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On the goodness of evil

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--- Quote from: Gorgorotterath on June 03, 2017, 11:55:24 am ---I've had a reread of Bakker's essay, and I admit I was probably inferring too much from the text, on the wake of a personal bias on the subject, I guess. This attenuates my objections, and I must admit that the latest sentence of my first post was carried on the wake of the reading. Upon rereading I appreciated also how he identifies in demythologization one of the main tools used by Grimdark authors, and its limitations as well as the limitations of mythologization.

Tolkien and Bakker are my favorite authors, anyway.

I still maintain that Tolkien's message and the metaphysics of Middle-earth (or Eä if you like)  is quite distorted, to my understanding. Saying that "no orc can be murdered" is wrong; orcs are murdered in fact in the book itself, consider the killing of the unarmed and wounded Gorbag by Shagrat. That is a scene charged with a moral content. The reader is made to realize that Shagrat's act is "evil", even according to the Orcs'  moral yardstick (Shippey has written something on that, I think in JRR Tolkien, Author of the Century). The fact that no man/elf/good guy murders an Orc is accidental, not fundamental. It would happen, should a "good guy" kill an Orc in his sleep for instance. [This I suspect, happens in the Lay of Leithian, possibly] So I see an inversion of cause and consequence here.
--- End quote ---

Well, I do agree in part here, the statement that "no Orc can be murdered" is far too polarized, even if I do agree with Bakker's point, in principle, about how Tolkien's world certainly evokes a moral certainty.  The "case of Orcs" as you point out in your earlier post is problematic when you dig down into it, because on the one hand, they are demonstrably evil (with little to no redeeming qualities, even by their own measure) yet, of course, they are living beings.  Additionally, the fact that no one murders Orcs, at least, that we see, actually also speaks to the "moral certainty" of the "good guys" because even in the face of clear evil, they remain uncompromised.

--- Quote from: Gorgorotterath on June 03, 2017, 11:55:24 am ---
--- Quote ---I think we might be differing on what absolute means here though.  Bakker's point about LotR is that evil on Middle-Earth is pretty objective, that is, expressly not a matter of perspective.  In fact, the quote you give later seems to speak directly to this, since Sauron's transgressions are violations of Eru's design?
--- End quote ---

Evil is objective in Middle-earth, but this does not simplify the problem evil represents. The Quest is much more than a mission to destroy Sauron as the absolute embodiment of Evil. It is also a mission for to preserve the goodness of the good guys, while trying to thwart the Dark Lord. Many possibilities of temptations are offered, of easier way to "destroy evil doing evil" (to Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel, Aragorn, Boromir, Denethor, Sam himself). I some or all cases it may just have been a trick of the Ring to reveal itself to Sauron, but there is evidence for the contrary at least for the Wizards. So in "The Lord of the Rings" there is the awareness that the quest to "destroy evil" could turn good people to evil as well.
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Right, good point, that the objective nature of evil doesn't necessarily mean it is not complex.  In the end though, to my limited understanding of LotR, evil is clear on Middle-Earth, even if it is complex in nature.  Good is the same way, to some extent, which could be why temptation is always something that hovers around.  As I've said though, I lack a real scholarly knowledge of the extended Tolkien world, and it's even been a dog's age since I read LotR.

I think that is the main thrust of Bakker's position, that when one reads LotR, it is unlikely that one comes away with any feelings of "those poor Orcs" or "man, Sauron is just really misunderstood."  Now, of course, like any actually good writing, the deeper one digs, there is a certain level of complexity that accompanies these characters and tropes which lead to a more "realistic" feeling to the world.

--- Quote from: Gorgorotterath on June 03, 2017, 11:55:24 am ---
--- Quote ---OK, so your position is that one can reduce the evil in LotR to simply a matter of perspective?
--- End quote ---
This is interesting. Evil is not a matter of perspective, but possibly the irredeemability of evil is a matter of perspective. It is not in the powers of Man or Elves (and possibly of the Valar as well) to redeem the Orcs (and Sauron as well), but it would not be beyond the powers of Eru at the very least. Or maybe beyond the powers of Melkor if he had repented after being freed my Manwe (one of the reasons Manwë decided to trust Melkor was indeed that his help was needed to heal the world from the evils he had started). But here maybe I am philosophizing a bit too much.
--- End quote ---

Hmm, I don't know if Sauron really is irredeemably evil or not, honestly.  I think you are well beyond my shallow Tolkien knowledge.  I think though, that in any decent work of fiction though, no one would ever really be irredeemable, but of course that is contingent on them actually seeking redemption.  Sauron doesn't really strike me as being one to submit to such a thing, which, of course, part of why he is as evil as he is.


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