Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Religion & Logic in The Way of Kings

I have run into a recurring point of annoyance while reading The Way of Kings and that is the continuing religious debate going on with the heretic Jasnah Kholin. Jasnah Kholin's character is a logical empiricist and as such refutes the existence of God due to a lack of evidence.

This is aggravating because religion and logic are incompatible "means of knowing". Logic is a rational system of understanding the world outside of your consciousness. Religion is an irrational system, faith, of understanding the world outside of your consciousness. Using rationality to explain irrationality is pointless, they are inimical. This is also an issue I have with creating "logical" magic systems. Its a paradox of logic.

So, I just find it annoying to constantly see this debate as there is no solution to it. Neither can meet in the middle. Neither can agree to disagree. To prove either one right disproves the other. As I said, both are different, and incompatible, means of knowing.

UPDATED - 12 Oct 2010 @ 6:40PM: In response to Peter's comment.

Reading my post I see that I failed to put my annoyance in context of the book. I am fairly certain that Brandon would understand my point.

My main annoyance is that Roshar's foremost scholar seems to be so ignorant of the debate. At least as far as I have read so far, which is about halfway. this far into the book.

Rationality versus Irrationality is a fairly ancient debate in western society, easily found in Greek philosophy. So, whether the debate is medicine vs shamanism, chemistry vs alchemy, religion vs aethism you always seem to come back to this conundrum. This isn't a modern idea or issue.

So, to see this debate crop up in the narrative and taken at face value by Jasnah Kholin is why I am annoyed. I think she should have picked up on it. I could see Shallan falling for this early in her wardship or perhaps a young adept. But, to the higher echelons of scholarship, it should be old hat.

I am halfway tempted to think Brandon present this debate as he did just to challenge his readers. To someone not familiar with the debate it is certainly an alluring topic

Image Source: Scanned Cover

5 comments:

  1. I expect that Brandon would agree with your point. However, he stated in an interview that when he approaches writing a character with a belief system different from his own, he tries to do it in a way that a writer who did share that character's belief system would do it. Otherwise it's too easy to make the character a straw man, which serves no one.

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  2. Reading my post I see that I failed to put my annoyance in context of the book. I am fairly certain that Brandon would understand my point.

    My main annoyance is that Roshar's foremost scholar seems to be so ignorant of the debate. At least as far as I have read so far, which is about halfway. this far into the book.

    Rationality versus Irrationality is a fairly ancient debate in western society, easily found in Greek philosophy. So, whether the debate is medicine vs shamanism, chemistry vs alchemy, religion vs aethism you always seem to come back to this conundrum. This isn't a modern idea or issue.

    So, to see this debate crop up in the narrative and taken at face value by Jasnah Kholin is why I am annoyed. I think she should have picked up on it. I could see Shallan falling for this early in her wardship or perhaps a young adept. But, to the higher echelons of scholarship, it should be old hat.

    I am halfway tempted to think Brandon present this debate as he did just to challenge his readers. To someone not familiar with the debate it is certainly an alluring topic.

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  3. I don't think we can assume these are old debates on Roshar, as I get the impression that there are extremely few atheists and that there have been very few over the centuries. Page 120 says that the standard phrasing of a certain scholarly argument is "no supposition—save for the existence of the Almighty himself—should be held as axiomatic."

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  4. Even in the most policed of time periods in our world, e.g. Late Medieval & Early Renaissance, such prohibitions have not prevented scholarly pursuit. Even within the monasteries of the Catholic Church these ideas were questioned, e.g. Christology.

    So, I would imagine even within Vorinism, they have had spirited debates on the nature of the Almighty which is always a crisis of faith, i.e. rational versus irrational.

    Suppose however that Vorinism does have a tight leash on its people and heretics are rare. Vorinism only accounts for roughly half of Roshar. Do all other people fall under the same stricture of no supposition?

    More-so, given the time period involved in the history of Roshar I can't imagine this sort of debate not occurring. Over 4500 hundred years have passed since the last desolation. The Way of Kings mentions books that record events thousands of years prior to even that time period. Sure, trying to equate the passage of time between our reality and a fantasy realm is pointless but progress has been shown in The Way of Kings through the creation of fabriels.

    No matter what though, Brandon has succeeded because at least one fan cares enough about his book to argue about its details on his blog! :D

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  5. The Way of Kings, page 635: "I am. But just because I honor the Almighty doesn't mean I'm going to accept any explanation, Kabsal. It might be religion, but it still has to make sense."

    I think that would quality as supposition.

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