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


Aug 21 2008, 3:53pm

Post #1 of 157 (2850 views)
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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 Carl had the strength of some unpublished linguistic notes from Tolkien (written in late 1968 or 1969) on the Elvish words ambar and umbar to back up his position, and we were lucky enough to get to hear about three pages' worth of unpublished Tolkien in his paper.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

Post #2 of 157 (2294 views)
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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 (2309 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

Post #5 of 157 (2255 views)
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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

Post #6 of 157 (2271 views)
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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

Post #7 of 157 (2257 views)
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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

Post #8 of 157 (2307 views)
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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 (2403 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 (2232 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

Post #11 of 157 (2239 views)
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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

Post #12 of 157 (2200 views)
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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

Post #13 of 157 (2186 views)
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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

Post #14 of 157 (2279 views)
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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
Valinor


Aug 22 2008, 4:16am

Post #15 of 157 (2201 views)
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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

Post #16 of 157 (2201 views)
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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

Post #17 of 157 (2182 views)
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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 (2171 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 (2206 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

Post #20 of 157 (2205 views)
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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

Post #21 of 157 (2196 views)
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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 (2251 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 (2319 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 (2148 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:


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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:


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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

Post #25 of 157 (2187 views)
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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

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