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Distinct Upper Planes
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Surgo
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:16 am    Post subject: Distinct Upper Planes Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

In some other thread around here, we got around to talking about the good planes being really boring. Which is a pretty valid critique, because their treatment in the Planescape literature left a lot to be desired. The Good Guys just don't have very much dramatic tension, and there wasn't a whole lot of differentiation between them.

Frank had thoughts on the matter and a couple of ideas for Celestia and Bytopia, which I'll reprint here:
FrankTrollman wrote:
Yeah, there's really no sense of what "The Good" represents to any of the various "good" factions. We know that they are down on Mind Flayers, but that's really not much of a courageous or contentious moral stance. Yeah, you don't like your friends and family being enslaved and having their fucking brains eaten. Good for you.

But once you actually got down to brass tacks of what people believed other than "Destroy World [Y/N]?" you'd get to some genuine disagreement. And that would make them actually matter. Maybe the Bitopians believe in peaceful racial separatism because they are reciprocal altruism tribalists. So you can pretty much dress them in white hats when there is an unjust war going on (they oppose it), but their position becomes murkier when halflings or bugbears are already second class citizens in your society (they oppose integration or affirmative action on the grounds that bugbears should do their own thing and not be part of the hobgoblin economy at all). Maybe the Celestians believe that universal law exists and should be followed. They get the white hats out when there are destructive rampaging monsters on the loose, but their position gets murkier when questions of home rule or even social progress come to the fore.


I thought that was pretty cool. I wonder what we can make of the others?


The Beastlands
"For the greater good!"

The Beastlands are a strange place. For one thing, they are, depending on what Planescape literature you're reading, mostly inhabited by animals and not sapient creatures. But there is one common thread among the beastlands: it's supposed to be a representation of nature, and everyone is a willing participant.

That means that when the antelope is getting chased by the lion, he's not trying to be eaten but he's totally okay with actually being eaten. He's a willing participant in this chase. On a more abstract scale, this is a statement about the greater good. Everything that happens in the Beastlands happens for the greater good. If one guy from the Beastlands has to die to save a hundred other guys, that guy is not even going to hesitate -- he is going to step right up and die the instant he is needed and absolutely no later. Sometimes this can get a little extreme and maybe a little wacky -- the antelope is willing to sacrifice itself to stop a family of lions from going hungry. This might seem extreme, and it is, but that's what makes the Beastlands into the Beastlands -- everyone there is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes for the good of someone else, even if it's hard to quantify that good as "greater".

The Beastlands are not the guys you turn to when you need someone to stand up against Grindelwald imprisoning people "for the greater good".

Elysium
"We can please everyone."

There's an old adage that states that if you try to please everyone, you'll fail. Nobody in Elysium has ever heard of this adage.

Elysium is a plane that actively tries to make all of its inhabitants happy, and it does this without sacrificing the happiness of anyone else. The question of "how" is a philosophically puzzling one -- maybe it's just planar magic that it can do it, or maybe it really is hurting someone else's happiness to please someone else -- it's a question for the moral thinkers. Elysium is a place for all who seek simple happiness and fulfillment.

Arborea
"You can get married here."

Ultimate acceptance. At its core, that is what the plane of Arborea represents. If you want to fit in with a group but are wildly different, Arborea is the place.

In a way, it's the opposite of Bytopia -- instead of altruistic and voluntary separation of cultures, Arborea represents the complete blending and mix.
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Orion
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Elysium: contentment, joy, or Eudaemonia?
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Surgo
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I was going for contentment, though I'm sure you can go places with the other interpretations.

I had a lot more to say about the Beastlands than I did about Elysium or Arborea. Maybe those two are just harder, or I just ran out of steam.
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Gelare
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Boolean wrote:
Elysium: contentment, joy, or Eudaemonia?

I'm guessing Joy. Elysium maybe has some massive Gate to the Positive Energy Plane someplace that is leaking positive energy everywhere and generally making everyone feel really groooovy. In fact, if you wanted to go a sort of hopped up on shrooms route with it, I wouldn't stop you.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Basically there are two things that need to be done:

  • The Upper Planes of the Great Wheel need to be put up side by side so we have a good handle on how many philosophies we need to work with.

  • Real (and incompatible) philosophies of Goodness need to be dealt out so that there is one for each of the upper planes.


So to get things started, I'll present the upper planes of D&D themselves, and then toss out a few definitions of "The Good" that are contentious. Then people can add some of their own and shuffle them together.

  • Arcadia
  • Celestia
  • Bytopia
  • Elysium
  • Beastlands
  • Arborea
  • Ysgard


Yes, all seven of those are supposed to be morally defensible and yet distinct, even at odds. at spearpoint sometimes. Obviously any author is going to have to nut up and write up some "Good" that they don't personally agree with. Now that doesn't mean that we hae to put fucking biblical morality in there - and indeed we should not because "My god says so" is an argument that can be made just as flippantly by worshipers of Hextor as of Pelor.
  • Draconian Morality: The Greatness of Success.
    The idea is that what is good is for the individual to accomplish as much as they can. This means paradoxically that helping others is actually bad unless they were actually going to be killed or otherwise prevented from accomplishing anything. So it is good to tell someone how to fish, and it's good to feed someone while they are learning how to fish, but feeding someone when they are capable of feeding themselves is wrong because it robs them of potential accomplishment.

  • Hedonistic Morality: The Joy of Joy
    The idea is that Good is available in quantities, and those quantities are measurable in the form of how much total joy there is. Obviously, this means that hurting yourself to help others is good if and only if you create more joy in others than you cost for yourself. And more contentiously, the reverse is also true.

  • Protective Morality: The Fear of Pain
    The idea is that Good is the Absence of Evil. Which sounds tautological until you realize that this means that absolutely nothing has any intrinsic worth save its efficacy at preventing current or future distress. Feeding people is good because starvation brings pain and death and that is bad. And that's it.


All three of those groups would come down on a Balor for torturing and eating people. But they could literally come to blows over how to distribute 2 sandwiches amongst 3 people.

-Frank
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angelfromanotherpin
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
Protective Morality: The Fear of Pain
The idea is that Good is the Absence of Evil. Which sounds tautological until you realize that this means that absolutely nothing has any intrinsic worth save its efficacy at preventing current or future distress. Feeding people is good because starvation brings pain and death and that is bad. And that's it.


Is this the sort of thinking that creates Huxley's Brave New World?
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virgil
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 6:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Social Morality: The Justice of Unity
The idea is that Good is the accomplishment of society. This means the individual only matters insomuch as to what they can contribute to the group. Killing people is bad because the resource pool is reduced.

Jungle Morality: The Contentment of Survival
The idea is that Good is instinctual, beneath the veneer of social norms and knowledge. You only kill to defend or to eat. The parent protects the child at the cost of their life. You help others only if their survival increases the chances of survival of you or your family.
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Grek
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Famous Morality: The Virtue of Glory
The idea is that Good is about people knowing and approving of your actions. The more people who want to act like you do, the more good you are. Doing things that make people happy is good because they will remember you for it. You fight Balors and Dragons because people will sing songs praising you long after you are dead.

Aethetic Morality: The Beauty of Art
The idea is that Good is beautiful. Making beautiful things makes you good. Destroying beautiful things is bad, unless you make something that is even more beautiful. You help people because people make art and beautiful things.
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Anguirus
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 6:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I apologize if this is a de-rail but I don't know much about the planes and think it might be useful to consider the higher planes in relation to the lower planes. Would some one mind summarizing what the moral philosophies of the lower planes are?
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

angelfromanotherpin wrote:


Is this the sort of thinking that creates Huxley's Brave New World?


Yep. Most (if not all) ideas of "The Good" can be taken to extremes that are morally offensive to people who have different conceptions of Good. And that's I think the point. We're supposed to have wars between Celestia and Arboria. And that only happens if there's a reason for that to happen - a set of extremes of "Good" that actually fight one another and feel justified in doing so.

Anguirus wrote:
I apologize if this is a de-rail but I don't know much about the planes and think it might be useful to consider the higher planes in relation to the lower planes. Would some one mind summarizing what the moral philosophies of the lower planes are?


Frankly, the lower planes don't really have consistent moral philosophies. They are a confusing and conflictory pile of case law written up by a number of different people with wildly different and incompatible concepts of what Law and Chaos were supposed to mean. That, and they were likewise cobbled together by people vacillating between treating Evil as the Republican Party and treating Evil as the Nazi Party. So there's really no comprehensible description you can give of those places because the primary works don't make any sense.

Although you might be able to take home some useful insight into this process from The Tome of Fiends.

-Frank
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Draco_Argentum
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Grek wrote:
Famous Morality: The Virtue of Glory
The idea is that Good is about people knowing and approving of your actions. The more people who want to act like you do, the more good you are. Doing things that make people happy is good because they will remember you for it. You fight Balors and Dragons because people will sing songs praising you long after you are dead.


This sounds a lot like get a good publicist and do whatever is memorable. If a group of people followed this philosophy and were all horrible pricks they'd get famous and therefore be approved by their group.

There really needs to be a unifying theme for what good is so that all of the good philosophies can achieve it in different ways. Without something to unify them its a meaningless jumble like law and chaos. Since evil tends to get selfishness I propose good gets selflessness.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 11:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Draco_Argentum wrote:


There really needs to be a unifying theme for what good is so that all of the good philosophies can achieve it in different ways. Without something to unify them its a meaningless jumble like law and chaos. Since evil tends to get selfishness I propose good gets selflessness.


The entire point of this setup is the lack of a unifying theme. If the philosophies on the Great Wheel are unified, then there is not any reason for there to be 16 of them. The hope is precisely that you wouldn't write "CG" on your sheet, you'd write "Arborean" or "Ysgardian." And those would be different. And that further, those would be distinctly memorably different.

What would be ideal is to write up the spokes in such a manner that Elysian morality was most compatible with Bytopian morality and Beastlandian morality, and least compatible with Hadien morality or Gehennan morality. But frankly, I'd be willing to accept any setup where someone could have Bytopian morality and defend that with rational discourse and have that predictably impact their personal choices and actions.

In an ultimate sense then, it would be nice for Abyssian and Acheronian morality to have their own definitions of what is good (or at least desirable), and have those be logically defensible and coherent. But that's actually way lower priority than writing up moral compasses for the Arcadians, because frankly the Abyss is a festering pit full of monsters that you are stabbing in the face and it is OK if you don't really understand the psychology of why they think whatever it is that they are doing is a good thing to do.

-Frank
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Amra
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

And of course, several of the proposed approaches to Goodness are going to put people who think of themselves as on Team Good in much greater consonance with people on Team Evil than many of those on Team Other Good. Which is both cool and difficult, in a world where objective Good and Evil exist, and the volume of goodions or badions you emit can be detected with a magical Geiger counter.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but where does that leave us when Arcturius the Holy values the life of a great artist over that of a roomful of paraplegics because the latter won't ever produce anything beautiful, and Azeroth Dog's-Breath of the 522nd layer of the Abyss - avid collector of paintings - thinks the exact same thing for the exact same fucking reason?

Does this mean that the goodions emitted by Team Beautiful Is Good are detected as badions by clerics of Team Protective Morality when the former rescue the artist rather than the dozen paraplegics from a fire, or do they both stay objectively good?
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Draco_Argentum
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

But if Celestian and Bytopian philosophy have nothing in common then we don't have multiple philosophies that can be defended as good. We'd just have a bunch of philosophies.
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Josh_Kablack
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Hacker Morality: The Virtue of Knowledge

The idea is that Good is knowledge. The more people know, the better their decisions. Restricting information is bad, because that interferes with people making informed decisions and makes them waste time rediscovering things already known instead of discovering new knowledge.

This leads to a strong distrust of most authority systems, as those in authority usually tend to withhold information.
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CatharzGodfoot
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 2:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Amra wrote:
Does this mean that the goodions emitted by Team Beautiful Is Good are detected as badions by clerics of Team Protective Morality when the former rescue the artist rather than the dozen paraplegics from a fire, or do they both stay objectively good?

The easy thing is to just detect someone's allegiance, and let the old fashioned alignments go fuck themselves.

Draco_Argentum wrote:
But if Celestian and Bytopian philosophy have nothing in common then we don't have multiple philosophies that can be defended as good. We'd just have a bunch of philosophies.

Celestial and Bytopian philosophies will both be more good than the demonized philosophies. That's what they have in common, and why they can be defended as Good.
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Kaelik
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

double

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Kaelik
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Josh_Kablack wrote:
Hacker Morality: The Virtue of Knowledge

The idea is that Good is knowledge. The more people know, the better their decisions. Restricting information is bad, because that interferes with people making informed decisions and makes them waste time rediscovering things already known instead of discovering new knowledge.

This leads to a strong distrust of most authority systems, as those in authority usually tend to withhold information.


So this is Boccobs place of residence.

On a more general note, with the philosophies everyone has been suggesting, I've noticed something very interesting.

All of them have an "Evil" counterpart that exists, and every single 'good' one involves the idea that you should support the principle in general, and the evil version is the idea that you should support it for yourself at the expense of others.

Boccob is to Vecna
Draconian is to killing people better then you to be the best (like every good anime character that strives to be the best by training but when they are better then rivals they magically become friends with them, IE Naruto/Bleach/Yu-Yu Hakusho/Dragonballz/ect are good. But killing people to prove you are the best is bad.)
Hedonism is to concern only for one's own joy

ect.

So maybe the actual rubric of what's good v evil is that good defends a principle for everyone, but evil is just a goal you seek for yourself.


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Avoraciopoctules
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Flagellant's Morality: The Good in "Essentials"

The idea is that Good is appreciating life. Suffering and the denial of what are normally considered rights actually serve the cause of Good because they make you appreciate things like air to breathe and the absence of pain. Empathy for others is important because it lets you appreciate what they have. Taking something away from someone is Good if they are able to better appreciate regaining something like it.


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TavishArtair
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Grek wrote:
Famous Morality: The Virtue of Glory
The idea is that Good is about people knowing and approving of your actions. The more people who want to act like you do, the more good you are. Doing things that make people happy is good because they will remember you for it. You fight Balors and Dragons because people will sing songs praising you long after you are dead.


Note that under this system, it might not be obvious but genocide is quite probably actually bad even if it causes you to become very (in)famous, because it reduces the number of people who can love/fear/respect you.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Draco wrote:
But if Celestian and Bytopian philosophy have nothing in common then we don't have multiple philosophies that can be defended as good. We'd just have a bunch of philosophies.


While the "upper" philosophies should have things in common, I think it is important to stress the point that the Celestians are supposed to have more in common with the people of Acheron than the people of Arborea.

Seriously, the nationalistic morality of Maglubiet is supposed to be a better fit for Hound Archons than whatever it is that Arboreans do in the name of Goodness. They can still find common ground and all, they'd just specifically be happier living in one of the ultra-militarized fortresses of the Hobgoblin Shogunate.

That being said, if there has to be a generalizable difference between the Lower Planes outsiders and the upper planes outsiders, and I mustn't hesitate to remind you that I am unconvinced that this is the case, that the distinction should be that while outsiders of any stripe are keen on stabbing each other, that there is a reward/punishment paradigm shift between them as regards the residents of the material planes. That is to say that Celestials come to the material in order to reward people for following their path well, while Fiends come to the material to punish people for choosing a different path. That is, the outsiders are essentially the monster from Black and White - with the Celestials being White and the Fiends being Black.

-Frank
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Draco_Argentum
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PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2009 3:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
While the "upper" philosophies should have things in common, I think it is important to stress the point that the Celestians are supposed to have more in common with the people of Acheron than the people of Arborea.


Correct. I tend to think that good should share goals while nearby good and evil should share methods.
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Surgo
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PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2009 3:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Martyr Morality: The Sacrifice

The idea here is that good is helping out your fellow man, your fellow environment, or whatever really. And while helping out includes lending a hand in fixing up the house, it also gets a lot more extreme than that. It also means laying down your life to save down the life of another.

This is what I attached to the Beastlands in my opening post, and I think it works pretty well there.


What does everyone think of Arborea? Hacker morality maybe, combined with something else.

What about Ysgard?
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Quantumboost
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PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2009 5:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I tend towards Ysgard having Draconian Morality, due to it being conducive to a "freedom or death" philosophy.
Arborea having Aesthetic Morality seems closer to me than Hacker Morality. It's mostly that the plane is Sensate HQ (and I haven't seen much non-Planescape stuff about the upper planes).

Arcadia should have Social Morality, what with all the Formian hives running around.

For Celestia, something deontological. Kant looks close enough to Social Morality that we wouldn't have Archons and Formians declaring holy war on each other all the time (at least not as much as on further planes) - and also links the Kantian Paladin to a plane paladins are already associated with. (Yes, breaking alignment restrictions is a good thing, but since we're assigning moral philosophies to particular planes anyway, it was going to end up *somewhere*.)


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Josh_Kablack
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PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2009 5:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quantumboost wrote:
I tend towards Ysgard having Draconian Morality, due to it being conducive to a "freedom or death" philosophy.
Arborea having Aesthetic Morality seems closer to me than Hacker Morality. It's mostly that the plane is Sensate HQ (and I haven't seen much non-Planescape stuff about the upper planes).


Except that the sensates are not focused merely on pleasant, beautiful experiences, they seek new experiences of all types:

Dragon 287, page 48 wrote:

, but those few senates truly in touch with themselves know that each event, no matter how unpleasant, can be a valuable learning experience.


Thus, despite their hedonistic recruitment drives, and succubus cleric spokesmodel, the Sensates value learning (ie the acquisition of knowledge) over beauty.


***

And here're the most relevant parts of the "sacred" text for hacker morality

Richard Stallman's GNU manifesto wrote:

Once GNU is written, everyone will be able to obtain good system software free, just like air.(2)

This means much more than just saving everyone the price of a Unix license. It means that much wasteful duplication of system programming effort will be avoided. This effort can go instead into advancing the state of the art.

Complete system sources will be available to everyone. As a result, a user who needs changes in the system will always be free to make them himself, or hire any available programmer or company to make them for him. Users will no longer be at the mercy of one programmer or company which owns the sources and is in sole position to make changes.

Schools will be able to provide a much more educational environment by encouraging all students to study and improve the system code. Harvard's computer lab used to have the policy that no program could be installed on the system if its sources were not on public display, and upheld it by actually refusing to install certain programs. I was very much inspired by this.

Finally, the overhead of considering who owns the system software and what one is or is not entitled to do with it will be lifted.

Arrangements to make people pay for using a program, including licensing of copies, always incur a tremendous cost to society through the cumbersome mechanisms necessary to figure out how much (that is, which programs) a person must pay for. And only a police state can force everyone to obey them. Consider a space station where air must be manufactured at great cost: charging each breather per liter of air may be fair, but wearing the metered gas mask all day and all night is intolerable even if everyone can afford to pay the air bill. And the TV cameras everywhere to see if you ever take the mask off are outrageous. It's better to support the air plant with a head tax and chuck the masks.

Copying all or parts of a program is as natural to a programmer as breathing, and as productive. It ought to be as free.

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He also has a potato, which he intends to give to you. "


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