Fanghur Rahl

Philosophy Arclo mentions to Lift about souls: foreshadowing/hinting at something?

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I recently finished listening to Edgedancer and I was really intrigued by the Sleepless we encounter, Arclo. Specifically his very philosophical outlook, as I tender to ponder various philosophical issues as well. I was actually surprised when he mentioned to Lift an obscure philosophical theory that I myself had actually pondered several times, or at least something very similar to it. Namely the idea that whenever someone goes unconscious, they effectively die and a new clone soul comes to inhabit their body once they regain consciousness (for the record, while I admit that I've pondered things similar to this long before reading Edgedancer, I do NOT believe that this is actually true, though it is obviously completely unfalsifiable, but I digress). What struck me is how weird it seemed for him to just randomly mention something like this as literally the first thing he says to her once he sees her again in the alley, because while admittedly it does have some tangential relevance to his own philosophy that he's been developing, it seems more like just a random philosophical factoid he mentions on a whim. 

So I couldn't help but wonder whether there might be something more too it than that; whether it might be intended to be some kind of foreshadowing or hint relevant to either the current situation or future books. Honestly, I have no idea whether it does or not, but as far as I can tell, there have not been any WoBs asking about it, so I was just wondering what everyone thinks. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head which it might have some kind of relevance to is the Heralds, who each time they die during a Desolation they somehow return to Braize in presumably a completely new clone body, the exact mechanics of this process still being largely a mystery from what I've been able to tell. So might it be the case that the Heralds are themselves in some sense clones as well, both in body and in soul? There is at least some tenuous precedence for people getting new souls in The Emperor's Soul, albeit in a completely difference sense than what would be happening here, so that if nothing else makes me think that this idea is at the very least worth considering. 

Again, I'm not at all convinced that Sanderson didn't have Arclo mention that purely to further his desired image of him as being a highly abstract and philosophical thinker, but then again, it does seem like a very weird thing to put in there for no reason other than show (though I suppose that considering his species is called the 'Sleepless', that might also explain it). So I'm curious what everyone else thinks about this. Is this simply a strange but ultimately irrelevant philosophical factoid, or do you think there may be more to it than that? I definitely think that Arclo's own philosophy will probably have at least some kind of relevance later on, if only because he tells Lift that he'll be seeing her about it again, but what about this one? Any ideas?

Edited by Fanghur Rahl
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This gets into the question of what makes you you in the Cosmere. One's Spiritual template is basically your Platonic ideal and that can persist even in the absence of a Physical body. The Heralds aren't clones in the way that you might be thinking; they have the same soul the entire time but through some method they're obtaining new Physical bodies each time. The Spiritual ideal ensures that their new bodies match their original ones, which we also see with a certain Cognitive Shadow in Mistborn who found a way to return to the Physical Realm and retained distinctive physical traits..Cosmere healing generally works on the same principle, with your Spiritual template overwriting your Physical form to match the ideal where you aren't injured, sick or drunk. The Cognitive acts as a mediator, which is for example why Kaladin's brands don't heal.

Anyhow, this is a slightly roundabout way of saying that I don't think Brandon intended that particular musing of Arclo's to be taken seriously.

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That's definitely a possibility; like I said, I'm by no means convinced that there's anything more to it than that. But on the other hand, like I said, it did strike me as a complete non sequitur topic for him to bring up. I mentioned the Heralds and their Oathpact as one possible thing it might be hinting at, but for all I know it's something else entirely, or nothing at all as you said. But one thing I've come to learn about Brandon during my as yet short time as a die-hard Cosmere fan is that seemingly trivial things he says in his books sometimes end up having extreme and unexpected implications later on that only become obvious in hindsight. So is this one of those instances? Honestly, probably not. But definitely worth considering.

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There's also the interesting life of the sleepless to consider. They're made up of a bunch of cremlings. The cremlings live and die like normal. So the Sleepless is constantly changing. Once enough cremlings have changed, or maybe even all of them, has the sleepless changed? Is it still the same Sleepless, or is it a new one with inherited memories? 

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9 minutes ago, Wandering Investor said:

There's also the interesting life of the sleepless to consider. They're made up of a bunch of cremlings. The cremlings live and die like normal. So the Sleepless is constantly changing. Once enough cremlings have changed, or maybe even all of them, has the sleepless changed? Is it still the same Sleepless, or is it a new one with inherited memories? 

That's true, though I don't think that's what he is referring to, for the simple reason that he explicitly states that it isn't applicable to him or his kind because they never sleep or by extension lose consciousness. I don't think the Ship of Theseus problem is what this is meant to be referencing; the context is completely different. The closest real-world equivalent to this that I can think of is the Teleportation problem, but even that has some differences from this. 

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Well, I'm not sure if it directly points to anything...

But I can think of two possible meanings, off the top of my head:

  • It's a reflection on the nature of the sleepless, just like his later philosophy was. Arclo doesn't necessarily believe that people who go to sleep get a new soul, but it is more relevant to him, because he does not sleep, or age, or change very much at all on a macro level. And the creatures that do seem much more changeable.
  • (somewhat less probable) It's actually a hint about the Voidbringers, who have been known to possess people to varying degrees. Perhaps there is an Unmade that invades dreams, or perhaps it is more generally a reference to the Fused, who effectively die and become inhabited by a new soul.
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I think that the latter is actually more likely, if only because Arclo explicitly states that whether it’s true or not is ultimately irrelevant to his species, since they never sleep. I mean as far as I understand, as soon as a body dies the soul goes to the Beyond, where not even the Shards can affect. So what does kind of big the question of how exactly do the Fused work in light of that. I actually hadn’t considered that as such.

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