Archive for April, 2020

Final Thoughts on the “Leprechaun” Series

April 30, 2020

The premise of the “Leprechaun” horror movies is one that doesn’t lend itself to standard slasher-style horror.  Horror based around a small, magical creature is at a minimum going to be based more around creative kills than around simple bloody slaughter.  Given the image of leprechauns as more trickster-style supernatural beings, the ideal move is to show the leprechaun tricking its victims into creative deathtraps, whether you want to take the premise seriously or not.  But the premise does seem to work best with a horror/comedy notion, similar to the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series, because it is always going to be too difficult to take a small, green-clad leprechaun seriously.

The “Leprechaun” series, as a whole, fails to do this properly.

The best movies are the first one and the last one, its direct sequel. They take the premise lightly, but slip in lots of humour to turn it into more of a horror/comedy than a serious horror movie. They also have an interesting female lead where the actress playing the part does a good job with it. The plot also follows more from the situation and so mostly gets out of the way when the horror and killing has to come in, and also supports the humour aspect fairly well. Yes, the plots and notions are often stupid — the first one, for example, is spawned by someone swallowing a gold coin thinking it was chocolate — but we’re okay with stupid in a movie that’s not really trying to be serious anyway.

And the best of the lot are still mediocre at best.

Ultimately, the problem is that most of the movies never managed to find a decent balance of horror and comedy. “In Space” is a prime example of where they dragged down the overall humorous tone with an out-of-place serious tone in places, while “In Tha Hood” and “Back to Tha Hood” mess up the more serious background plot by attaching it to the ridiculous leprechaun premise. “Origins” is so serious that it doesn’t even fit with the other movies at all, while the other two are closest in tone but are ruined by very poor writing and lead characters. For the most part, then, the execution is sorely lacking in them which is what makes them range from “Meh” to “Ugh”.

I can’t imagine watching the entire series again. There’s a chance of watching the first and last again, but that’s pretty unlikely as there are much better horror movies for me to rewatch than those if I want to.

First Thoughts on “Saint’s Row IV”

April 29, 2020

So, after pondering it after finishing “Saint’s Row the Third”, I decided to start and play “Saint’s Row IV”. I had a version with much of the DLC as well as “Gat Out of Hell”, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t download that pack and it expired in January, so I only have the base game plus the more generic DLC. I then started playing the game and …

… I like it a lot better than “Saint’s Row the Third”.

The biggest issue I had with “Saint’s Row the Third” was that it was pretty much an open-world action-shooter type of game, and that’s not my sort of game. Because “Saint’s Row IV” is set inside a simulation, it actually changes to primarily a superhero game, as the main character gets powers early and is expected to use them often. And superhero games are definitely my sort of game. I really, really enjoy jumping around the city, which reminds me of using superjump in “City of Heroes” (sniff). But, really, the travel powers reminds me of the various powers in DC Universe Online only, well, good. You can hop and sprint up walls and the like, run across the city, or jump like the Hulk across the city. Despite spending all my time in the cars in “Saint’s Row the Third”, I barely drive them in this one, other than in the car stealing activities.

As usual, I spent most of my time doing activities and hacking the shops, only doing the primary missions when I ran out of other things to do. I also completed most of the secondary missions first and also have finished “Enter the Dominatrix” and “The Saint’s Save Christmas”. This, as usual, has given me significant cache and XP which so far is helping me to beat the missions without too much fuss. We’ll see if that carries on as I get deeper into the story missions.

Also as usual, I’m not that fond of the activities themselves. I liked the flashpoint type activities, and finished most of them. My favourite was the tower climbing, and I regret that there weren’t more of them in the game. My least favourite were the hotspots, mostly because when facing the aliens it was often quite difficult to see where the aliens attacking you were, making it quite frustrating. As I said, I’ve completed the one-offs but haven’t advanced the activities past Easy unless I was forced to by a main mission.

So far, I’m really enjoying the game. I just hope I don’t get stuck in it on later or harder missions.

Thoughts on “Master and Apprentice”

April 28, 2020

“Master & Apprentice” by Claudia Gray is the second of two “Star Wars” books that I recently picked up, as the premises sounded interesting and it was worth giving it a shot. This one is about Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan when Obi-Wan was a young padawan and promises to trace their relationship, which is … somewhat rockier than it was in “The Phantom Menace”. While they aren’t my favourite characters in the world, it seemed like an interesting premise to explore that also wouldn’t be impacted by any of the latest stuff that I haven’t been fond of.

And then the book fairly quickly takes a fair bit of time to focus on a former Jedi and the young female ruler that he has been mentoring for many years. Which led me to think to myself “Here we go again!“.

The book, however, rather quickly relegates that storyline to a backstory and complication rather than making it the focus of the book, which works fairly well. It also uses the Jedi as fodder for flashbacks to Qui-Gon and Count Dooku, as it shows just how Qui-Gon got interested in the prophesies in the first place, and sets up a conflict in him about their validity and whether they should be pursued at all. It also tries to explain the comment in “The Phantom Menace” about Qui-Gon being on the Council already if he wasn’t so rebellious … but then completely messes that up by having Qui-Gon be offered a seat on the Council and having him decline it rather than having the Council retract the seat, and even then the big event around that is Qui-Gon acting on principle rather than rebelliously in order to pursue these prophecies. And Qui-Gon’s rebelliousness is precisely the reason he is offered the seat in the first place, which completely overturns that comment and how hidebound the Council is supposed to be in the prequels. So it’s a nice idea to tie this subplot into the movie, but it fails at it by at a minimum not making Qui-Gon’s rejection — either his or the Council’s of him — be driven by his insistence on studying the forbidden prophecies. At a minimum, it’s entirely Qui-Gon’s decision to choose them over the seat, not a consequence of a direct conflict over that.

The book also runs into trouble with their relationship because it makes it far too hostile. That they might be having trouble relating to each other isn’t unreasonable, but they were in a situation where Qui-Gon felt that someone else would be better suited to train him and that his having to transfer him to another master if he took the Council seat was seen as a benefit (which Obi-Wan also considered a slight). This wasn’t at all necessary and even weakens how they come into conflict at the end of the book, as Obi-Wan is actually angry at Qui-Gon at the time making his appeal to the Council something that is less him having to betray a trusted mentor to do what he thought was right, but instead him simply following what he considered proper procedure. The former could explain their tight bond in “The Phantom Menace”, but the latter adds little to it itself.

The ultimate villain is disappointing, but mostly in the sense that it seems that Gray was trying for a deeper sort of villain and story but mostly failed at it. The situation isn’t completely black and white and the villain is surprising, but not much is really done with it and the attempt at surprise makes it difficult to understand why the villain turned villainous in the first place. Still, it’s a bit deeper than most Star Wars villain plots, but as it seems like it doesn’t stick the landing a more straightforward plot might have served the book better. We want the book to focus on Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, and there were more than enough straightforward plots to carry that conflict through the book.

Ultimately, though, the book is pretty good. It focuses on two interesting characters and unlike the other book they are the main focus of the work. The secondary characters work well to create subplots for them to explore while working out their issues, often contributing to their issues. It stumbles on occasion but keeps going well enough to at least keep me entertained. I might read this one again.

Why Is My Spider-Sense Tingling?

April 27, 2020

So, I had intended to continue more detailed philosophical examinations in line with what I’ve done the past few weeks, but it turns out that to do the next posts that I want to I actually need to do some coding first, and I haven’t had the time to finish it yet. Yes, when I say coding I do mean computer programming (I feel a bit like Shamus Young, except he usually ends up doing coding that delays his posts on other topics while for me doing others things has kept me from doing the coding I need to get my posts ready). I am making a plan to deal with it (and am making a plan to make a plan), but until I can get that into place I’ve decided to revive my old “Philosophy and Pop Culture” category. I was planning on doing that anyway to be able to get some short but more meaningful posts in, and it seemed like a good time to do so.

I’m skipping “X-Men and Philosophy” this time because the next essay in it — “X-Women and X-istence” — was more a summary of the female X-Men characters that the author liked rather than something with real philosophical heft to it. So, instead, I’m moving on to “Why Is My Spider-Sense Tingling?” by Andrew Terjesen, which is an examination of Spider-Man’s “Spidey-Sense” in an attempt to figure out what it is.

Terjesen’s main thrust is to try explain the “Spider-Sense” as an actual sense, like that of vision, hearing, etc, etc. In doing this, he needs to examine the major theories of our senses to see if any of them fit. He starts with “direct realism”, which is the idea that what our senses are telling us is just the way reality actually is. He points out the obvious problem here, which are illusions and the like. More seriously are probably cases where our sense contradict each other, like how a stick seems to bend in water but if you ran your hand along it your sense of touch would claim that it isn’t actually bent. Not only must at least one sense be giving you a false impression, if two senses can ever contradict each other then it is clear that they can’t be giving a direct representation of reality, because two logically contradictory claims cannot be true of reality and so if they all gave direct representations that outcome would be impossible. Terjesen notes that view philosophers are direct realists anymore.

Additionally, this doesn’t work that well for the “Spider-Sense”, because it doesn’t give a representation of reality at all and it’s hard to see what property in reality it could be “sensing”. More on that in the next section.

Terjesen moves on to discussing the indirect realism of John Locke. This splits reality into “primary” and “secondary” properties, where the primary properties are directly experienced from reality and the secondary properties are, at a minimum, filtered through our personal experience and so depend very much on us. This allows us to explain illusions and errors as being on the filtering side of our senses, not on the reality side of our senses, which puts the idea ahead of direct realism. It also fits well with the “Spider-Sense”, as the sense itself seems to be filtered through Spider-Man’s perceptions — Terjesen gives examples of cases where it isn’t triggered by friends and loved ones even when they attack him — and thus while it couldn’t be a primary property it could be a secondary property. However, the issue here is that it’s difficult to see what property in the world it could be representing or that it could be triggered by, even filtered through his own perceptions, which is required even for secondary properties. What thing — or even multiple things — in reality could be triggering it, especially in such a wide range of situations?

Terjesen considers Berkeley’s reaction to Locke, which is idealism. Berkeley pointed out that even Locke’s primary properties seem dependent on the state of the individual and so aren’t independent of it. The problem is that idealism solves this by making all properties mind- and perception-dependent, so there isn’t actually any objective reality out there at all, or at least not one that is reliably triggering sense perceptions in us. This doesn’t work for most philosophers, and also doesn’t work for Spider-Man because, despite being a fictional character, the impression is still that the “Spider-Sense” is giving information about an actual world.

The last one is Hume’s phenomenalism, where there is an objective reality but our senses don’t hook-up with it reliably, so we don’t know what that objective reality is. Hume’s view on this is skeptical, but Kant’s is a bit less pessimistic (and seems more like a phenomenalism that Hume’s view). Either way, this doesn’t really do anything for the “Spider-Sense” because we’d still need to explain what is producing that phenomena.

I’m going to posit a solution: ultimately, the “Spider-Sense” itself is an emotional reaction and not, in fact, an actual sense.

Let’s look at the evidence:

Emotional reactions come about from internal processing across a whole host of sensory inputs. Sure, there is often on main sensory experience that triggers it, but we all know about cases of something a lot like Spider-Man’s “Spider-Sense”: where someone, say, walks into a room and gets a vague sense that something is wrong and a sense of misgiving, but can’t identify what is actually causing that. For the most part, Spider-Man’s “Spider-Sense” works that way. Emotions also have varying strengths, from that sense of misgiving to full-on fear, just like the “Spider-Sense”. Emotions are also critically dependent on our own perceptions and interpretations of reality. Even if someone is acting threateningly, you won’t be as afraid — if you are afraid at all — of someone you know and trust as opposed to someone that you dislike or don’t know, which aligns it well with not reacting to Aunt May or another friend. This, of course, also avoids all of the problems of figuring out exactly what sort of sense it is or what specific information is triggering it, because as noted emotional reactions can trigger from any of our existing senses, in any combination. In fact, making the “Spider-Sense” not really a sense at all seems to me to be the best reason to consider it an emotional reaction rather than a sense itself, as it allows it to use the data from all of the others senses to come to its conclusions without having to duplicate them.

So it seems to me that the “Spider-Sense” is an emotional reaction, quite likely an advanced or slightly altered fear response. This seems to fit all of the evidence and avoids any of the issues with figuring out what sort of sense it is and how, as a sense, it works. We roughly understand the underlying mechanisms of emotions, and it seems to work just like them. All of the mysteries go away if it’s an emotional reaction as opposed to a sense.

31 Songs …

April 24, 2020

John Scalzi put up a set of 31 songs under a 30 day challenge. Since he includes the criteria and I’m big on music, I thought it might be fun to try to fill them all in for myself. I’m not going to listen to them because the time I would listen to music — while working — is being taken up by “Dark Shadows”, and I’m not going to find videos of them because looking at videos is quite discouraged in my work set-up, so I’m just going to list the titles, and I’m going to avoid repeating songs:

1. A song you like with a color in the title: “Back in Black” by AC/DC
2. A song you like with a number in the title: “99 Red Balloons” by Nena
3. A song the reminds you of summertime: “Summer of 69” by Bryan Adams
4. A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget: “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meatloaf
5. A song that needs to be played loud: “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC
6. A song that makes you want to dance: “She Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC (this one was difficult because my mood triggers a desire to dance to a song, not the song itself)
7. A song to drive to: “Drive” by The Cars (taking the punny option here)
8. A song about drugs or alcohol: “Demon Alcohol” by Ozzy Osbourne
9. A song that makes you happy: “Eat My Brain” by the Odds
10. A song that makes you sad: “Where the Wild Roses Grow” by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue
11. A song you never get tired of: “Ride On” by AC/DC (there are a ton of options here, as I have a tendency to like what I like and like it repeatedly long beyond the point where others would have gotten tired of it)
12. A song from your pre-teen years: “Fantasy” by Aldo Nova (it was on one of the first records I ever owned and I was reminded of it while playing Saint’s Row the Third)
13. A song you like from the 70s: “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC (a bit of a trend here, it seems [grin])
14. A song you’d love to be played at your wedding: “The Way You Look Tonight” by Ric Ocasek (I used “Drive” already, and this one does work for a wedding)
15. A song you like that’s a cover by another artist: “Land of Confusion” by Disturbed (assuming he means that you like the cover, since I like that cover better than the original, although I do like both)
16. A song that’s a classic favorite: “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler (I think that counts)
17. A song you’d sing a duet with someone on karaoke: “Falling in Love Again” by Michael Stanley (which was also on the first record I ever owned)
18. A song from the year you were born: “Spiders and Snakes” by Jim Stafford (listened to it a lot when I was young, oddly)
19. A song that makes you think about life: “Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are” by Meatloaf
20. A song that has many meanings for you: “Electric Barbarella” by Duran Duran (the actual meaning of the song, a link to the movie, and a link to a BSG PBF game)
21. A song you like with a person’s name in the title: “Amanda” by Boston (being reminded of this song got me to buy that CD)
22. A song that moves you forward: “Walk of Life” by Dire Straits (assuming that he means motivates you, and “Ride On” was already used)
23. A song you think everyone should listen to: “Porcelain” by Better Than Ezra (mostly because of the interesting aesthetic it has)
24. A song by a band you wish were still together: “You Might Think” by The Cars (most of the bands I really like either are still together or I have no idea of their status)
25. A song you like by an artist no longer living: “Emotion in Motion” by Ric Ocasek
26. A song that makes you want to fall in love: “I Want to Know What Love is” by Foreigner
27. A song that breaks your heart: “Love to Love You” by The Coors
28: A song by an artist whose voice you love: “Broken” by Seether featuring Amy Lee (I like Amy Lee’s voice)
29: A song you remember from your childhood: “I’ve Done Everything For You” by Rick Springfield
30: A song that reminds you of yourself: “Underwhelmed” by Sloan (this one was kinda obvious)
31: A song you wanted to put into the list but didn’t otherwise get to: “Save a Prayer” by Duran Duran (if I actually stopped to think about it, the list would be very, very long, so this is one of the first that came to mind)

I didn’t take much time to think about it, but I think it worked out pretty well, and was kinda fun.

Thoughts on “Leprechaun: Origins”

April 23, 2020

So, since I have already looked at “Returns”, “Leprechaun: Origins” is the last of the eight “Leprechaun” movies to look at. The biggest problem with the movie is that nothing is true about its title: it’s not an origin story, even for a new movie series (it was the only one, and “Returns” ignores all of the other movies) and it’s actually not even a “Leprechaun” story.

The premise for this movie starts us in Ireland, with a group of people heading out into the countryside to learn about Irish myths and legends, which one of them is very interested in. Guess which of them survives?

Anyway, they hike out to a village in the middle of nowhere, where they are told about something interesting that’s a hike away and taken to spend the night in an old house before starting out the next morning. Unbeknownst to them, the villagers lock them in and set them up to be attacked by, presumably, the leprechaun. Here, the monster isn’t a wisecracking monster obsessed with gold and creative kills, but is instead simply a mindless and brutal monster that does still seem to be attracted to gold, as that is used to draw it in. The group escapes the first attack, which draws the villagers back into the fray to ensure that they get killed, which ends up getting the three villagers most involved with the action killed by the leprechaun, that seems to have little loyalty to them. One of them manages to finally escape and walk past the boundary stones that presumably keep the leprechauns in, and the movie ends.

The problem is that, as you can imagine, this movie isn’t at all funny or clever. It’s a fairly standard monster movie with a brutal and unfeeling murderous monster. This means that it clashes horribly with the less serious rest of the series. They aren’t the same sort of movie whatsoever, and this movie doesn’t show, say, how the monster evolved into the leprechaun we knew from the other movies. So it doesn’t work as an origin story or prequel for the other movies, and is so different that it doesn’t even seem to be a movie in this series. The only reason to use the name seems to be to tie into the existing series, but it is so different from it that it makes no sense to include it in that series. It would have been far better for it to be a standalone movie, maybe launching its own series.

Well, it would have been better if it was actually a good movie. But it’s not. As a serious movie, we care more about the rules and why things happen than we would in the less serious movies. We can forgive at least some contradictions and retcons and loose rules in the other movies because the rules are mostly jokes anyway and a reason to get the movie going. The movies try very hard to avoid us thinking about these things and we can probably oblige them most of the time. Here, though, the movie is more serious, and so we are more inclined to want the things it talks about to make sense. But most of them don’t. What do the villagers get out of this deal? Not answered. How did they go about negotiating the deal with this thing when it kills them out of hand otherwise? Not answered. These are two critical components to this deal, but they make no sense and are not explained in any way. So all we’re left with is a monster killing people, which is hardly something that’s new or interesting in its own right.

So if you like “Mindless monster kills people movies”, this one might not be a bad movie for you to watch. Otherwise, there’s nothing there, and if you actually try to watch it as part of the overall “Leprechaun” series it will seem very out of place. I can’t imagine watching this movie again.

Final Thoughts on “Saint’s Row the Third”

April 22, 2020

So, I finally managed to finish “Saint’s Row the Third”. My feelings about the game were … odd. Once I had bought up all the properties and tried the activities that I wanted to try, all that there was left to do was the story missions. And the story missions weren’t all that difficult, so I didn’t end up completely frustrated with the game, even with Heli Assault, which was the hardest one for me and the most annoying, but I probably only tried it eight times before finishing it. So I was playing the game pretty much every day and not minding it at all, and yet I was very, very glad to finish the final story mission. I was continually caught between thinking that I wanted to go straight from it to “Saint’s Row IV” and thinking that it might be better for me if I chose another game to play once I finished it.

As noted in my first thoughts on the game, the big issue is that this isn’t really my sort of game. A lot of the missions involve doing a number of things — often in a number of vehicles — instead of just having straightforward combat missions. This is pretty much what you’d want to keep the variety in an action/shooter type game for people who enjoy those sorts of games. But I’m not a shooter fan and so didn’t care for the combat parts that much, and so adding on different objectives and vehicles and the like only added extra complexity to things that I just wanted to get through to get to the next cutscene or part of the game. I wanted it short and simple but the game didn’t want to be short and simple. This, I hasten to repeat, is not a problem with the game. It’s exactly what the game should be doing. It’s just not quite what I was after.

The same thing applies to the humour in the game. It’s pretty coarse at times, but that’s the sort of humour the game was going for. It is, however, not quite my sort of humour. I liked parts of it, but it was rare that I found the jokes exceptionally funny. Again, the game was doing what it was supposed to do, and the problem was entirely with me.

The most fun I had was driving around and doing the minor gang operations, because they were simple and at times exciting (running back to the one crib I had to get the notoriety off of me was fun). And on casual, not particularly challenging, and so not frustrating. But once I got to the story missions, the story wasn’t interesting or fun enough for me, and so it was something to get through in order to be able to say that I’d finished it.

Which, given my push for accomplishments, isn’t a bad thing, even now. Because one of the big benefits of the game is that it was generally entertaining and something that I can play when I have an hour to spare or when I have more time to spare, which is rare among the games I own.

Which then leads to the dilemma. The next Saint’s Row game is probably going to be interesting enough to fill the same role, and I don’t have an obvious game to fill that gap. But it’s not really my sort of game and so it might be better to play something else that is more my sort of game. There aren’t that many other candidates, however, and I did manage to put in 20+ pretty fun hours into it.

Anyway, the game is a fairly good game in a genre that I’m not really fond of. Only the humour and absurdity of the game managed to keep my interest, which I suppose is something good about the game. I’m not sure if I’ll ever play it again.

Thoughts on “Lords of the Sith”

April 21, 2020

I had been feeling quite dispirited with pretty much all of the new Star Wars books, but while browsing in a book store I came across a couple that really sounded interesting and decided to take a chance on them. The first was “Lords of the Sith” by Paul S. Kemp … and reading that one did not in any way change my impression of the new Star Wars books.

Continuing below the fold to avoid spoilers as it is a pretty recent book:

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Thoughts on a Debate on Coel’s Idea of Subjective Morality

April 20, 2020

So, let me finish looking at Coel’s idea of subjective morality by touching on a debate he had with Anthony Freeland. I’m just going to go by Coel’s two posts on the subject, and even though obviously the two posts will have points that are followed up on in the second from the first I’m going to go through the first post first and then move on to the second post, because I’m lazy.

The previous post on the topic is here.

Anyway, the first post:

I regard human morality as part of our evolutionary programming. We have evolved to have feelings about how humans treat each other in order to enable and facilitate our cooperative way of life. If a species evolves to cooperate, say by hunting communally, then it needs ways of policing the divvying up of the meat.

Let’s suppose that there were some objective “oughtness” about the universe, such that particular acts were objectively moral or immoral. Evolution, being a “blind watchmaker” with no insight or foresight, would have no way of knowing about that objective morality.

Our evolved intuitions and feelings would not be about that objective morality, they would be about the subjective moral feelings that evolution programs us with for the entirely pragmatic reason that, in a cooperative ecological niche, those who cooperate best and succeed best socially will (in general) be best at surviving and leaving descendants.

Once we discount our feelings and intuitions as arguments for objective morality, the moral realists are then left with essentially no good arguments.

As I’ve noted before, this actually introduces a pretty serious issue in his view. Our feelings and intuitions about morality are going to be precisely what evolution gave us. If he’s going to ask us to discount them, then he can’t appeal to those feelings and intuitions and thus to their role in our evolution either to tell us what morality really is. Thus, he will have to at best argue that what morality really is is precisely and nothing more than what evolution has determined morality is. This, however, will mean that he can’t question those feelings and intuitions, or at least not the ones critical to the evolution of the concept. It also means that he has to claim that evolution gets it right, when we have to accept that evolution is a process that cobbles together concepts and processes and so often gets things at least somewhat wrong. The only way out of this is to declare the principle that evolution selected for — for Coel, that’s usually social co-operation, as seen in the quote above — to be what morality is really about … but this needs to be justified in the same way as all of the principles and concepts that everyone else in moral philosophy are proposing, and Coel in all of our discussions have never provided such a justification. The main idea behind that is this: if I can defeat Coel’s argument simply by denying that morality is about social co-operation, then his view is unfounded unless he can justify it. Since I do deny that, he would need to demonstrate that, and at that point he can’t appeal to our feelings and intuitions because he has argued that we should discount them. This leaves him with a bit of an issue.

Also, his comment that evolution could not know about objective morality also applies to objective truth. In our discussions, Coel has tried to dodge that by appealing to there being real “truths” out there that it can align with, but to insist that there are no real “moral truths” out there is him assuming his conclusion, and beyond that all we had was that Coel could not grasp what such truths could be, but that is again precisely what is up for debate, and his being unable to conceive of it does not work as an objection to proposals that they exist. So he still has to explain and justify on his own why evolution can get objective facts but not objective moral facts.

So we start by looking at what it would mean, in Coel’s view, for something to be evil:

Was what Hitler and the Nazis did, in exterminating the Jews, evil? . . . do you believe that the terrorism perpetrated on 9/11 was evil?

Most humans regard the Holocaust as among the vilest and most abhorrent crimes ever, and I hope that all readers feel the same way. That condemnation comes from human feelings on the matter. But, Anthony asks, is it objectively wrong?

But that regard comes from our feelings and intuitions, which are precisely the things that Coel says we have to discount. Given that he still hopes we feel that, how does it follow from his view that we should all feel that?

Now, let me accept that most humans have an intuition that their moral feelings reflect an objective standard. I suggest that that intuition was programmed into us as an easy way of making our moral feelings more effective. If you try explaining to people that our morals are “merely” evolutionary programming and do not reflect an absolute standard, they often accuse you of debasing morals and making them sound unimportant — and from that you see why the trick works!

Even though most of us do have an intuition that morals are “objective”, I see no reason why our intuitions would be reliable on that point. As above, our intuitions would have evolved for pragmatic reasons that had no way of knowing about any “objective” standard of conduct.

The thing is, the fact that our intuitions can be wrong doesn’t mean that our intuitions are wrong. If Coel had a solid argument for why it can’t be, then he wouldn’t need to insist so often that our intuitions are just plain wrong. This has come across here and in our discussions as the same thing as coming across a sensory experience that refutes his point and saying that our sensory experiences can be wrong so it doesn’t count. Yes, they can be wrong, but you can’t insist that they are wrong simply because they provide support for an argument that you dislike. The same thing applies to intuitions. If we find a result that’s strongly counter-intuitive, the right approach is not to declare intuitions unreliable and go with that result. It is instead to go look at that result closer to make sure that the result is indeed correct, and to come up with a good explanation for why the result is right even though our intuitions say otherwise. Only once that is done can we say that the intuition there is incorrect. Coel has not managed to do that, at least to my knowledge/satisfaction, and tends to spend his time denying that he has to rather than providing arguments for why his view is right and makes sense.

I’m going to skip the “blank slate” argument since none of us are arguing for a blank slate. Moving on to universal morality:

In virtually all societies, murder, rape, theft, and other moral issues are strikingly consistent. Professor Hellier would have us believe that it is because evolution has programmed morality in such a way that all peoples have essentially the same view on main moral issues. But would it not be more plausible, if the Moral–Evolutionary Theory were true, that evolution would be observably more advanced in some races of people than others?

One feature of the human species is that we have very little genetic diversity compared to most other species. Humans very nearly did not make it out of the Pliestocene (the era ending about 12,000 years ago). The evidence from our genetic diversity is that the total human population went through repeated “bottlenecks” where the total population of our ancestors dipped to perhaps only 6000 or so individuals around 50,000 years ago. That’s pretty recent in evolutionary terms. The result is that we’re all from pretty much the same breeding stock. It’s only in the last 20,000 years that human populations have climbed dramatically.

The result is that (barring a few minor local adaptations such as skin colour) humans are pretty much the same worldwide. Each of us is genetically about 99.5% identical to any other human! (Though that number depends a bit on how one quantifies differences.) Thus, the fact that human morality is basically the same worldwide is very much in line with my stance.

Given Coel’s stance that morality evolved to promote social co-operation, that most stable societies have a number of similarities, especially on the ones Freeland lists there, is only to be expected. Moreover, if you accept any idea of moral improvement we can see that it is indeed the case that some societies seem significantly more morally advanced than others. Thus, it is strange that Coel decides to defend his view on the basis that we share genes, especially given that even with those shared genes we have a wide range of behaviours. In fact, one of the most common subjectivist arguments is built around the fact that societies can have widely varying moral beliefs that no one can justify one way or the other, so Coel undercuts what is probably one of the best subjectivist arguments to defend … subjectivism. That’s a very odd response.

(4) As a fourth argument, Anthony turns to “expert testimony”, saying that “morality falls into the realm of philosophy”, and that philosophers are thus the experts on the subject, and he points to the fact that moral realists outnumber moral anti-realists among philosophers.

My response — sorry about this philosophers! — is simply to deny that philosophers are the experts on the matter. To my mind philosophers rely way too much on human intuition as primary. I consider that human intuition is very misleading on this question, and suggest that it has misled all of those philosophers.

The correct way of understanding human morality — as with most things about humans! — is in the evolutionary context. In the relevant sciences moral realism is much less prevalent, and it is taken for granted that human moral sentiments derive from evolutionary programming, which then gives us no reason to suppose that morals are objective.

Philosophy is the field that is actually studying it. We do not have any actual science of morality, and so only have some scientists — like Coel himself — wandering into the field and making pronouncements on it. It hopefully will not surprise Coel to know that moral philosophy itself has considered the evolutionary context, but it has major problems. And one of the issues is that the intuitions that it has given us — that Coel insists philosophers rely on way too much — contradicts Coel’s own view, which is why he has to deny those intuitions, but has a hard time doing that without simply declaring that the evolved goal is right regardless of how much we actually follow it or the intuitions actually support that as being the real goal of morality. And the issue with denying intuitions is that Coel quite often ends up describing something that’s nothing like what we call morality and insisting that that is what morality really is without any other argument.

If you are proposing a theory as being obviously correct that the field that is actually studying it has already examined and at a minimum has declared problematic, it is quite arrogant to simply declare them wrong in favour of a non-existent field. Especially when you do that to people who know the field better than you do.

He goes on to respond to a point Freeland made with more detail on evolution:

But, on the mechanism for programming us with moral feelings. First, let’s consider aesthetic feelings. It is obvious that evolution would program us to like eating nutritious food such as sweet fruit, and to dislike bitter, poisonous food. An individual with reversed preferences would likely leave fewer descendants. Thus, natural selection leads us to have aesthetic preferences that align with having more descendants.

The same mechanism explains moral feelings. Suppose you’re in a small group who hunt communally and share the meat. Suppose one of your number then treacherously steals all the food and leaves you with nothing. Obviously such behaviour reduces your survival chances. Thus evolution will program you to dislike cheating, stealing and treachery, and to like fairness, loyalty and comradeship. You’ll be programmed to deter stealing and treachery by punishing it.

The problem is that sweet food isn’t necessarily more “nutritious” than bitter fruit, and bitter fruit isn’t always poisonous. So Coel misses the reason that we have a “sweet tooth”. The reason is that sweet food provides a burst of energy — as it usually contains a significant amount of pure sugar — and so when we come across it is is desirable for us to eat and hoard it since it is often rare and does provide that burst of energy. However, that evolutionary strategy only works if sweet food is rare. In modern society, where sugary foods are common, it’s hugely maladaptive, especially if we choose those foods over the more nutritious ones.

We can point out that the “sweet tooth” is maladaptive and shouldn’t be listened to because we have a clear objective principle for what eating is supposed to do for us: provide personal health and survival. Do we have that, under Coel’s view for morality? How can we say that some of our moral intuitions might be maladaptive? Coel could never answer that question in our discussions because it always came across as asking for a “right” answer, which he denies out of hand. But in reality, the question merely asks him to treat an evolved morality like everything else that has evolved and answer the same questions about it that we can do about everything else. And it is difficult for Coel to do that without introducing something objective to do the hard work.

I’ll skip the initial comment about objective morality and degrees because I agree that Freeland’s argument, if it is his argument, is a bad one, and move on to other points:

A minor part of Anthony’s argument is whether “truth” and “evil” can have degrees. Anthony says:

There is no scale by which to measure what is more true than something else.

I’m not so sure. For example, Newton’s theory of gravity is “roughly true” in the sense that it is good enough for most purposes and gives sufficiently right answers most of the time. Einstein’s theory of gravity is better, in the sense that it gives answers that are right all of the time (as far as we know). But, that’s a minor point about semantics more than anything.

If Newton’s theory gives wrong answers, in what sense does it actually capture truth any more than someone creating a theory of nothing more than the actual measurements would? It is a semantic point … but the semantics are on Coel’s side, so it’s good that he recognizes that it’s not an answer to Freeland’s comment.

More relevantly, Anthony says:

. . . if we are presented with two evils it makes no sense to say that one is more or less evil than the other.

This rather surprises me. I’d have thought that most humans would readily rank immoral acts according to how heinous they considered them. Indeed, if Anthony really does think that good and bad do not have degrees, I wonder why he started his post with the example of the Holocaust, and not, say, an example of social-security fraud. But, this is a side issue.

In moral philosophy, the idea that morality and evil does not have degrees is controversial at best and is not part of most moral systems being considered. The Stoics are probably the ones I know of that are strongest on this … and I agree with how they present it, which is that any moral failing is a failure of moral rationality and so it’s incorrect to make arguments like “Well, it’s only a case of X and not something more serious” or to compare yourself to someone else and note that their failings are worse than yours. If you aren’t moral, you aren’t moral, and that’s that. But if Coel thinks that evil has degrees, he has to show how that can follow from his system. Still, from the context my suspicion is that Freeland is arguing that since evil doesn’t have degrees and objective truth doesn’t have degrees, then it’s reasonable to think that morality is objective. I think that a weak argument, as it would work better to establish that there are moral truths than try a move like that that is debatable, especially given Coel’s own view so that it is clear that he will debate it.

On to the second post. We start with more discussion about evil:

Anthony feels that I hadn’t properly answered his question: Was the Holocaust an act of evil? He also complains that “with subjective morality … nothing can be considered evil”.

It’s clear that Anthony and I interpret the word “evil” differently. I had considered that my statement: “most humans regard the Holocaust as among the vilest and most abhorrent crimes ever” answered the question. Yes, subjectively, most people feel the Holocaust to be evil. But Anthony is presumably asking something different.

Actually, he’s probably asking on what basis Coel, as a subjectivist, calls it “evil”. That people feel that it is evil doesn’t make it evil. In fact, a number of people at the time — the Nazi leadership, at least — didn’t feel that it was evil at all, and in fact felt that it is good. Since as we say in earlier posts Coel believes in moral progress, he has to accept that people feel things evil now that people in the past didn’t, and that it is an improvement that we now feel that it is evil. What’s his basis for that? How can he justify that in his view?

Ultimately, the challenge here is this: it is not the case that simply because someone or even a lot of people think something evil that it therefore is evil. Since Coel only ever answered that most people feel that it’s evil, he never answered the question. And in our discussions, Coel did figure out that the issue is that if he claims that something is evil — or right or wrong — that seems to be an objective claim, which Coel can’t make. So he kept flip-flopping on those sorts of claims, justifying it on the basis that he needs to use objective language to be understood but then deliberately using it to provide a false impression to get his points across.

I’m going to skip the dictionary analysis. Coel would have been better served to simply ask what Freeland meant by that rather that retreating to a dictionary to guess at it.

But, let’s return to Anthony’s complaint: “with subjective morality … nothing can be considered evil”. The one thing one can do in subjective morality is consider something to be “evil” or “profoundly immoral”. We humans all have opinions and feelings, and we’re generally keen on expressing them! Thus plenty of us do indeed consider things to be “evil” and say so.

The only thing we can’t do is appeal to a god or to an objective standard to back up our opinion. But nothing stops our opinion being sufficient on its own!

This is semantic wrangling. In line with the discussion above, the point is that no one can considered something “just plain evil”, no matter how strongly they express their opinion on it. On what grounds would Coel oppose the Nazis’ opinion that the Holocaust was not evil? If the Nazis had won the war and convinced most people that the Holocaust was morally required and necessary, would that mean that because most people feel it is good that it is really good?

People can express opinions all they want, but no one has to take that opinion seriously. And that, in fact, is pretty much the meaning of “That’s just my opinion”. If Coel wants to say that the Holocaust was evil, he needs something other than opinion to back that up. As noted above, he tended to avoid actually saying that in our discussions, probably from having realized the problem it makes for him.

For example, Anthony says:

If a man cheats on his wife with his own teenage daughter, according to Coel’s view, if they both think it’s ok then no evil has been committed. You see, there is nothing the Professor can say against the molestation of a little girl as long as they both think it’s ok.

Well no, there is plenty I can say! I can say that I consider the man’s actions to be harmful and that I want laws against such acts to deter them. Similarly, the man’s wife can also deprecate the man’s actions. So can anyone else. Just ask them! You’ll see that the idea that people can’t say anything on the matter is just wrong.

But if the two of them think it’s okay, then why would we take Coel’s opinion as mattering any more than if I like listening to AC/DC and he hates it and he says that that means that I shouldn’t listen to AC/DC?

We have to note the trick pulled here, which is common among at least amateur subjectivists. Coel appeals to objective and generally agreed upon criteria to make the criticisms seem meaningful while insisting that there is no sort of objective criteria. He talks about claiming that it causes harm, but that’s an objective criteria that we can actually find a true statement about: does it cause harm or not? He also talks about the wife, but then that appeals to the marital contract and agreement. But if the two of them don’t care about either of those criteria — which is an implication of any actual subjective morality — then what can he say, and what validity does his criticism have? Coel has never been able to answer that question other than by appealing for force to enforce it.

So let me digress into that. Coel has a nasty habit of trying to talk about views and use technical terms that he doesn’t understand to describe his view, which then leads to people reacting as if those are his actual views, which then leads to him often correcting them in a frustrated way, which leads them — or, at least, me — to point out that he doesn’t get what the views were. I ultimately recommended that he simply describe his view in detail and stop trying to classify it to avoid those questions. The success of that was mixed, but ultimately the underlying reasoning is that to achieve his goals Coel doesn’t need to get into discussions about whether his view is really emotivist or subjectivist or an error theory or whatever. All he really wants is to convince people that at least the objective moralities that he’s most concerned about — here, generally religious — are wrong. By talking about those specific ideas he ends up opening up these mostly irrelevant discussions that only confuse the issue because his view is not consistent enough to actually fit in one of those, which then makes him insist that philosophy is wrong for trying to classify views anyway, which opens up another irrelevant discussion, and so on.

The thing is, on reading this, I actually think that the idea of whether or not morality is really “subjective” is irrelevant to Coel’s main purpose as well. Coel really wants to establish and maintain the idea that the main purpose of morality is to provide social cohesion. He justifies that using evolution as a basis. From moral philosophy, there are two views that seem to fit with Coel’s general idea: the Social Contract theories of Hobbes and Rawls. Hobbes fits Coel’s evoluitionary basis better because he explicitly justifies the move on the basis that the State of Nature without it is worse than we have with it, which is why we all accept it. Rawls’ view fits into Coel’s general idea that the underlying motivation for us accepting restrictions is that we understand that we have to allow that we might be on the receiving end of someone acting selfishly and so accept restrictions that we might be able to exploit because we’re concerned that others will exploit it. Either way — of even with a combination of the two — this pretty much works out to what Coel wants. Morality’s main purpose is to preserve society and so what we’re arguing over when we argue over morality is what will preserve society. Thus, what we mean when we say “X is immoral” is really “You’re breaking the rules of society in a way that threatens it”. This is generally how Coel uses the terms when he’s not hiding behind “like and dislike”, so it fits better than anything else he wants to do.

Other than that, the biggest benefit is that Coel can get away from having to worry about whether this is really “objective” or not. It follows from evolution and from the reason that we at least evolved to follow morality, so that part of his view is preserved. Whether that counts as being objective or not is not something he has to worry about. And it ties into our individual feelings about how we want society to be, and a lot of arguments are going to be over whether those feelings work or not. And those statements are important and meaningful to everyone because they are accusations of violating social rules. Whether or not this counts as objective or subjective is not something that need concern Coel. All he’d have to do is establish that this is the right way to look at morality, not whether or not it is objective or subjective.

There is one issue with this for Coel, though: there is no society where people will agree that things should be strongly restricting simply on the basis of someone’s opinion. We will never accept that we should have laws or even strong moral consequences against something that we like and want to do simply because someone else — or even most other people — don’t like it and don’t want people to do it. To return to the AC/DC example, we would never accept banning all AC/DC albums because someone or even most people don’t like it. There would have to be other reasons for doing that, such as it causing harm to people. And what we see in reality and even in Coel’s own behaviour is that: we appeal to harms and the like because those are things that we can relate to society itself (under this theory). While we won’t accept someone insisting that we not do something because they don’t like it, we will accept an argument that it harms them — or ourselves — because a stable society will always have a rule that says that you are not allowed to take an action that harms someone else simply because you like it and want to do it. So given this approach, we can actually justify Coel’s own claims, and to reject this idea means allowing things that no societal agreement could ever allow. So I think simply becoming a Social Contract Theorist and not worrying about whether or not this makes the view objective or subjective would work far better than Coel getting dragged into arguments about that debate that he is, at a minimum, interpreting in a very eccentric way.

I could address some of his comments about divine morality, but I’m not going to bother. So let’s return to the expertise of philosophy:

I simply disagree. The origin of morality is our evolutionary programming. We have been programmed with feelings about how humans interact with each other because that is a necessary part of living together in a social and cooperative way of life. Given that we have evolved to occupy a cooperative ecological niche (one in which we are more successful by cooperating communally, and sharing the proceeds, rather than by acting alone) we have been programmed with moral feelings as a social glue.

It follows from this explanation that morals are subjective (which means that they are human feelings, they are not about any supra-human standard of “morally correct” conduct). Note, also, that other social animals, such as chimpanzees, also clearly have moral feelings about how they interact with each other.

This is a philosophical argument, not a scientific one. The reason is that in order for it to work, we have to argue that the true origin and definition of morality is the one given us by evolution. Once we have that, then we can discover the details scientifically, but we cannot answer anyone who denies that first point scientifically. So here he does philosophy and in no way demonstrates that science can do this, let alone that it is the best field to do it.

Anthony continues:

Let me end my rant about philosophy and science by posing a direct question to Prof. Hellier: If philosophers aren’t the “experts” on moral questions, then who is?

Scientists are. Our understanding of the above questions (“the origin of morality, the reasons that we have morality”) was first put forward by Charles Darwin in the Origin of Species, and then at greater length in Chapter 5 (“On the development of the intellectual and moral faculties during primeval and civilised times”) of The Descent of Man. That scientific understanding has been hugely developed since then. As Anthony quotes me saying, in science it is “taken for granted that human moral sentiments derive from evolutionary programming”

There is no actual field of morality in science. Darwin was simply opining on what he thought, and had no particular expertise in morality while doing so. And if he had, it would have been philosophical expertise, as there was no science of morality at the time. Coel cannot declare scientists the experts because a scientist came up with the answer he likes best. Even if it happens to be right — which is debatable — would a philosopher coming up with a breakthrough in neuroscience — which, since many of them participate in Cognitive Science, is actually quite possible — make philosophers the experts in neuroscience? The idea is absurd, and Coel’s defenses of the idea even more so.

I’m going to skip evolution and the scientific method and move on to ask whether Coel is being consistent:

Anthony’s last major argument is that people like me “take an objective approach to morality when it’s convenient”, and he says that reading my blog “it becomes abundantly clear that [I] believe that freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and tolerance are objectively good”.

Let me admit one part of Anthony’s claim. Since most people have been moral realists, our language is steeped in moral realism. Therefore, when writing about ethical issues, it is hard to avoid sounding as though you’re a moral realist. When discussing meta-ethics, as now, it’s easy enough to clarify what one means, but if we were discussing, say, equality legislation, such caveats and clarifications would just get in the way. The only way to write well is to use the normal language that everyone uses, and that can make one sound like a moral realist.

But, there is no inconsistency. It is equally easy to interpret such writing from the stance that morals are subjective.

In our discussions, Coel admitted that he used the terms because they convinced people. Since this would be him deliberately using them in a way that he thought false but that he knew they thought true, that was far beyond simply using the terms and since it relies on equivocation is not a valid way to “write well”. So the defense that he’s just using the terms that everyone uses isn’t a valid one against the charge that he’s being inconsistent.

For example, Anthony writes:

If morality is merely relative then how can one say that anyone has a right to anything?

To people with my view, a human “right” is not something objective or granted by God; instead, a right derives from agreement among humans. We have a right to “free speech” or “religious freedom” because humans have collectively agreed to grant each other such rights. Documents such as the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights might specify lists of rights, but they do so as agreed by humans. The American Constitution outlines a Bill of Rights, but it does so on the authority of “We the People”.

The problem here is that there are a number of posts where Coel says that even the Constitutions of nations have defined those rights incorrectly, especially when it comes to freedom of religion. I’ve argued over that with Coel on a few occastions. He can’t do that under his own view. So either he’s being inconsistent or he’s lying about his own view in the hopes of sounding more convincing. So that doesn’t save him either.

Note that with my view above, he can do that by arguing that rights are precisely those things that are required to preserve a society, which is generally how he use the terms anyway.

He also makes an incredibly bad argument here:

But, again, the concept of “rights” as collective agreements works fine. For example, in many countries a worker has a “right” to a minimum wage, a set number of days holiday, and protection from unfair dismissal. Surely no-one would argue that these are anything other than collective agreements made by society? Surely, even someone who argues that morals are objective is not going to argue that the level of the minimum wage and number of days of holiday entitlement are “objective facts” set by God?

A second example is the UK concept of a public footpath over which the public has a “right of way”. Again, what is or is not a “right of way” is quite clearly an agreement among humans, not something drawn on a map by God.

The last paragraph is the egregious one here, but in all cases he’s appealing to things that happen to use the word “right” to claim that rights aren’t objective, but no one who thinks rights are objective thinks that something like, say, “the right of way” while driving is an actual right. It’s a way of talking, and nothing more. For the first paragraph, those claims are usually made on the basis that they follow from an actual right, not that it’s a right in and of itself … and when it isn’t, again it’s clear that they don’t think it’s really a right. So this is just a really, really bad argument.

Ultimately, Coel bases all of this on having a society that we like and can live in, which coincidentally fits in with Social Contract Theory which provides a solid basis for the claims Coel makes. He really should just become one and use that to smooth out the inconsistencies in his view, and ignore whether it’s really objective or subjective.

That ends my look at Coel’s moral theory. I’ll be doing … something else next week.

Thoughts on “Incarnations of Immortality”

April 17, 2020

So, a while ago I was looking for the last book of the “Incarnations of Immortality” series by Piers Anthony and couldn’t find it, even though I was sure that I had it somewhere. I decided to re-read the “X-Wing” book series first, and then at some point I was buying something else on Amazon and needed to fill out the amount for free shipping, and so figured I’d just go ahead and buy that to fill out the order. And then I started re-reading the series, finishing it probably about a month or so ago. It’s finally fitting into my posting schedule to talk about it.

Let me start with the main takeaway I had from my re-read: I was more interested in the idea of the book than in the execution, and the idea itself isn’t unique, novel, or uniquely done or done in a unique way.

The general idea is to take the various philosophical concepts — Death, Time, Nature, War, Fate, Evil and Good — and incarnate them into individual entities, all taken from mortals in various ways. In theory, the first five would be neutral and the last two in opposition to each other, but in the series itself for the most part it’s everyone against Evil, until the last book. The idea of a battle between Good and Evil with the neutral incarnations having to keep the world going in spite of that is an interesting one, and having mortals take up the offices provides a lot of opportunity to explore the concepts and show how something like Death is not necessarily Evil and something like Nature is not necessarily Good.

The series, however, doesn’t manage to do that, mostly because it, for the most part, is so incredibly juvenile. There are lots of sex jokes and situations and comments that don’t add anything to the story or characters and are just irritating most of the time. They might work in the more lighthearted “Xanth” series, but this series is not only more serious, it even purports to do more philosophical examinations of the concepts — Anthony is explicit about this in his afterwords, which are also full of cutesy comments (like renaming months in a childish way) — and so those parts seem rather out of place. I didn’t really notice that the first time I read them because I was a teenager and so more inclined towards juvenile scenes, but now that I’m older I found them quite grating.

Also grating is the fact that those philosophical examinations tend to be incredibly preachy, advocating for things that are dubious at best as if they are unequivocally true. The worst is in the last book, where the book spends a lot of time trying to justify older people having sex with people who are not legally adults (in this case, older man with a teenage girl) in a context of having to “modernize” the idea of Good. Of course, they had some clear cases where that needed to be done — the child of a rape inheriting some evil from the act, for example — but the focus is on that case, and it is presented as if there is no possibility of harm coming from it and that people who opposed it were just outdated. The book even pulls a time trick to get the relationship technically “legal” as some sort of great subversion of the rules. You can make an argument that some people are mature enough for sexual relations before the age of consent (and some people aren’t long after) and so that the age is arbitrary (which it kinda is) but there is still far more to consider than is done in the book. And it’s a big character point and, again, is the book’s main example of how the concept of Good needs to be updated. The books claim to explore the concepts but the explorations tend to be shallow and make major assumptions about what the “right” answer is.

The first book, “On a Pale Horse”, examines Death and is the most interesting because it actually does examine the issues around that in an interesting way. The second one focuses on Time but doesn’t examine the concept much at all, and instead is essentially a couple of other adventure stories written around the framework of an incarnation of Time. Fate is more interesting because it examines the same “job” from different perspectives — young Fate to middle-aged Fate — but drops off before doing the same thing for the aged Fate, which is disappointing. War and Nature relate more to the underlying family than to their own offices, although the book for War at least has an interesting challenge. Evil has its moments, especially in the beginning with the corruption of the mortal who will become the incarnation, and I’ve already talked about the last book.

Ultimately, the series was disappointing. I don’t regret re-reading it and could re-read it again, but for the most part, again, the concept is what’s interesting and I’m certain that others have done that concept better than was done here.