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    Literature in the Flanaess - Philosophy
    Posted on Sat, May 21, 2005 by Dongul
    gvdammerung writes "Philosophy is an uncommon topic within the literature of the Flanaess because too many are intoxicated by perfumed clouds of religion to imagine that the universe that surrounds them can be explained by anything other than a purported higher power. Authors who describe a rational philosophy can find their books banned and burned. They may count themselves lucky if they avoid a similar fate. For the religion of gods abhors any sentient being thinking outside the strict confines of faith. The true philosopher is then a lonely figure, carrying a light amidst dark clouds of pious ignorance. Herein are discussed the most noted of truly philosophical tracts. Get your copies before some religious fanatic burns them all.

    Literature in the Flanaess - Philosophy
    By: Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    Philosophy is an uncommon topic because too many are intoxicated by perfumed clouds of religion to imagine that the universe that surrounds them can be explained by anything other than a purported higher power. In glorifying their god, the devotees diminish their own natural talents and intellect. It is not surprising then to find that philosophical tracts that make no religious point are rare in the Flanaess.

    Compounding matters, authors who describe a rational philosophy can find their books banned and burned. They may account themselves lucky if they avoid a similar fate. While the Church of Pholtus is best known for fanning the bonfires of ignorance, the Church of St. Cuthbert and other lawful churches are not far behind. The more circumspect wait until no one appears to be watching before lighting their fires.

    Chaotic faiths are scarcely better. It is not a question of law or chaos, or good or evil. The religion of gods abhors any sentient being thinking outside the strict confines of faith. Such is a direct threat to the gods and their Oerthly hierarchies. Even the most supposedly learned of gods, Boccob and his lot, do not long tolerate philosophies that seek to explain matters without theology. The true philosopher is a lonely figure, carrying a light amidst dark clouds of pious ignorance. Only true druidism, that which worships nature without reference to godhead, appears at all tolerant of man thinking for himself.

    The following two tracts are the finest philosophical works to see wide publication in the Flanaess. Most such works reach at best a regional audience, being produced for a patron who will see to publication despite public apathy and religious antipathy.

    Ordered Makedom
    by Rottcher Baggett (3 Volumes)
    1st Edition - 535 CY
    Note - The first edition was published as a single, huge volume in very low numbers. Subsequent editions broke up the text into the more common three volumes.

    Ordered Makedom begins with a simple premise - man is capable of understanding the universe through the application of his intellect and senses, without more. From this premise, which the author calls “science,” the author expounds upon all manner of phenomena. The writing is crisp and clear. While disapproved, or worse, by any number of churches and faiths, Ordered Makedom has survived and prospered because of the sheer utility of the text. The author’s insights into mathematics, geometry, architecture, engineering, alchemy, metallurgy, meteorology and his “methods” for building philosophic and scientific “models” have proven remarkably practical.

    The author has, however, been forced to retire from public life, if he still lives. Hostility to his work borders on the fanatical in some instances. It is believed that he presently resides in the city of Willip under the protection of the Furyondian crown. Conspiracy theorists suggest that the amazing advances of the Furyondian navy are a direct result of Baggett paying back his benefactors for their protection. The truth of such matters is unknown. Rumors continue to make the rounds, however, concerning the publication of Baggett’s Notebooks. If such exist, they likely would surpass the contents of Ordered Makedom in utility and controversy.

    The Doctrinal Commentary
    by Dantean Allegrini (9 Volumes)
    1st Edition - 380 CY
    Note - There are nine variations, or sets of volumes, of the first edition, each covered in the skin of a creature from one of the outer-planes corresponding to one of the Nine Philosophies. Later editions are leather bound.

    The Doctrinal Commentary is a work that is both lauded and decried by the religious. The work is a massive catalog of the outer-planes that describes the physical conditions, inhabitants and the planar mechanics of each plane. Upon its subject, it is authoritative. It does, however, take no philosophical, moral or religious stance with respect to its subject matter. It is uncompromisingly objective. While the general topic appeals to the religious, the author’s lack of bias is disapproved of. As a result, numerous “chapbook” copies of, or extracts from, one volume or more of the title have appeared. These chapbooks universally rewrite the text of The Doctrinal Commentary to promote the religious view or agenda of the particular ghost author.

    It is rumored among collectors of the first edition volumes that the skin coverings of the nine bindings are more than decorative. One rumor is that if one assembles a complete first edition, all volumes having the same binding, certain magical properties of the books will be revealed. Another rumor has it that the first edition bindings signal a subtle emphasis in the actual text of the volumes, revealing more information on some planes than others. Still other rumors have it that to have a truly complete set, one must collect all nine volumes of the first edition in all nine bindings, making for 81 total volumes that reveal more than any lesser combination. The truth of such rumors is uncertain.

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    Re: Literature in the Flanaess - Philosophy (Score: 1)
    by Crag on Sat, May 21, 2005
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    Interesting but since the divine beings of GH are very real instead of philosopy being in intellectual opposition wouldn't the rational response be rather to harmonize with the divine framework as a basis for GH philosophy?

    I see many similarities between the Ur-Flan doctrine (canonfire articles) and the philosophical bent expressed in this submission, is their an intellectual "common ground" and silent support between the two for their own agendas?

    Re: Literature in the Flanaess - Philosophy (Score: 1)
    by CruelSummerLord on Sat, May 21, 2005
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    This may just be me, but I thought there was a heavy anti-religion/anti-church bias in this article. While I can certainly agree with and admire the dark tone taken in this article, I'm not sure how the whole idea of humanism/rationalism meshes with GH.

    For one thing, even if you don't have the same technophobia I do when it comes to Oerth, you have to admit that science takes a back seat to sorcery in GH. Heck, every time someone casts a fireball, they're in essence breaking one of the fundamental laws of physics by essentially creating energy out of nothing. Spells to control the weather, conjure elementals, and so forth all screw around with real-life physics. You shouldn't be able to create a thinking creature out of what is in essence the energy released from burning combustibles. Fire by itself is just a chemical reaction in real life, but in Greyhawk it's one of the fundamental elements of existence.

    And any notion of furthering the development of knowledge, or the possiblity of humanitarian concerns being enhanced by rational philosophy, would probably be supported by certain sects devoted to gods like Rao or Trithereon. Heck, radical priests of Trithereon might even smuggle and circulate these types of books if they had subversive writings speaking out in favor of anarchy, or against aristocracy, that sort of thing. if the Trithereonites were real, their radical sect would be keenly interested in works like Das Kapital, for example.

    Heck, even the strict gods like St. Cuthbert and Pholtus might publish the works of writers like Edmund Burke, who viciously denounced the French Revolution, or Montesquieu, who supported the divisions of powers but still supported aristocracy and primogeniture-something that seems both acceptable to 'enlightened' monarchs of the Flanaess and dovetails well with the philosophy of certain Cuthbertine or Pholtain cults.

    In short, I don't think it's fair to brand all churches and clergymen as book-burners or promoters of ignorance, as this article does-what about a man like Peter Abelard? Sure, there have been atrocities like the Spanish Inquisition, but is solely relying on pure rationalism, reason and science, without any sort of faith or belief in a higher power, desirable, much less viable?

    Re: Literature in the Flanaess - Philosophy (Score: 1)
    by GaryG on Mon, May 23, 2005
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    Following up on CruelSummerLord's post, how does one account for Isaac Newton, for that matter? I could easily see a god like Celestian encouraging the study of the heavens. After all, the obviously cyclical nature of the night sky is what got ancient H. sapiens figuring things out on our Earth. Of course, GVDammerung can run his Greyhawk however he wants; I'm just putting in my two cents.

    As far as my campaign, I use far less religious stricture of thought than is indicated here, and have thought about natural philosophy in my campaign quite a bit (even if my players haven't). Maybe I'll just start a thread on it.


    Re: Literature in the Flanaess - Philosophy (Score: 1)
    by GVDammerung on Tue, May 24, 2005
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    The gods in GH are many and religion, with few exceptions, is polytheistic. Religious intolerance based upon “the wrong faith” will occur less frequently in its worst forms as “the right faith” is usually so broadly defined in polytheistic terms.

    At the same time, the gods in GH are demonstrably “real” in that they and/or their powers may be seen to be manifest. “Faith” will be much more pronounced as there is demonstrably something to “believe in” that can help or hinder.

    As the many gods are known to be “real” and are worshiped as such with greater faith on that account, reactions toward those who question the gods, who do not accept matters on, or in terms of, “faith” will likely be intolerant. How ignorant, to say nothing of disrespectful (even blasphemous), must one be to question what is so very clearly “real?”

    Of course, the degree of this “reality” is the very problem. The gods appear upon consideration or investigation to be very much akin to mortals but with a greater power. Mortals become gods. Gods die. They can be understood in these terms - terms which are not purely “divine.”

    This different appreciation of the gods, coupled with consideration of the natural world that seeks to understand that world without first resort to this “divinity,” will engender an intolerant reaction - for being ignorant, disrespectful, or blasphemous - from the pious.

    Rationalists, who admitting the existence of gods, deny their inherent divinity and seek to understand the universe on purely rational terms that excludes faith as an easy or inevitable answer, will not be well received. This will be particularly true among the peasant and urban poor classes, who are likely to be entirely uneducated. Those within hierarchies who seek to advance themselves or their causes can well play the “faith card,” inciting the mob by supposed affronts to their religious dignity.

    Actual history is replete with examples of religious intolerance among any number of faiths and any number of sorts of faith. Charges of heresy or their like are quickly brought and just as quickly prosecuted. Witch trials, inquisitions, denunciations, book banning, burnings etc. One might begin with the Pharaoh Akenaton and end with stem cell research. Religious intolerance is a constant in human history, sometimes flaring into violence, sometimes simmering just below a boil. The common denominator is a perceived “disrespect” for the faith, whatever it may be - be it in promoting one deity or liturgical interpretation over another, a scientific or rational inquiry or a simple philosophic difference.

    IMO, a GH campaign that sees no such intolerance between religion and rationalism has chosen an artificially rosey scenario - a “happyland” free of a too real historic vice. Of course, as GH is a fantasy setting, nothing is to say that this can’t be so. It would be just another fantastic element of the setting.

    Allowing for an intolerance of the rational by the religious, however, would help explain why technological advances are so halting in GH.

    IMO, IMC

    Re: Literature in the Flanaess - Philosophy (Score: 1)
    by Weirmonken on Sat, February 25, 2006
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    Just to throw my two cents in, my understanding of Greyhawk cosmology was that "spontaneous" effects of magic are, in fact, drawing energy from one of the various planes.

    As an example, Fireball works because you draw fire directly from the Elemental Plane of Fire, using your will to shape and direct the energy that you've drawn from another dimension.  You are not actually creating something from nothing but instead simply redirecting energy.  This is certainly implied by the old Monster Summoning spell, which trapped a creature in a "crystal sphere" and brought them forth.

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