Leapin' Lizards Mr.Science!

From: D M McNamara (D.M.McNamara@durham.ac.uk)
Date: Wed 22 May 1996 - 12:20:24 EEST


   I never said that knowledge (or data) was a neutral phenomenon - far
from it, it is politicised....the concept of neutral knowledge was
historically created in the 'Enlightenment' episteme (see Foucault's
'order of things'). Indeed, i have been arguing for relativism in my
illumination entries.
  However, not an unbridled illumination - the social and historical
context of knowledge tends to limit what is said (but this cannot be
objectively demarcated). What i was infact arguing against was
'essentialism,' which Campbell is heineously guilty of. For example, he
believes (as far as i understand it) that all myths tend to have similar
features, and to some extent tend to tell similar stories. Certainly, one
can impose ones modern bourgeois capitalist manner of thought on the past
(it is inescapable) and claim such things, however, one must appreciate
that myths themselves are HIGHLY subjective (Levi-Strauss isn't very
fashionable these days)....and tend to mean different things, depending
on who is telling them, for whom, and where.
   To be truly critical, one must question the nature of data itself -
ie. who is it produced for, how and for whom? It cannot be objective (you
can think it is, but in an absolute sense it is unlikely someone could
prove to me the scientific, value-free existence of data). data could
only be value-free and objective if it existed in a world without
consciousness, without power relations, which of course is a tautology,
because who would make it?
   Essentialism is when one approaches, say, the archaeological record,
with a priori theories and objectivity claims ie. 'all men were hunters
therefore this skeleton with a spear must be a man' 'in the past there
was always women and men (sex same as gender)' 'in the past we were all
capitalists, buried our dead in the same neurotic way, and liked sex' etc.
  I am thoroughly against this. However, in my case i believed that it
may be better to approach the lunar empire as if they were more like
romans, just to make it slightly more convincing to myself (because
whether you like it or not, at some point many of the glorantha cultures
were inspired by RW analogues).
Of course, i cannot tell you what to
think, but i can perhaps help you to think more critically. For example,
the invasion hypothesis is not a historical universal, sometimes things
may be going on underneath the surface, and sometimes things are
inevitable. For instance, my argument about the lunar empire was based on
the limits to capital, which states that unless a society revolutionises
itself it will eventually degenerate through inflation and spiralling
economic crisis.
   The lunar empire uses money - presumably its economy is more advanced
than the barbarian type, where money is often only used in
tribute/taxes/buying mercenaries. For example, the fact that the lunars
use precious metals for their coinage surely demonstrates that there
exists a 'gold standard' of some kind? Obviously, there are also symbolic
reasons for the metal chosen eg. silver lunars (Moon) and gold wheels
(gold wheel dancers, yelm). But there is also surely more than this.
  However, i suppose that there are dangers in using modern philosophy
in glorantha. For example, nihilism or critical theory sits uneasily in
a world that is quite blatantly chock-full of spirits, gods and magic.
Therefore it is quite likely that essentialism is an unquestioned
concept - why should people not believe that they have souls when the
world is full of spirits?
  However, what did inspire me was the riddle in dorastor given at the
back of the book ie. (something like this) 'what is the difference
between virtuous thought and action?' Answer: 'Power.' It is curiously
Nietzschean, and therefore made illumination more 'alive' for me in
games, in that i am able to blither on for ages about it if i want to,
just by adapting Nietzsche (because the philosophy of illumination is
in no way a coherent philosophy as presented in the Dorastor book and
cults of terror). Certainly it helped me 'flesh it out,' and understand
why beings found gbaji, ahem, nysalor, so persuasive.
   Furthermore, the economic explanation for the roman collapse i found
interesting because it presented another angle on the lunar demise. For
instance, in 'king of sartar' we understand the fall in purely mythic
terms...battles of heroes and armies, strange beings, invasions,
natural disaster, disease, etc. This is sometimes not
enough (certainly
it is interesting, and king of sartar never purported to be anything
more than a book of myth)...thinking about it in a more 'materialist'
way perhaps brings one down to earth, and understand the way commerce
may have operated, and why they bothered using coinage at all. After
all, the roman invasion of britain was far too costly to have just
been about glory and ideology (not to mention the fact that rome had
been trading with Britain for decades before the first attack).
  Ho hum....
    Dominic.

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