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Tollingtoy
04-06-2013, 10:15 AM
I've been thinking quite a bit about the ending in AMOL and have continued to do so as I reread TEOTW, but I have some questions about evil in the WOT. Obviously the DO is bad and seeks to dominate people and remove their freedom of choice, I think that's clear from Rand's battle with him at SG. My question is, how does this relate to the evil done by Mordeth and the people of Aridhol? I know that characters in the book talk about how it was a different evil than that of the DO, but they also talk about Slayer being an "old evil". I'm having trouble coming to grips with exactly what this means. How can there really be different types of evil?

Within the books, you have people sworn to the DO who actually seem to be good people at heart, just misguided. People like Ingtar, Sherriam or Verin. They are certainly ambitious and selfish, but it seems like many DF were actually quite horrified when they realized the things they were going to have to do in the service of the DO. On the other hand, you have people that we can presume are not DFs based on evidence in the books, from various Whitecloaks like Asunawa, Elaida or even the innkeeper Hake and his henchmen. These people are doing far more evil that pledged DFs are.

I guess my question is, how is all of this organized in terms of the WOT cosmology? Any thoughts?

Garak
04-06-2013, 07:54 PM
This is an interesting topic, one that I planned to discuss at some point because the ending of the series brings up a philosophical concept called the Problem of Evil. To summarize, there are essentially two different interpretations of evil. One says that evil is externalized and that the capacity for evil is given to us by an outside force.

For instance, evil would not be possible without Satan to tempt us.

The second interpretation is to say that evil is internalized. Meaning that evil is simply a part of human nature and that it cannot be extracted. You could even go one step further and say that evil is an abstract. It's simply a name that humans give to the urges and desires that they aren't proud of. Evil is the name of those actions that we as a society would prohibit.

So, let me just take a moment and describe the problem of evil. When I was eighteen, my philosophy teacher asked us all a question. “How can an all-powerful, loving god allow the existence of evil?” As soon as he finished speaking, thirty hands shot up into the air. A classroom of eighteen-year-olds just couldn't wait to tell him that evil was necessary to create free will.

So, my philosophy teacher raised a finger and, with a smile on his face, he said, “If god is all powerful, then why couldn't he just create a world where human beings had free will but where evil is simply not possible given the environment?” And this isn't so far fetched a question because if you think about it, human beings do not have completely unrestricted free will as it is. We cannot choose to fly (without planes). We cannot choose to breathe in a vacuum. We cannot choose to move things with our minds. We can imagine those possibilities but we cannot ever actualize them. So, would it be so bad to live in a world where we can imagine murder but never commit it?

Consider a world in which all humans are born into healthy, indestructible bodies. A world in which I am perfectly capable of taking a knife and shoving it through your chest, however, the act of doing so causes you no pain and does you no permanent harm. When I pull the knife out, the wound closes up without a drop of blood spilled. And once again, I stress, you feel no pain. So, why couldn't god create a world like this?

“Well, Mr. Cramer, because if god created a world like this, then the Earth would be overpopulated in only a few generations.”

All right, since we've already established that god is all powerful, then why not add to his laundry list? Why not make a world with infinite space? And infinite resources? Where fruit grows back the instant it's plucked? Where trees reappear the instant you cut one down. Where you can literally never run out of food and supplies and where the physical conditions are always just right?

“Well, what would be the challenge, Mr. Cramer? Humans need to struggle!”

To write the best poems?To compose the best music? To learn about the environment and the physical laws that govern it? To make use of those resources in the most innovative way? You might say – and many philosophers have – that human beings do their best work when they aren't burdened with the struggle for basic survival?

So, why didn't god do this? Why not create a world without evil?

Because evil is an abstract. It's a human concept.

For instance, let's go back to the world where stabbing another person causes no pain and does him no harm. Would we still consider the act of stabbing another person to be evil under those circumstances? If it's not actually hurting anyone, then what's so bad about it? Could children in that world run around stabbing each other as part of a game? Their version of tag. After all, no one gets hurt. So would we even bother to have a law against it?

Let's look at exercise. Most everyone agrees that daily exercise is a wonderful thing, an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But if we lived in a world where our bodies remained fit and healthy no matter what we did – where there was no risk of heart disease or diabetes – would we still consider exercising to be healthy and useful? Or would the act of lifting weights be considered nothing more than useless labour? Who wants to stand around lifting the same object over and over? Same with sit-ups, push-ups or any other repetitive exercise. If they didn't benefit our bodies, would we see any value in them?

Would thievery be evil in a world with infinite resources? Would adultery still be taboo if we were all immune to disease and capable of choosing whether sex led to procreation? Would the phrase “Jesus Christ Almighty!” still be frowned upon if the messiah had been named “Saul” or “Peter?” For that matter, would Peter be a common name if it also happened to be the name of the messiah? Or would it be considered disrespectful to name your child Peter?

This is the problem of evil in a nutshell.

Individual actions are not objectively good or bad.

Let's imagine for a moment that Randland had its fair share of both bleeding-heart liberals and staunch conservatives. Let's say there was a debate in the Royal Court of Andor where the issue of the day was what to do about the starving children in Altara. A Tsunami hit the coast and now the Seanchan cannot organize enough food for a relief effort.

So our bleeding heart nobles keep insisting that it is the Queen's duty to render assistance wherever possible. “Think of the children!” they shout.

Our more conservative nobles point out that the problems of another nation are not Andor's concern. Andor has its own problems and it would be irresponsible to waste resources on the children of a hostile nation.

“To let the children starve would be unspeakable evil!” the liberals shout.

“To aid and abet an empire that practices slavery would be an even greater evil!” the conservatives retort.

Elayne sits on the throne, considering her options. Mulling them over. At that exact moment, while she formulates her plan, Rand kills the Dark One and removes evil from the Pattern. The physical situation remains unchanged – Elayne remains on her throne and there are still starving children in Altara – but the Dark One is gone. Human beings are incapable of evil.

So, is Elayne capable of sending food to Seanchan when – as far as she knows – the Seanchan empire still practices slavery?

Is she capable of NOT sending food when she knows that the children will starve.

What about Tuon?

Is Tuon required to release the damane now that she is no longer capable of evil?

OR

Is she required to KEEP the damane leashed because – as far as she's concerned – letting them run loose is a danger to her community?

Which is it?

Well, it depends on your definition of evil, doesn't it? It's a little like the Oath against lying. You can speak a falsehood so long as you believe it. And likewise, Tuon can do something that Elayne might consider evil so long as SHE (Tuon) believes she's acting in the best interest of her people.

So, now we come back to the problem of evil. A Memory of Light seems to saying that evil can be externalized and destroyed. That evil comes from the Dark One and that it will go away as soon as the Dark One is gone. But evil is just a name for those actions that we as a society would prohibit. And the list of actions that we would prohibit is always changing. It was once a mortal sin to eat meat on Friday. No longer.

Or, to use a Randland example... A year ago (in story time), a man who wanted to channel would have been looked upon with the same contempt as a murderer or a rapist. But now, mothers proudly send their sons to the Black Tower.

Is channeling evil? Well, I guess that depends. Is the Source tainted and are you from Seanchan?

Evil cannot be externalized and therefore evil cannot be destroyed. So... The ending of the series is a little silly if you ask me.

Tollingtoy
04-06-2013, 09:46 PM
So, you are saying that the real evil are the, for lack of a better word, bad things that men do--things that run counter to the standards a society sets. Things like what Asunawa or or the people of Aridhol did, even though they weren't necessarily sworn to the DO, they are still clearly doing evil.

I think I agree with this to a point, because although there are some very horrible DFs, several of Liandrin's bunch or Semirhage and many others, some have redeeming qualities like Ingtar, Verin or even Asmodean.

Are those two groups meant to have a philosophical dialogue on the nature of evil? I guess my question is, I'm having a hard time fully understanding the point that RJ was trying to make. Although I see a lot of the pieces in front of me, I can't seem to assemble the puzzle so that it makes sense to me.

Tollingtoy
04-06-2013, 10:33 PM
Also, did Rand really have free will? It seems like the Pattern bent events around him so he could do it's bidding. How is that really different from what the DO did in Rand's vision during the fight at SG?

Garak
04-06-2013, 11:39 PM
What I'm saying is that it's impossible to remove evil from humankind because "evil" has no fixed meaning. You can't really define what it is that you'd be trying to remove.

Weird Harold
04-07-2013, 02:07 AM
Also, did Rand really have free will? It seems like the Pattern bent events around him so he could do it's bidding. How is that really different from what the DO did in Rand's vision during the fight at SG?
"Free Will" in the WOT is a lot like a Colorado River Rafting trip: you always have the option of walking away from the river instead of risking the rapids below.

The fact that sometimes there are canyon walls a mile, or more, straight up from the river bank doesn't change the fact that you still have the choice to walk (or climb) away from the river.

For Rand, Facing the DO at Shayol Ghul was just the easy "path of least resistance."

Weird Harold
04-07-2013, 02:21 AM
What I'm saying is that it's impossible to remove evil from humankind because "evil" has no fixed meaning. You can't really define what it is that you'd be trying to remove.
You are correct that "evil" is amorphous and changeable according to societal standards. That doesn't mean that it is impossible to define "Evil" well enough to eliminate a pandemic variety.

The DO attracted weak, venal, selfish, greedy people to his service; some worse than others. Mordeth attracted an entirely different group of "evil people;" many were so similar to DFs it was mostly a case of who recruited them first.

Both of those types of Evil could be identified and the driving force behind them could be eliminated, even though isolated individuals with comparable "evil" temperaments remained.


The difference is like the difference between "Fred Phelps, Pastor of Westboro Baptist Church" and "Fred Phelps, Emperor of the World" -- the first is "evil" and the latter is "EVIL!"

Tollingtoy
04-07-2013, 10:37 AM
I guess my question is, why is there a distinction made between the two of them?

Garak
04-07-2013, 11:33 AM
Well, if I recall correctly, the final book explained that Shadar Logoth, Mashadar, the dagger and everything else to do with that place were created by an entity called shaisam

Weird Harold
04-07-2013, 07:26 PM
I guess my question is, why is there a distinction made between the two of them?
You mean other than the literary need for the "opposites attract" solution to the Taint?

Shaisam/Mordeth/Padan Fain/Shadar Logoth/Mashadar were the example of the "evil" of "The End Justifies The Means" taken to extremes. That's a "human evil" raised to the level of personification.

The DO is presented as a "Primal Evil." He's revealed at the very end as merely a justification for the atrocities of DFs. In that sense, there is very little distinction between Shaisam/Mordeth and the DO; they're both just justifications for the evil inside of Humanity.

The distinctions between "Evil" is mostly a matter of scale and methodology. A single small cult is not worth capitalizing the Evil they present; a national or global movement that follows the same precepts deserves to be capitalized.

In many ways, "evil" is a disease and the same categorizations work: Outbreak, Epidemic, Pandemic. The disease is the same, but the amount of spread and populations involved make the distinctions.

Weird Harold
04-07-2013, 07:29 PM
Well, if I recall correctly, the final book explained that Shadar Logoth, Mashadar, the dagger and everything else to do with that place were created by an entity called shaisam
Shaisam was the new name adopted by the "spirit" who had possessed Mordeth, who had possessed Padan Fain -- They're all the same "evil."

Tollingtoy
04-07-2013, 10:11 PM
You mean other than the literary need for the "opposites attract" solution to the Taint?

Shaisam/Mordeth/Padan Fain/Shadar Logoth/Mashadar were the example of the "evil" of "The End Justifies The Means" taken to extremes. That's a "human evil" raised to the level of personification.

That's particularly interesting, because I have noticed that is a theme that pops up quite often in TEOTW. Nynaeve in particular is appalled Moiraine's seeming indifference to the inn being burned in Baerlon while they are escaping. The Whitecloaks present another good example.


But, why not just have Shadar Logoth be a creation of the Dark One, why an emphasis on the fact that it was a "different evil" or that Slayer was an "ancient evil"?

Weird Harold
04-08-2013, 02:24 AM
But, why not just have Shadar Logoth be a creation of the Dark One, why an emphasis on the fact that it was a "different evil" or that Slayer was an "ancient evil"?

As mentioned, RJ needed an "opposite but equal" to use in removing the Taint.

Also, the nature of evil is one of the things that RJ wrote with multiple layers. The DO is presented as "The Font of ALL Evil" while Shadar Logoth and the Whitecloaks are presented as examples of "evil" that isn't directly caused by the DO. The distrust of Aes Sedai (and anything else out of the ordinary, aka xenophobia) by various societies and cultures is another of the "minor evils" RJ wrote into the WOT.

At the end of the series, the message that "evil" comes in many forms and many shades of grey should be more readily apparent--no matter what you learned in Sunday School about "the Devil makes them do it."

Weiramon
04-08-2013, 12:35 PM
Pshaw, enough of this drivel. There is no doubt that "evil" is simply a name given by the victors to the vanquished.

And enough of these discussions about "free will".

Garak
04-13-2013, 01:37 AM
Shaisam was the new name adopted by the "spirit" who had possessed Mordeth, who had possessed Padan Fain -- They're all the same "evil."

Yes, but there is a spirit there. So wouldn't that make it a primal evil as well?

Garak
04-13-2013, 01:39 AM
Also, the nature of evil is one of the things that RJ wrote with multiple layers. The DO is presented as "The Font of ALL Evil" while Shadar Logoth and the Whitecloaks are presented as examples of "evil" that isn't directly caused by the DO.

Can you see how that's contradictory though. If the Dark One is the font of ALL evil (emphasis yours), then there cannot be any evil that is not caused by the Dark One.

Weird Harold
04-13-2013, 02:25 AM
Can you see how that's contradictory though. If the Dark One is the font of ALL evil (emphasis yours), then there cannot be any evil that is not caused by the Dark One.
OR

As Rand realized at the end, there is no evil that IS caused by the DO.

It is a matter of what the denizens of the WOT believe, and what is empirical Truth. RJ dazzled us with the special effects, but also let us glimpse "the man behind the curtain."

Shaisam is indeed a primal evil in some respects. In many ways, a more dangerous and destructive evil than the DO; in other ways, Shaisam is a minor evil entirely dependent on human nature. Shaisam is also part of the Pattern, where the DO is apart from the Pattern.

The confusion about the nature of "evil" in the WOT arises from the disparity between what characters believe and what the Authors reveal to the readers -- either directly or through implication.

Garak
04-13-2013, 11:50 AM
OR

As Rand realized at the end, there is no evil that IS caused by the DO.

It is a matter of what the denizens of the WOT believe, and what is empirical Truth. RJ dazzled us with the special effects, but also let us glimpse "the man behind the curtain."

Shaisam is indeed a primal evil in some respects. In many ways, a more dangerous and destructive evil than the DO; in other ways, Shaisam is a minor evil entirely dependent on human nature. Shaisam is also part of the Pattern, where the DO is apart from the Pattern.

The confusion about the nature of "evil" in the WOT arises from the disparity between what characters believe and what the Authors reveal to the readers -- either directly or through implication.


Yes, but it becomes a question where there needs to be a firm answer. Moiraine told us, in the first book, that the evil of Shadar Logoth is something separate and apart from the Dark One. That it was caused by humankind. This implies that while the Dark One is evil, he is not the source of evil. Which also means that you can destroy him without affecting human nature one bit.

Now, the final book is telling us that without the Dark One, human nature would be irrevocably changed because human beings would no longer be capable of evil. Now, it's possible that Moiraine is wrong. But you can't have both interpretations. You have to choose one.

If we're going to accept Rand's interpretation that killing the Dark One would create a world of happy drooling idiots, then we must conclude that the Dark One is the souce of all evil. Which means that he is ultimately the root cause of the evil of Shadar Logoth. Because even if men created that evil, the Dark One created the evil within men.

Tollingtoy
04-23-2013, 06:36 PM
I think I actually got the best answer to this question independently of this thread, which I am very happy about. I was reading a thread about Fain on Dragonmount and an interview between Brandon and Matt Hatch cleared a few things up--namely that Mordeth was originally trying to beat the Shadow by using the methods of the Shadow. Making the conscious choice of doing things that are wrong, regardless of whether or not your soul has been pledge to the Dark One in the Pit of Doom will lead you down a dangerous path. So, it seems like Mordeth/Fain, the White Cloaks, Elaida and others are all representations of that choice toward extremism and rejection of the balance that is at the core of the WOT cosmology.

That line of thinking also helps to explain Rand's battle with the DO where a world without evil is just as bad as world without good, since all of the examples listed above are making a conscious choice to reject balance. This may be intuitively obvious to many of you, but I figured I would post it since it may help some of the others reading this thread.

Weird Harold
04-23-2013, 10:25 PM
...Mordeth was originally trying to beat the Shadow by using the methods of the Shadow. Making the conscious choice of doing things that are wrong, regardless of whether or not your soul has been pledge to the Dark One in the Pit of Doom will lead you down a dangerous path. So, it seems like Mordeth/Fain, the White Cloaks, Elaida and others are all representations of that choice toward extremism and rejection of the balance that is at the core of the WOT cosmology.

Such is explicitly stated in canon:

Other nations fell from within. Such was the nation of Aridhol, once closely allied with Manetheren. Its capital city, also called Aridhol, fell to something dark that was not of the Shadow. King Balwen Mayel, known as Balwen Ironhand, in great despair over the course of the wars, gladly welcomed a man called Mordeth to his court; Mordeth won Balwen’s ear and mind; Aridhol would use the tactics of the Shadow against the Shadow. It is said that Aridhol festered under the poison Mordeth spread, turning in on itself to become hardened and cruel. Its people spoke of the Light while abandoning the Light. Eventually, their suspicion and hate created something unspeakably evil that began to feed on that which created it.

It is also stated in tEotW when Moiraine first tells the Three Amigos about Mordeth, although it isn't quite as explicit:

"Before Mordeth had been long in the city he had Balwen's ear, and soon he was second only to the King. Mordeth whispered poison in Balwen's ear, and Aridhol began to change. Aridhol drew in on itself, hardened. It was said that some would rather see Trollocs come than the men of Aridhol. The victory of the Light is all. That was the battlecry Mordeth gave them, and the men of Aridhol shouted it while their deeds abandoned the Light.

Tollingtoy
04-24-2013, 05:32 PM
Well, my friend, where were you on April 7th?

:D

Weird Harold
04-24-2013, 09:53 PM
Well, my friend, where were you on April 7th?

:D

Right here; answering you. :D

...