heretical. The criterion for inclusion in the canon was that a text was deemed by the Church to be inspired scripture, not whether it was "genuine" (whatever that means).

--
Carl F. Hostetter


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 28 2008, 4:09pm

Post #151 of 157 (5929 views)
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To elucidate... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
... It would really be better if you put on your historian thinking cap. The Biblical canon was fixed long before Trent, in fact no later than 363 A.D. And the Gospel of Mary was never considered for inclusion in the canon, because like all the so-called Gospels of the Gnostics, it was denounced early and often as plainly heretical. The criterion for inclusion in the canon was that a text was deemed by the Church to be inspired scripture, not whether it was "genuine" (whatever that means).


Perhaps I wasn't clear. There were two different issues I was referring to: Apocrypha and banned books. When I said "whether because of heresies such as the Arian Conspiracy, or, in the case of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, because it confounded the patristic and conservative church leaders", I was not referring to the Council of Trent, but a far earlier time (as you may know, the Arian heresy had been suppressed a millenium before Trent). It was not until after Constantine Christianized the Roman Empire that a serious effort was made to consolidate the Christian Bible (previous to that, there was even a movement pomulgated by Marcion of Sinope to eliminate all Hebrew text from the Christian bible).

The Gospel of Mary was considered heretical and rejected because the Church Fathers at the time refused to recognize woman leadership in the church, and it was a direct threat to the patristic view of the church (which unfortuantely has been carried down to the present time). From a historical perspective, any question of female leadership was considered anathema by 4th century patriarchs. The idea that someone could truthfully divine (pun intended) inspired scripture from non-canonical material for inclusion in the bible at that early date is up for conjecture, as any reading of the historical record would show. The final inclusions in the bible were made out of the prejudices and political and religious manuevering of the time, and the criterion used does not necessarily reflect complete agreement within the church at that time or now. When Athanasius compiled his list of acceptable texts for the bible, he also presented a list of unacceptable books. It was based on that list that Gnostic monks buried their text at Nag Hammadi, rediscovered in 1945.

I do not require a historian thinking cap as far as the Council of Trent, because I base that point on historical fact: the Apocrypha as they now stand were formally canonized by the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent. For the record, the exact date was April 8, 1546.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)

(This post was edited by Morthoron on Aug 28 2008, 4:11pm)


Aelfwine
The Shire

Aug 28 2008, 6:59pm

Post #152 of 157 (6032 views)
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You were quite clear. [In reply to] Can't Post

I just don't agree with your presentation of the history.

Trent dogmatically defined the canon, true; but the canon that it so defined was recognized at least since 363 (and numerous canon lists dating even before that were essentially the same). Many long-held truths of the Church have been dogmatically defined only many centuries after the belief became evident in writings. Indeed, it is typical that dogmatic definitions are not made until and unless some point of orthodoxy is challenged. Which is precisely what led to Trent defining the canon dogmatically.

As for the rest of your portrait, yes, I recognize all the proper shibboleths in it. I read Pagels too. Fortunately, I did so only after reading real scholarship on the Gnostics, and a good number of their texts, and so I saw (and see) how thin is the gruel that Pagels is ladling. And I'll leave it at that as otherwise off-topic.

--
Carl F. Hostetter


Morthoron
Gondor


Aug 28 2008, 9:54pm

Post #153 of 157 (5885 views)
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Let's agree to disagree then... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
As for the rest of your portrait, yes, I recognize all the proper shibboleths in it. I read Pagels too. Fortunately, I did so only after reading real scholarship on the Gnostics, and a good number of their texts, and so I saw (and see) how thin is the gruel that Pagels is ladling. And I'll leave it at that as otherwise off-topic.



From a scholarly standpoint, Pagels' pieces dealt more with the Gnosticism evident in the writings of Paul of Tarsus or Thomas; whereas Karen L. King, a professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity, dealt more with Mary Magdalene. Regarding Pagels, interestingly enough her book The Gnostic Paul was voted by Modern Library as one the 100 Best Books of the 20th Century, and, conversely, the Christian Intercollegiate Studies Institute voted it one of the 50 Worst Books of the 20th Century. Religion is so divisive, which is why I don't practice it.

P.S. Sorry for the unnecessary divergence.

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: "Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!"
JOHN WILKES: That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
John Wilkes (1727-1797)

(This post was edited by Morthoron on Aug 28 2008, 9:56pm)


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 22 2009, 5:17pm

Post #154 of 157 (5629 views)
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It depends on your perspective. [In reply to] Can't Post

No one has free will from the perspective of Eru, for whom all of time and space is here and now. But other than Eru, who is omniscient? No one, not even the Valar. Since they are bound by time and space, they cannot know the future with the certainty of the past, and therefore must make difficult choices without knowing what Fate says about it. No one bound by time and space knows what choice they will make, and Eru does not constrain their choices -- it's just that Eru does know what choice they will make, since for him it has already happened.


visualweasel
Rohan


Mar 23 2009, 2:00pm

Post #155 of 157 (5636 views)
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If I understand you, then I disagree :) [In reply to] Can't Post

You say "no one one has free will from the perspective of Eru" — why? If I am reading your post correctly (i.e., making the inferences you intended me to), then it would seem you are saying that Eru will not view Frodo's choices (let's say) as free, simply because he, Eru, omnisciently knows all about them, and even "experiences" them outside of time (in an all-encompassing present moment). Is that what you intended?

If so, why should omniscience preclude free will? I think we are in agreement that Frodo's choices seem to be freely made to him, but I don't see why you would say Frodo's choices seem not to be freely made to Eru? You seem to say that because (to Eru) Frodo's choices are inevitable, that Frodo did not freely make them. But the mere inevitability of an outcome has nothing to do with freedom of the choice, does it? Not to mention, even to talk of "inevitability" or of the "past tense" when speaking of a being whose perception of time is all NOW doesn't really make sense to me.

"Eru does know what choice they will make", sure, but how does that make their choice (even when viewed from Eru's perception) unfree? There is — and I may have mentioned this already earlier in the thread (it's an old one; forgive me if I don't read back through it all) — a letter in Lewis's Screwtape Letters which addresses this quite well. There's also a passage in Paradise Lost (to which Lewis may be consciously alluding). And if I recall, one in Boethius, too. All of these confront the question of whether omniscience precludes free will, and they all decide it does not.

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
“On Fairy-stories” discussion 2008 – “Origins” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 23 2009, 3:15pm

Post #156 of 157 (5630 views)
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I misspoke. [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree, everyone has free will from the perspective of Eru. But Eru knows what they will choose, because from his perspective they have already chosen. That does not, however, make their choices any less free.


visualweasel
Rohan


Mar 23 2009, 3:18pm

Post #157 of 157 (5832 views)
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Agreed! :) // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Jason Fisher
Lingwë - Musings of a Fish


The Lord of the Rings discussion 2007-2008 – The Two Towers – III.4 “Treebeard” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
“On Fairy-stories” discussion 2008 – “Origins” – Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

 
 

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