Having established as an ethical principle that to be sophont is to be entitled as of right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, it must necessarily follow that the proper function, in accordance with virtue, of the technical organs of a civilization is the abolishment of death, constraint, poverty, and misery.Ch. 1, Eternal Progress, Ianthe Claves Elinaeth
On Preextant Properties
Little more need be said on the matter of thoughts and chattelry; in truth, the Word is the thing and the whole of the thing:
All the works of your hands:
Stone and metal, wood and water, fire and wind.
All that your will creates.
These things are forged in your Flame;
That which you create is yours.
The Word of the Flame, Truths : 9
This is sufficient for ideas alone, or for the works of the artisan, the crops of the farmer, and the wares of the merchant.
But what of properties which had already existed in their components, such as volumes of land, including within them the passing airs and the still waters? Or what of the initial claim upon the fruits of stone, the development of which inevitably removes them from their source?
Before we consider Arlannath’s answer to this, the postulate of indisseverability, we will first describe these properties in a state of nature. That is, we shall discuss the ore lying hidden within the earth, the path unwalked, the land unimproved, and so forth.
The consensus of our philosophers is that such things are simply unowned, and belong to none. Challenges were raised to this position in the past, by such philosophers as Milentios of Inisvaen, Lanqin of Sar Andael, or Moréteyr of Ildathach, asserting rather that such things are jointly owned by all. This view has largely been repudiated as korásan arrogance, for who can rightly claim even partial title to an infinity of whose nature – indeed, of whose existence – he is largely unaware, over which he can assert no dominion, and to which he has committed no binding act? Moreover, such theories cavil at the conclusion that if all such things are jointly owned, they are jointly owned by all thinking beings, those dwelling around the farthest star as much as by those nearby who might have an interest, leading inevitably to the inability for anyone to set their hand to the smallest pebble without the consent of all unbounded creation.
Thus to Arlannath and indisseverability. This postulate arises from the simple observation that a creation cannot be separated from its prerequisites. That which exists must necessarily exist in a place; that which is made must be made of something. One cannot build a house without building its foundation upon land; nor can one mine and bring to market copper without removing copper ore from beneath the earth. The one is indisseverable from the other. In the absence of any barrier to the use or acquisition of the unowned – for the benefit of any individual or group which seeks to use it in an act of creation – resting upon prior title, this indisseverability necessarily implies that an act of creation from the unowned, a binding act, confers proper title to that which is created and that which exists to support it. Such binding acts are the basis for all homesteading, roadsteading, minesteading, commonsteading, and other mechanisms by which the wild unowned is brought within the aegis of civilization.
Arlannath did observe, nonetheless, that such acts of creation incurred a hypothetical opportunity cost, insofar as such a binding act necessarily diminishes the unowned. This matter, in his day and for generations thereafter, was considered a self-resolving trifle, since the lands of Eliéra were wide and little-peopled, and under such circumstances the advantage to the community near, far, and yonder of the improvement of land and availability of resources presented an opportunity profit to all believed to far outweigh that opportunity cost.
(The larger opportunity profit redounding to the appropriator is merely the proper reward for foresight and entrepreneurship. Anyone can seize an opportunity, but the rewards rightfully go to those who do.)
Philosophers and economists of later millennia have had occasion to consider this matter in more detail as time has passed, reaching its culmination in Períne Cyprium-ith-Elethandrion’s seminal publication On Externality and Incorporation. The original-appropriation and resource-extraction surcharges applied by the Protectorate of Balance, Externality, and the Commons, discussed in the next chapter, are the legacy of his work.
– from an introductory Imperial economics textbook, circa 3000
(Originally titled Eldraeic Word of the Day: asírdaëlíthal, but come on…)
asíran: power; note: not coercive power, the power of compulsion, which is korás. Rather, the ability and means to act upon the elements of the world towards a defined end. (See also the kinds of power, here.)
daëlin: probability, chance.
asírdaël: (from asíran + daëlin) opportunity; that is to say, a possibility (probability) which exists because of one’s possession of the power (agency) to take advantage of that possibility; that which can be realized through action.
íthal: object, thing.
asírdaëlíthal: (from asírdael + íthal) an opportunity-object; an item created for no reason other than that one possessed the power to create it. The end product of such philosophies as “because it’s there“, “we do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard”, and “we do what we can, because we must”. Existence/possibility as imperative.
The Hardest Part
The first part of acting in accordance with jírileth is the easiest: do as thou wilt. To exercise the power of choice comes naturally to all who think, as it must, and in the hearts of the eldrae qalasír burns bright. We do as we choose, obeying only our need for mélith and the dictates of our own necessities. Thus it has been; thus it shall always be, for jír is the core of our nature.
The second part is more difficult than mere action, for it is right action. To tame the fire of our passions, to discipline ourselves to the Codes and Excellences and to take on talcoríëf, such that we may pursue only our enlightened self-interest with mind and countenance as serene as the moon captured in still water, that is the first challenge of mastery we must each overcome; and yet it is the smallest.
The third part is that which the Canticle of Truth speaks best:
“The Fire burns in the Heart,
Through choice its blaze is stoked.
Can a fire burn without fuel?
When one man takes another’s will;
By this the Flame is quenched.
“This is the first Darkness.
Vile and accursed are they
Who would command another’s soul.
They shall know death beyond this world,
The Twilight City denied them.”
It is the renunciation of kóras, the power of compulsion. At first this seems simple: we may say to ourselves, “I shall not tyrannize; I shall not enslave,” and this task is easy. At second glance, we come to realize the myriad ways in which kóras and choice-theft may hide themselves behind good intentions, and justifications, and by guising itself as mere persuasion, or as duty, or as implicit obligation, and rooting it out of our minds’ gardens becomes a worthy challenge. But this, too, is not the pinnacle.
There will come a time in all our lives when another’s choices, we perceive, will lead them to loss, ruin, even death; when example, advice, and warning all fail; when they stand at the brink, and begin their leap. The highest test of our commitment to jírileth is, when that moment comes, to stand aside.
It is the power of choice that makes us sophont; the Flame that elevates us above clank automata and the lower beasts. To commit choice-theft – even with the best of intentions, and in what you perceive their best interest to be – is to reverse this, to reduce them to little more than an infant, an animal, or a clank; it is to fundamentally violate their self-integrity. Even if it was done out of one’s highest motives, it remains a rape of the soul; the conversion of a person, an end in themselves, to a mere instrumentality for our choices, a chattel of our will.
Thus, we must permit a lesser destruction, for in its avoidance lies a greater one.
“To trade the eternal for the ephemeral
is to sacrifice a greater thing for a lesser.
This trade has no worth.”
– writings of Sardonyx, student of the philosopher Arlannath
Trope-a-Day: Romanticism Versus Enlightenment
Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: Go, Team Enlightenment!
(Were you expecting something else?)
Of course, just phrasing it that way is to greatly understate the influence, even dominance, of technepraxic philosophy in the Worlds in general and the Empire in particular, which riffs on the general theme of science and reason and progress with fluency, fervor, and zeal, with other social forces including – which would be unlikely in an Earth context – religion happily backing it up.
(And which, concomitantly, tends to look at *there’s* approaches to romanticism as a dubious cult of naturalistic fallaciousness and unthought, nihilism as a straight-up Entropy cult, and existentialism and postmodernism as Eupraxic-Collegium-certified examples of good ways to go non-metaphorically insane by the book, and should probably have a “Warning: Contains Toxic Memes” sticker slapped on them.)
To link to and brief comment on various other relevant tropes mentioned on the R v E trope page, starting with the Enlightenment-flavored ones:
- Art Deco, Crystal Spires and Togas, Raygun Gothic: Ah, yes, the architecture of civilization!
- Black and White Insanity: Averted, despite being generally considered an Enlightenment trope; the Imperials are pretty damn certain that reason draws some pretty indisputable ethical bright-lines.
- Creating Life Is Awesome: If we weren’t supposed to play God, why did he leave his toolbox lying around?
- Doing In the Wizard: Ineffable just means we haven’t effed hard enough yet.
- Emotions Versus Stoicism
- Enlightened Self-Interest: Makes the universe go round.
- Evil Luddite: A stock villain, a stereotypical sinner…
- For Happiness: In a sense… although technepraxic isn’t particular fond of utilitarianism, either. Slaver philosophy, that, at least once you start applying it non-locally.
- For Science!
- Good Republic, Evil Empire: Averted, obviously.
- Hard on Soft Science: In a manner of speaking. Specifically, the manner in which the soft sciences tend to use hard methods.
- Hanlon’s Razor: Any well-studied technepract or Flamic theologian will cut right through the argument and tell you that stupidity, incompetence and ignorance actually are evil, Entropy manifest. Granted, certain kinds of stupidity aren’t strictly speaking your fault, and yet…
- Harmony Versus Discipline
- Living Forever is Awesome
- Order Versus Chaos
- Nature is Not Nice: Indeed. So we’re gonna fix that.
- The Needs of the Many: See above comments on utilitarianism. It’s only acceptable to believe this if you are the Few. And in any case, always inferior to Take a Third Option.
- Science Fiction Versus Fantasy: Well, yes…
- Science Hero: Hell, yes!
- Shining City: They compete for the title. And given the aesthetic standards listed up above, it’s literal as well as metaphorical.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: By intent, swings very hard to the idealistic end in a more cynical universe. Then punches grimdark in the face with a space-magic fist of doom. As is right and proper.
- The Future Will Be Better: Said in future simple certain tense… and incorporated right into the Imperial anthem in the segment that sounds like this.
And then the Romantic-flavored ones:
- Black and White Morality: As opposed to Black and White Insanity, above. Also note reference to fist of doom.
- Democracy Is Bad: This one is also played straight, especially by the potential voters. (Who wouldn’t be impressed by the notion of putting a committee of untrained amateurs busy with other things in charge in their own fields, and aren’t impressed with it in this one, either. And that’s even before you get to their opinions on the -cracy bit.)
- Don’t Think, Feel
- Honor Before Reason: Fools! Honor is Reason! (It’s what puts the enlightened in enlightened self-interest.)
- Mad Scientist: One man’s mad scientist is another’s Science Hero.
- Measuring the Marigolds: Lots of people assume/accuse this with regards to the Imperial/technepractic approach to life. The Imperials, however, have great difficulty understanding how anyone can possibly think that way. How can understanding, seeing more of, the beauties of the universe possibly diminish your sense of wonder?
- Noble Savage: Ain’t no such thing.
Trope-a-Day: The Philosopher
The Philosopher: The Imperial educational system is more or less designed to encourage this, on the general principle that the unexamined life leads to many things, most of which should not be encouraged.
“Only the smallest, least enlightened minds accept the limits of the currently possible. Indeed, only small minds accept the limits of the possible, where greater minds strive to expand its reach. Some apologist philosophers would advance the claim that a finite mind is inherently limited in its ability to comprehend greater possibilities; to them, I say that only small minds indeed choose to remain bound by their own limitations. The strength of flesh is limited in itself, but the strengths of tools, wealth, and contracts unbind it. How, then, should we accept that the wisdom of flesh is limited?”
– ch. 2, Eternal Progress, Ianthe Claves-ith-Claves Elinaeth
“Progress begins with someone saying: ‘There has to be a better way to do this’. This, then, must be the basis of techneprax morality: never to fail to ask that question.”
Ianthe Claves-ith-Claves Elinaeth
Meditations on the Aspects of Self (3/3)
(See part 1 here; part 2 here.)
The third triad is that which adheres;
Circle, branch, and name reflect.
The circle stands strong, each multiplying each.
How diminished is the one which lacks
Those for whom it will kill and die.
The branch walks together, hands bound to telos.
By serving a purpose, your purpose is served.
Ten-thousand together may reshape the world.
Above all these, a glorious name;
Honor unstained, deeds of renown.
These buy what wealth, favors and xicé cannot.
The self is not many; the self is one.
With all these together, the circle is closed.
Meditations on the Aspects of Self (2/3)
(See part 1 here.)
The second triad is that closely held;
Lore, wealth, and oaths surround.
Before all else is lore; knowledge of the world.
Unstudied, the greatest powers are impotent;
The wise may split a mountain with one blow.
Next comes wealth: in tools and riches both.
The one extends your reach; the other is potential.
Through these things both your will is done.
More precious still, oath-contracts owned.
The web of obligations binds all hands;
Their holder may wield many as one.
Meditations on the Aspects of Self (1/3)
The self is not one; the self is many.
Aspects within aspects, three and three.
The first triad is that of the body;
Flesh, machine and software in union.
First the flesh, container and interface.
Genes shaped by generations, remade by design;
A vessel crafted to serve the mind.
Next the machine, device and instrument.
Within or without, nanocyte or nanoforge;
Through our tools is our will expressed.
Through software is that will made many;
Agent and partial, fork and derivative.
To master this aspect is to become a verb.