marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

philosophical ramble on alignment and freedom

Was running across an argument about which would be better to live in, a Lawful Evil or a Chaotic Evil society,  Some were arguing that a Chaotic Evil society with its freedom to act on your own interest would be better, without realizing that would be exactly what makes it so dangerous -- no one else has constraints on their acts -- and argued that societies always move toward freedom.

One wonders how a lack of freedom arose in the first place.  But the important thing is that it's unwise to speak of freedom in this context.  Freedoms would be a better word, because one freedom can increase while another decrease -- indeed, because another decreased, and sometimes only because it decreased.  In one sense, a man shipwrecked on a desert island, alone, is the freest of all men, since absolutely no one will constraint him to do anything, even though his life would probably be completely consumed in the effort to stay alive.  Freedom to walk down the street in safety is predicated on a great deal of police power -- which, given the limits of their knowledge, will sometimes be directed against the innocent.

Though my thoughts rambled on about D&D's definition of "Good".  Haidt would think it rather limited.  If you haven't read any of his stuff (Righteous Mind is not to be trusted when talking about philosophy, but the psychology is good), he's found six moral foundations which are the basic principles of moral reasoning:  Care, Fairness, Liberty, Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity.  D&D description of "Good" hits on only one:  Care.  One description:


Good characters and creatures protect innocent life. Evil characters and creatures debase or destroy innocent life, whether for fun or profit.

"Good" implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others.



You don't even have to worry about fairness in this.

to be sure "Lawful" would take in Loyalty and Authority -- possibly Fairness, as well, since telling the truth and keeping your contracts is Lawful.  Chaotic would take in Liberty.  But then, it doesn't regard them as Good.  Even with Lawful Good, or Chaotic Good, they solemnly warn about the dangers of authoritarianism, or anarchy, without thinking it makes the characters not Good.

And then there's Neutrality.  In the Lawful vs. Chaotic it might make sense.  In Good, however, it doesn't.  Merely not doing harm to your fellow man is an important part of being Good.  Indeed, you get depictions of Good in D&D where it never occurred to the writer that virtue is the midpoint between two extremes, that just as a courageous man is neither cowardly nor foolhardy, a good man does not act toward people as if he were an island, and also does not treat them as if they were one entity.
Tags: heroes and villains, politics, role-playing games, world-building: social structure
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