While in later chapters we will discuss the theory and practice of such formal techniques of social manipulation as the trafidúr an-enlét (blue gift), it is appropriate at this time to offer a cautionary word on the foundation beneath it.
As a civilized people, we esteem the virtues of liberality and generosity. Selecting an appropriate gift to reflect both the appreciated qualities of the recipient and the nature of its giver blended into harmony is a high art; and it moves the heart both to receive such a gift and to give it.
However, even outside the Great Game or other arenas for deliberate social manipulation, one must – when offered gifts many in number, or a gift great in magnitude, be wary – not of the giver, but of one’s own spirit. One and all, we are bound to mélith, and although by all law and custom an appreciation-gift creates no debt, will we, nil we, the spirit keeps its own accounting.
While to account gifts by the esteyn would ill befit a gentlesoph, you may nonetheless find it needful to decline a gift with all due courtesy rather than permitting yourself to bear the weight of such a heart’s-debt, lest it tarnish the relationship that gave rise to it.
– “On Appreciation, and the Tokens Thereof”, Madame Allatrian’s Guide to Exquisitely Correct Etiquette
daríë: (a respectful title for) one whose accomplishments are known and admired, but do not extend to those of an Excellence or Exquisite; could reasonably be glossed “lord” or “lady” in the nominative (rare usage), and “ser” or “sera” in the vocative (common usage). In the modern era, with the obsolescence of the servile darëssef, functions as a general-purpose term of address for any sophont whose competence and worth is known or politely presumed.
So after many back-and-forth sessions involving questions and answers, I’ve gotten the impression that in eldraeic morals and ethics, there’s essentially a continuum with “coercion” at one end, “ideal enlightened self-interest” at the other, and in between a fairly broad space of behavior which, while certainly unpalatable to a large number of people, technically isn’t forbidden as such.
This might be a useful point at which to discuss the difference between ethics and morals in their terms, for which it would be useful to invoke RFC 2119 terminology.
Much like that, it’s a three-level system.
There are matters of the fundamental deontology, which are MUSTs and MUST NOTs;
There are matters of arêtaic ethics, which are SHOULDs and SHOULD NOTs;
And there are matters of morals, which are MAYs and MAY NOTs. (Well, sort of: in the sense that morals are personal and supererogatory rather than essential and obligatory, if you will.)
Such unpalatable behaviors generally fall into the second level.
It’s also rather apparent that the eldrae themselves (and other people like them) probably occupy the extreme high end when it comes to wisdom and foresight with all the technological powers they’ve essentially gifted themselves with. Among those powers comes, essentially, something that would come eerily close to precognition to those not similarly gifted.
With that in mind, a few additional questions:
1. How do those who advocate the principle of non-coercion account for the fact that some people can better predict another’s most likely response to a particular stimulus better than the target themselves can, or have different willpower and self-control reserves?
By and large, on the former, they don’t feel the need to. Your consent is not vitiated by your merely being predictable. (If it was, it’s hard to see how dull people could be interacted with at all.)
On the latter…
2. In particular, what’s the eldraeic take on temptation? Obviously you’re ultimately responsible for your actions and yours alone, but is willfully, continually, and deliberately expose someone to a stimulus for your own ends while knowing that their indulgence may destroy them or end with them in an exploitable position — even if it only comes about “by their own free choice” on the surface according to a technicality — recognized as a form of coercion in and of itself?
Mere weakness of will is a personal defect, not a cause of action. You should work on that, or failing that, go see a psychedesigner and have that fixed.
(After all, you can always walk away. They have the freedom of speech, not the freedom to make people listen to them.)
3. Roughly where does the dividing line between “coercion” and “acceptable-if-pernicious exploitation of another’s flaws and failings” lie?
The bright line is very clear: it’s coercion if it violates the principle of consent, specifically, to quote:
No sophont may act upon the person or property of another, except through the other’s memetically-shared consent, in response to an action-correspondent memetically-shared request.
For legal-ethical purposes, a meme is considered a unit of information expressed through symbols: e.g., writing, speech, farspeech, infographics, Uniglyphics, or other symbols with a broadly published, specific meaning enshrined through law, contract, or long-standing custom, such as the knotted club or spacer’s marlinspike that identifies a brawler’s bar.
Imperial law distinguishes this, thus, from direct or indirect manipulation of another’s mind by mechanisms which do not pass through the cognition, ethical function, and self-awareness of their mind, and thus deprive them of the ability to act accordingly; this constituting choice-theft.
Imperial law further requires that the memetically-shared request correspond accurately to the action consented to, and therefore communicate the request properly to a reasonably informed listener; non-informed consent, in Imperial praxis, is no consent at all. Likewise, implicit consent, based on extrapolations of meaning and/or symbols whose meaning the reasonable person would not be aware of, is not considered valid.
…that sets the limits of MUST NOT. There are any number of things that you SHOULD NOT do that you can still theoretically persuade people to let you do (assuming they weren’t that bright, slept through Bad Ideas 101, ignored their pocket obligator software, and didn’t subscribe to any reputation networks) but this is the limit of MUST NOT.
To finally sum up this line of thought along with related ones raised elsewhere: Ignorance, inattention, uncompensated Dunning-Kreugerism, careful avoidance and/or bypassing of the mechanisms designed to cull bunco artists out of civilized society, et al. et seq. will let people determined to screw you, screw you.
Insofar as people think about this particular issue, it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
On the grounds that anyone this careless about their talcoríëf is a walking disaster just waiting to happen any way you slice it, and therefore it’s better that it happens to them sooner rather than later, and consequently, on a larger scale and with more other parties involved.
…oh, one last side-note:
After all, full sanction only truly works against those who depend on others to supply their own essentials — and we are talking about a universe where, even if your support staff up and quits on you because you’re under sanction, you could (with enough resources, fabricators, and knowledge base at your disposal) simply replace them outright with self-forks, greenjacks, and non-sophont automatons that you own outright. And even full sanction amounts to little more than a mutual recognition of the status quo when you’re the one who owns the food, the ore stockpiles, the roads, the utilities, etc.
If being placed under sanction makes annoying, dysfunctional people wrap themselves up into a tiny little autarkic bubble where they can basically live off their existing capital so long as it lasts while playing happy-happy games with themselves and not bothering anyone else…
…that is a win for the social enforcement mechanism. You’ve taken your ball and gone home; hope you enjoy playing with yourself; don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.
One: Do the eldrae have any sort of concepts analogous to “pay it forward”? Is stipulating that an obligation can be discharged not by direct compensation, but by instead performing the same or an analogous action for a future (and often unspecified) third-party beneficiary, something they recognize as valid? If so, how common (relatively speaking) are exchanges of this sort in the Imperial / Associated Worlds “contractual ecosystem”?
You can contract that, sure. (Under Imperial law. From aspects of various questions, I get the impression that you think that contract and other law across the Worlds is much more harmonized than it actually is: apart from the basics defined in the Accord on Trade which concentrate on letting different systems interface with each other, they can vary quite radically between polities, and thus choice of law is important. Certainly, a lot of entities from outside the Empire like to specify its law as their choice of law regardless, since it manages to be both flexible in definition and rigorous in application where contractual matters are concerned, but it’s by no means equivalent to a galactic standard.)
It’s considered quite useful, as a self-replicating means of having one’s will done, although the wise contractor will include some sort of appropriate termination condition and a smart-contract monitor, inasmuch as for the former, few things remain relevant indefinitely, and for the latter, one should remember that a party undefined at time of contract cannot enforce said open-ended contract, because they aren’t party to it yet.
I have no idea how common they might be; the contractual ecosystem is a seething mass of arbitrarily many arbitrarily defined types of contracts, so that would be nontrivially quantifiable even if I had a basis to quantify it. There are “some”.
Two: On a semi-related note, how common are (for lack of a better way of putting it) self-replicating contracts? Can a contract stipulate specific terms, conditions, and forms that are encouraged or prohibited when subcontracting part of the obligation out, including a recursive replication of the subcontracting restrictions clause itself? (To keep it short and sweet, can a contract essentially say “All subsidiary contracts made in pursuit of the terms of this contract must be devised according to the same format and with similar stipulations as this one”?)
Sure. That’s basically standard form for things like, say, non-disclosure clauses which you wish to bind not only your contractee but whoever they might contract with in the course of execution also. (Naturally, the more you bind the means, the less appealing your contract is to potential counterparties, but that’s a negotiated-reasonability issue that’s easy for reasonable sophs to work out between themselves.)
I also feel that I may save some time here by stating outright that the default answer to questions of the form “Can a contract…/…as valid?” is Yes for essentially anything that doesn’t directly contravene the Contract (or, by virtue of previous contract, the Charter). Exceptions to this are very rare indeed.
When it comes to saying things that need to be said but that you know the listener isn’t going to want to be hear, is it better to be polite or to be frank — inasmuch as there may be situations where adherence to the formal protocols of politeness may obscure the (real or perceived) urgency of your message?
Be polite. This is for two reasons:
First, the notion that you can’t be polite and frank/urgent at the same time is one of those products of having a tragically inadequate language, that doesn’t have evidentials and attitudinals and other features designed to convey exactly this sort of information.
Second, while not strictly true in a logical sense, it is heuristically true that rudeness is strongly correlated with poor argumentation and outright dark-side epistemology, and as such it is generally accepted throughout the Core Cultural Region that it is rarely worth listening to anyone who cannot comport themselves with appropriate propriety.
Which is not to say that you cannot be cutting, snarky, or indeed Sophisticated As Hell, as well as simply purveying unwanted truths, but the sophisticated part is not optional.
Does Imperial law have anything analogous to our “Son of Sam” laws?
No, principally because there’s never been a need. People who would otherwise be in a position to make money from publicizing their crime are generally either (a) too dead to do so, or (b) not prone to do so because they’ve been through meme rehab. Either way, it’s not been a significant issue.
The eldrae’s perspective on causes of action related to fraud and physical coercion have been expounded on at length, but what about mental and emotional coercion? Does Imperial law have anything analogous to “negligent” and/or “intentional infliction of emotional distress”?
No, for two reasons. The first is that what they might see as legitimate applications of our tort by that name are already covered. To use a couple of examples from Wikipedia’s article, there is “The common law tort of assault did not allow for liability when a threat of battery was not imminent,” a defect which the Imperial law’s tort of assault does not suffer from on at least two different grounds; and “An example of an act which might form the basis for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress would be sending a letter to an individual falsely informing the person that a close family member had been killed in an accident,” something which there is illegal under the tort of falsification of information, and possibly a species of fraud. Other things might fall under, say, defamation, anharmonic indecency, etc., etc.
Those things that aren’t – i.e., don’t have an actual tortuous act at their core – well, they’re fluff. You don’t have a right not to be outraged, and you certainly don’t have a legal remedy for anything that isn’t unquestionably mala in se, not just mala in percipi.
A pair of somewhat related questions pertaining to the eldrae and their Blue and Orange Morality:
One: What would the eldrae think of the “seven deadly sins” and the corresponding “heavenly virtues” if they were introduced to them? Much has been said directly about their takes on pride and greed, and there’s plenty of indirect evidence for their probable takes on lust and sloth, but I’d be interested to see an in-depth treatment.
(I’m also curious as to whether they might actually see certain “opposed” virtue-vice pairs as actually being complementary, not conflicting.)
Well, let’s see. (And in short, obviously, because there would obviously *there* be a lot of written thought about such things, not all in agreement and suitable to ready summarization in a single in-depth blog post.)
First, it is perhaps worth listing the Nine Excellences, which are the closest equivalent to the virtues, although not all that close. These are: Unity (or self-integrity, perhaps); Honor (including within its scope the minor virtues of justice, truth, and clemency); Duty (including the minor virtues of liberality and tenacity); Courage; Harmony (including the minor virtues of beauty, courtesy, refinement, and the appreciation of excellence); Right Action; Liberty; and Dignity (including the minor virtues of pride, propriety, and temperance). There is no equivalent list for the vices; the Antithetical Heresies are manifold, inasmuch as there are always many more ways to be wrong than to be right, and in any case, are mere defects in the virtues. (As we’ve covered previously theologically speaking, evil, or Entropy, rather, has no essence of its own; it’s merely a distortion of a thing’s true essence.)
Second, it’s also worth mentioning a key philosophical note as expounded here: the empowering balance of passion and reason, talcoríëf and valxíjir, and the ideal encapsulated within, that of dispassionately and cold-mindedly choosing a course of action, and then carrying forth that action with absolute passion.
That done, let’s examine the sins in pairs with the virtues, as is often done:
Gluttony and Temperance: Now, temperance is also among the Nine Excellences, but with not quite the same meaning. After all, as the Word of Cinníäs puts it, “Lack is the greatest intemperance.” Ain’t nothing wrong with pleasure: eat, drink, be merry; sate yourself with all the world’s delights. These are the proper rewards of prosperity earned.
Temperance, if you ask the Prince of Wine, is defined as avoiding harming yourself or others (don’t be a mean drunk!), becoming a slave to addiction, or losing the proper joy in your pleasures. Abstemiousness for its own sake or for the sake of some notional “moderation” is pointless.
Greed and Charity:“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge, has marked the upward surge of [sophontkind].”
– inevitable quotation at this point
Because, well, obviously. Greed and its handmaiden ambition are the spurs from which greatness and achievement in general come. Were it not for greed, desire, and ambition, people would still be living in caves and shitting in the woods. The Empire, great and glorious beyond all greatness and glory, didn’t achieve its current exalted state by modest means through modest ends – it achieved it by the starkly rapacious pursuit of awesomeness.
Or, to put it as one of the more colorful books addressing the topic might:
“What do you get if you disdain greed an’ ambition? Bunch of jackasses sitting around on their planet flippin’ each other off, writin’ smug little tracts about the naturalness of mortality and the moral superiority of poverty, wastin’ perfectly good extropy while the future passes them by. Their home biospheres must be so embarrassed to give rise to such perfect, unadulterated wankers.”
– Fíërí Lariantinos,
author of Fuck Me, Would You Look At These Assholes? (approximate translation)
Now, sure, greed may inspire some people to wrong actions various, but that’s not greed’s fault, now is it? There is pretty much no notion in the world that can’t inspire wrong actions if misunderstood, and people who turn to theft and fraud and suchlike are not wrong for being greedy, they’re doing greed wrong.
So far as the charity side of things is concerned? Imperials do not approve of charity in the traditional theological sense, inasmuch as that sense implies self-sacrifice (not a popular notion; you can buy things with yourself in their praxis, but it’s an unfortunate and unavoidable necessity to be avoided whenever possible, not a virtue!) and other aspects of Comtean altruism. And, indeed, the nearest local equivalent of the Parable of the Widow’s Mite ends with the lesson that it is unwise to give away that which you need to take care of yourself, and that the eikones do not expect it of you.
On the other hand, you will note liberality listed among the virtues of the Nine Excellences, and indeed, liberality, generosity, and open-handedness are very much considered laudable. On the gripping hand, they are also considered to form very much the complementary pair with greed, since one’s capacity to be generous depends very much on one’s capacity to generate. They are two virtues, therefore, best practiced in conjunction.
tl;dr Rarity is best moral exemplar.
Lust and Chastity: Yay, lust! (See gluttony for pleasure and greed for desire, basically.)
Well, okay. Imperials are also very keen on some aspects of chastity. Discretion, which is the excellences of Dignity and Harmony. Honesty in relationships, as elsewhere. Commitment. The bounds of one’s obligations.
But within the bounds of obligation, commitment, and discretion, it’d be a sad and sorry thing if there weren’t some lust, now wouldn’t it? This is one of those talcoríëf-valxíjir each-in-its-place scenarios.
Sloth and Diligence: Sloth is spiritual Entropy, period. Often, specifically, the Antithetical Heresy of the Deedless Cripple. That’s a terrible, terrible sin indeed.
As far as diligence goes, though, they would say that that doesn’t go far enough. Diligence is merely doing what one ought do. By contrast, the excellence of Right Action implies not only that one should do what one ought do, but one should also strive to do more. Being content to only do what one ought do is itself a minor kind of, well, slothfulness.
Wrath and Patience: The only sinfulness of wrath, an Imperial would say, is that if you haven’t had your neurochemistry properly adjusted, wrath makes you stupid. Typically in ways that cause one to strike the wrong target, cause collateral damage, wander off into evil areas like torturing your enemies to death or harming innocents to hurt them indirectly, and/or get your damnfool self killed.
But once you have cold-mindedly ensured that you have the right target and have done the proper strategic and tactical planning, then go ahead and strike down upon those who attempt to poison and destroy your brothers with great vengeance and furious anger, and other colorful metaphors. It is… appropriate. Empowering one for such unpleasant necessities is what wrath is for.
As for patience: this depends on the aspects involved. They are very keen on those aspects such as “Building a sense of peaceful stability and harmony rather than conflict, hostility, and antagonism; resolving issues and arguments respectfully, as opposed to resorting to anger and fighting,” where possible, as you can see from the Excellences. That’s just good positive-sum sense as well as virtue.
On the other hand, it’s not an absolute virtue. As they’d point out with regard to us specifically, he who turns the other cheek has to put up with a lot of… cheek, and one of our more common tragedy-of-the-commons social failure modes is the way that a lot of bullshit persists because no-one’s willing to call the perpetrators on it.
They also notably prefer the virtue of clemency over that of forgiveness/mercy, because indiscriminate mercy tends to leave a lot of enemies at your back, sharpening knives. Clemency is more discriminating. Also, and they are very clear on this, that means you get a second chance. Key word: a. You do not get an arbitrary series of nth chances, because just as nice is not cognate with weak, kind is not cognate with stupid.
Envy and Kindness: Not a whole lot to say here. They are against envy and pro kindness.
(They would go so far as to say that they’re a lot better at spotting envy, given how much our society reeks of it and even promotes it as virtue under another name, but that’s what one might call an implementation detail.)
Pride and Humility: Ah, yes, pride. Pride is a virtue, on the one hand, because self-awareness is a virtue, and pride is self-awareness of your own awesome. It is a virtue on the other hand, symmetrically, because it creates the ideal version of yourself that you are compelled by it to live up to. Mirror and goad in one.
Hubris, though, is not a virtue, being a way to lie to yourself and to others – but, one should note, it’s never hubris if you can back it up. (Nor is arrogance, per the excellences of Harmony and Dignity, although steering away from unconscious arrogance is a hard, hard task.)
But humility is not a virtue for the precise same reason. It amounts to telling yourself that you aren’t as good as you are – which is also lying to yourself and to others. (And if even you’re accurately humble, it amounts to a claim of “I’m afraid I kinda suck”, to which the universal response of your annoyed colleagues *there* is “Well, stop it!“)
(ObSophontology: This may play better for species with hierarchical instincts where a lack of humility in subordinates may be perceived as a threat to the position of the leader. In eldrae, the reaction is more likely to be that a lack of pride in colleagues may be perceived as a gap in the competence of the group.)
Two: Much has been said about how eldraeic morality looks distinctly alien from human eyes, and how ours would accordingly look deficient in theirs — but is there such a thing as “taking it too far” on the opposite end of the pendulum swing? How would the eldrae criticize those whose particular deviation is not (metaphorically) a famine, but rather a surfeit?
Not deficient. Different, yes, and often plain wrong, but that’s as often because of too much as too little. See temperance above, for example, or the moral weight that many human moral systems place on purity or authority.
As such, that critique is likely to be along the lines of:
“Some vices miss what is right because they are deficient, others because they are excessive, in feelings or in actions, while virtue finds and chooses the mean.”
(That was Aristotle in “Nicomachean Ethics”, but it would fit just as well in the mouth of any dozen Imperial ethical philosophers.)
(And on a related note, what’s the typical reaction to those from criticized cultures whose reaction is to take the criticism to heart in such a way that they end up becoming “more eldrae than the eldrae” (in the sense of perhaps-superficial aping of behavior without apparent understanding of the underpinning psychology)?)
“They understand. They do not comprehend.”
(I mean, technically that’s the Heresy of the Thoughtless Churl, but, to steal another quote, “The very young do not always do as they are told.” In this case, it’s childish zeal. They’ll grow up in time and with a good example.)
What is the general attitude towards the idea of the “Socratic gadfly” or the “Devil’s advocate” — those people who advance arguments for controversial and unpopular views and measures less to seriously advocate their implementation, and more to encourage interesting discussion and / or get people to seriously think about why they are committed to the things they believe and espouse?
Annoying, but useful.
(Useful enough that people have devised Socratic questioning-daemons to run on your personal mindware, mark you, but still. Even the Intellectual Integrity Movement can only impress people with Socrates’ utility and get them to respect and listen to him; they can’t make him loved.)
So does the Imperial legal system lean more towards adversarial or inquisitorial procedure?
On the one hand, you’ve mentioned before that every citizen is expected to be able to argue their own case on their own behalf, which may imply an adversarial element. On the other hand, the whole notion that legal judgments should always be based on clearly enumerated principles in a comprehensive legal code as opposed to having the judiciary effectively legislate through case law precedent is very much a civil law idea, and most civil-law judiciaries tend to favor inquisitorial procedure.
This is a case where drawing too-close analogies to Earthly practice is likely to lead one into error, especially as the two concepts are only bound together by historical accident.
To address the latter point first, bear in mind that the comprehensive legal code exists for one reason: namely, you can’t reasonably expect people to follow the law if they don’t know what it is, and that means that there has to be somewhere they can go and look it up.
But the original Imperial Codex of Law was written as a codification of the very-much common law-like codes originally generated during the Ungoverned Era. And more relevantly, while it can be added to by legislation, it is also added to by binding precedent in the traditional case law manner. But, since the ability for people to check what the law is is still necessary, and there’s a limit to how big a precedent search you can expect a layman to perform, every dodecentury a commission goes through the last 144 years worth of case law and transmogrifies it into statute law, such that the Codex remains definitive – and then new precedent starts building up again, and the process repeats.
Which on the whole may be closer to the common-law model, but ain’t exactly it.
As for the former, it hews closer to the inquisitorial model. The justices of a Curial court are empowered to investigate anything they please, and do so once the case has been presented. There is typically an Advocate for Innocence and an Advocate for Guilt, who concentrate on the case from that particular perspective, but both are first and foremost officers of the court, whose primary oath-sworn goal is to find the truth, and never to win the case for my client, as is the case for any other contracted advocates, for that matter. (Forgetting this is a very quick way to end up out of the bar and into the dock.)
So you can think of it as a common-law system with a mostly-inquisitorial procedure for short, but that’s not an entirely accurate picture.
Given the prevalence of space dwellers, sustainable closed habitats, sophisticated in situ resource harvesting techniques, and the quasi-magical Clarkean matter-energy cornucopias underpinning it all, are there any particularly notable groups that effectively make the on-the-go, take-your-home-with-you approach into their way of life? Are there any especially notable large-scale nomadic or itinerant movements, whether in the old sense of communities like the gypsy caravans or Central Asian steppe hordes, or the subculture-sense like the “RV lifestyle” or the traveling hippies whose home is their beat-up VW bus?
There are nomadic space travelers in canon, yes, including some entire species.
Speaking specifically for the eldrae, there are the Traveling Houses, who have embraced the on-the-go lifestyle since the Bronze Age-equivalent with various tech and scale updates as they go, and some of the Variosotec maintain their plains-dwelling nomadic heritage into the modern era, along with some other cultures…
…and that’s all I’m going to say about that for now, because I may/will want to do something with them in the future, and so am not going to spill the details in advance. 🙂
You know, after doing some thinking, it strikes me that, at times, there’s an awful fine line between qalasir and “pernicious irrationality” — fine enough to make me wonder if any outsiders have ever accused the Empire of practicing some form of doublethink by alternately exalting as a fundamental virtue and condemning as a fundamental vice the same thing under two different names.
And, if so, what the Empire’s philosophers and moralists response would look like.
…approximately. I mean, that’s getting your supergoal drives and your volition dynamics all mixed up with your cognitive methodologies. Comparing whats, muches, and hows. You don’t want to do that. Nothing but confusion will ensure.
(Although there is a slight asymmetry inasmuch as while reason can’t tell you what to want, it can tell you what not to want. And yet.)
This may also be further illuminated by contemplation of the empowering paradox of passion and reason, as discussed above.
A few queries on language:
1. What is the Eldraeic language’s name for itself and its speakers?
The people are elen eldra informally, or el eldaratha more formally. (Which, as is traditional, means “the People”, or literally, “the thinking ones”.) The language, therefore, is el traeldra laranlír (“eldrae-type-of language”, where laranlír ‘s roots could be glossed “song-of-words”.)
2. Is there a central regulating body / “language academy” that mandates proper language use (whether formally or informally), or is the situation more like English where there’s simply a broad consensus with lots of room for variation? (Or, given the free-wheeling “emergent order” attitude the eldrae take to nearly everything else, is is sort of a mix of both?)
A mix of both.
The version published by the Keepers of the Language, themselves part of the Conclave of Linguistics and Ontology, in turn part of the Eupraxic Collegium, is definitive. Of course, since they also train professional logotects, eonymics, and sphragists, it’s also innovative.
This doesn’t prevent unofficial linguistic innovation, of course, but at least it generally keeps it to innovation, and holds the line on meaning-degrading changes and other forms of linguistic entropy. Since, yes, emerging order and the professionals can’t predict all the innovation that is required, the Keepers include several departments whose function is to harvest unofficial linguistic innovations and roll them back into the next release of the canonical language.
3. Are there any particularly strong examples of fixed expressions or collocations in Eldraeic?
(Not really equipped right now to pull some out randomly, but I know there are several seen in various back postings here.)
4. You’ve mentioned elsewhere that the language has a diverse array of honorifics. Are there any particularly common (or otherwise good-to-know, such as when addressing Their Divine Majesties or the local runer) ones beyond daryteir?
Leaving aside titles, a non-native speaker without special requirements probably should be prepared with respectful-address, to-a-professional-in-their-context, to-an-[Excellence|Exquisite|Perfect|Paragon], to-an-[exultant|praetor|runér], from-one-who-demands-by-right, from-one-who-acknowledges-fault, and to-one-whom-one-does-not-know.
If invited to anything out of the ordinary, ask the symposiarch. That’s what they’re there for.
5. Given the heavy focus on logic in constructing the language, how tolerant is Eldraeic of paraconsistent logic? (For that matter, how comfortable are Imperials and the eldrae themselves with paraconsistent logic in the general case?)
The language supports it as another tool in the auxiliary set.
(It’s only a tool, mind. It’s a way of handling lack-of-knowledge problems, since reality itself cannot be inconsistent, only incomplete.
And the general view of things is that multi-valued logics, especially probabilistic and specifically Bayes-descended logics have proven themselves a superior way of dealing with these problems, but there’s no particular objection to it. Unless you assert that it actually reflects reality, at least.)
On the subject of the Equality Concord, we know that they make heavy use of mind-state manipulation and memory redaction. But what level of self-awareness do the members have? Are there any members who are completely non-self-aware?
All the equalitarians are fully sophont. It wouldn’t be nearly as creepifying if it was just one of those bizarre p-zombie cults that crop up from time to time.
Well, it’s a little complicated, given the sheer number of species involved. The chapter of the Common Social Protocol (that consensus standard of basic etiquette that imposes on everyone as equally as possible) that covers this is thereby unfortunately long.
The CSP, of course, only applies as a matter of law to Empire-managed property. Within private volumes, you can do whatever you like, and on private property, the owners can set whatever rules they like – although most save themselves the trouble and just default to the CSP rules. (Who says libertists can’t coordinate? Ha!)
What the CSP asks in general is that except where otherwise posted (public baths, certain beaches, etc., etc.) you cover your excretory organs (unless they’re lungs or skin, but if you should happen to excrete anything substantial other than gases through your skin, it is considered impolite and incorrect to leave ooze on things), primary sexual characteristics, and anything else you might have that triggers involuntary (i.e. not readily overridable by volition) instincts in your fellow sophonts. This last is intended to recognize that (a) allure is not indecency, but yet and at the same time, (b) it is impolite to push involuntary reactions on people who don’t want ’em. Basically, it’s Wheaton’s Law applied to dress codes.
(The luckiest people in the galaxy in this respect by and large are sophonts who have fur, inasmuch as due to the irritation that comes with trying to wear many types of clothing over fur, fur is clothing for all purposes of etiquette. If you want to wear something over it, that’s fine, but you’re not naked unless you’re also shaved.)
Among the complexities of dining in the modern age are those introduced by the many different worlds upon which we now dwell, all with different histories, geologies, and ecologies, independently evolved. As children of a single world, this has required a degree of adaptation, whether biotechnological or simply in custom, to the varying conditions of Sylithandríël’s other daughters.
What these adaptations are vary from world to world across the Empire, and I shall list only a few examples here. On our many eutalentic worlds, to list a commonly found example, many residents make use of the Rieltelir biomod to breathe in the open, which requires the body to take in additional calcium and potassium salts to assist in disposing of excess carbon dioxide. Such salts are thus presented as seasonings on every dinner table; for the most part harmless to visitors, if unnecessary to consume and prone to cause minor digestive upsets.
Clajdíä, on the other hand, is a colonized garden world whose native life is, miraculously enough, both edible and often delicious – save for the high levels of selenium found therein, which would prove toxic over time. Thus, a particular tisane is commonly drunk there to accompany the midday meal, from a plant engineered to contain complexes capable of chelating selenium, which is essential for both residents and visitors alike.
A similar provision, accompanied by a radiation detector, is made on Paltraeth, known for its burden of heavy metals, along with an electronic stunner, and krevtakris blade (an approximate translation would be “soft-belly”; it is usually given to young children whose digestive systems are not fully developed) when dishes customarily served live are part of the presentation. If these are not provided, either you have been truly accepted by the clan, or else you are being assassinated, a situation which is beyond the scope of this book.
And, most familiar of all, on most worlds it is customary to serve one of a number of common antihistaminic drinks along with water, when any local food is being served in the presence of offworld guests, as a convenience to prevent any adverse reactions which one’s guests might have to such food.
With such constraints, what does custom mandate?
While these adaptations differ enough from world to world that there are few general customs, one that has developed is that such necessary adaptations are served in a turquoise vessel (be it bowl, teapot, goblet, or of other form), turquoise as a blend of blue and green being the symbolic color of life.
With the exception of the antihistaminic drink, and its defined position in the place setting, however, whether the visitor may, must, or should not participate in their consumption is not something readily understood from their presentation. The thoughtful host may mention this at the beginning of the meal, in small groups with homogeneous guests, or may include this information in discreet place cards for those who require it in a larger or more diverse setting. Otherwise, a quiet word with the host or the host’s footbot will not be out of place.
– Madame Allatrian’s Garden of Exquisitely Correct Etiquette
(I was reminded the other day of one particular conference that makes a point that it has no detailed “code of conduct” because, well, “It is presumed that those attending the conference are of sufficient moral grounding and intelligence to be well behaved. If we have to explain how you should behave, you probably don’t belong in the first place. […] can be summed up as this: if it becomes apparent you need a policy to know how to behave at the event, you’ll probably already have been ejected from the event.”
Which, y’know, got me thinking of how those convention centers and so forth in this ‘verse deal with these issues, especially considering that many of them necessarily cater to outworlders who may not quite grasp the rigors of the CSP. And so, without further ado:)
“Welcome to the Meridia Rim Convention Center!
…several pages down in the FAQ…
“It is not our policy to have an explicit Code of Conduct, since we prefer to presume that anyone attending a conference held here is a gentlesoph, and thus aware of how to conduct themselves as a civilized sophont. Moreover, being overly specific as to undesired behaviors only encourages the ungentlesophly to inform themselves – we trust this is not your purpose, gentle reader – and game whatever rules are set forth.
“It is possible that we may be incorrect in this assumption, and thus we offer the following guidelines:
“Should you find yourself perpetually ignored, as if you had become invisible, you have probably gone too far, your amalgamated civility meta-reputation score has dropped sufficiently far to engage your fellow visitors’ sense-filters, and you will shortly be ejected from the Convention Center by our meta-rep enforcement robots. Your voluntary departure would be appreciated in the interest of the common peace.
“Should you feel the exquisite sting of a knife in the ribs, you have definitely gone too far, and should consider yourself both ejected and blacklisted for events held at the Center for a period not less than 144 years.”
Some Call Me Tim: They didn’t go to all the trouble of acquiring such an impressive collection of syllables (see: Overly Long Name) to have some git go and shorten them. Use all of them.
Well, at least, use everything up to and including the attributive name if you aren’t just going to go for the extremely respectful address by name-and-honorific alone. If you are privileged to use personal or attributive name alone, you’ll be told so. (And, no, reciprocity cannot be taken as implied, nor can it be extrapolated human-style from relative status.)
But they’ll never tell you a deliberately shortened version of one of those without meaning something by it, and you may not make one up.
Letting Her Hair Down: This trope is essentially enshrined into standard eldrae etiquette, (especially for women, although long hair is de rigeur for both sexes); whether one wears one’s hair up or down is universally understood as a signifier of whether one is busy working (and therefore should not be disturbed), or available for socializing en passant.
Large Ham Title: Played straight in formal introductions; everyone from the Empire to relatively local branches issues an assortment of titles, and formal protocol, at least, is to use all of them, or at the very least all that could possibly be relevant, in introductions. (Remember, pride is a virtue.)
Deadly Decadent Court: Half true. The Court of Courts and its lesser cousins certainly qualify as decadent, inasmuch as (a) those actually involved in the business of government at that level are very generously remunerated in order to (i) remove some of the incentive problems, and (ii) keep up the sort of appearances that make them look like the sort of people you ought to follow, and (b) the Privy Council and other courtiers, even many if by no means all of the entrenotres, tend to be drawn from the Names, Numbers, and Novas, which is to say, the core lineages, plutocrats, and innovative geniuses. Which is further to say, the most outrageously wealthy segment of an already outrageously wealthy society – and one which never evolved most of our quaint hedonism-is-bad memes.
Not very deadly, though. That went out when the runér replaced the korásan, whose costly political intriguing and tendency to consider sabotaging and assassinating each other in the course of zero- or negative-sum games thoroughly discredited this sort of thing, so while ambition continues and The Game has been reinvented, most of the competition these days revolves around outdoing each other at deeds which, if not always useful, are at the least not harmful, and flaunting the size of one’s (artistic/scientific/commercial/other) clientele.
Cross-Cultural Handshake: While there are any number of othercultural handshakes, the standard Common Social Protocol greeting, based off an old Eldraeic one, is a simple brush of manipulator against manipulator (note: brush, don’t grip), which is something that just about every species can handle to some degree.
[A comment left on the original posting of this trope read:
“I shall take this to mean that a fistbump is considered an acceptable formal greeting in Eldraeic culture.”
Yes, it can be, if done gently. But note that if executed with too much zeal, ‘twould be on the aggressive end of the scale, like those people in our culture who insist on turning a handshake into a wrist-wrestling contest. After all, at least part of the reason for the standard protocol is that not every species shares the same compressive strength of flesh range, and what is a tap to us could be severe bruising to them.]
Never kowtow, kneel, genuflect, otherwise grovel, or even bow deeper than, oh, 45 degrees unless you’re about to apologize in the full formal old Japanese sense of the phrase. Keep your head up and look people in the eye, even for values of people including the Imperial Couple speaking from the Throne.
Remember always that the Imperials make something of a point about being free people, and that the runér, in particular, do not appreciate being confused for the korásan (or other rulers-not-by-unanimous-consent-of-the-citizen-shareholders). Shows of respect are one thing. Obeisance, on the other hand, implying submission, is an insult (because it implies that the person in question wants your submission) and not a slight one – at best, it will get you thrown out, unheard. Especially don’t ever try this at the Court of Courts, because there it would be so great an insult as to entirely impair your chances of leaving the building alive.
(And, yes, that includes in the temples, too. The eikones are very uninterested in your submission; they only care about your perfection. That, and the eldrae would have no patience with gods that went around demanding all this groveling and self-abasement; much like the Vikings, they would be inclined to ask what sort of deity doesn’t want followers strong and worthy enough to stand in its presence!)
FORKING. While under most circumstances – and where full dividuals are concerned – it is always correct to treat each and every fork of a given person as that person, as indeed will be the case after their remergence, there are certain special rules of etiquette that apply to the forks in particular times and places.
Where derivative forks are concerned, one should always bear in mind that their consciousness is modified to fulfill the particular purpose of their creation, and their ability to interact outside of the parameters of that purpose is necessarily limited. It is therefore considered polite to treat each fork as an instance of its original when they choose to interact with you, but not to initiate interactions with them outside simple courtesies.
One particular rule to be noted is that while it is permissible to attend multiple simultaneous social occasions through the use of forks, one should not – even if one is embracing the cikrieth lifestyle – attend the same social occasion in multiple forks. This rule does not apply to Self-Fusions, for whom all knowledge is instantly shared, but since forks do not share knowledge in real-time, the potential for awkward situations to arise is such that the practice is best avoided.
In some newer social sets a practice has arisen in which parties are attended by individuals utilizing multiple forks specialized and garbed appropriately to represent different aspects of their valessef, with the convention that each should be addressed only on matters pertaining to their particular aspect. While this may represent a worthy innovation, it should not be assumed to be permissible unless invited specifically; the general practice should always be as above.
– Madame Allatrian’s Guide to Exquisitely Correct Etiquette
Public Exclusions Citizen Oversight Group to Melqar Riffym, greetings.
We at the Public Exclusions COG have been monitoring your reputation and meta-reputation scores (underlying data provided by the Exuberance Monitor COG [link]) for some time now. Are you aware, citizen-shareholder, that your amalgamated meta-reputation score is one of the lowest on current active record, at -10.337 on the normalized-logarithmic rating scale?
Chief contributors to this low amalgamated meta-rep score are your reputation scores with the Anteion Benevolent Circle (-10.412), with the Mer Dinévál Righteous Enforcers of Social Propriety (-10.543), with the Merchane Ethics Commission (-10.346), with Gallantry’s Garden (-10.912), and our analysts were particularly unimpressed by your score with the Dataweave Vituperation Index (-11.901).
To paraphrase, sir, you are a crooked, obnoxious, vituperative blight upon Imperial society and the Worlds in general, and under our commission from the Plurality, we would like to cordially invite you to be so elsewhere.
The sum of 125,000 esteyn has been placed in contractual sequester for you with the Seranth Merchancy Bank, these funds to be released on presentation of:
(a) formal documentation indicating that you have renounced your Imperial citizen-shareholdership;
(b) an operative smart-contract in which you agree to depart the Imperial territorial volume henceforth and agree not to re-enter the Imperial territorial volume for a period not less than 864 years;
(c) a transportation ticket valid for departure from the Imperial territorial volume.
As is our customary practice, details of our offer and the reasoning behind it has been posted to our public notification channel, which is made freely available for hortatory purposes.
Signed and authenticated,
Rienne Lyris-ith-Larynath Vévelestréy for and on behalf of