Worldbuilding: Intellectual Integrity and Non-Utopia

So, in things to think about, let’s talk about intellectual integrity. Or, more specifically, let’s talk about a citation I’m taking from Paean to SMAC (Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri)’s discussion of the Intellectual Integrity technology, and specifically this:

That this is tied to a technology called Intellectual Integrity is quite intriguing, if one is willing to entertain the idea for a moment.  What would it mean for a society to have real intellectual integrity?  For one, people would be expected to follow their stated beliefs to wherever they led.  Unprincipled exceptions and an inability or unwillingness to correlate beliefs among different domains would be subject to social sanction.  Valid attempts to persuade would be expected to be based on solid argumentation, meaning that what passes for typical salesmanship nowadays would be considered a grave affront.  Probably something along the lines of punching someone in the face and stealing their money.

This is essentially the way Imperial society works, thanks to talcoríëf and the efforts of socio-intellectual movements past; there’s a very good reason why teir, typically glossed “honor”, has a lot more to say about self-integrity and intellectual integrity than a human take on its gloss would normally imply.

(Take advertising, for example: it has substantially less glitz – not zero, because you can make a valid and sound argument to someone that this product is awfully shiny and will be found pleasing by them, or that it concretely reflects their abstract values, but simply shrieking SEX! STATUS! MOOOORE SEEEEEX! at maximum volume fails utterly – avoids glossing over details, and in general is much more in-depth – for a product launch, you can pretty much expect interviews and Q&A with the design team regardless of what the product is – and personalized.

Meanwhile, the ongoing parade of SALE! SALE! SALE! tends not to happen, mostly because it’s not terribly effective on people who are (a) aware of hyperbolic discounting, and (b) cured hyperbolic discounting. And in general, if you’re in the Imperial market and trying to compete on price,  you’re doomed. Such price-based advertising as there is tends to consist of automated feeds to AI procurement agents.)

All of which is to say, in non-utopian terms, if you aren’t accustomed to maintaining a certain luminous clarity and consistency of thought, and you move there, you are going to be on the receiving end of certain social consequences. At best, that means spending a lot of time having all the cracks in your Weltanschauung poked into and levered apart by people first trying to understand, and then earnestly trying to help you with your philosophical problem.

At worst… well, self-inconsistent is no more a complement than unprincipled, which amounts to wilful self-inconsistency – or attempting to defend self-inconsistency – which latter has cast a black stain of ickiness over concepts like pragmatism or compromise, due to their frequent invocation to defend self-inconsistency. And let’s not even start on “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion!”, the responses to which are starkly unprintable1.

So, basically, if you don’t enjoy the cut and thrust of debate and/or staring unflinchingly at the consequences of your beliefs… don’t go, ’cause you won’t like it there.


Footnotes:

1. These responses will, eventually, concede that you do technically have, freedom of thought and all, the right to your own opinion however ludicrous and inconsistent it might be. However, they will go on to state, that does not include the right to be taken seriously, the right not to be mocked and shunned by all cognitively capable people, or the right not to be labeled the dumbest piece of crap that ever crawled out of Waste Reprocessing and evolved the power of speech all across the public reputation networks. Which is not defamatory, because it’s obviously true if you believe that.

Balances

The book of Balances is one of the most significant segments of the Word of the Flame as it addresses the eldraeic character. To be specific, it takes the form of a lengthy debate between Kanáralath, Bringer of Clarity, the eikone whose concern is reason, logic, and truth unalloyed, and therefore that quality of spirit which we esteem as talcoríëf, and Elárion, the eikone representing liberty, individuality, and volition, and therefore the quality of valxíjir.

The debate dissects the question of these two qualities that lie at the heart of our nature as eldrae (q.v. the Parable of the Crystal and the Flame). At first, this is almost conducted as a duel, as Elárion praises our driving energy, qalasír, and the great deeds it has inspired, while Kanáralath speaks on the virtue of wisdom. Then, in answering each other’s points, Elárion decries (with appropriately fiery rhetoric) the bloodless contemplation of his counterpart, while Kanáralath coldly dissects the great tragedies of passion.

Both, of course, are correct. We are, as Elárion teaches, creatures of Flame, not mere creatures of clay, born to exert our will upon the world. But a flame untended runs easily wild, as the bloodier centuries of our history demonstrate in great depth.

The next section of the debate has the eikones discuss the interactions between the two – and the failure to balance them property – in detail. This section of the Word indeed describes six of the Antithetical Heresies, which such an imbalance can give rise to. A deficiency of valxíjir is the straight and narrow way to the Heresy of the Deedless Cripple, that of those who do not strive and depend upon others for their worth; while an excess leads one into the Heresy of the Uncaring Rider, who negligently exerts his will heedless of the rights and hearts of others. Likewise, a deficiency in talcoríëf is the path of the Thoughtless Churl, who obeys and enforces without understanding; while its excess delivers one to the Heartless Philosopher, whose contemplation paralyzes action. Talcoríëf curdled begets the Heresy of the Obstructive Naysayer, who disdains the thoughts and ambitions of others; while corrupted valxíjir is the way of the Defiling Nihility, who finds satisfaction only in exerting power, ultimately only to destroy.

The final synthesis of the debate discusses the empowering balance of passion and reason, and the way in which each quality must be fulfilled by the other. Reason superdominant is impotent: contemplation exalted to inaction, if not empowered with the will to use it. Overriding passion is dangerous: folly, destruction, and chaos alone come from action without mastery of the will exerted to give rise to it.

Reason, therefore, must be enlivened with passion; passion, ruled by tempered reason. The enlightened sophont seeks and rests upon the balance point from which both valxíjir and talcoríëf may simultaneously be affirmed. From within this place, they may make choices in cool rationality, neither ruled nor controlled by their passions, and then act upon those choices with an absolute and pure will.

– Commentaries and Insights, Vol. IV,
the Luminous Sessily Arkonides of Atheléä

Legal Variances

“While it is necessary to examine data from early Imperial history (before the instantiation of the Transcend and its immediate precursors, and to an extent even before the advent of modern meme rehab) to see this trend clearly, from the perspective of the typical Worlds criminologist vis-a-vis Imperial forensic psychedesigners, there is a priority inversion in the treatment of certain petty crimes: when scaled appropriately by magnitude on the hir Verkat/ith-Sereda scale, it becomes readily apparent that, for example, littering, vandalism, and graffiti are punished disproportionately heavily with respect to equivalent crimes in the same category.

“The origin of this lies in an unusual qualitative distinction of the Imperial weltanschauung. While never justifiable, the standard ethical calculus published by the Eupraxic Collegium points out that zero-sum theft, for example, typically originates from a methodological defect, the pursuit of worthy ends (profit, or wealth) by unacceptable means. Even a certain subset of assaults or batteries could be considered as defects of end-selection or control-aspected talcoríëf ; again, never justifiable, but understandable, readily subject to redactive correction, and not apparently arising from fundamental defect.

“Negative-sum crimes such as the examples given above, however – along with the residuum of the other petty crimes which arises on examination from cacophilic motives – are deliberate, by-qalasír-chosen, negative-sum attacks on the community of civilized sophonts, and thereby entirely inexcusable as well as unjustifiable. While amenable in the modern era to redactive correction, in prior times it was the view that those who practiced such acts or found them acceptable in a chronic manner were suffering from, at best, an incurable mental dysfunction, or indeed an entropic soul-deformation, and should be removed as far as possible from civilized society lest it prove contagious.

“Even in the modern era, it is notable that a significantly greater percentage of those convicted for crimes of the latter class refuse meme rehab, even when such refusal necessarily invokes the mortal dictum, than those convicted for crimes of the former type.”

– “Reflections on Inter-Polity Discrepancies Within Unspecialized/Common Legal Codes”,
Worlds’ Journal of Criminology & Penology

Trope-a-Day: Emotions vs. Stoicism

Emotions vs. Stoicism: Mastering talcoríëf (literally cold-mindedness; metaphorically, cool reason and mastery of passions) is very, very important to the eldrae.  There’s a reason why their deep history were days of Glory and War and Wonder and Strife and Terror, and they don’t want to revisit those any time soon.

(Which is not to say they behave like Vulcans; clearly, even to human eyes, they do emote – just have a Stiff Upper Lip, old chap, except among the closest of friends, and would certainly think we desperately need to get in touch with our rational sides.

Also, it should be noted, it is extremely unwise to forget that under the talcoríëf, they still burn.  Those who forget this fact, especially if they think they can take advantage of it, tend to swiftly learn that ice destroys even more thoroughly than fire, if not as swiftly.)

Liberty’s Praxis

“Freedom is sanity; sanity is freedom. They are natural co-dependents. One cannot exist without the other.”

“Consider, first, the Precursors. The ancient lin-aman were exemplars of whim untamed by reason; self-interest without enlightenment; a void of talcoríëf. And without rationality to guide them, they were slaves to their passions, to their instincts, and for all their powers and the glories of their civilization, they warred themselves into extinction.”

“And consider, second, the people of the outworlds, the dwellers in korasmóníë. What sanity can they have? Being owned, being ruled, being put up to vote – being subject to any master distorts the perspective. Those who are told what to think never learn how; those who are required to obey learn to never ask why; those who are shielded from consequences cannot understand causes. The servile can never see clearly enough to reach talcoríëf.”

“To this second necessity, we have the Contract and the Charter to keep us free; to the first, the Collegium exists to keep us fit for its exercise.”

– Academician Selidië Ciellë, founder of the Eupraxic Collegium