Free (enough) Will (was: Dragaera and Shakespeare)

Thu Feb 20 16:29:52 PST 2003

Ok, I need to write some code, but I do want to point to Norathar (not
socialized as a Dragon I think but otherwise recognizably Dragony) and
Mellar (a messy mixture socialized as a ? but still understandable on
the basis of genetics) - Vlad (?) makes a speech about the strength of
the House flavor toward the end of Jhereg I would quote if not AFB.
Note also that our sample size for Houses beyond Dragon and Jhereg is
rather small so my speculations sadly tend to be based on individuals.

I disagree about What A Wonderful Chemistry but it doesn't matter.

On Thu, 20 Feb 2003, Andrew Lias wrote:

> [...]
> >I don't see the distinction, frankly.  You act because you were programmed
> >that way by your genes, your environment, or some complex interaction
> >between them.  The degree to which genes, environment, or their interaction
> >prevails affects social planning but without free will we're robots and
> >there are bad robots (Grr! Arggh!) but not criticizable ones.
> I think that we're talking past one another, a bit.  When I suggested that
> scandal couldn't exist if all Dragaeran characteristics were inborn, I meant
> that the very concept of law and social censur would have no function
> because Dragaerans, quite literally, couldn't act in any way but the way
> that they do, no matter what their environment.
> Laws and social customs work precisely because they act as environmental
> factors used to modify behaviors.  In this case, the distinction between
> nurture and nature is cogent and important, whether or not one wants to
> consider us robots. [1]
> To use Dennett's terminology: are Dragaerans sphexish?  If a given Dragaeran
> encounters a given circumstance, will that given Dragaerans behavior always
> be a given result, regardless of its experiences, or will it be able to act
> in a way that could not be predicted simply knowing its nature?  Clearly
> Dragaerans aren't utterly sphexish, but are they more sphexish than humans?
> I think that they are a *bit* more... enough that you actually can
> justifiably apply broad stereotypes to them that aren't simply the results
> of racist bigotry, but not *much* more so.  I think that environment is
> sufficiently influential and unpredictable that the members of a given House
> will display a wide range of characteristics that can't be easily explained
> as simply being manifestations of their House Nature.  Nor, to return to the
> original point, safely derive an aspect of a House's nature by observing the
> behavior of a single member of the house.  Hence, I don't think that the
> fact that Khaavren became melancholy can be used as a good basis to presume
> that Tiassa are, thus, prone to melancholy.
> [...]
> >These are all good points in my view -
> Why, thank you!
> >what I was getting at was that the
> >House character can combine polarities - so there's the nurturing dragon
> >mother along with the fierce one, as _PG_ and several (I believe) Vlad
> >novels put it.  I can see Tiassas being known for >both cat-like curiosity
> >and for cat-like withdrawal.
> I think that one can certainly make that speculation, but, again, I don't
> think that one can do so on the *basis* of one character's withdrawal.
> I would also note that not all cats (think tigers) are known for displaying
> withdrawal.  Since Tiassa are described as being like panthers with batlike
> (!) wings, I hesitate to suppose that they're much like house cats.
> This isn't, of course, to say that you're wrong.  For all I know, maybe this
> really is a general trait of the Tiassa.  I just don't think that we have
> nearly enough evidence to suggest that it is.
> Well... I've certainly used up a lot of words, today. :)
> -- Andrew Lias
> [1] On the topic of robots: if one wants to suppose that a lack of free will
> makes us robots, I would suggest that this doesn't diminish us but, rather,
> vastly enhances the concept of a robot since the concept must now include
> beings of immense subtlety and intelligence, much in the same way that
> noting that life is a chemical process says something wonderful about
> chemistry rather than something denigrating about life.
> _________________________________________________________________
> Help STOP SPAM with the new MSN 8 and get 2 months FREE*
> http://join.msn.com/?page=features/junkmail