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Re: Broader world

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  • David F. Porteous
    ... big ... fulfillment. ... west ... One of the documentaries on the special extended edition of the Fellowship of the Ring DVD (the one that comes with the
    Message 1 of 14 , Jan 1, 2003
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      > I always felt that the writers who call Tolkien a racist and
      > closed-minded--like Brin in his Slate article--were being just a bit glib,
      > taking bits and pieces and creating a "case" against Tolkien. But in the
      > case of his distaste for the big world, I think Tolkien might enjoy these
      big
      > adventures, but it doesn't seem to bring his characters joy or
      fulfillment.
      > In the end, if I have it right, Frodo is disturbed by his adventures, and
      > they have "ruined" his simple life in the Shire. And going off into the
      west
      > with the pure non-industrial elves doesn't sound like someone who thinks
      > progress is so wonderful.
      >
      > Sparkdog

      One of the documentaries on the special extended edition of the Fellowship
      of the Ring DVD (the one that comes with the Argonath bookends) seems to
      answer this point. Tolkien was a pessimist by nature, so it said -- I have
      heard no other discussion on the subject. The anti-industrial feelings seem
      to stem from him returning as an adult to a house he had lived in; the house
      had been on a lush green hill but was later hemmed in by the development of
      an industrial town. That's only paraphrasing though, the documentary is
      worth the watch.

      Personally I think, like many men of his generation who lived through the
      first world war, Tolkien acquired a revulsion for the death machines of
      modern warfare and this became the distrust for technology apparent in LotR.

      > Well, the part about the Industrial Revolution helps me understand your
      > putting Tolkien in that category 8-) . But IMHO, he doesn't show the
      > parochial Shire society as being idyllic, but rather as suffering some
      dire
      > consequences because of its (unsuccessful) efforts to cut itself off from
      > the rest of Middle-earth. So I don't think it comes across as a model,
      > especially since the heroes of the story go out and get involved in the
      > broader world.
      >
      > --Trudy

      The sad little story of the shire may just be a reflection of what I mention
      above. Tolkien goes away and comes home to find it changed. As Tolkien
      hated allegory it's possible that all he meant by it was that it was just a
      sad little story :'( Looking to film -- only for a moment -- Jackson most
      definitely does have an idyllic Shire and quite deliberately so, he
      obviously intends to labour the point of industrialisation being evil and
      because he is a New Zealander that's understandable. The ecological
      environment has long been a hot topic in New Zeeland and Jackson will
      probably use the film as a mouthpiece for his views on the subject -- I'm
      not complaining as I don't feel any director could be expected to do
      otherwise with what will eventually be something of the order of 10 to 12
      hours of film.

      <<If Frodo's simple life in the Shire was ruined, it was not mere
      adventuring that did it. My own take is that Frodo can never find peace
      again because, at the crucial moment of trial, he flunked: he succumbed to
      the Ring, and in a sense when the Ring was destroyed, a shadow of the fate
      which overtook Sauron also claimed Frodo. A part of him was destroyed. --
      Ernest.>>

      I'm not sure I don't agree with that. If fate in whatever form played a
      part then Frodo did exactly what he was supposed to and Gollum did the
      rest -- as soon as Gollum is spoken of we know that Gandalf feels he has
      some part to play. Also when the ring is destroyed we know that Bilbo is
      restored and he had the ring for considerably longer than Frodo. Why Frodo
      cannot settle in the shire is, I feel, determined by whether you believe the
      Bagginses were different from normal Hobbits to begin with or were changed
      by the ring while they carried it. As Bilbo went on an adventure before the
      ring ever became part of his life I'm inclined to believe the former. Sam,
      Merry and Pippin would all have lived happily in the Shire all their lives
      had the ring never existed, but would Frodo? As the ward of Bilbo surely
      the wanderlust would have rubbed off and he would have had his own adventure
      eventually. Once these wanderers are exposed to the wide world they can't
      really be at peace with the simple Shire again. Just IMHO, of course.

      -- David
    • David S Bratman
      Tolkien didn t hate technology, he hated industrialization. There s a difference. Any old hand-made farm tool is technology, it s just not technology made by
      Message 2 of 14 , Jan 1, 2003
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        Tolkien didn't hate technology, he hated industrialization. There's a
        difference. Any old hand-made farm tool is technology, it's just not
        technology made by mass industry. And his hatred for industrialization did
        not mean that he wanted England to return to a pre-industrial society, any
        more than my distaste for Jackson's desecrations means that I'm demanding
        the film be withdrawn and erased from our memories. In both cases: it's
        here, we'll live with it, but we don't have to like it, and we _can_
        protest its indiscriminate spread and its attacks on that which we hold dear.

        In the prologue to LOTR, Tolkien writes that hobbits "do not and did not
        understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a
        water-mill, or a hand-loom, though they were skilful with tools," and in
        _The Hobbit_ he writes of their "long clever brown fingers." Hobbits got
        on very well with technology, just not industrialized technology.

        - David Bratman
      • alexeik@aol.com
        In a message dated 1/1/3 5:09:12 PM, David Bratman wrote: One should
        Message 3 of 14 , Jan 1, 2003
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          In a message dated 1/1/3 5:09:12 PM, David Bratman wrote:

          <<Tolkien didn't hate technology, he hated industrialization. There's a
          difference. >>

          One should also note that the supposed "magic" of the Elves (like the
          Silmarils, the palantíri, Galadriel's mirror, etc.) are really examples of a
          very high technology, but one that isn't the product of an industrialised
          system.
          Alexei
        • David S Bratman
          ... And one that can t be reduced to a simple scientific explanation either, one should also add. As Tolkien wrote, I dislike any pull towards
          Message 4 of 14 , Jan 1, 2003
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            At 01:55 PM 1/1/2003 -0500, Alexei wrote:

            >One should also note that the supposed "magic" of the Elves (like the
            >Silmarils, the palantíri, Galadriel's mirror, etc.) are really examples of a
            >very high technology, but one that isn't the product of an industrialised
            >system.

            And one that can't be reduced to a simple scientific explanation either,
            one should also add. As Tolkien wrote, "I dislike any pull towards
            'scientification'. ... [This mode is] alien to my story." (The invaluable
            Letter no. 210 again, p. 274)

            - David Bratman
          • Stolzi@aol.com
            In a message dated 1/1/2003 11:09:12 AM Central Standard Time, ... One gets the feeling that industrialized technology is what Saruman has been producing,
            Message 5 of 14 , Jan 1, 2003
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              In a message dated 1/1/2003 11:09:12 AM Central Standard Time,
              dbratman@... writes:


              > Hobbits got
              > on very well with technology, just not industrialized technology.
              >

              One gets the feeling that "industrialized technology" is what Saruman has
              been producing, although we're never quite shown what, or how.

              If it's driven by wood as fuel (the trees he's been chopping down) it doesn't
              seem terribly advanced; yet he apparently blows up the wall at Helm's Deep
              with something resembling gunpowder.

              Diamond Proudbrook


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • David F. Porteous
              Message 6 of 14 , Jan 1, 2003
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                <<One should also note that the supposed "magic" of the Elves (like the
                Silmarils, the palantíri, Galadriel's mirror, etc.) are really examples of a
                very high technology, but one that isn't the product of an industrialised
                system. Alexei>>

                No, I must disagree here. OCE defines technology as "the study or use of
                the mechanical arts or applied sciences". The items you mention are neither
                mechanical or examples of any kind of science. This "supposed magic" is
                better described as just "magic".

                Vision over distance or of the past is something we can now do with
                technology, but the function of these items should not be described as
                technological.

                -- David.
              • Pauline J. Alama
                Perhaps someone s already brought this up, but at any rate, I think that for an author whose best friends were sent to the trenches by leaders proud of their
                Message 7 of 14 , Jan 2, 2003
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                  Perhaps someone's already brought this up, but at any rate, I think that for an author whose best friends were sent to the trenches by leaders proud of their modern thinking, and killed by some of the latest inventions of military technology, like chemical warfare and automatic weaponry, it's rather natural to have a somewhat jaded view of technology and progress.

                  "What passing bells for these, who die as cattle?
                  Only the monstrous anger of the guns."
                  --Wilfred Owen, another WWI poet.

                  Pauline J. Alama
                  http://www.geocities.com/paulinejalama/paulinealama.html
                  THE EYE OF NIGHT
                  (Bantam Spectra, July 2002)
                  --- On Wed 01/01, David S Bratman < dbratman@... > wrote:From: David S Bratman [mailto: dbratman@...]To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.comDate: Wed, 01 Jan 2003 11:01:13 -0800Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Tolkien and technologyAt 01:55 PM 1/1/2003 -0500, Alexei wrote:>One should also note that the supposed "magic" of the Elves (like the>Silmarils, the palant�ri, Galadriel's mirror, etc.) are really examples of a>very high technology, but one that isn't the product of an industrialised>system.And one that can't be reduced to a simple scientific explanation either, one should also add. As Tolkien wrote, "I dislike any pull towards 'scientification'. ... [This mode is] alien to my story." (The invaluable Letter no. 210 again, p. 274)- David BratmanThe Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/

                  _______________________________________________
                  Join Excite! - http://www.excite.com
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                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • alexeik@aol.com
                  In a message dated 1/2/3 12:48:00 AM, David Porteous wrote:
                  Message 8 of 14 , Jan 2, 2003
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                    In a message dated 1/2/3 12:48:00 AM, David Porteous wrote:

                    <<No, I must disagree here. OCE defines technology as "the study or use of

                    the mechanical arts or applied sciences". The items you mention are neither

                    mechanical or examples of any kind of science. This "supposed magic" is

                    better described as just "magic".


                    Vision over distance or of the past is something we can now do with

                    technology, but the function of these items should not be described as

                    technological.

                    >>

                    I can't agree. What the Elves do doesn't at all resemble traditional models
                    of magic. Fëanor and the Noldor are consistently portrayed as craftsmen, not
                    magicians; the Silmarils and the Rings of Power are "forged", clearly put
                    together by some sort of physical process, even though it's not one we're
                    familiar with. The passage Jan Galkowski just quoted from FotR (about the
                    elven-cloaks) makes it clear that the Elves don't think of what they do as
                    "magic", although it looks like "magic" to outsiders (viz. the old chestnut:
                    "A sufficiently advanced technology is undistinguishable from magic"). It
                    seems evident to me that Tolkien (not himself a scientist) envisioned his
                    Elves as possessing a science that gave them a far more intimate knowledge of
                    the workings of the universe than 20th-century human science has managed to
                    achieve, and as having a technology that reflects this. He didn't bother to
                    speculate in detail on the nature of this science and its technological
                    applications (which would have turned his books into science fiction), since
                    this was not where his primary interest lay.
                    Alexei
                  • David F. Porteous
                    What traditional models are you referring to? I can t
                    Message 9 of 14 , Jan 2, 2003
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                      <<Alexei wrote: I can't agree. What the Elves do doesn't at all resemble
                      traditional models of magic.>>

                      What traditional models are you referring to? I can't dispute that point
                      unless I know what you have established as a basis for "real" magic.

                      <<Fëanor and the Noldor are consistently portrayed as craftsmen, not
                      magicians; the Silmarils and the Rings of Power are "forged", clearly put
                      together by some sort of physical process, even though it's not one we're
                      familiar with.>>

                      I would be curious to learn how you would go about constructing a ring which
                      you considered magical and what part of that process you feel is lacking in
                      the construction of these rings. Simply because the rings of power were
                      forged does not by itself mean they were not magical. As for Fëanor being a
                      craftsman he certainly was, but as I said that does not preclude him from
                      also being able to make items of magic. "Then he began a long and secret
                      labour, and he summoned all his lore, and his power, and his subtle skill;
                      and at the end of all he made the Silmarils... And the inner fire of the
                      Silmarils Fëanor made of the blended light of the trees of Valinor...." --
                      (Sil. p67). Note the terms "power" and "subtle skill" -- the Silmarils were
                      not simply an application of technology, of "lore", they were a creation
                      beyond technology which depended on something being given to them by their
                      creator. Part of that something may have been art or craft, part was most
                      certainly magic. If you are implying that the elven understanding of the
                      physical universe was sufficiently advanced to trap an endless source of
                      light in a crystal I would say that such advanced technology would be
                      otherwise represented in elven culture, it is not possible to go directly
                      from living in trees to manipulating wave/particles; there are several steps
                      in-between and while I'm prepared to countenance that elves may be very
                      advanced I would first like to see some kind of evidence of these
                      intervening steps.

                      <<The passage Jan Galkowski just quoted from FotR (about the elven-cloaks)
                      makes it clear that the Elves don't think of what they do as "magic"...>>

                      No it doesn't, it makes it clear that the elves don't think of the cloaks as
                      magic, which they aren't. I haven't heard anyone say they are. The quote
                      actually tells us how the cloaks are made, somebody weaves them -- perhaps
                      it's very technologically advanced weaving? If the elves had been
                      questioned about the mirror I doubt their answer would have been as prosaic.

                      <<...it looks like "magic" to outsiders (viz. the old chestnut: "A
                      sufficiently advanced technology is undistinguishable from magic").>>

                      And of course the reverse, magic might easily be mistaken for very advanced
                      technology, is necessarily true. Unless of course your contention is that
                      magic does not exist at all in Tolkien, in which case we cannot have this
                      discussion.

                      <<It seems evident to me that Tolkien (not himself a scientist) envisioned
                      his Elves as possessing a science that gave them a far more intimate
                      knowledge of the workings of the universe than 20th-century human science
                      has managed to achieve, and as having a technology that reflects this.>>

                      You may think it strange, but I would agree with that. Only in general
                      sentiment though. Elves, as is the case with many of the peoples of our
                      earth, have a spiritual understanding of their world and that this
                      understanding does not derive through equations and formulae. But isn't
                      this closer to what we would consider religion and mysticism than science?
                      I've posed that question and I apologise as I'm also going to answer it. It
                      is religion and mysticism -- which for Tolkien's world is real; discussions
                      on how this pertains to our world are tangential and irrelevant -- which is
                      only the shortest of steps away from magic.

                      <<He didn't bother to speculate in detail on the nature of this science and
                      its technological applications (which would have turned his books into
                      science fiction), since this was not where his primary interest lay.>>

                      Couldn't the argument be made that the reason Tolkien didn't speculate in
                      this way was because there was nothing on which to speculate? Tolkien
                      didn't speculate on a great many things which weren't part of his books.

                      Tolkien did however use the actual words "magic" and "sorcery" in the
                      narrative of his books, not just as misconceptions by characters. I cannot
                      believe he would use such terms when he in fact specifically did not mean
                      magic or sorcery, but technology.

                      -- David
                    • disneylogic <disneylogic@yahoo.com>
                      On Thu, 2 Jan 2003 21:29:56 -0000 David F. Porteous wrote in part: [snip] ... A quibble, if you ll allow: Industrialization and
                      Message 10 of 14 , Jan 3, 2003
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                        On Thu, 2 Jan 2003 21:29:56 -0000 "David F. Porteous"
                        <dporteous@...> wrote in part:

                        [snip]

                        >Elves, as is the case with many of the peoples of our
                        >earth, have a spiritual understanding of their world and that this
                        >understanding does not derive through equations and formulae.

                        A quibble, if you'll allow: Industrialization and mechanics does not
                        go, necessarily or not, hand in hand with superior mathematics.
                        Indeed, it is pretty much independent of it. Much of the gnostic
                        tendency in early European science and, before that, in southeastern
                        European religion was a combination of mathematics, mysticism, and
                        Manicheanism. Having been grounded in much of it, I can't imagine
                        anything closer to the spiritual than a view of our world based upon
                        quantum mechanics, although many of the purely rationalist opinion
                        would disagree with me on that.

                        Recall the toast of the Oxford Mathematics Society:

                        To Mathematics! May She be of no damn use to anybody!

                        Indeed, to people familiar with it, the astounding thing about
                        mathematics is that it is as useful as it is.

                        --jtg


                        [snip]
                      • Stolzi@aol.com
                        ... Elvis did, too. [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        Message 11 of 14 , Jan 3, 2003
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                          > On Thu, 2 Jan 2003 21:29:56 -0000 "David F. Porteous"
                          > <dporteous@...> wrote in part:
                          >
                          > [snip]
                          >
                          > >Elves, as is the case with many of the peoples of our
                          > >earth, have a spiritual understanding of their world


                          Elvis did, too.


                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • David F. Porteous
                          Message 12 of 14 , Jan 4, 2003
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                            <<disneylogic wrote: A quibble, if you'll allow>>

                            Hmmm, oh alright, you may quibble ;)

                            <<Industrialization and mechanics does not go, necessarily or not, hand in
                            hand with superior mathematics. Indeed, it is pretty much independent of
                            it.>>

                            Well I would agree that mathematics is not dependant on industrialisation or
                            mechanics, but engineering, and thus industrialisation and mechanics, is
                            dependant on mathematics.

                            <<Much of the gnostic tendency in early European science....>>

                            But in this instance the discussion is not about early science; the argument
                            which has been put is that elves are in possession of some very advanced
                            science. To duplicate the effects of the rings of power using technology
                            would require greater understanding than we currently have and it is my
                            contention that while such is not inconceivable, it would be necessary to
                            move to such an understanding systematically. Everything we know about the
                            development of technology tells us this is so.

                            <<Having been grounded in much of it, I can't imagine anything closer to the
                            spiritual than a view of our world based upon quantum mechanics, although
                            many of the purely rationalist opinion would disagree with me on that.>>

                            I think religious people would disagree that there is nothing closer to the
                            spiritual than maths, though I believe this Pope is very much in favour of
                            science being developed and doesn't feel it impinges on the remit of
                            religion. Personally, as an atheist, I believe in an existentialist
                            viewpoint.

                            <<Recall the toast of the Oxford Mathematics Society: To Mathematics! May
                            She be of no damn use to anybody!>>

                            Very good.

                            -- David.
                          • alexeik@aol.com
                            In a message dated 1/2/3 9:24:26 PM, David Porteous wrote:
                            Message 13 of 14 , Jan 4, 2003
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                              In a message dated 1/2/3 9:24:26 PM, David Porteous wrote:


                              <<<<[I wrote] The passage Jan Galkowski just quoted from FotR (about the
                              elven-cloaks)

                              makes it clear that the Elves don't think of what they do as "magic"...>>


                              No it doesn't, it makes it clear that the elves don't think of the cloaks as

                              magic, which they aren't. I haven't heard anyone say they are [mind you, the
                              hobbits have just expressed a suspicion they might be -- AK]. The quote

                              actually tells us how the cloaks are made, somebody weaves them -- perhaps

                              it's very technologically advanced weaving? If the elves had been

                              questioned about the mirror I doubt their answer would have been as prosaic.>>

                              Galadriel (in reference to the Mirror): "For this is what your folk would
                              call magic, I believe: though I do not understand clearly what they mean; and
                              they seem also to use the same word of the deceits of the Enemy. But this, if
                              you will, is the magic of Galadriel. Did you not say that you wished to see
                              Elf-magic?"
                              Much the same reaction as with the elven-cloaks (which are not simply
                              high-quality weave, but have unusual properties that could be ascribed to
                              "magic") -- "you people call it magic, even though that doesn't make sense to
                              *us*; but I'll humour you by calling it "magic" if it makes you comfortable".
                              Yes, as you point out, Tolkien does refer to "magic" and "sorcery" as
                              realities in his subcreation, but (as far as I can recall) always in
                              reference to activities of the servants of Morgoth, and later Sauron. The
                              reason, I think, is simple: as a Catholic, Tolkien has a strongly negative
                              view of magic and the occult as illicit spheres of knowledge ("the deceits of
                              the Enemy"), and doesn't want us to think that the activities of the Elves
                              are at all related to them in *kind*. What the Elves do is the product of
                              licit, "scientific" knowledge -- what a Mediaeval frame of reference would
                              call "natural philosophy". It is real knowledge of the workings of nature,
                              applied to licit ends.


                              <<<<...it looks like "magic" to outsiders (viz. the old chestnut: "A

                              sufficiently advanced technology is undistinguishable from magic").>>


                              And of course the reverse, magic might easily be mistaken for very advanced

                              technology, is necessarily true.>>

                              Not necessarily. One can mistake a very advanced technology (a technology
                              that has dispensed with bulky "hardware", for instance) for magic because the
                              process by which it works is invisible, cannot be reconstructed by
                              observation, and thus seems to have the properties commonly ascribed to
                              magic. But there's no in-built reason to perceive something that looks like
                              magic as being anything other than magic (unless one disbelieves in magic on
                              principle, and thus is forced to suspect that something else is at work).

                              << Unless of course your contention is that

                              magic does not exist at all in Tolkien, in which case we cannot have this

                              discussion.>>

                              See above: magic does exist in Tolkien, but it has the negative
                              characteristics it usually has in Christian tradition.


                              <<{I wrote] It seems evident to me that Tolkien (not himself a scientist)
                              envisioned

                              his Elves as possessing a science that gave them a far more intimate

                              knowledge of the workings of the universe than 20th-century human science

                              has managed to achieve, and as having a technology that reflects this.>>


                              You may think it strange, but I would agree with that. Only in general

                              sentiment though. Elves, as is the case with many of the peoples of our

                              earth, have a spiritual understanding of their world and that this

                              understanding does not derive through equations and formulae. But isn't

                              this closer to what we would consider religion and mysticism than science?

                              I've posed that question and I apologise as I'm also going to answer it. It

                              is religion and mysticism -- which for Tolkien's world is real; discussions

                              on how this pertains to our world are tangential and irrelevant -- which is

                              only the shortest of steps away from magic.>>

                              But for Tolkien, "religion and mysticism" are part of the real world, and in
                              fact come closer to giving ultimate explanations of the nature of the world
                              than any other approach. They're not mere epiphenomena that distract from the
                              investigation of material "reality", but a strong clue to understanding the
                              entire pattern of reality, including its material dimensions. As Steve
                              Schaper put it, "30,000 years of instruction by angels" has given the Elves
                              as much (much more, in fact) real *knowledge* of the workings of the universe
                              as millennia of trial-and-error empiricism could have. It's also allowed them
                              to bypass the messier stages of scientific discovery -- ie, cruder,
                              destructive and polluting technologies based on heavy industry.

                              <<If you are implying that the elven understanding of the

                              physical universe was sufficiently advanced to trap an endless source of

                              light in a crystal I would say that such advanced technology would be

                              otherwise represented in elven culture, it is not possible to go directly

                              from living in trees to manipulating wave/particles; there are several steps

                              in-between and while I'm prepared to countenance that elves may be very

                              advanced I would first like to see some kind of evidence of these

                              intervening steps.>>

                              But when scientific knowledge is obtained not through a purely empirical
                              process but through "30,000 years of instruction by angels", there don't
                              have to be any "steps in-between". You're assuming that the development of
                              science and the attendant development of technology must necessarily follow
                              the same pattern that it has on our world (and you may well be right if the
                              same limitations that affect human knowledge are in place in the subcreated
                              world as well). I doubt, however, that Tolkien was constrained by such an
                              assumption. A close parallel can be seen in _Out of the Silent Planet_, by
                              Tolkien's fellow-Inkling C.S. Lewis: initially Weston and Devine think that
                              the inhabitants of Malacandra are technologically primitive (and therefore,
                              like low-tech peoples on Earth, "inferior" and available for exploitation by
                              high-tech peoples) because they see no evidence of industrialisation on the
                              planet. Later, when he witnesses the dematerialisation of the bodies of the
                              dead hrossa at Meldilorn, Devine is terrified, realising that his assumptions
                              about the ignorance and helplessness of the Malacandrians were unfounded.
                              Again, "instruction by angels" has upset the expected model of technological
                              development, allowing Stone Age artifacts to coexist with "manipulating
                              waves/particles", eliminating the "steps in-between". Lewis (no more a
                              scientist than Tolkien) makes a general attempt to convey the different
                              nature of Malacandrian science (eg, Augray's brief disquisition on light and
                              angelic bodies), but he doesn't, of course, take it very far. I do think,
                              however, that the Elvish and Malacandrian models are very similar. Since what
                              they do consists of an application of real knowledge of the workings of the
                              universe to affecting local natural processes, I don't hesitate to call it
                              "technology". Perhaps your own definition of the term is incompatible with
                              this.
                              Alexei
                            • disneylogic <disneylogic@yahoo.com>
                              On Sat, 4 Jan 2003 13:04:24 -0000 David F. Porteous wrote in part: [snip] ... Yes, true enough, I guess. But apart from the
                              Message 14 of 14 , Jan 6, 2003
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                                On Sat, 4 Jan 2003 13:04:24 -0000 "David F. Porteous"
                                <dporteous@...> wrote in part:

                                [snip]

                                >Well I would agree that mathematics is not dependant on
                                >industrialisation or mechanics, but engineering, and thus
                                >industrialisation and mechanics, is dependant on mathematics.

                                Yes, true enough, I guess. But apart from the alchemist tendencies
                                on the part of Sauruman in producing the gunpowder-like substance to
                                use at Helm's Deep in LOTR, there isn't a lot of calculation
                                apparent. Sauruman seems to empower things using his wizard's staff
                                and the orcs appear to come already equipped with metallurgical
                                skills. In the movie, in contrast with the book, the Uruk-hai appear
                                to be formed whole. I don't recall the book detailing how they are
                                created.

                                <<Much of the gnostic tendency in early European science....>>

                                >But in this instance the discussion is not about early science;
                                >the argument which has been put is that elves are in possession of
                                >some very advanced science. To duplicate the effects of the rings
                                >of power using technology would require greater understanding than >
                                >we currently have and it is my contention that while such is not
                                >inconceivable, it would be necessary to move to such an
                                >understanding systematically. Everything we know about the
                                >development of technology tells us this is so.

                                Well, while clearly there has been progress in technology, based upon
                                the kinds of things we are capable of creating, there is always this
                                sense, felt at the fringe, that superior technology was once in hand
                                and has been lost. After all, isn't that part of the Atlantis myth?
                                And isn't that part of the thing that moves people, including some
                                folks who've recently grabbed the headlines, to believe our
                                civilization and perhaps even we are intellectual descendents of
                                'visitors from elsewhere'?

                                That could be, too, another gloss on "For nothing is evil in the
                                beginning. Even Sauron was not so." This might mean the skills and
                                art of doing all these things were given and created by Iluvtar,
                                along with the moral bounds and limits on their proper use, and this
                                usage has decayed since then. Indeed, why not paint Melkor as the
                                first vehicle who strayed beyond the proper use of these skills?
                                This sentiment isn't limited to technology. Maimonedes, in one of
                                his ego trips, wrote Judah ha-Nasi codified things in the Mishnah
                                with a completed understanding of the philosophical principles
                                underlying the Torah, common understanding had decayed since then,
                                and he, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, was going to set all right because he
                                knew what was right again. Maybe all this is is an extended fall
                                from grace? I've wondered, in fact, if the history of Middle-earth
                                might not be interpreted as Man's fall from grace, albeit it takes
                                thousands of years rather than the instant an apple is eaten.

                                <<Having been grounded in much of it, I can't imagine anything closer
                                to the
                                spiritual than a view of our world based upon quantum mechanics,
                                although
                                many of the purely rationalist opinion would disagree with me on
                                that.>>

                                >I think religious people would disagree that there is nothing closer
                                >to the spiritual than maths, though I believe this Pope is very much
                                >in favour of science being developed and doesn't feel it impinges on
                                >the remit of religion. Personally, as an atheist, I believe in an
                                >existentialist viewpoint.

                                The viewpoint is not modern, for sure. But I bet that's a lot of
                                what Scholasticism was about and how and why folks saw in Greek
                                sources another way of establishing their religious convictions, if
                                one accepts logic as being of the same stuff as mathematics, i.e.,
                                logos.

                                -- Jan

                                [snip]
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