Why Does Wyld Shaping Work?

Rand Brittain posted:
Okay, but Taboo-Inflicting Diatribe is based on a minimal understanding of Socialize and Seven Shadow Evasion is based on minimal understanding of Dodge. Wyld-Shaping Technique appears to be based on a minimal amount of Lore- that is, a certain degree of book larnin' and history. But its implications and power go beyond what Lore is about (this is one of the reasons I'd like it better as a spell- it makes it simpler to justify its ability to bypass the things you understand personally if it draws on Essence patterns originally laid down by someone else).


You are a sociopathic Solar with only the vaguest notion that other people have any real existence. You also have Lore 5, Essence 4, Wyld-Shaping Technique and Wyld Cauldron Technology. You announce, "I create nubile extras!" and lo! the nubile extras do indeed appear from the substance of the Wyld.

Are the resulting sex slaves merely empty bodies with enough programming to perform the carnal acts you intended them for, or are they genuine individuals with fully formed personalities and a psychology equally as complex as that of a normally-born inhabitant of Creation?

If they are individuals, then why?

For purposes of this exercise, assume that your OOC description of the project doesn't specify either way which you intend; IC, you aren't aware of a distinction.

This gets into philosophical zombie territory, doesn't it?

Let me think this through aloud.

I tend personally to think that the whole philosophical zombie issue is based on a bad understanding of the world that's deeply embedded in our culture. I've become deeply skeptical of the idea that statements that cannot be falsified have meaning; and so the ease with which we can draw a distinction between philosophical zombies and the real people they are stipulated to be indistinguishable from concerns me. It seems like rather than wondering what it would mean if there were philosophical zombies, we have to recognize that there is no distinction: the things-that-act-like-people-but-are-not and the things-that-act-like-people-and-actually-are are the same.

Put another way, when we're inquiring into the internal lives of others, we're reaching beyond our grasp; and when we're wondering if they're actually there, we're committing a fallacy of some sort. I don't mean to say that people are automata, as commonly understood, or that they aren't; I mean to say that when examining whether some person really exists or is just an empty shell that acts exactly like a person, we've made some false assumption already or we couldn't ask the question.

What is that fallacy?

I'm not entirely sure. I think, if I had to guess, it's that the evidence for personhood is a lot closer to the thing itself than we realize, and that we're getting thrown off by the way we conceive and construct ourselves. Like, we can't talk about mindless sexbots that maintain a facsimile of life but have no personal consciousness because to have a sufficient facsimile of life is the same thing as having personal consciousness.

This is relevant because it gets into the matter of, what are people?

What are people, most specifically, in Creation?

We've talked some about essence packets. Um, I guess I mean me and Neph have talked some about essence packets, but I think that was based on stuff that's in some book or other. ^_^ There's an idea, anyway, floating around, that there is this coding for what people are, that people are these little autonomous essence structures, in Creation. And in a world that has a large number of "poles"- Yozis, gods, shinma, and so forth- providing the basic coding for fairly high-order ideas, I think that many of the elements of personhood that ought to be really complex may, in Creation, consist of the invocation of the equivalent of, well, libraries. Whether you buy that or not, it's a reasonably evident thing that complex elements of the Cartesian mind are fairly primal: dreams, and spirit, and will, and Charisma, and Manipulation, and Appearance (!!!!), and stunts/drama/interest value, and Presence, and Integrity, and Temperance, Valor, Conviction, and Compassion—-

This isn't a world where dreams sit on top of a spire of neurobiological and sociological ideas. It's a world where the dreams existed first, and the neurons firing came second. (Which is to say, in this regard, it's closer to the world of experiential truth than the world of analyzed empirical truth. Which is in turn to say that the science is going to be weird here, because instead of telling you that adjusting the essence structure is the best way to adjust the dreams, it's possible that the naive approach in Creation is to change your body and mind first, and the scientific/advanced approach is to just hit the dreams until they do what you want them to directly.)

I think what I'm going to say, then, is that they're people. That they're people because those things that form a person are inflicted upon them—-

in Creation, at least, in its vicinity—-

by the wash of the great waves of form and dream and concept against basic behavioral patterns. That they're people because the world is aware of them. That you can't have a person-like thing, in the presence of Wyld, Oblivion, and Creation, that is not a person by right of the witnessing of the world and the structure of action.

So then where did the knowledge come from?

I think I'd be inclined to go back to the tricks I used- and however flawed other bits may have been, I'm fond of these tricks- to make the raksha's world playable at all. We know that whatever else may be said of the Wyld and its shaping, that it will be as conceived by players and the GM.

There's an assumption that while a Solar may create a river, in the Wyld, or a river of twisting smoke, or a river of living twisting smoke beings wielding metal hornet's-nest whips, they can't come up with stuff that's beyond what we can conceive them coming up with. Except in a vague and generalized way.

So let's say that they live in a world that is rich in the same elements of experience and language that possess our brains when we go to imagine what they do in the Wyld as they shape it. Let's say that when we say, "But how can they make a sane weather system when they don't know enough meteorology," say, or "how can they make people without understanding them?" that we're not actually speaking of the realism of the Wyld, but rather expressing our own concept:

"When we, as people, imagine weather systems, or other people, we tend to find that there is something missing compared to the Real."

We dream, in short, of people who can make these things; but we also have this second-order process that tells us, "but it is easy to imagine people who try to make these things, and it ends up hollow."

We're used to a certain innate surprisingness of complex things, which may only be overcome by careful study, step-by-step mapping them that makes them the known.

Here we've walked into a bit of a paradox, of course. The Solar who makes people may expect them to surprise him; or, of course, in this case, this being a sociopath, he may expect them to not. The former case is a little more interesting: how can a person make from nothing a thing that does not behave as they expect? The latter case, I suppose, I've made almost as bad, by alleging that personhood is there. There's a third case, even worse, which is something I thought about a fair bit in Nobilis, which is to say, when the person creating people or complex systems from nothing expects them to both surprise and not surprise, to be exactly as imagined but also alive enough to be new and unexpected.

I'm not entirely satisfied with my answers here. I think it would be reasonable to remember that scholarship is, first and foremost, the study of learning, the study of studying, the study of research and burying oneself in books and caring about the facts and experiencing, over and over again, the delightful surprise of learning and the delightful confidence of mastery. So it's possible that the template for this surprise-and-not-surprise is written into the Lore Ability itself. That's a complete answer, but it's a bit facile.

I think that they may be hollow, the ones this Solar makes, because worked into their existence is a blasphemy. This is a Solar who loves not learning, who loves not being surprised by the things that give us an indication (in our Cartesian perspective) of their inner experience. This is a Solar who loves not to know people; and there is that kind of hollowness in them. And so it's possible that they are simply a people subject to an atrocity, and like many in the Wyld are soul-less not so much because they fail at being people but because some element of personhood and soul is withheld from them. So in that sense I'd say that Lore is the Ability that understands that potential complexity and can play it in deepness into new creations.

But I also think that their essence could be awakened to consciousness, and if they are in fact less than the people of Creation then it could probably be awakened to the level of Creation by a lesser effort than that which makes people already the people of Creation into something more.

Let's say that they could draw on the rich tapestry of dream and the Sword and the Cup and the Ring and the Staff and the Heart and the existence of things under Heaven and live as people live and think and feel as people think and feel, but because of circumstances it would require a stunt.

I am a little uneasy saying that the attention of something must turn on them before they become people, but I think it may be true, and it may be true not because they are made by a sociopath but because they are fictional. There is something in the world of Creation that is analogous to the attention of the players; it is not the same, and we imagine that it takes place sometimes in the world even when the players are not playing out a scene, but there is some force that kindles essence to stunt that is like the kindling of imaginary scenes into awesome as players turn their attention there. So on top of the rest, there may be a sense in which they may dwell in timeless dreaming as part of the fabric of the created realm before an event causes them to become aware of their own consciousness, and in so doing possess one.

Of course, all of this is a long philosophical rambling, which dances back and forth between the real world and Exalted and in so doing most likely sacrifices much of whatever truth it might have in either realm. And it may not get to the heart of the question and the concern. But I think maybe I can say something to the point, having spent this time in thinking aloud:

I think it is the power of Learning About the World, in Lore, that makes it possible for Solars to create something so complex that to fully understand it, they would have to learn about it.

This may not be canonical, in which case, there is still a problem.

Best wishes,


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