The Philosophies of Middle-earth

The place for discussion of Cubicle 7 and Sophisticated Games' "Adventures in Middle-earth" OGL setting.
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zedturtle
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The Philosophies of Middle-earth

Post by zedturtle » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:25 pm

So I went down to see my parents the other weekend and the timing of things was such that we might have ended up going to church with my mom. In a moment of idle curiosity, I spent a bit of the drive down daydreaming about what I'd talk about, if I was invited to present. Again, just idle speculation, didn't happen, but what would I talk about to a bunch of Unitarian retirees?

Almost certainly, I'd spend my time blabbing about a devout Catholic and his thoughts on free will versus determinism. Because the subject of Tolkien's thoughts on this are a fascinating subject to me. And, I think, very relevant for gaming as well as philosophical discussions. After all, isn't the perfect session where the LM had everything prepared but the players had free choice all along the way?

What philosophical elements of Tolkien do you enjoy?
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Jon Hodgson
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Re: The Philosophies of Middle-earth

Post by Jon Hodgson » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:49 pm

Of course we must be very careful speaking of religion here - there's no problem with the topic or the first post, but worth mentioning in advance! Let us all remain respectful.

To actually contribute to the topic - I'm really interested in Tolkien's professed belief in a mixture of classical anarchism and monarchism, in terms of a viable philosophy. I find my mind often comes back to that.

I don't find it super-interesting at a personal belief level, but it also academically interests me to read Tolkien's struggle with Orcs (and others) as irredeemably evil (or not).

Also the idea of a "secondary creation"/"sub creation" was quite ...reframing (?) for many of my thoughts about fantasy worlds.
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zedturtle
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Re: The Philosophies of Middle-earth

Post by zedturtle » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:56 pm

Yeah, I knew that the framing of the setup was a bit raw but I wanted that personal touch.

Can you talk a little more about the anarchy thing? Most everything else is familiar but that's a bit more unusual... I'm thinking you're talking about the Shire's self-governance as opposed to the King's rule?
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Jon Hodgson
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Re: The Philosophies of Middle-earth

Post by Jon Hodgson » Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:19 pm

JRRT talks in the Letters (which I desperately need to reread, as I'm finding my knowledge here rusty) about his politics, and ruminates about how he's basically a classical anarchist, but believes in benevolent monarchy. And I think that comes through very much in the work. He clearly believes in strong leadership, a line of kings and the like. But people getting to do very much what they want is also very important for goodness to thrive. I think it's quite a unique, and initially silly sounding, proposition. But it had merits.

Edit to add: I guess one could relate that quite keenly to the idea of a deity creating things, and then giving them free will, as being an important part of 1: things existing, and 2: actually being legitimately good, without being forced to be so.

This of course also assumes a great deal about what power means, which is central to a lot of his work, and equally is a fairly hot issue in any debate about free will.
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bfl
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Re: The Philosophies of Middle-earth

Post by bfl » Tue Feb 28, 2017 5:03 am

From the Philosophy of Tolkien by Peter J. Kreeft,
"Tolkien's political philosophy had a name: distributism. The term and concept came from G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire
Belloc."
The associated footnote points to Belloc's The Servile State.

Edit: The letter you may be looking for is #52.

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Re: The Philosophies of Middle-earth

Post by Terisonen » Tue Feb 28, 2017 9:46 am

For me, Tolkien have really magnifically tapped in the Jungian archetypes. That to say because i'm an irrevocable unbelivier. Not to say also that I have not a Judeo-Christian education and culture: I have.
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zedturtle
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Re: The Philosophies of Middle-earth

Post by zedturtle » Wed Mar 01, 2017 3:51 am

Jon Hodgson wrote:To actually contribute to the topic - I'm really interested in Tolkien's professed belief in a mixture of classical anarchism and monarchism, in terms of a viable philosophy. I find my mind often comes back to that.
Edit to add: I guess one could relate that quite keenly to the idea of a deity creating things, and then giving them free will, as being an important part of 1: things existing, and 2: actually being legitimately good, without being forced to be so.
bfl wrote:From the Philosophy of Tolkien by Peter J. Kreeft,
"Tolkien's political philosophy had a name: distributism. The term and concept came from G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire
Belloc."
The associated footnote points to Belloc's The Servile State.

Edit: The letter you may be looking for is #52.
Interesting. So the idea is that people who have a benevolent form of government (where the king is wise and does not unduly tax the populace or expose it to avoidable dangers) can be relied upon to self-govern and generally behave themselves?

As Jon says, it seems silly. But, of course, I'm pretty sure that over 90% of any population wants to do right by themselves and their friends/neighbors. Of course, the definition of who is 'friend' and who is 'other' has been one fraught with peril over the years.

And Tolkien certainly did not have any ideal societies simply existing. Every one of his 'superior' communities was consumed by in-fighting and usurpation at some point. I'm thinking the corruption of the Númenóreans, the Kin-Strife, and the events that lead to the need for the Scouring of the Shire.

But, yeah, that has neat tie-ins to free will and also mercy.

For example, when I got broken into a while back*, there were some of my friends who were taken aback by my response to their indignation on my behalf. Because, I stressed mercy and pity... it's a desperate person who kicks in a door and takes my child's toys away and I can forgive them.

(* They took my con-bag Jon! The super one, where I had all my gear strapped in and hanging-off of. They dumped it out, fortunately.)
Jon Hodgson wrote:I don't find it super-interesting at a personal belief level, but it also academically interests me to read Tolkien's struggle with Orcs (and others) as irredeemably evil (or not).
Yeah, the whole classification of Orcs and the nature of mercy towards them is a very deep well. And it's not likely to apply to everyday life but it is an interesting idea... can you grant mercy to something/someone who is incapable of doing the same? Not unwilling, actually literally incapable...
Also the idea of a "secondary creation"/"sub creation" was quite ...reframing (?) for many of my thoughts about fantasy worlds.
Oh yes! Totally blew me away as well, changing how I felt about things and what fantasy meant and what its purpose was/is. I'm also fond of C.S. Lewis's tweaking of Tolkiens imagery of beams of light and dust motes... the idea of looking along the beam of light (viewing the sub-creation as an internally consistent thing from the 'inside') versus looking at the beam from outside (viewing the sub-creation as a made thing, with all the frailties and revisionism that such things are subject to).

— • —

And this is getting high-falutin' so let's change gears a little bit...

What do folks think... when someone stands their ground against a undefeatable horde of enemies, should the Eagles come?
Jacob Rodgers, occasional nitwit.

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Halbarad
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Re: The Philosophies of Middle-earth

Post by Halbarad » Thu Mar 02, 2017 7:48 pm

Yep, either the eagles or a company of riders of Rohan. They too have a habit of turning up in the nick of time. ;)

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Re: The Philosophies of Middle-earth

Post by BookBarbarian » Thu Mar 02, 2017 8:07 pm

zedturtle wrote:What do folks think... when someone stands their ground against a undefeatable horde of enemies, should the Eagles come?
I hope to frequently put my players in situations where it's tempting to take the easy way out, and gain some Shadow Points, but reward them for doing the more difficult thing. one time for sure it will be Eagles. More likely it will be the timely intervention of a Patron. But most often I hope to find a way to enable the heroes themselves dig deep and find new power within themselves.

In that regard I plan on being liberal with inspiration and give situation advantage for being heroic. Maybe even have a Character level up just as the they are about to be defeated. Though that last one might slow down play too much.

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zedturtle
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Re: The Philosophies of Middle-earth

Post by zedturtle » Thu Mar 02, 2017 8:12 pm

Yeah, that'd be tricky. Unless you used as an end of session cliffhanger... "The orcs are closing in and there's no hope of escape. When we meet again, they'll attack. But in the meantime, take your characters to Level 5."
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