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 Carl had the strength of some unpublished linguistic notes from Tolkien (written in late 1968 or 1969) on the Elvish words ambar and umbar to back up his position, and we were lucky enough to get to hear about three pages' worth of unpublished Tolkien in his paper.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

Subject User Time
Do Elves have free will? visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 21 2008, 3:53pm
    Could you provide some ground rules? FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Aug 21 2008, 5:18pm
        Yes, good questions! visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 21 2008, 5:52pm
            I say "Tolkien and Free Will" is very popular this year a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 22 2008, 11:16am
                Those sound interesting, but no. visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 22 2008, 2:55pm
    Mandos and Aule Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 21 2008, 9:53pm
        Yes, yes, I agree. visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 21 2008, 10:05pm
            Yes. Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Aug 22 2008, 4:16am
                Indeed. FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Aug 22 2008, 12:26pm
            why does "fairness" enter the argument? a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 23 2008, 12:25pm
                The "fairness" relates to moral responsibility FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Aug 23 2008, 3:44pm
                Hell Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 23 2008, 4:36pm
                    "allowed for the possibility of Hell", then a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 23 2008, 6:19pm
    No. But I will have to get to this later. a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 21 2008, 10:18pm
    Would anyone have thought to ask this question before 1977? N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Aug 21 2008, 11:05pm
        Good point! visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 22 2008, 2:06pm
            Gimli Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 22 2008, 4:59pm
            free will implies the ability to sin a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 23 2008, 12:45pm
    I have long argued ... Voronwë_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwë_the_Faithful Aug 21 2008, 11:54pm
        The Great Tolkienic Contradiction Conspiracy... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 22 2008, 1:12am
            Fickle Finger of Fate Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 22 2008, 2:46am
        yes, and the answer is more complex, too a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 22 2008, 10:57am
        I simply can't help myself ... visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 22 2008, 2:09pm
    There is no answer, of course Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 22 2008, 1:58am
        Be careful... Aelfwine Send a private message to Aelfwine Aug 22 2008, 2:42am
            Yes, this is one of the most central issues visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 22 2008, 2:51pm
            Peter Kreeft, in his book The Philosophy of Tolkien ElanorTX Send a private message to ElanorTX Aug 23 2008, 4:25am
                Machine stories Aelfwine Send a private message to Aelfwine Aug 23 2008, 2:02pm
            *if* there is free will for any created being, then a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 23 2008, 12:36pm
        The Big But... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 22 2008, 2:48am
            So what does 'fading' mean? Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 22 2008, 7:25am
                Fading and will? Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 22 2008, 4:46pm
                    Limited free will Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 23 2008, 1:59am
                        What you would have done Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Aug 23 2008, 4:33am
        Not so, actually: Aelfwine Send a private message to Aelfwine Aug 22 2008, 2:55am
            Have You Seen It? Voronwë_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwë_the_Faithful Aug 22 2008, 6:35am
    Was Flieger's Basic Thesis Different Than What She Previously Has Said? Voronwë_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwë_the_Faithful Aug 22 2008, 2:06pm
        I don't think so; however a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 22 2008, 9:44pm
            Did you believe it before reading "The Silmarillion"? N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Aug 22 2008, 9:56pm
                I never even thought about it prior to that a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 22 2008, 10:15pm
                Why Does It Matter Voronwë_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwë_the_Faithful Aug 22 2008, 10:47pm
                    "There isn't time to dig trenches. We'll have to buy them ready made." N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Aug 22 2008, 11:43pm
                        Apart from Ilúvitar's underlying plan... Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 23 2008, 2:14am
                            Predictions are not requirements. Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Aug 23 2008, 5:03am
                                Turin's Curse Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 23 2008, 4:15pm
                        The works in question were in existence when LOTR was published Voronwë_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwë_the_Faithful Aug 23 2008, 2:59am
                            By 1952, Tolkien knew that "The Silmarillion" wouldn't be published. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Aug 23 2008, 5:18am
                            We're arguing over "canon" Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 23 2008, 7:06pm
                                Alrighty then... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 23 2008, 10:47pm
                                    Post-script... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 23 2008, 11:05pm
                                        Beren N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Aug 23 2008, 11:08pm
                                    No canon. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Aug 23 2008, 11:12pm
                                        Hmmm... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 23 2008, 11:43pm
                                            I agree with your premise... Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 24 2008, 1:33am
                                                Aragorn said that!?!?! Samamir Send a private message to Samamir Aug 24 2008, 1:43am
                                                    Cut for a reason? Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 24 2008, 1:47am
                                            To whom are you responding? N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Aug 24 2008, 7:00am
                                    "Not canonical" does not mean apocryphal. Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 24 2008, 12:53am
                                        I disagree... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 24 2008, 1:47am
                                    And even LotR was fluid. Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 24 2008, 1:28am
                                FWIW, _I'm_ not arguing over canon Aelfwine Send a private message to Aelfwine Aug 24 2008, 2:04am
                                I'm confused. What is "canon" and what is it good for? squire Send a private message to squire Aug 24 2008, 3:11am
                                    Not only that... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Aug 24 2008, 7:32am
                                    Except that this question Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 24 2008, 8:24am
                                        Fade to Black (or Dark Elves)... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 24 2008, 9:10am
                                            Ah. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Aug 24 2008, 4:22pm
                                            Fëanor's destiny Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 24 2008, 6:45pm
                                                Well... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 24 2008, 7:31pm
                                                    I have to agree in general Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 24 2008, 8:45pm
                                        I suppose you are right. squire Send a private message to squire Aug 24 2008, 1:55pm
    free will and other runimations a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 23 2008, 11:36am
        Constrained by the Music Aelfwine Send a private message to Aelfwine Aug 23 2008, 1:46pm
            *if* free will, by definition, a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 23 2008, 2:38pm
                Are you defining "free will" FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Aug 23 2008, 4:16pm
                    yes, and no a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 23 2008, 6:37pm
    Why does it matter? // N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Aug 23 2008, 11:14pm
        To the Elves? Or to us? a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 24 2008, 3:48am
            What rhymes with Hostetter? N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Aug 24 2008, 9:54pm
                Hmmm...Hostetter? Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 24 2008, 11:19pm
                LOL! Aelfwine Send a private message to Aelfwine Aug 24 2008, 11:42pm
                    Ode dear! Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 25 2008, 4:15am
                        LOL!!! Aelfwine Send a private message to Aelfwine Aug 25 2008, 4:20am
                        Brilliant!! // a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 25 2008, 11:15am
                        Now that impressed me! // Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 25 2008, 1:38pm
                        A triumphal note in an otherwise endless (but still fun) debate! visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 25 2008, 3:03pm
                        Come on, now you're just being silly, Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 25 2008, 4:45pm
                        How did I end up in the Reading Room? Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Aug 26 2008, 1:20am
                            The Dark Elf bows... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 26 2008, 1:57am
                                *applauds* Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Aug 26 2008, 5:50am
                        *applause* Well done! // dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Aug 26 2008, 2:23am
                picks up the gauntlet a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 25 2008, 12:47am
                    LOL! (nt) Aelfwine Send a private message to Aelfwine Aug 25 2008, 1:32am
                        ack!!! Only I would mis-spell a word in a post about linguistics! Help, admins a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 25 2008, 1:42am
                            Ah, magic! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Aug 26 2008, 2:21am
                                no, NEB has not posted his winning entry a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 26 2008, 10:59am
                                    It's not N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Aug 27 2008, 9:30pm
                                        oh stop! It won because it was funny, it was topical a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 27 2008, 10:09pm
    Do Men? Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Aug 26 2008, 2:02pm
        Wyrd and Fate visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 26 2008, 2:19pm
            But... Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Aug 26 2008, 3:26pm
                No buts ... visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 26 2008, 3:29pm
                    Yes but a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 26 2008, 10:21pm
                        It would be, but ... visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 26 2008, 10:24pm
                            I did not say "in Tolkien's legendarium" a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 26 2008, 10:42pm
                                Well, if you're going to bring the Primary World into this ... :) visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 27 2008, 12:10am
                                    I officially wash my hands of this discussion. Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 27 2008, 12:48am
                                        I wouldn't say that. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Aug 27 2008, 3:21am
                                            Good point! visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 27 2008, 1:45pm
                                        On the contrary! Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 27 2008, 4:16pm
                                    I am going to try this one more time a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 27 2008, 11:36am
                                        Getting frustrated? I'm sorry about that ... visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 27 2008, 2:00pm
                                        This is a sticking point for me... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Aug 27 2008, 2:07pm
                                            Regarding Catholic Teaching... Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 27 2008, 4:23pm
                                                Maybe but... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Aug 27 2008, 5:01pm
                                                    I'm not trying to, I'm just trying to define "free will" a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 27 2008, 6:30pm
                                            That was what I thought was meant by... a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 27 2008, 5:57pm
                                        The way in which the Elves arguably do not have free will, then, Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 27 2008, 6:22pm
                                            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. a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 27 2008, 6:40pm
                                                Ah, but what about the Outer Darkness? Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 27 2008, 7:44pm
                                                Yes, but there is always a Tolkienic contradiction... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 27 2008, 9:35pm
                                                My understanding was Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 28 2008, 2:41am
                                        That's quite helpful. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Aug 27 2008, 6:48pm
                                            I don't think that's an accurate definition of Free Will from the Church's perspective. Aelfwine Send a private message to Aelfwine Aug 27 2008, 9:37pm
                                                OK, I can accept that a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 27 2008, 9:50pm
                                                    But, what we really need to decide once and for all... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 27 2008, 10:27pm
                                                        And are they *free* to use them? ;) // visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 27 2008, 10:28pm
                                                            Or better, do they have the free will to use them? Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 27 2008, 10:29pm
                            Men, Elves and the Music Voronwë_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwë_the_Faithful Aug 26 2008, 11:03pm
                                That is exactly what I have been saying a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 27 2008, 10:55am
                    Yes buts. Elves have free will. Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Aug 27 2008, 6:02pm
                        Although Galadriel's fall Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 27 2008, 6:17pm
                            The most sinful Elves Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Aug 27 2008, 6:33pm
                                So what did the three 'C's look like? Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 27 2008, 6:42pm
                                    Probably still pretty fair. Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Aug 27 2008, 6:58pm
                                    Yes and No Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 27 2008, 8:15pm
                                        What a lovely image visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 27 2008, 9:15pm
                        Well said, and I agree. // visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 27 2008, 6:24pm
                        if they cannot go to Hell, they do not have free will a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 27 2008, 6:54pm
                            So do The Elect have free will? Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Aug 27 2008, 7:33pm
                                I don't know. I think so, but a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 27 2008, 11:23pm
                                    Please don't be so hard on yourself, "a.s."! Aelfwine Send a private message to Aelfwine Aug 28 2008, 12:00am
                                        You are a nice guy, aelf :-) a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 28 2008, 12:18am
                            I disagree fundamentally, but we can still be friends :) visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Aug 27 2008, 9:27pm
                                it would depend upon how you define free will a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Aug 27 2008, 10:42pm
                            Angels in the apocrypha Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 28 2008, 2:45am
                                The Dark Elf recalls his Catholic education... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 28 2008, 3:51am
                                    Er... Aelfwine Send a private message to Aelfwine Aug 28 2008, 12:37pm
                                        To elucidate... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 28 2008, 4:09pm
                                            You were quite clear. Aelfwine Send a private message to Aelfwine Aug 28 2008, 6:59pm
                                                Let's agree to disagree then... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 28 2008, 9:54pm
        Aragorn did have free will. Dreamdeer Send a private message to Dreamdeer Aug 26 2008, 3:26pm
            And THAT is the point I've been trying to make! Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Aug 26 2008, 7:38pm
                Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more... Morthoron Send a private message to Morthoron Aug 26 2008, 10:06pm
    It depends on your perspective. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 22 2009, 5:17pm
        If I understand you, then I disagree :) visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Mar 23 2009, 2:00pm
            I misspoke. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 23 2009, 3:15pm
                Agreed! :) // visualweasel Send a private message to visualweasel Mar 23 2009, 3:18pm

 
 
 

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