Moral Relativism, And The Cost of Judgement.

Driving forward with the notion of morals, and the implications of the previous post.  I would like to postulate a possible resolution to the “Trolley Problem”.  I think it’s in the spirit of the times to be advocating these thoughts in their given vein.

In the context of any ethical decision, or moral calculus one has to undergo.  I think it’d be advisable to do the least crippling harm to any of the engaged parties.  If it is impossible to do no harm.  If it were possible to do no harm, there’d be no dilemma involved.  Thus the later would be the most valid course of action to take.

Honing in on the ideas of self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, or any other sentient being (aliens).  It should be understood at some level, that there is no equality of actions, or outcomes.  Some are innately better, or so it seems with the logic at the time of action.  Human’s are generally conditioned, and expected to comport themselves with respect for their fellow man.  And for some this respect extends to other forms of life.  Animals, plants, the Unknown and who knows what other sort of entities.

To step aside in some sense, as Humanity reaches towards the times of Transhumanism, and Posthumanism (definitions of said things open to pedantic debate).  The notion arises of what is Life (or even Death), and what it means to be human (or anything else).  In theory, it should be possible for cognition to arise in any mutable form.  From a squirrel, for instance, to an “Alien Deity”.  Both would be considered to have some semblance of awareness and consciousnesses.  To what extent is debatable again, for a squirrel would stand in preference for other squirrels over that of an Alien God.

And this is where we get into the realms of judgment.  One is clearly biased in favor of their “own kind” whether it be contrived as squirrels, and aliens (or black, white, asian, hispanic, human, dog, squirrel, alien…etc).  If it looks, and acts like us.  We will prefer it over something “different”, generally.

Readdressing the Trolley Problem, one comes to the individualistic notions of which pool of entities suffers the harm?  The five on the original track?  The one that may be diverted into?  It depends upon the relationship, or perceived relationship between the parties.  If it is a child that is on the alternative track, and a person of the younger age bracket is making the decision.  They may realize that it could just as readily be them in the cross-hairs of an errant trolley.  Thus they’d leave the course alone, let it hit the five (or older person).

If either of the parties is of relevant, or of future usability.  It would seem that said party should be the favored one.  This comes up with the notion of which party can you justify yourself to more readily?  Is that the one you should aim at appealing to?  The ones that would forgive the infraction?  Because they are “like” you?

This would make sense, would it not?  Why alter the course of events if it’s going to blowback upon oneself in a negative manner?  This is where doing the least amount of crippling harm comes into play.  A person who voluntarily sacrifices themselves, or endures said pain.  Knows what they’re capable of handling.  They know the dues they are willing to pay.  Thus if a person is willing to toe the line by laying themselves upon it they should be respected for doing so.

In some sense this may be akin to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  The Good may be the self-referential state that everyone sees themselves in up to a point (Evil doesn’t know/see it’s doing Evil until triumphed over).   The Bad, is the state where they intentionally act in a self-absorbed manner that is detrimental to others (actually themselves).  And The Ugly, is a state of naive awareness that hasn’t encountered said dilemma previously.

As readily apparent, in the clip, Clint Eastwood’s character could’ve easily gunned both parties down, and made off with the entire spoils.  That would’ve been “The Bad” ending for all except Eastwood, but given the previously established track record of said character.  It wasn’t in his nature.

Thus there’s a way through every moral dilemma, and it’s based upon the parties previous established actions going into said context.  Moral dilemma’s don’t exist in isolation, otherwise there’d be no repercussions to said dilemma.  And there would be no dilemma.

There’s many ways to spin this problem, but it all boils down to ad hoc justification after the fact.  And in the end, you always have to live with yourself.  You can’t live with those you’ve wronged (cause they’d wish the same back upon you), but it’s possible to coexist with those that may be ignorant/naive/indifferent…., or just plain “Ugly”.

In essence, Good prefers Good neighbors, but can tolerate neutral ones.  Evil prefers Evil neighbors, or those who tolerate their misdeeds.  And Neutrality is still in a state of limbo, or decision.

Trauma, The Catalyst of Awakening

So I’m not sure how much to actually share with this post, but in my eyes this may make a fairly interesting story (thought article).  Details will be left vague, but the general message should suffice.

In my transition to the days of college from the years of high school.  I had lost a friend to a tragic car accident.  This in itself isn’t entirely abnormal, but the circumstances and other loses prior is what makes this interesting.  As a fairly stoic person, and extremely quiet in the time frame of k-12 (due to varying stances of bullying/being a bully in some school years).  I had sequestered the emotions of years of judgement, and loss (or so it felt).  The traumas I’ve experienced may be worse than some, but not the pinnacle of struggle.

To abbreviate this a little more, a bullet list;

  • Deaths; An Aunt 2006, a Grandfather 2007, a Friend 2008, a Grandma 2011(2012?), a Great Aunt 2014.
  • Illness; Depression 2007(?) – 2016(?), Scare of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 2010, Mental Breakdown 2010, Schizophrenia Diagnosis 2010+, Insomnia 2009-2016.
  • Accidents;  Personal Car Accident x3 2010, 1 hr avoidance of College Shooting 2010
  • Life “Status”;  Social Isolation 2008-2010, Moved Between States 2009-2011 (moving for college, and return home),  Perceived Ethical/Moral Failure 2009-2010, Relationship Obsession 2009-2010 (due to social isolation, and cause of perceived Ethical Failure), Unintentional brush with “poverty” (I still had a roof & food, but nothing else really due to moving/buying car) 2009-2010, Survivor’s Guilt & feeling like a False Friend 2008-2010, Suicide Idealization 2008-2012 (actually came pretty close to doing it, had a loaded shotgun cause I was deer hunting 2011…, but a song “saved” me….this one ), and general abandonment/betrayal of social support 2009-2010.
  • Stress;  Being in College for “Science” (Engineering/Chemistry).

Overall, that seems like a lot, but it was my life.  I didn’t have time to sit and dwell upon “how to act” (I actually did, but I was too depressed to think straight).  Now that I do, I feel that it was one of the most significant periods of my life, for it caused massive maturity development.

This is a point I’d like to make with this post, that trauma when taken in to a person’s psyche, has a trans-formative effect.  A person can either integrate the problems, and cope with it somehow (sublimation of the “energies” ideally).  Or act out, and play/be the “victim”.  For a while I was fluttering between the two stages, but I think sublimation has won out.  Just like sublimation of “Hatred/Rage” happened throughout k-12.  Although I think that is already “published” information, that one has to find a way to positively deal/handle with emotions instead of being lost to the “feelings”.

In the end, I suppose I should say that all of this has made me who I am, and has shaped my worldview dramatically.  I realized that I was “alone”, or at least was for a bit.  And yet, I found my saving grace by reading historical treatises (philosophical works of Plato, Aristotle, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Kant….etc).  And having to argue, and defend my worldview from incrimination (the Schizophrenia diagnosis).  I’ve realized that No One knows what Reality actually is, but we’d like to think so.  The main message I’m keen on sharing is that one can either make a heaven, or a hell of their reality.  In order to do so they first have to go through some sort of hell though.  Much like Dante in the Divine Comedy, but to come out of said Hell, and not be lost is the saving grace.  Mine was the culture I had immersed myself in, and the meanings that others had bestowed upon their own lives.  The meanings they had created to give themselves meaning.

Decayed Laurels, is my method of meaning making.  I intend to finish it (when it’s done), but I will say that I probably won’t be making these weekly updates (or bi-weekly updates).  That they will probably become more infrequent because I’m trying to consolidate energy/focus to finish, and work upon my projects.  Thanks to those who read, and follow.


…And always remember, “There’s only Survivors in Life”.

Climbing The Ranks of Being, and Mentality (Incarnation Rank)

Within the Decayed Laurels setup is the notion of Incarnation Rank.  Incarnation Rank within this game is meant to portray the various strength levels that may interplay among species, and entities.  For instance an Incarnation Rank (IR) 1 being would be considered to have recently come about on the cosmic scheme.  As an individual they are unaware of the larger potentials that they may climb to, and are limited in scope to what they may affect in life.

At the other extreme is the IR 12 entity (Incarnation Rank is set up from 1 to 12 levels).  This level of being would essentially be an omniscient, omnipotent being, in short God.  In game mythos the only IR 12 entity to really be considered the “Star” is the Wandering God.  He never manifests fully within creation, for that would essentially destroy/distort his created reality to the extreme (to come later in the article,  notions of “Complete, or Inconsistent Sets” from Math).  Therefore, in the written mythos a Creator is always exiled from their creation.  This is for a sort of logical case that if they are within their creation, they can’t focus on the big/cosmic picture (they lose omniscience, and omnipotence).

In a sort of tongue in cheek manner, The Wandering God is my “Authorial Avatar”, or the avatar of the hosting Games Master (called Arbiter/Broker in my system).  His morality is meant to represent “my morality”, or the Games Master morality.  The Wandering God is considered N.C.T. within the setting, for he is just observing it all from “above”.  He only influences entities within the system from within the system through the characters, or qualia (notions of experience, information…etc).  He can’t fully “reach in” and do a “Hand of God” play, and change the system or waiver it to certain entities advantages (no miracles, or obvious Acts of God).  He favors no side within (neutral), and acts intermittently and incidentally.

He is the “external truth” that characters within the system will aim for as a notion of truth, but being that said figure is an Authorial Avatar.  His variant of Truth is set up to be subjective, and relativistic.  That there may be no absolute/objective Truth.  Mainly because I recognize that even now I am still learning/understanding Reality, and that my Dispositions/Understandings I have may change over time.

Anyways, onto the background theory that lead to IR development/implementation into the system.  The whole system was loosely inspired, and derived from the following notions;  Hierarchical Complexity (found here; ), notions of Transpersonal Psychology (Google it), and Postformal Logic (again Google).

Tying these thoughts into the mathematics alluded to earlier.  There is a loose interpretation of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems.  They loosely imply that a set of Axioms (may be considered as beliefs) can’t both be internally consistent, or complete in their development.  Ex;  If a person considers themselves “Good”, they can’t be “Evil” (Good, and Evil being complete independent classes of thought).  Thus a person as considered Good is inconsistent with being Evil.  One is either one or the other, and not Both (Good & Evil).  Although there may be a problem with this logic, it is a binary dialectic.  An  Either/Or from philosophy.  Good, OR Evil…  Taken a step back towards “Relativism” one can realize that one can be “Neutral” to both dispositions.  Ex;  Should I care, or act upon a notion of Aliens on the planet “Blatoo” killing each other?  Yes/No?  It depends upon how big my “empathetic sphere is”, but that’s another topic.

In essence, if one considers “Good” as a “thesis”, and “Evil” as its “anti-thesis”.  Neutrality would by the synergistic results of those two dialectics colliding.  Thus leading to another pairing, the results from the prior state into the adventures/misgivings that arise from the generated “answers”.  Thus one ratchets up the complexity, and thought models they use to understand Reality (hierarchical complexity model above).  Eventually one comes to a point where they can realize/think that if “I Am Reality/God” (an IR 12 being).  They then must realize that they contain contradictory elements within themselves because how hard would it be to be consistent over an infinite time (no “Growth”, or “Change”)?  Wouldn’t that imply “Death”?  Are you comfortable with being the root of the “Problem of Evil” in Theology?

But this is a Relativistic Morality system…Good may be Evil, Evil does Good, and Neutral is just laughing…


Taking a P.I.S.S.

The (P)erception.(I)deology.(S)tability.(S)ystem, to be precise, and to be more exacting.  The mental disposition (flaws, and perks of mental traits) model that is to be found in the Decayed Laurels manual.  Spun off the likes of the Moral(ity) Cube with its thought processes, and establishments.  The P.I.S.S, was built off the same 3x3x3 (3 axis) principles of the Moral Cube.  Except in the case of the P.I.S.S., the axis are labeled Perception, Ideology, and Stability….just like it says on the “can” (acronym title).

Perception is broken down into Fiction (F), Balance (B), and Reality (R).  Ideology into Despair (D), Realistic (L), and Hope (H).  Finally, Stability consists of the following; Irresolution (I), Moderation (M), and Conviction (C).

To begin to describe the P.I.S.S. in more detail.  I shall start with Perception.  Perception is how a character sees the world in the game.  They may see it through a lens of Fiction where they believe in the “made-up stuff” almost immediately.  Ex; consider a child with a disposition towards believe in Santa Claus, Easter Bunny…etc.  The opposite of this Fiction domain is Reality which is when a character only believes what they can actually witness through their own senses.  Ex; a cynic who’d have no belief in anything supernatural, or paranormal.  This may sound good, but it also denounces the belief in anything that one can’t readily integrate into their mental schema.  Ex; trying to convince a person of a theory like Evolution, or Gravity…that there are small little particles that make up the universe.  Returning to the “middle ground” is the Balance domain of Perception.  This domain allows a character to witness either/or.  To realize that it is better to be realistic in certain contexts, but that it is also beneficial to escape from reality.  To have flights of fancy, and those unfounded beliefs.

Continuing on into the notion of Ideology, there is the notion of Despair.  This state of despair is to be understood as seeing everything bleakly.  That there is no hope to be found in Life.  Hope is it’s opposite, that there are moments to be found that inspire, and uplift a person to stay motivated in Life.  Realistic, is again the balancing point between those two forces of despair and hope.

Finally, Stability is how strong a character is in maintaining their mental fortitude.  Irresolution means that they are half-hearted, and unwilling to follow through with their emotions.  Conviction implies that they will follow through regardless of the cost, and moderation is fairly self-explanatory.

Coupling these three axis together, one arrives at a three code schema like with the Morality Cube.  Normality is B.L.M, and it implies that a character is fairly normal to those within their species/psychological group.  The thing with the P.I.S.S. is that it generates 27 different codes for mental dispositions, but each code has three ratings itself.  Thus the Normality of B.L.M. would lead to a disposition level 1 of being just “plain”, or “average”.  A disposition of level 2 in normality would express the urge to always flock together, and maintain relations with those that are similar.  A fear of the Unknown.  A disposition of level 3 would imply that they actively squelch those who are deemed “abnormal”.  This delineation into three different levels for each code/schema presents a total of 81 “different mental characteristics” for players to witness with their characters.

To provide a further contrast of different schema.  There is Depression R.D.I, and Nihilistic F.D.C..  The differences between these two can be understood via their components.  Depression is “realistic”, and therefore it means that they can’t see through the present doom and gloom of reality.  They hurt, and are sad.  Whereas Nihilistic implies that they have a “fiction” perspective.  That there is no such thing as “value”, and “meaning”.  That their version of despair is more existential, and that there is no future to be had.  At least one not worth having.  Both share the same Despair category, but the final difference is the Stability.  Depression is irresolute, and Nihilistic is conviction.  Depression a person finds it hard to do something, or anything.  Nihilistic they may often resort to tearing down “constructs” or “edifices”.

This entire system is used whenever a character in the game suffers, and fails a Sanity Check.  It also may be roleplayed by the players, or ignored entirely due to the sensitivity that may occur when dealing with mental health.

The Nature of The Beast (The Morality Cube)

Running along with the nature of the last few posts, and with what seems to be a prevalent theme right now in my thoughts.  Is the idea of a relativistic morality system.  In the context of Decayed Laurels there is the Morality Cube.  It is premised upon the notion of a Rubik’s cube arrangement.  That of a 3x3x3 minor cube array building a larger meta cube.  Building slightly upon D&D with its two axis alignment system as alluded to before (Good vs. Evil, Order vs. Chaos).  I’ve thought up a three axis system that implements Alignment, Effort, and Degree.  Alignment is the classical values of Good, Neutral, and Evil.  Effort is how much a character strives towards their moral disposition.  Example; Does one actively try to do Good, or do they just do it when it’s convenient?  Thus effort is broken down into three sub-categories of Intentional, Incidental, and Unintentional.  Finally Degree is to what level does a character honor their commitments/desires.  Essentially it is how long is a character going to push towards a certain goal?  Degree is also broken down into three sub-categories.  That of Maintained, Intermittent, and Abandoned.

These three macro categories (Alignment, Effort, and Degree) are read/written in a three-letter code.  Example; N.C.T. reads as Neutral, Incidental, and Intermittent.  It is understood that way too.  That a character is just bystander who isn’t really involved in what is going on.

Now the fun part comes when the code is visualized in that 3x3x3 array.  N.C.T takes the central most position within that array, so it’d be 2, 2, 2 in its coordinates.  It is easier to visualize that the Good alignments are the top plane of the array 3, #, #, and that the Evil alignments are the bottom plane 1, #, #.  Thus a change in one’s neutrality via their actions can either bring them up to Good, or change them to Evil.  The same visualization technique can be used with a different chosen planar axis.  Alignment being the xy plane, Effort being the zx plane, and Degree being the yz plane.

The tricky part with the Morality Cube comes when it is centered on N.C.T as the origin.  Thus Good becomes 1, #, #, and Evil becomes -1, #, #.  That’s the simple part, the weirdness ensures when one takes the notion of N.C.T being the default code/morality for a civilization/species.  In the manual Humanity is centered on N.C.T. , but individuals may drift to whatever morality within that 3x3x3 array.  Essentially, the species is seen as neutral, and just existing to the perspective of those within that species.  That the good, and evil elements within a set group balance out to a neutral effect.

To summarize so far;  A N.C.T rating instills a sense that the species is just there, for those that reside within it.  Although individuals within that society may be anything from Good to Evil with varying shades in between.

Implementing other species/aliens into the mix.  They would be seen at different moral codes within the Cube.  An example of this would be a species that is seen as benevolent by humans, and thus would gain the notation of Good, $, $ ($ being used for $string/the other axis) compared to humans.  Although from that alien species point of view they’d see themselves as N.C.T. because they too just exist within their domain, and would have both saintly and problematic elements within their society.  Therefore the cube grows, but in the manual it is limited to a written description of the 3x3x3 array.

Thus we get to the notion of moral relativity.  My good is not your good, and even my neutral element is not your neutral element.  That every species and civilization see themselves differently, but to outside observers they may be seen as a threat.  A sort of does the Lion consider the implications of eating the Gazelle?  Event though the Gazelle would preferably not be eaten?  Lion morality is not Gazelle morality, but they both reside within the domain.  Both consider their actions to be natural, and not offensive to themselves.  And yet to each other their acts are offensive, and may be considered “evil” respectively.  Whereas to a human observer, who’d be the “neutral party”, it’s just life.

The Meaning of Nothing

This one may be a little “screwy”, but its premise is the value of the concept of Nothing.  It may seem like a nihilistic stance to go around stating, and/or proclaiming that one believes in Nothing.  That Life has no meaning because of what ever reason.  That one will die someday, that everything turns to “dust”.  Somehow this seems like a shortsighted position to take.  That stance, I feel is just a cursory understanding of what Nihilism can entail.  To truly delve into such Nihilistic thoughts via either rationalism, or emotionalism (however one proceeds about it).

Is to eventually come to a conclusion that all is truly worthless….except what I give meaning to.  By giving meaning to the stance of Nihilism, one essentially become a self-contradiction.  They apply meaning to a value that destroys all meanings.  How can one accept this?  It is through a route that Nothing may be in fact what is true Reality.  Just think about it for second, or awhile.  If one erases, and demote all concepts that they had inherited from their predecessors through schooling, or soaking up of information.

One would literally be aware of Nothing (ignorance), including the concept of Nothing (a blank slate).  It has no meaning, but oddly if one is somehow still aware of Nothing.  They have a new concept of which to be aware of.  That there’s Nothing to be aware of (catch the double meaning?).  Thus one starts to drift away from the state of Nothingness, and into Meaningfulness.  That Nothing is somehow meaningful.  That it serves as the base state from which all meaning is derived.  Is it ineffable, somewhat, for a cursory approach implies that nothing is known.

And yet, consider for a moment Socrates maxims of, “Know Thyself.” &  “I Know Nothing”, and all the religious/doctrinal traditions of invalidating the Ego/Self.  That the awareness you are aware of is just an illusion, and not the true nature of Reality.  Oddly one then arrives at the bottom of the metaphorical well.  That I am “Nothing”, but now adding in the phrase of God’s reply to Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM”.  That one is literally whoever they say, or realize they are.  That a philosopher’s Authenticity is one being faithful to oneself.  Thus Ego/Self destruction is a violation of one’s own significance.  That to invalidate one’s own worth in the pursuit of spirituality is really a violation of one’s own faith towards oneself.

Now we fall upon the notion of Religion/Spirituality, and that is to be oneself.  Not conform to some odd doctrine, but to truly express one’s own individuality.  To be of faith to oneself.  Maybe egocentric, but again believing in Nihilism annihilates all meaning.  Therefore it only has meaning if one accepts its application to oneself.  Nihilism is a tool that clears the plane.  To allow one to create new foundations for oneself, and to realize just who they’re meant to be.

Finally, to draw this back to game design (at least a little), Decayed Laurels is about these notions.  That what Nietzsche uttered may have some veracity;

“Companions the creator seeks, not corpses, not herds and believers. Fellow creators the creator seeks — those who write new values on new tablets. Companions the creator seeks, and fellow harvesters; for everything about him is ripe for the harvest.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Decayed Laurels is about what happens when one embraces, or strives for that Transcendent Nature.  Do they maintain their morality?  Their sense of Self?  Does one do whatever they wish being that they are a “god” (or God….)?  In essence will they hold themselves accountable?  If not they’ve “rotted”, and thus have a Decayed Laurel…a rotten victory.

Rot of Ages

So its been two years since my last post, and this blog has been feeling some neglect.  Having realized that, I’d like to present a teaser for what has been my main project the past couple of years.Poster.jpg

Now that that’s out of the way, I will add that instead of restricting myself to game design, and solely game design.  I will now be adding, and posting other thoughts that I’ve been entertaining throughout time.  In an effort to properly develop this blog more instead of just leaving it to decay (possible puns).  This is where it gets into the “Designs” part of the blog.  Such thoughts may include musings on philosophy, game theory, math, 3d modeling, drawing, and other general wonkiness that ensures due to crossing my mental radar.  In essence I’m aiming on this blog becoming a public version of my “collected works”.