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Ahira's Hangar • View topic - Wolfe is a tease -coaxing the reader to peripety.

Ahira's Hangar

David Zindell's Neverness, A Requiem for Homo Sapiens and all things Science Fiction and Fantasy
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 Post subject: Wolfe is a tease -coaxing the reader to peripety.
PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 7:05 pm 
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I just started Solider in the Mist. It is excellent.
I know the author is interested in the origins of words. On a suspicion I wiki searched amnesia which lead circuitously to:
Aeimnestus was a Spartan Soldier, famous because he killed the leader of a Persian army, Mardonius, at the battle of Plataea as told in book 9 of The History by Herodotus. In the Messenian war he fought a battle with but three hundred men against the whole forces of Messenians, and he perished together with the three hundred men.
Latro? Well he was on Mardonius side, at least it seems so far to be the case from my reading of the first part of the book. Yet, Aeimnestus, seems to be too much of a coincidence. . . I cant wait to read the rest.

On the larger themes:
Do we need memory i.e. to learn in order to gain/sustain knowledge/know good or right from wrong? Is there intrinsic knowledge? I haven't read the whole story yet, but I bet Wolfe doesn't tell us the answer to that question -I bet he shows us the answer. (Clue: Aeimnestus means unforgettable).
Latro as U.S. "us". No memory of yesterday. Do we need to have a sense of history/memory to know right from wrong?
The gods = great powers, but not omnipotent powers as they have to contend with each other, and we are subject to their whims. Power without a conscious or sense of objective right and wrong beyond its own desires. Well I've sort of answered that question with the description. Just fill in the other side of the equal sign with something (other than gods) that matches . . . modern politics anyone? Actually not that modern, its modern expression starts with Machiavelli's the Prince.
Addressing the paradox of knowledge - additional clues:
In philosophy, Plato uses the term anamnesis in the epistemological theory that he develops in his dialogues Meno and Phaedo.
Meno
In Meno, Plato's character (and old teacher) Socrates is challenged by Meno with what has become known as the sophistic paradox, or the paradox of knowledge:
Meno: And how are you going to search for [the nature of virtue] when you don't know at all what it is, Socrates? Which of all the things you don't know will you set up as target for your search? And even if you actually come across it, how will you know that it is that thing which you don't know?[1]
In other words, if you don't know what the knowledge looks like, you won't recognise it when you see it, and if you do know what it looks like, then you don't need to look for it. Either way, then, there's no point trying to gain knowledge.
Socrates' response is to develop his theory of anamnesis. He suggests that the soul is immortal, being repeatedly incarnated; knowledge is actually in the soul from eternity (86b), but each time the soul is incarnated its knowledge is forgotten in the shock of birth. What we think of as learning, then is actually the bringing back of what we'd forgotten. (Once it has been brought back it is true belief, to be turned into genuine knowledge by understanding.) And thus Socrates (and Plato) sees himself, not as a teacher, but as a midwife, aiding with the birth of knowledge that was already there in the student.
The theory is illustrated by Socrates asking a slave boy questions about geometry. At first the boy gives the wrong answer; when this is pointed out to him, he is puzzled, but by asking questions Socrates is able to help him to reach the true answer. This is intended to show that, as the boy wasn't told the answer, he could only have reached the truth by recollecting what he had already known but forgotten.

[edit] Phaedo
In Phaedo, Plato develops his theory of anamnesis, in part by combining it with his theory of Forms. First, he tells us more about how anamnesis can be achieved: whereas in Meno we're given nothing but the method of questioning with which Socrates proceeds, in Phaedo Plato presents us with a way of living our lives so that we can overcome the misleading nature of the body through katharsis (Greek: καθαρσις; “cleansing” (from guilt or defilement), “purification”). The body and its senses are the source of error; knowledge can only be regained through the use of our reason, contemplating things with the soul (see 66 b–d).
Secondly, he makes clear that genuine knowledge, as opposed to mere true belief, is distinguished by its content. One can only know eternal truths, for they are the only truths that can have been in the soul from eternity. Though it can be very useful to have a true belief about, say, the best way to get from London to Oxford, such a belief can't count as knowledge; how could our souls have known for all eternity a fact about places that have existed for less than 2,000 years?
Ties in again to his Christianity -
Religion
"Anamnesis" is used in some churches in reference to the Eucharist. This has its origin in Jesus' words at the Last Supper, "Do this in memory of me" (Greek "Τουτο ποιειτε εις την εμην αναμνησιν",[2] and can refer either to the memorial character of the Eucharist itself[3] or to the part of the service where the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus are remembered.[4]
For example, in the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, the anamnesis begins with the words:
"Remembering, therefore, this command of the Saviour [i.e., to eat and drink in remembrance of him] and all that came to pass for our sake, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand of the Father and the second, glorious coming..." [5]
This phrase precedes the epiklesis, when the priest asks God to send the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.
In some western Christian traditions, on the other hand, the anamnesis comes after the consecration of the bread and the wine.[6]
An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church says of the anamnesis: "This memorial prayer of remembrance recalls for the worshipping community past events in their tradition of faith that are formative for their identity and self-understanding" and makes particular mention of its place in "the various eucharistic prayers".[7]

I also suspect that Latro will, if not by the end of Soldier in the Mist, but in Soldier of Sidon go through the following (and I think I will too):

Peripeteia (Greek, περιπετεῖα) is a reversal of circumstances, or turning point. The term is primarily used with reference to works of literature. The English form of peripeteia is Peripety. Peripety is a sudden reversal dependent on intellect and logic.
Aristotle defines it as "a change by which the action veers round to its opposite, subject always to our rule of probability or necessity."
Peripeteia includes changes of character, but also more external changes. A character who becomes rich and famous from poverty and obscurity has undergone peripeteia, even if his character remains the same.
When a character learns something he had been previously ignorant of, this is normally distinguished from peripeteia as anagnorisis or discovery, a distinction derived from Aristotle's work.
Aristotle considered anagnorisis, leading to peripeteia, the mark of a superior tragedy. Two such plays are Oedipus the King, where the oracle's information that Oedipus had killed his father and married his mother brought about his mother's death and his own blindness and exile, and Iphigenia in Tauris, where Iphigenia realizes that the strangers she is to sacrifice are her brother and his friend, resulting in all three of them escaping Tauris. These plots, he considered complex and superior to simple plots without anagnorisis or peripeteia, such as when Medea resolves to kill her children, knowing they are her children, and does so. Aristotle identified Oedipus the King, as the principal work demonstrating peripety. (See Aristotle's Poetics.)
In Shakespeare's tragedy Othello, the peripety occurs in the mere middle of the play, act III, scene 3. Othello is slowly deceived by Iago's rhetoric, persuasiveness and imagery, yet in this scene the transition occurs. Iago says 'Indeed' with emphasis, where after Othello replies: "Indeed? Ay, indeed. Discerns't thou aught in that? Is he not honest?". Iago keeps using rhetorical emphasis to corrupt Othello: "Honest, my lord? [...] Think, my lord?". Othello who is of weak character and easily persuaded replies: "Think, my lord! By heaven, he echoes me, / As if there was some monster in his thought / Too hideous to be shown". The corruption continues until the peripety. There are two stanzas indicating this change. Othello has just got married to the beautiful Desdemona, whom he seemed unlikely to marry due to his blackness, nevertheless he has been very lucky. Yet the peripety arrives and Othello exclaims: "Why did I marry? This honest creature [Iago] doubtless / Sees and knows more, much more, than he unfolds". [III, 3, 243-4]. Othello concludes that: "This fellow's of exceeding honesty / And knows all qualities with a learned spirit / Of human dealings" [III, 3, 260]. The peripety has happened and Othello degrades mentally and the transition can be observed in his usage of language. Othello is very eloquent and uses subtle imagery ("Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them" [I, 2, 59]). After the peripety his language degrades to the usage of diabolical and physical imagery. Following the confirmation of his absolute belief in what Iago has told him he remarks: "I had rather be a toad / And live upon the vapour of a dungeon" [III, 3, 272].

Reading Wolfe is a sensation like being tickled. Tickled by a sense that there is something more to the book than just the text if I bother to look beneath the skin of words. At first tickling is a pleasant enough sensation, providing a sense of amusement. However, tickling when persisting in an unremitting fashion lead to a great desire to have the tickling stop. Motivating a resort to reference materials and a discovery of facts and analysis of the deeper meanings. (anagnorisis). Then, rather than cogitating on Latro I begin to think about my own world and my soul's place in it. In a sense a reversal of my perspective from the book and its characters to an examination of my own character. Thus the reader, poor in knowledge, (like me) who in the end comes to a richer sense of self knowledge has undergone peripety, a reversal of fortune/perspective. I think Wolfe probably is underappreciated - even by those who call him genius.

As my wife likes to say about those souls she finds to be true. . . He's a good egg.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 8:04 pm 
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The Timekeeper
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:shock: Wow!!! what a post--I may even read these books after that! :buds: Welcome to the Hangar!!!! :blue:

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:36 am 
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Lady Scryer
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Welcome to the Hangar! What a great post! :wee:

Always good to meet another Latro fan. :D (Danlo - I hope someday that you do read Latro.) 8)

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:49 am 
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Welcome indeed.

Sounds like I'm going to have to look out for them too. :D

--A


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