Saturday, May 7, 2011

Shadow of a Thought

"Life is full of grief, to the exactly the degree we allow ourselves to love other people."
"The consolations of philosophy are many, but never enough." -both from "Shadow of the Giant" p161

I have come to the realization that, not only is it impossible to experience everything worth experiencing, but even if we could, there would still be more to do. The order that you do something matters, so you would need to go back and reread everything, mixing up the order to inspire new thoughts. While both main thoughts here were inspired by the books "Ender's Shadow" and "Shadow of the Giant," you may be able to see that they were affected by the book I read previously, "The Sociopath Next Door," and the thoughts which inspired my last blog post. My second thought should make sense to those who haven't read the books, but I am unsure about the first one, read it if you like, it shouldn't spoil much.

Tiny Sociopaths:
It is interesting to contrast Bean and Achilles. Achilles seems to be the stereotypical sociopath, casually charismatic, utterly void of compassion, and inclined to blame others for forcing him to commit his acts of depravity. On the other hand Bean, while standoffish, distant, and unlikable, clearly cares about other people, despite his inability to rationally understand why.

While Bean initially seems to be somewhat of a sociopath, attempting to substitute his intellect for his impaired emotional reasoning, the character Achilles continually reinforces the differences between Bean and a true sociopath. Although Bean never expresses fear that he and Achilles are similar, their shared affective impairment and intelligence seems to make drawing some comparisons inevitable. This reflects the struggle that Ender experiences with his relationship to his older brother, Peter.

Peter provides yet a third interesting example. Whereas Bean is dispassionate and Achilles is callous as only one without empathy can be, Peter is cruel. Like Achilles, Peter is skilled at manipulating people, but unlike Achilles and Bean, Peter is also able to relate to them, to understand them. Throughout the books it is interesting to see how Orson Scott Card develops each of these profoundly socially dysfunctional characters.

The Alien Other:
A staple of much science fiction, the impetus for the events in the series is a good old fashioned alien attack. Unfortunately for both species, before either side realizes how truly alien the mindset of the other is, they have each committed the kind of diplomatic faux pas that just naturally segues into xenocidal warfare.

This serves to highlight why I would love to encounter aliens someday (no, not xenocide!). Think of all that we could learn from them, not in the realm of science and engineering, but in philosophy! They are the ultimate Others, and if we could reach enough understanding to communicate I have to imagine that we could never look at our own species the same again. Interaction with a true, conscious intelligence separate from humanity seems to present so much potential for putting ourselves in a greater context. For that matter, I would be happy if we could create an artificial intelligence. Not a human simulation, but a self aware computer, as I would imagine it would have a truly unique perspective on things as well.


elfarmy17 said...

Massive geek moment when I saw which books you were talking about. :)

But I thought Bean did say he feared they were similar. Achilles I hate. Peter I love. He's a horrible person, but...

The Alien Other stuff is the reason I prefer the Ender quartet to the Bean books. Ender involves all the philosophy (plus I love love love the philote stuff), while Bean deals with strategy and politics (which, granted, are also interesting). Meeting ETs would indeed be fascinating, if only we didn't end up in a war with them first.

Frank said...

Only you could fit in a plug for PEMDAS in a post about lit. Well done, sir!

Kenny said...

@Elfarmy: I cannot remember when Bean would have thought that, nor why he would. But he may have.

@Frank: Is my comment about order being important what you mean? Also, I was just griping about PEMDAS the other day, on Facebook I think.