Lost Omens & Moral Objectivism / Relativism


Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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Grand Lodge

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We have been arguing about this for more than fifty years and people continue to think they can resolve it. Not gonna happen. If anyone is making definitive statements about what is/not evil or what alignment is/not and thinks that their OPINION on the subject is the "RIGHT" one or is likely to be shared by a large enough majority to be considered prevailing is either naive or narcissistic. We all have our opinions about what is/not evil, how alignment is applied, etc., but those are just individual opinions. If someone tries to suggest that their opinion is a universal truth, they are wrong. Period. Saying, "I think <enter subject matter here> is evil" is true and perfectly reasonable. OTOH, saying, "<subject matter> is always and universally evil," is not true and can be insulting to others in your discourse. Especially in a fantasy world where our characters routinely perform and sanction actions that would be unacceptable in our real world.

Silver Crusade

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Nah, Rape and Torture are universally evil.


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I mean, the thing is that fundamentally Pathfinder is a game. And in a game environment even entertaining the option that things like torture and rape are, in some contexts, justifiable or anything other than Evil means it's going to come up at a table sometimes, and some of those times (perhaps all of those times) that's going to make someone sitting at that table feel uncomfortable to the point of feeling unwelcome.

So it's definitely in the interest of Paizo and indeed all of us who depend on the health of the game to have games to play to shut down "well, if somehow forcing these orphans to eat each other is going to save the world, can it really be evil" hypothetical situations.

Which I think it might be better to say that just maybe some evil acts might prevent more harm than they cause (like say "the unprovoked murder a very bad person with no further justification") but they're still evil acts.


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TwilightKnight wrote:
We have been arguing about this for more than fifty years and people continue to think they can resolve it. Not gonna happen. If anyone is making definitive statements about what is/not evil or what alignment is/not and thinks that their OPINION on the subject is the "RIGHT" one or is likely to be shared by a large enough majority to be considered prevailing is either naive or narcissistic. We all have our opinions about what is/not evil, how alignment is applied, etc., but those are just individual opinions. If someone tries to suggest that their opinion is a universal truth, they are wrong. Period. Saying, "I think <enter subject matter here> is evil" is true and perfectly reasonable. OTOH, saying, "<subject matter> is always and universally evil," is not true and can be insulting to others in your discourse. Especially in a fantasy world where our characters routinely perform and sanction actions that would be unacceptable in our real world.

Maybe. But the fiction of the setting has no such ambiguity. Actions are aligned. On Golarion, I can say X is Evil and be right regardless of anyone's opinion or beliefs.

That our characters routinely perform and sanction actions that are unacceptable to the real world is not an issue with the settings morality. Its that us as players decided to do them.

Liberty's Edge

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TwilightKnight wrote:
If someone tries to suggest that their opinion is a universal truth, they are wrong. Period. Saying, "I think <enter subject matter here> is evil" is true and perfectly reasonable. OTOH, saying, "<subject matter> is always and universally evil," is not true and can be insulting to others in your discourse. Especially in a fantasy world where our characters routinely perform and sanction actions that would be unacceptable in our real world.

QFT.

People making discussion about what is good or evil within the setting is perfectly fine but the moment someone tries to make a moral or ethical judgment on things in the real world they might as well power down their internet browser because this conversation is 100% solved and more or less has been for thousands of years. There IS no universal objective moral or ethical benchmark that all people, actions, or intentions can be judged by, period, and anyone claiming otherwise needs an education.

It's perfectly acceptable to say "from the perspective of my own culture, X is immoral and wrong while Y is good and righteous" but when that first bit is left out then all sorts of problems occur including societal, cultural, religious, and class-based discrimination and othering. I am allowed to say that I believe that violence is wrong and I'd be correct in that but what I CANNOT do is assert that because of my belief that this stance IS and MUST be a universal truth because... there exist no such thing at all when it comes to these types of judgements.

Liberty's Edge

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Rysky wrote:
Nah, Rape and Torture are universally evil.

Slavery too.

And discrimination.

Liberty's Edge

Themetricsystem wrote:
TwilightKnight wrote:
If someone tries to suggest that their opinion is a universal truth, they are wrong. Period. Saying, "I think <enter subject matter here> is evil" is true and perfectly reasonable. OTOH, saying, "<subject matter> is always and universally evil," is not true and can be insulting to others in your discourse. Especially in a fantasy world where our characters routinely perform and sanction actions that would be unacceptable in our real world.

QFT.

People making discussion about what is good or evil within the setting is perfectly fine but the moment someone tries to make a moral or ethical judgment on things in the real world they might as well power down their internet browser because this conversation is 100% solved and more or less has been for thousands of years. There IS no universal objective moral or ethical benchmark that all people, actions, or intentions can be judged by, period, and anyone claiming otherwise needs an education.

It's perfectly acceptable to say "from the perspective of my own culture, X is immoral and wrong while Y is good and righteous" but when that first bit is left out then all sorts of problems occur including societal, cultural, religious, and class-based discrimination and othering. I am allowed to say that I believe that violence is wrong and I'd be correct in that but what I CANNOT do is assert that because of my belief that this stance IS and MUST be a universal truth because... there exist no such thing at all when it comes to these types of judgements.

And yet Good and Evil exist IRL.

But here we are supposed to be talking about the setting, where Good and Evil are undisputed cosmic realities.

Liberty's Edge

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If you think that good and evil are real objectively measurable aspects or traits we can assign to actions or people IRL then I supposed we must agree to disagree, though I'm very much in agreement that the discussion is supposed to be about how it's presented for the game/setting. I don't think trying to discuss IRL ethics is a safe, comfortable, or appropriate discussion to have on these forums.


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I really want the study of alignment on Golarion to be part of the natural sciences instead of magic research. I bet Rahadoum studies it as part of their anti-religion teachings and there's a conspiracy within the government about how close the country is to tipping into LE over its LN tendencies.

An adventure that could really lean into objective morality certainly seems like one that would be hard to make, given all the table variation we can expect.


The Raven Black wrote:
Rysky wrote:
Nah, Rape and Torture are universally evil.

Slavery too.

And discrimination.

Surprised nobody's mentioned murder yet.

Grand Lodge

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Kasoh wrote:
Maybe. But the fiction of the setting has no such ambiguity. Actions are aligned. On Golarion, I can say X is Evil and be right regardless of anyone's opinion or beliefs.

Only if you are the GM. If you are a player and your evaluation differs from that of the GM, then you are in fact wrong within that context.

The Raven Black wrote:
But here we are supposed to be talking about the setting, where Good and Evil are undisputed cosmic realities.

In theory, I agree, but the nature of the game leaves those undisputed cosmic realities to be adjudicated by the GM and therefore, by definition there cannot be undisputed realities. What is evil only exists within the scope of your game. It is not universally true in all games. Morality and alignment is way too nuanced for the designers to be all inclusive/exclusive in their descriptions. Hell, if you study the narrative of all RPG editions you will find contradictions within their own texts. Virtually everything has context/motivation that goes to the degree of which something is evaluated within the alignment system.

Perpdepog wrote:
Surprised nobody's mentioned murder yet.

It is certainly an interesting topic, but probably deserves its own thread and is usually better discussed within the more general topic of killing. Any discussion of murder has to include the topic of motivation which is the crux of alignment assignment.

Grand Lodge

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The Raven Black wrote:
And discrimination

Even moreso than the others listed, IMO we need to steer very clear of this one. Not in a general society sense (where it should be discussed), but within the scope of this game forum. It absolutely will lead to arguments and moderation.


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Perpdepog wrote:
Surprised nobody's mentioned murder yet.

Killing is the tricky one. Since if a wolf pack kills an elk, or a hawk kills a rabbit those aren't evil acts- they're part and parcel to the nature of the thing. Of course, wolves can't decide not to prey on other animals, their need to survive means they're going to take food where they can find it.

And if you're in a deadly combat against another person who means you harm, killing them before they kill you probably isn't evil. It's perhaps tragic, and unfortunate, but justifiable.

If you're working up on high on a scaffold and you sneeze and drop your hammer and it just happens to hit someone on the head killing them instantly that's absolutely tragic and unfortunate, but it's an honest mistake and probably not evil.

So unlike some things the difference between "killing" and "murder" has to hinge on the intent of the perpetrator and not solely on "what happens to the victim" which makes it complicated. Particularly since the bulk of the rules in a game like this are about combat in which things regularly expire.

Grand Lodge

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Kasoh wrote:

I really want the study of alignment on Golarion to be part of the natural sciences instead of magic research. I bet Rahadoum studies it as part of their anti-religion teachings and there's a conspiracy within the government about how close the country is to tipping into LE over its LN tendencies.

An adventure that could really lean into objective morality certainly seems like one that would be hard to make, given all the table variation we can expect.

While personally I would find this an interesting topic to approach, its probably better we steer clear of it. Ya know, that whole religion thing. It is incredibly difficult to have a meaningful discussion about fantasy morality and religion without drawing on real world understandings and beliefs in an attempt to find common-ground


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TwilightKnight wrote:
Kasoh wrote:

I really want the study of alignment on Golarion to be part of the natural sciences instead of magic research. I bet Rahadoum studies it as part of their anti-religion teachings and there's a conspiracy within the government about how close the country is to tipping into LE over its LN tendencies.

An adventure that could really lean into objective morality certainly seems like one that would be hard to make, given all the table variation we can expect.

While personally I would find this an interesting topic to approach, its probably better we steer clear of it. Ya know, that whole religion thing. It is incredibly difficult to have a meaningful discussion about fantasy morality and religion without drawing on real world understandings and beliefs in an attempt to find common-ground

See, since Alignment is objective on Golarion, Someone could base a whole mathematical model on it and crack open the secrets of the universe.

Since Good and Evil are physical forces that manifest, can be called upon, and emanate from people and objects, there should be something happening materially when alignment changes. Atoms and molecules shifting or whatever. Someone could build an Alignometer to detect these changes. And, maybe there's a way to tap into that to generate power or make weapons. A tech based weapon made of Pure Evil.

Of course, since this is Golarion, magic exists and whole planes of existence and et al, so maybe nothing happens on the material plane, but that's boring and less useful to my tangent. I suppose it also requires an atomic theory to be understood.

Sigh.

I want the Theory of General Relativity for Alignment. (That's funny because my example used the world relative.)

Grand Lodge

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Kasoh wrote:
Alignment is objective on Golarion

The alignment axis is objective, but what is included under the scope of each box is subjective. Almost no action (only the absolute extremes) is likely to be judged the same by all viewers. And we are rarely talking about or interested in the most extreme of actions which becomes more clear the more extreme they are. We generally concern ourselves with the much more nuanced of actions. If there actually was a Pharasma or an Asmodeus or an Imodedae, we could ask them and have an objective truth. However, we are always making assumptions about those entities as viewed through out own interpretations of morality.

The only real objective truth is that there is good and evil in the multiverse, but where along that line a particular action falls is subjective.


PossibleCabbage wrote:
Perpdepog wrote:
Surprised nobody's mentioned murder yet.

Killing is the tricky one. Since if a wolf pack kills an elk, or a hawk kills a rabbit those aren't evil acts- they're part and parcel to the nature of the thing. Of course, wolves can't decide not to prey on other animals, their need to survive means they're going to take food where they can find it.

And if you're in a deadly combat against another person who means you harm, killing them before they kill you probably isn't evil. It's perhaps tragic, and unfortunate, but justifiable.

If you're working up on high on a scaffold and you sneeze and drop your hammer and it just happens to hit someone on the head killing them instantly that's absolutely tragic and unfortunate, but it's an honest mistake and probably not evil.

So unlike some things the difference between "killing" and "murder" has to hinge on the intent of the perpetrator and not solely on "what happens to the victim" which makes it complicated. Particularly since the bulk of the rules in a game like this are about combat in which things regularly expire.

That was my point in asking the question, particularly if we try to adopt the model of absolute morality that's being talked about in this thread. The difference between killing and murder hinges on lots of factors, a lot of which hinge on how murder itself is defined, and this can be extrapolated to other acts of notional or absolute evil, too.

Paizo Employee Customer Service Representative

Removed post for baiting.

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