Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby pubesy » Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:19 am

*Is this one "purpose" -- or at any rate effect -- of the newborn's voracious thirst: to speedily distance the new vampire from his former humanity by rapidly accustoming him to treat people as dinner?


NB: I cant wait to start discussing this!
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby Heart Song » Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:49 am

Shakespeare wrote: He knew that his ability to effortlessly abstain from human blood was unique. Sure, it is possible that he was simply overly confident about a newborn's ability to refrain, but the Carlisle that we know wouldn't have taken that chance. He had seen and felt the bloodlust of newborns. Although he no longer was tempted, he had a complete knowledge about the temptation.


I never had the sense that Carlisle's ability had always been effortless. Carlisle himself said that it took "years and years of practice" (NM p34) to make it appear effortless. What Carlisle had that most of his progeny did not was a strong conviction that human life was valuable and that feeding from them was to be avoided. He also had the advantage of knowing about vampires before he was changed. They were reality and he understood what had happened to him when the change was completed. He was a vampire hunter and did not loose that memory or his convictions regarding vampires. This compelled him to seek an alternative lifestyle.

When Carlisle changed the others, he did so with the hope that they would follow his example but fully understood the instincts that would govern their vampiric nature. He could not fault them for that or condemn them. He was, after all, the one responsible for conferring that very nature upon them. What he did do, was offer them an alternative to following their instincts. Rosalie, who came with strong convictions of her own which enabled her to abstain from human blood, was the only one to be truly successful in the vegie vamp lifestyle. No one else had such strong convictions as Carlisle and Rosalie and they all without exception had their failings.

Bella, I believe, was able to squelch the instinct impart because of her prior knowledge and preparation. Her resolve was at least as strong as Rosalie and Carlisle.
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby pubesy » Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:59 am

how can we call rosalie a successful creation of carlisle? She killed a number of people after her transformation, including her fiance. do their lives not count?
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby Ouisa » Tue Oct 21, 2008 1:15 am

pubesy wrote:how can we call rosalie a successful creation of carlisle? She killed a number of people after her transformation, including her fiance. do their lives not count?


It's not that their lives don't count. I think they do. Surely they do. In fact Rose herself says her record is almost as good as Carlisle. Which means she considers them. I think in judging any set of choices one most look at the over all sum of those choices and how they are distributed. Rose made a less than desirable choice on the day she was turned. She killed 8 people. And I think it affected her deeply. It says something that she never killed again after that day. It think she realized her (horrible) mistake.

But what I think Heart Song is truly getting to is that even in killing those men, she never once partook of their blood. That's a lot of self control given that Jasper, Esme, and even Alice were tempted by Bella's smaller injuries on her birthday. Rose has never once lost her control or her compassion. Even when she is tempted during Renesemee's birth, she doesn't put up the slightest fight when Jake drags her out.
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby Heart Song » Tue Oct 21, 2008 2:49 am

Ah Ouisa, you know me so well. That is exactly what I was getting at.
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby dragon-girl » Tue Oct 21, 2008 7:54 am

pubesy wrote:how can we call rosalie a successful creation of carlisle? She killed a number of people after her transformation, including her fiance. do their lives not count?


I think we have to ask ourselves how you define 'people' then. I would be reluctant to call those men human. I guess this is similar to what Edward was doing in his 'wild period' - taking away those people who are the real monsters.

You also have to think of the fact that Rosalie was still very young human-wise, and had just had her fairly-perfect life completely screwed up by these men. I can see why she would be a little PO'ed with them.
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby December » Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:17 pm

Pubesy wrote:And is it the more human blood you drink, the more dependent on human blood you become, making the transition from human to animal blood even more impossible? Is this why Jasper has such a hard time, even after decades of being with the family, while Alice finds the lifestyle easy?

I'm pretty certain Stephenie has said as much at some point. Not necessarily that it's dependency in some physical sense, but certainly that drinking blood only makes blood more desirable; and I'm pretty sure she's said something about Jasper too. Wish I could remember where. Heart Song? Anyone?

Pubesy wrote:I guess the same logic you impose on SM's vampires can be imposed upon us as humans. while there is no need to kill animals for food, we still do, purely because it tastes good. We dont feel any strong burning desire to eat meat (like vampires do), and we could cope quite well on a vegetarian diet, however we chose not to. We have billion dollar industries devoted purely to killing animals for food. (not to mention that so many of these animals die for no reason - the number of whole chickens that are thrown in the trash at our butcher alone is disgusting- at least with vampires, what they kill is eaten). Does that not make us more of a monster than vampires?

Well, I'd be inclined to say animals are a different matter because they are so different from us. It may well be that killing animals is ALSO immoral, but I think the moral basis for this judgement has to be different from the reasons we think taking human life is wrong -- or we are on very treacherous moral ground indeed. The fact that humans and vampires are essentially the same kind of sentient being makes killing one another a special kind of crime. All things being equal, killing humans is worse than killing animals.

But you're quite right: all things are not equal. The fact that thirsty vampires are in acute pain (this is a burning desire in the most horrifically literal sense) has to alter the moral calculation. Being vegetarian is pretty costless for us. Abstaining from human blood is continuous torment for the Cullens. Our crime may be less than the red-eyed vampire's, but our excuse is poorer as well.

I'd like to be lazy and quote from something I wrote ages ago:

Deep down we don’t really find the vegetarian analogy satisfactory, and with good reason. Meat-eaters can feel comfortable eating pigs and sheep and chickens not just because they are our natural food source, but because they are radically different from us. But in all the respects that both humans and vampires most value their lives, vampires are us. They love, they reason, they hope, they have consciences and regrets and aspirations -- and so do we. Their superhuman strength and immortality may make us seem frail, lesser creatures to them, but it doesn’t make us morally different -- not in the way even vegetarians would agree that pigs and people are different. Witness the fact that a vampire and a human can fall in love...

The right analogy here might not be farmers and cattle but the barons and serfs of earlier centuries. Of course, the barons (often) didn’t think their serfs’ lives counted for anything either, but to our 21st century sensibility it is clear that they were wrong. And the reasons we would give are exactly those which make vampires and humans morally indistinguishable. So maybe we’re back to cultural relativism. If you believe (as I do most days) that in judging the practices and attitudes of previous eras you have to say something like “what they did/thought is something we now feel is wrong” rather than baldly “it was wrong”, then you should probably say the same about the Red-Eyed Vampires. But in the case of the Cullens and the deaths they have caused, this won’t wash. They place the same value we do on human life. They have embraced our culture.

Here, instead, I think you get into the question of degrees of culpability and extenuating circumstance. Murder (or manslaughter) in various situations of duress doesn’t become right, but it becomes less wrong. And Stephenie is very emphatic about the extremity of the duress the vampires are all under. “Thirsty vampires are in acute physical pain. It is comparable to the feel of a third degree burn inside your throat. It can make a vampire literally crazy for relief -- beyond thought. If your hand was on fire and there was a bucket of ice water beside you, would you resist that relief?...Even for a vampire who keeps his or her system full of animal blood, the lack of human blood is constant pain. “ (PC#12). The Cullens’ “mistakes” seem more forgivable in this light. But I think this is why we can excuse them, not the fact that killing humans is natural from the ordinary vampire perspective.
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby Ouisa » Tue Oct 21, 2008 4:36 pm

December wrote:I was going to put this at the end of my last post, but on reflection I think double-posting is -- for once -- a better idea!

So maybe it's no wonder if as a character, Carlisle doesn't actually quite add up. Because here (as in some other places in Stephenie's story), her character's function is partly emblematic. In real life, a good (and sane) person probably couldn't take on Carlisle's role: if he were as scrupulous (and modest) as Carlisle seems to be, he would soldier on with his lonely existence rather than bring a succession of murderers into the world. Or if he succumbed to temptation, would feel much more remorse for the aftermath. But Carlisle has another job to do in Stephenie's story: to evoke the loving, demanding, forgiving Creator who loves and understands her tortured hero as much as she does. Trying to make sense of him by the canons of realist character-portrayal is probably a mistake.


Oh the double posting madness going on in this thread. What are the philosophical and ethical implications to this choice? When is it moral to break the rules for the greater good. Oh the silliness that is Ouisa finally getting enough sleep!!

Sorry. Serious!Ouisa now. Ahem.

Thank you for addressing this my friend! That was exactly what I was trying to say with my earlier post. You are just so much better at the pseudo-intellectualizing of it all. ;)

December always does such a good job of analyzing what Stephenie could be saying with her writing (I loved that about the old debate threads prior to BD) I think she's done an excellent job yet again.

I think one difficulty inherent to this lexicon culture and those of us who post frequently is that the characters are so real to us. Edward, Carlisle, Bella...they all live, breathe, and love in our heads. It's one of the true gifts of Stephenie's writing. But the downside is often we impose reality upon them and look at them as we would our the people we experience in daily life. Thus, Edward turns into the bad boyfriend we know who is controlling, Carlisle has a god complex.....truly some of these traits would be less than desirable in our friends and neighbors.

I think we forget to look at them as literary archetypes or the social/ religious commentary or symbolism they can be. For example, I've always seen Wanderer and the souls as a symbol of perfected beings/Jesus and therefore a wonderful commentary on the natural man. The pleasure and pain that comes from choice and freedom in The Host is then a commentary on mortal life itself. The same I think is true of Carlisle. I think in a series whose themes are clearly temptation and choice one cannot examine choice without examining what to do when someone chooses wrong. Carlisle stands as the symbol of the love that lets us choose, falter and be forgiven.
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby pubesy » Tue Oct 21, 2008 6:25 pm

I think we have to ask ourselves how you define 'people' then. I would be reluctant to call those men human. I guess this is similar to what Edward was doing in his 'wild period' - taking away those people who are the real monsters.

But a life is still a life, is it not? And who should give Rosalie the “right” to kill those SHE considered monsters? If we accuse Carlisle of having a god complex for choosing who has the right to “live” or die, then shouldn’t we then apply this same sense to rose and Edward, for discriminating their prey (or whose lives they end?).

The whole vigilante discriminate killings during Edward’s rebellious years are interesting. Even though at the time Edward thought he was doing the right thing, by removing “bad guys” from the streets, the guilt from taking a life, as well as the burden of playing the role of “judge/god/juror” became too much. Maybe that is why other vampires kill indiscriminately – because death is indiscriminate. Rather than try to make their actions “less wrong” by choosing only “evil” people to feed upon, they take any life, considering all life as equal; thus avoiding further moral conflict.

Removing the Cullens from the picture, “normal” SM vampires are void of humanity. Maybe void is too strong a term, but by drinking human blood, their humanity is suppressed to such a point, that they no longer can relate to humans, (similar-but not the same- as how we cannot relate to cattle). While yes, we do have dreams, ambitions, and desires, these vampires do not understand or acknowledge them. If their humanity is suppressed, how could they understand a woman’s desire to have a child, or a child’s desire to grow up and be a teacher? Vampires do not age, nor can they have children – so these human desires would ring empty and feeble. They do not have Edward’s unique mind reading ability, so how would they hear these desires anyway? Vampires stalk their prey for only seconds or minutes, they don’t “get to know” their kill. They don’t get involved in human affairs, and live away from humans. To these vampires, it is merely hunter and prey. We are merely weak, feeble animals who are dying anyway. We are the only thing that can remove the burning pain they feel. Our lives mean just as much to them, as the chicken does to us. So are vampires really more immoral than us? Or do we just have a hard time dealing with being removed from the top of the food chain, moving from hunter to hunted?

But in the case of the Cullens and the deaths they have caused, this won’t wash. They place the same value we do on human life. They have embraced our culture.

Agreed. Since the Cullens DO abstain from blood, their humanity returns, hence they cannot see humans the way normal vampires do.

But should the cullens be shunned and slammed for their actions of “accidental” killings? I am no sure.
Do you shun and slam, a recovering heroin addict, when in a moment of weakness, they use once more? While you may feel that strongly voicing disapproval would be necessary, chances are, if the addict REALLY does want to quit, they will feel guilty enough, and encouragement to forget the action and continue on the path of rehab, is the best possible action.
Maybe Carlisle was using the same logic?
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Re: Twilight Universe General Philosophical Musings

Postby Shakespeare » Tue Oct 21, 2008 7:49 pm

Ouisa wrote:I think one difficulty inherent to this lexicon culture and those of us who post frequently is that the characters are so real to us. Edward, Carlisle, Bella...they all live, breathe, and love in our heads. It's one of the true gifts of Stephenie's writing. But the downside is often we impose reality upon them and look at them as we would our the people we experience in daily life. Thus, Edward turns into the bad boyfriend we know who is controlling, Carlisle has a god complex.....truly some of these traits would be less than desirable in our friends and neighbors.

I disagree. The antis discuss these issues frequently, but we don't feel that the Cullens are realistic. Quite the opposite.
Carlisle can be a symbol, but that shouldn't be his entire function as a character. He needs to bring human qualities to the story. Stepping out of his character to transform people into monsters destroys a lot of his purpose in the story.

pubesy wrote:But a life is still a life, is it not? And who should give Rosalie the “right” to kill those SHE considered monsters? If we accuse Carlisle of having a god complex for choosing who has the right to “live” or die, then shouldn’t we then apply this same sense to rose and Edward, for discriminating their prey (or whose lives they end?).
I think we need to factor in her desire for revenge. I'm not saying that killing them was right, but it was perhaps more justifiable than Edward's actions. They tried to kill her so she killed them. I don't think it was that she had a god complex, but that she gave in to her temptation.

However, I find it more disturbing that she murdered the bodyguards out of necessity. I don't think that can be justified.

pubesy wrote:So are vampires really more immoral than us? Or do we just have a hard time dealing with being removed from the top of the food chain, moving from hunter to hunted?
I would say that they aren't more immoral than us, which is one of the reasons why I don't easily accept that the Cullens are "good" vampires. Examining this from a purely logical viewpoint, predators have an extremely important role in an ecosystem. Removing them often causes more harm than their kills. In some ways, nature does not merely give them a right to prey on humans, but also a duty to kill us.

But, to examine this from a moral standpoint, we are vastly inferior to vampires. We know we can think consciously, but we also know from Midnight Sun that Edward would rather stare at designs in plaster than listen to our innermost thoughts. We know we have hopes and futures, but we also know that the timeframe of our lives is insignificant compared to the immortality of vampires. Considering this, is it actually wrong for them to think that they are above us? To them, we are petty, slow, weak, and temporary. Why is this different to the relationship between a pig and a farmer? A pig can develop a personality, but it will always seem like another animal to us because our thoughts are much more developed than its thoughts/instincts.
Last edited by Shakespeare on Tue Oct 21, 2008 9:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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