Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby andypalmer » Wed Jun 09, 2010 3:12 pm

Regarding the horror-level of SM's vampires - remember, these books are designed to be suitable for young readers. While many of us creative types could write stories using SM's vampires that are far more horrifying, I appreciate the fact that my 10 year old son can read the series.

Returning to vampires and evil...

I submit that vampires in their basic, "natural state" are amoral, no more evil or good than a lion or shark that feeds on humans.

As with anything, it's rarely that simple.

There might be other examples like Alice, who were changed with no knowledge or memory of their human life. While her story is not completely fleshed out, I would suspect that much of her morality came from her adoptive family, that she was perhaps Tabula Rasa until that time, though certainly aided by her ability. The Immortal Children are another example, changed too young to have learned and developed a true sense and knowledge of right and wrong and therefore wouldn't be considered evil, despite the horrific impact of their actions.

There are those few who are changed alone, yet retain knowledge of their former life, such as Carlisle. These vampires are undoubtedly heavily influenced by who they were before the change, but then are impacted by their reaction to what they've become and how they feed. Carlisle managed to avoid this, but I would submit that he was an exceptional human, both in morality and willpower and was able to successfully translate that into avoiding taking human life, until he discovered the alternative. What if he hadn't been so lucky? What if he had come across a man who had just been stabbed? Would he have been able to resist? More importantly, how would he have reacted had he fed and killed the man? I suspect that vampires changed in this situation (alone) are impacted by their first killings, their human moral base suffering anguish and guilt from the act, which tends to cause a downward spiral of self-loathing and then numbness, until that new live overwhelms than and effectively swamps all but the last vestiges of human morality. Perhaps some of the "better" ones try to do something like Edward, attempting to only target those determined to be "worthy" of death. Contrastingly, those with bad moral fiber as a human would likely, without other outside influence, become perhaps more evil in those ways they were bad before. While I suspect that racists would quickly lose that specific hatred (unless it had a particularly personal basis), as they no longer have anything in common with whichever group they belonged to before, violent and sadistic tendencies would likely be amplified. In effect, without outside influence, the onset of vampirism would tend to reduce good tendencies and maximize evil ones.

The most common situation, however, would be being turned with a "mentor." While obviously any such newborns would trend toward taking on traits of their "mentor," for my discussion, I'm going to go with a neutral mentor. Important learning here would be in keeping "vampire law", as in, don't get noticed. Targets would be selected with a priority based on ease of access and low profile. The homeless, criminals, perhaps isolated travelers would be the focus; killing a pregnant housewife from suburbia would create the type of massive manhunt and exposure that the vampires don't want. Any good or evil tendencies that the newborn brings into their new life with tend to be minimized, reduced to parameters that fit within the need for stealth and keeping a low profile. While this still allows for a decent amount of variance, any extremes would likely not last. If a group of missing people, even low profile ones, keeps to a certain demographic too much, that would bring extra notice and risk of exposure. The ability to retain strong good traits would be difficult as the newborn will tend to be psychologically vulnerable enough to allow the mentor to heavily influence them, convincing them of the superiority of their new state and such things to reduce the image of humans from being an equal and therefore sacred state to a lesser one, one of "herd animal." This would be similar to the removal of empathy that Knives mentioned except that it would be framed on the species level, not the racial one. Not that this is much comfort to us humans but would fit within the logical path to trend these vampires toward their "amoral" natural states.

Of course, not all mentor vampires are neutral. Any mentor with an especially good or evil morality base is going to try to instill that upon their "creation"; their success will tend to be related to how far from the base morality of their "child" this is, with the evil ones likely having greater success (if for nothing else, the morality of the good ones limits the lengths they will go to to exert influence). Carlisle was able to influence his creations in this manner. Amun had less luck with Benjamin while Joham seems to be doing fine with his hybrid creations. The Volturi, aided no doubt by Chelsea, are also quite successful.

So, given all this, we must evaluate vampires based upon how the remnants of their prior human morality has been applied to their vampirism.

Carlisle - good before, good after and arguably more so. His good traits were amplified by his new life.
Edward - good before, good after despite a time of vigilantism, an event caused by a compromise of his good tendencies and his thirst. The combination of his good tendencies and guilt caused him to cease this activity.
Esme/Emmett/Rose - generally good before, with their good tendencies reinforced by Carlisle. I suspect that had any of them been turned by a neutral vampire, they would have settled into the new life, with perhaps Esme alone having any real challenges of conscious.
Jasper - perhaps illustrates what Esme might have become (albeit less militaristic), including the eventual build up of guilt until other approaches are searched for. It seems callous, but I doubt if either Emmett or Rose would have struggled in the same way.
Denalis - little history is known and what little there is is from one scene in MS. We know they went from seducing and killing men to just seducing them. While their motivations before they realized it would be better to keep the men alive is unknown, as they came to their "change of heart" naturally, I can only assume that they weren't motivated by sadism. Given that assumption, the "hunting shift" from "just killing" to "seduce, love, and drain" was motivated by, at worst, because they wanted sex, and at best, because they wanted the men (who they were going to kill anyway) to die happy. Without the sadistic component, I just can't see any evil in the act (given the basic assumption that natural vampire that hunts to live is amoral).
James - we don't know much about him. I doubt if he was a nice man before. He was deliberately sadistic to Bella, not that he cared about causing the pain to Bella, but he wanted to cause pain to Edward. While I don't consider James particularly evil, per se, he's capable of it when it suits his needs. Very Machiavellian.
The Volturi - I consider them the most evil for, my perception is that they revel in the fear and suffering of their human prey and, additionally, try to use it to "cleanse" the morality from their followers.
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby Alcyone » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:17 pm

andypalmer wrote: While many of us creative types could write stories using SM's vampires that are far more horrifying, I appreciate the fact that my 10 year old son can read the series.


Scary ≠ not suitable for children. The first Harry Potter books are at a level that a child can read and yet they can be frightening. That Basilisk was more than a little freaky. And of all the books I've read, I find childhood fairy tales the most terrifying. Stories like Hansel and Gretel and their cannibalistic intentions and the original Little Mermaid, which left me in a daze when I read it (I was eight and I remember the ending perfectly due to its impact). Even nursery rhymes. I was fine with "Sing a song of sixpence" until the last line. I went around for some time covering my nose every time I saw anything even remotely resembling a blackbird.


I submit that vampires in their basic, "natural state" are amoral, no more evil or good than a lion or shark that feeds on humans.


Or dolphins which kill more humans per year than any animal we'd consider dangerous like sharks. Usually through playing. They rock at "Who can hold their breath longest?"


Perhaps some of the "better" ones try to do something like Edward, attempting to only target those determined to be "worthy" of death.


Is that better? The premise is disturbingly close to God-mode. Who gives them the right to judge who is worthy of death? And how are the rest certain their judgement isn't impaired? Or put another way, who watches the watchmen? IMO, that's one facet of Edward's past that rattles me. I much prefer Rosalie's killing her rapists than this methodical hunting down of "villains". There are many who are just that cruel, but there are many others--especially among the serial rapist and killer populations--who are ill. Due to a mental disorder or an organic one. It's amazing how one tiny tumor growing in a specific part of your brain can kill off your empathy. If removed and the neurons aren't damaged or they are but are able to recover, empathy and returns and, with it, what some would call humanity. And with the empathy comes all-encompassing guilt. Are they deserving of death?

Of course, at the time any attempt at neurosurgery would result in a lobotomy--at best--but the point remains. Let's assume someone like that is turned now. And they decide to hunt after only bad guys. 1) How do they judge? 2) How are we certain their judgement isn't impaired? 3) Isn't the cold and calculating search for a victim a sign of psychopathy? 4) Wouldn't this vigilante be just as dangerous if not more than the monsters he/she was destroying?

I think it was Firefly who mentioned she'd appreciate Edward more if he'd snacked on a baby during his Dark Ages. I'd probably be more comfortable around him if he lacked that arrogance that convinced him he was able to become judge, jury and executioner because he could read thoughts.

While I suspect that racists would quickly lose that specific hatred (unless it had a particularly personal basis), as they no longer have anything in common with whichever group they belonged to before, violent and sadistic tendencies would likely be amplified.


Considering anyone with a dark skin tone who is turned ends up with splotched skin that wouldn't even allow them to go out in the shade amongst humans because their odd skin would be a visible sign that SOMETHING IS REALLY WRONG (or so Stephenie answered in one of those Q&A things with the Lex), I'd say racism would continue and would exacerbate. After all, the white vampires could still wander amongst humans, but the dark-skinned ones couldn't. The PoC vampires would get annoyed. Fast.



The Volturi - I consider them the most evil for, my perception is that they revel in the fear and suffering of their human prey and, additionally, try to use it to "cleanse" the morality from their followers.


How do they revel in the fear and suffering of human prey? When your hosts suddenly turn around and are baring teeth at you, I figure you might put out a good scream. Humans are food. They see us like cows. Really good tasting cows I want veal. Aro is interested in Bella because she can actually block their special abilities and that specific ability is unheard of even among vampires. How he casually asks Jane to test out her power is reminiscent of some amoral scientist experimenting with electricity on rats. Let's see if it hurts. Then there's the simple fact that she has a vampire in love with her, also unheard of or at least rare enough to provoke some gasps. Outside of those two things, she was nothing. He even asks Edward how he's gone so long without feeding from her.

Jane might play with her food first, but the others are far from the type. Humans aren't interesting enough to provoke. They're human. Vampires are a species above and beyond. Why should they bother with the poor humans? Maybe goats was a better analogy. Goats need to be calm before they're killed, otherwise the stress will cause the meat to begin breaking down incredibly fast. No food for us. Likewise, better to keep humans uninformed and calm so they don't start panicking and trying to make life difficult if you just, say, wanted a midnight snack because guard duty is dragging on forever.

December wrote:How far did she WANT to give her story a dark side? I think this isn't just Stephenie speaking with a muffled voice, or inadequate eloquence; what I hear is ambivalence.


I second you on this. She would draw close to the theme and then swerve to avoid it. Made for a wonderful case of whiplash.

You feel that Stephenie really wants give us an orphan heroine, adrift in the world and ripe for translation into her new life everlasting without too much left behind. Otherwise the loss might seem too heartbreaking.


How about an unheard of solution? Let's not change her and keep her human! Best of both worlds or whatever Hannah Montana is trying to shove down our ears with razor-sharp pieces of glass.

Fortunately, posts written in playfulness, tend to provoke playfulness, whatever the object of their invective....


Who said I was being playful? I am raging! Can you not feel the rage?! *rages*
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby December » Wed Jun 09, 2010 7:07 pm

Alcyone wrote:I'd probably be more comfortable around him if he lacked that arrogance that convinced him he was able to become judge, jury and executioner because he could read thoughts.

Well, I rather got the feeling that Edward HAD got over that particular arrogance. Or at least, had got beyond thinking his ability to see into people's minds entitled him to be their judge and executioner. Sure, he's still full of himself enough to dismiss the whole population of Forks High School as petty and banal on the strength of their mental chatter -- but cutting someone dead in the hallway is pretty venial compared to literally cutting them dead in some back alley. Stuck up, sure, but falls well short of a God-complex. To me...the fact that Edward actually DID go down this route decades ago, explore the possibilities of his omnipotence and quasi-omniscience, and in the end recoil from that role makes me a lot more comfortable with him than I would be if it was something he hadn't yet tried. Given his natural arrogance, he'd be bound to consider a career as Avenging Angel at some point. Glad he's got it out of his system. [/swoony murmurs]

Gah! Too close to midnight here. Lots more to reply to but Cinderella's brain is imminently turning to a pumpkin.

As for the substance of what you and Andy were saying -- and what Knives was saying earlier about Stephenie's apparent bias against her red-eyed vamps in her writings, if not in her remarks -- you know, it's really hard for me to talk about this without talking about Bree's novella. Which is terribly relevant, for obvious reasons. Once we've got a quorum of people here who have read the book, I'm thinking we should open up a branch of this discussion in the Bree forum -- then we can talk about that additional twist without breaking the embargo against Bree spoilers on the main boards!
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby andypalmer » Wed Jun 09, 2010 7:54 pm

Alcyone wrote:Scary ≠ not suitable for children. The first Harry Potter books are at a level that a child can read and yet they can be frightening. That Basilisk was more than a little freaky. And of all the books I've read, I find childhood fairy tales the most terrifying. Stories like Hansel and Gretel and their cannibalistic intentions and the original Little Mermaid, which left me in a daze when I read it (I was eight and I remember the ending perfectly due to its impact). Even nursery rhymes. I was fine with "Sing a song of sixpence" until the last line. I went around for some time covering my nose every time I saw anything even remotely resembling a blackbird.
Times have changed some since we were young. The original Hans Christian Anderson stories are not considered suitable for children, by today's standards; only their watered down "adaptations." As for Harry Potter, meh, the Basilisk was "big monster" scary, but hardly the "keep you awake at night for a week" terrifying that well-written vampires can be. Vampire mythos, especially with its strong sexual overtones, tends to be very adult oriented. If you had any doubts, check out 80% of the fanfic out there.

Alcyone wrote:
andypalmer wrote:Perhaps some of the "better" ones try to do something like Edward, attempting to only target those determined to be "worthy" of death.
Is that better? The premise is disturbingly close to God-mode. Who gives them the right to judge who is worthy of death? And how are the rest certain their judgement isn't impaired? Or put another way, who watches the watchmen? IMO, that's one facet of Edward's past that rattles me. I much prefer Rosalie's killing her rapists than this methodical hunting down of "villains". There are many who are just that cruel, but there are many others--especially among the serial rapist and killer populations--who are ill. Due to a mental disorder or an organic one. It's amazing how one tiny tumor growing in a specific part of your brain can kill off your empathy. If removed and the neurons aren't damaged or they are but are able to recover, empathy and returns and, with it, what some would call humanity. And with the empathy comes all-encompassing guilt. Are they deserving of death?
Better compared to killing randomly. Still far from "good." Edward was at least equipped with the tools to discern the intent over say, merely an observer. I'm in no way excusing what he did any more than Edward did himself, but if you HAVE to kill people, killing people you're pretty sure are evil is at least marginally better than killing at random. I don't think it was a God complex, but merely Edward's struggle with his nature manifesting itself in a way that allowed him to live with himself at all, and badly at that.

Alcyone wrote:Considering anyone with a dark skin tone who is turned ends up with splotched skin that wouldn't even allow them to go out in the shade amongst humans because their odd skin would be a visible sign that SOMETHING IS REALLY WRONG (or so Stephenie answered in one of those Q&A things with the Lex), I'd say racism would continue and would exacerbate. After all, the white vampires could still wander amongst humans, but the dark-skinned ones couldn't. The PoC vampires would get annoyed. Fast.
Considering how most vampires don't interact with humans AT ALL, except when feeding on them, I'm not sure how this argument holds. It's just not important to most of them, a complete non-issue.

Alcyone wrote:How do they revel in the fear and suffering of human prey? When your hosts suddenly turn around and are baring teeth at you, I figure you might put out a good scream. Humans are food. They see us like cows. Really good tasting cows I want veal. Aro is interested in Bella because she can actually block their special abilities and that specific ability is unheard of even among vampires. How he casually asks Jane to test out her power is reminiscent of some amoral scientist experimenting with electricity on rats. Let's see if it hurts. Then there's the simple fact that she has a vampire in love with her, also unheard of or at least rare enough to provoke some gasps. Outside of those two things, she was nothing. He even asks Edward how he's gone so long without feeding from her.
I'm referring entirely of how they feed themselves at home. With a room full of vampires, they could easily kill every human in their "fishing trips" in sub-second time. Instead, Bella describes screaming starting before they could get out of earshot, implying multiple screams over some length of time. This, in my mind, points to a sadistic approach to feeding, of the Volturi reveling in the terror of their victims, allowing them to process their impending death, scream for mercy, run in terror, etc. I actually found this aspect of the flight from the Volturi one of the darkest and most disturbing in the series. To me, it really solidified that evil vampires of our legends were out there and the Volturi were more than representative of that darkness.
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby Alcyone » Wed Jun 09, 2010 8:22 pm

andypalmer wrote: If you had any doubts, check out 80% of the fanfic out there.

That's rule 34 of the Internet. If it exists, there's something related to sex about it.

And it's not 80%, more like 95%. And I'm guessing that's still a conservative estimate.

Considering how most vampires don't interact with humans AT ALL, except when feeding on them, I'm not sure how this argument holds. It's just not important to most of them, a complete non-issue.

I don't mean racism among humans (obviously, terror is what they'll be focusing on). I mean racism among vampires. Even if humans are a non-issue, the fact that the whites are free to go and hide among them (for, say, better hunting) while the dark-skinned ones can't because of their skin tone is going to reinforce some old hurts.

Which drags up a related question, but that probably doesn't belong on this thread. Why would this even be mentioned when it's not directly evidenced in the text? Why are the dark-skinned humans penalized by the turning while those that are white aren't?

To me, it really solidified that evil vampires of our legends were out there and the Volturi were more than representative of that darkness.

In other words, awesomeness does exist. When Bella isn't involved.
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby December » Thu Jun 10, 2010 9:00 am

andypalmer wrote:I'm in no way excusing what he did any more than Edward did himself, but if you HAVE to kill people, killing people you're pretty sure are evil is at least marginally better than killing at random. I don't think it was a God complex, but merely Edward's struggle with his nature manifesting itself in a way that allowed him to live with himself at all, and badly at that.

I'd have to agree with this. It was 95% sheer rationalization for doing what he felt, deep down, to be wrong. Something he permitted himself because, as Stephenie says, he was tired of being in pain -- but that wasn't an excuse which, being Edward, he would find sufficient. The other 5%...well, I don't suppose it would be a possible rationalization if you didn't in fact think your Godlike power to peer into people's psyches gave you a Godlike insight into innocence and guilt -- and a right to act on it.
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby vampbball » Sat Jun 12, 2010 2:03 am

December wrote:
I'm trying to understand, Knives, why it's problem for you that Stephenie doesn't engage with the full spectrum of moral possibilities between the Cullens' strict "vegetarianism" and an indiscriminate red-eyed-vamp killing spree... Do you feel she's unduly critical (or that I am) of the ordinary vampire? If so, then you're probably attributing a stronger moral stance to her (and me) than is warranted. Stephenie certainly went out of her way in her conversation with Tennyo (PC#12) to condone the way of life most vampires choose, and to argue that as a different species, they should no more be blamed for killing us than we should be blamed for killing a beef cow. Less, in fact, because when a vampire forgoes their "meat", it hurts. A lot. And I think I'd say the same -- what the Cullens choose to do is superrogatory: a stunning act of self-sacrifice which one could hardly be blamed for choosing not to undertake.
!


I read that personal correspondence and I liked it a lot, but I still don't quite buy the cow analogy. For one thing, we can't talk to cows. We certainly can't fall in love with them. And we never used to be cows. There is just way too much commonality between the vampire brain and the human brain - despite the trimmings of speed and strength. I found her description of abstinence as being like anorexia to be more persuasive (and much better than the vegetarian analogy!). But even there, the anorexic isn't causing harm to anyone else by eating. What I'm starting to think - for no reason in particular, ahem - is that becoming a proper vampire demands a relinquishing of human ways of thought, otherwise you might just be a confused/miserable/guilty vampire (you eat, but you don't feel good about it). Andypalmer mentioned the importance of mentors, and I think they would be key in helping a newborn adapt to a learned vampire culture where human life is devalued.
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby December » Sat Jun 12, 2010 10:21 am

vampball wrote:I read that personal correspondence and I liked it a lot, but I still don't quite buy the cow analogy. For one thing, we can't talk to cows. We certainly can't fall in love with them. And we never used to be cows.

Oh yes, indeed! I don't want to go on about my own views all over again (and in fact I have to run out the door in a second!) but these are obviously issues that have come up for discussion a lot over the years. If you're interested, there were a number of interesting convos on the old Lex (now the Lexicon Archive), principally in the original TUGMP (here and here) and Choices threads (here and here). If you read around in the neighbourhood of those links, there's quite a lot to think about.
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby vampbball » Sun Jun 13, 2010 9:00 pm

December wrote:
vampball wrote:I read that personal correspondence and I liked it a lot, but I still don't quite buy the cow analogy. For one thing, we can't talk to cows. We certainly can't fall in love with them. And we never used to be cows.

Oh yes, indeed! I don't want to go on about my own views all over again (and in fact I have to run out the door in a second!) but these are obviously issues that have come up for discussion a lot over the years. If you're interested, there were a number of interesting convos on the old Lex (now the Lexicon Archive), principally in the original TUGMP (here and here) and Choices threads (here and here). If you read around in the neighbourhood of those links, there's quite a lot to think about.

Wow, December, I couldn't agree with you more! The way I was expressing it to myself last night (because I do that, talk to myself) is that the vampires' need for human blood is their moral argument for taking human life, NOT the inherent inferiority of the humans. In fact the cow analogy is just plain offensive. Do we really think that Bella is much stupider than Edward? Do we look at their relationship and think, "Bestiality?" (That said, I wonder whether those were the lines of thought other vampires had, e.g. Marcus in Volterra, whether Bella and Edward's relationship provoked disgust in addition to confusion.) Thanks for the links, December! Will definitely be checking the TUGMP forum out.
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby December » Tue Jun 15, 2010 6:03 pm

Glad you found some of those earlier discussions illuminating!

I think you're onto something with the thought that to ordinary vampires, the idea of falling in love with a human is simply bizarre. Edward says as much to Bella in TW, talking about his own family's reaction. Not that it's revolting exactly -- but certainly weird and incomprehensible.

As for how the vampires justify their murderous diet to themselves....I have to say I get the feeling that most of them DO think of us as lesser beings. That's what Stephenie says in PC 12, anyway. And it's a little easier to understand when you think that most of them never come close to falling in love with a human the way Edward does -- and have been violently divorced from their old human selves by the a year or more of living with the savage thirst of the newborn. By the time most of them can think straight again in the presence of humans, they're pretty settled into their new identities.

But I agree with you that it doesn't seem very convincing to ME as a moral justification. Which is what a lot of that those convos on TUGMP were about: whether WE think red-eyed vamps can be excused and if so why. I personally do find it forgivable, but as you say, not so much because vampires are entitled by Nature to view us as their legitimate prey as because it's so hellishly painful and difficult for them to do anything else. The man on the rack may be forgiven much; as Stephenie says, it takes a special kind of strength to choose to burn for someone else when your hand is on fire...
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