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hen comments on Three Worlds Collide (0/8) - Less Wrong

48 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 30 January 2009 12:07PM

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Comment author: [deleted] 01 July 2013 04:41:33AM 1 point [-]

Le Guin is a death worshipper. The major theme of the Earthsea is the folly of the quest for immortality or even survival, and the naturalness of death.

Comment author: Prismattic 01 July 2013 04:50:03AM 0 points [-]

Are you making an argument for aesthetic Stalinism?

Whether a work of art or literature is good is not necessarily related to whether it conveys lessons one agrees with.

Comment author: wedrifid 01 July 2013 05:22:00AM *  1 point [-]

Are you making an argument for aesthetic Stalinism?

No, quite clearly not. That being the case it is disingenuous to ask for rhetorical purposes.

Whether a work of art or literature is good is not necessarily related to whether it conveys lessons one agrees with.

Not necessarily, but it is a particularly strong reason. If a piece of fiction has the inferred purpose of conveying a lesson and that lesson is a bad lesson then the value of the piece of fiction could easily be negative. This is different to a non-fiction work that accurately conveys reality. Reality isn't something that we get to choose, lessons and values are.

Comment author: Prismattic 02 July 2013 04:52:35AM *  0 points [-]

I was asking it ingenuously and straightforwardly, actually.

If a piece of fiction has the inferred purpose of conveying a lesson

HPMOR is clearly didactic in this way; it's not at all clear to me that Le Guin's writing is (with the exception of Omelas).

Comment author: wedrifid 01 July 2013 05:19:39AM 2 points [-]

Le Guin is a death worshipper. The major theme of the Earthsea is the folly of the quest for immortality or even survival, and the naturalness of death.

Thankyou. That is the kind of attitude that at times makes me abandon a book in disgust. If I don't identify with the goals or decisions of the protagonist I tend to be either disinterested in or repulsed by the work. I'll avoid the author.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 01 July 2013 08:21:23AM *  0 points [-]

I agree about the deathism of Earthsea. And it has other faults, such as the fourth volume (Tehanu) being her turning against (although not entirely) the misogyny of the whole setup of the first three, and with the zeal of the newly enlightened retconning "men evil, women good" onto it. Always Coming Home is full of fluffy woo.

But she also wrote the short story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, which is worth finding, because it's about a standard utilitarian problem. I'm sure some philosopher posed it in exactly the form in which her story presents it, but I've not been able to track that down. Imagine a utopia — whatever utopia you like — except that it must be sustained by the suffering of a little girl confined in a cell and tortured for ever. It is part of the thought experiment that the utopia and the suffering are necessarily connected: the little girl can only be freed at the cost of ending the utopia. It is alluded to in HPMOR.

Comment author: [deleted] 01 July 2013 05:41:48AM 0 points [-]

I don't agree with your characterization. I would say that the major theme of the first book is attaining self-knowledge, while the major theme of the second and fourth books is overcoming abuse.

The major theme of the third book is confronting mortality. In that book the land of the dead is portrayed as a terrible place, and the heroes of the book struggle with everything they have and are to escape it. But it's true that there's a villain whose quest for immortality is portrayed as selfish and dangerous.

The major theme of the fifth and final book is looking outside the self and understanding others. There's some business with the land of the dead involved in this one too, but there's an answer given that I don't think boils down to death-worship.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 01 July 2013 06:00:42AM 0 points [-]

As I recall, the especially miserable but obligatory afterlife in the first three books got revised in the last (fifth?) book. The initial state turned out to be a magical working which seemed like a good idea at the time. Anyone remember the details?