ScadrianTank

Morality of Radiant bonds

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I've been stuck with these thoughts for a few weeks now but had no idea how to put them properly into words, so I'll just throw it out there.

The main concern here is that a person with a crack in a soul being hitched to a literal personification of a (portion of) platonic quality/concept isn't really moral. While the whole idea of a Journey and self-improvement is entirely positive in a vacuum, Honor and Ishar created ten groups of people, who as a consequence of that bond will have to adopt a more extreme view of the world in all matters related to their Order, Oaths, and Spern. Who would have thought that they wouldn't get along with each other very well?

What's even better is that the concept a spren represents isn't just a platonic absolute - it's filtered by societies' global view of that concept. So the interpretation of a Radiant Journey as a person getting closer to God by exhibiting divine virtues gets thrown out of the window because Radiant has to follow a simplified mortal interpretation of said virtue.

The bond straight up forbids certain actions and declares them as unacceptable under any circumstance. Have to lie? Nope, can't do that - it's not honorable™. Break a promise? No, can't do that either. (Yes, I remember what Shallan said in part one of RoW, but all this tells us is that some Orders are better than others. That's assuming other Orders don't have their own caveats.) Can we truly say that forbidding a person to ever make a certain kind of choice based on anything is right? 

That whole train of thought sort of recontextualized a line from Frost's letter in WoR. 

Quote

He bears the weight of God’s own divine hatred, separated from the virtues that gave it context. He is what we made him to be, old friend. And that is what he, unfortunately, wished to become.

 I suppose that BIG HONOR™ and BIG GROWTH™ aren't that much better than BIG HATE™.

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Posted (edited)

To be totally honest, I don't agree with what you're saying here. It seems like the main thrust of your argument is that "people shouldn't have morality thrust on them". I have a few places I disagree:

First, now that the radiants are well known again, people do know what they're signing up for. The spren certainly know, are able to communicate the options to the potential Radiant and also (usually) have choice in the matter. So, it's not that people are getting a moral code thrust on them but enter an agreement. That agree has the cost of abiding by a moral code and the benefit of access to the Physical Realm for spren, access to magic for humans and the ability to play a major part in world events for both. 

Second, now that there's a Bondsmith, it's entirely possible that the bond could be severed with out harm in extreme cases.

Third, the Radiant's own views matter to it. I remember a story arc from WoR that stated that Kal's and Syl's opinion of "honor" matter a great deal. Similarly, the opinion of the Radiants in the Skybreakers allow them to be on the opposite side of the war that the order was intended to be on.

Fourth, maybe Brandon is intentionally telling a story that discusses all of these things and the morality of it? We haven't finished the story yet so maybe the end of Book 10 involves a radical shift in how the bonds are made or whether they're made at all. 

Fifth, it just isn't a big deal to me to have a moral code being a part of the cost in a transaction like this. It's true for every relationship, sexual, contractual, employer/employee, friendship and etc, that there's a code of conduct included in the relationship. 

 

Maybe I'm just misunderstanding you. Feel free to correct me if so. 

Edited by DougTheRug
clarification and politeness
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33 minutes ago, DougTheRug said:

First, now that the radiants are well known again, people do know what they're signing up for. The spren certainly know, are able to communicate the options to the potential Radiant and also (usually) have choice in the matter. So, it's not that people are getting a moral code thrust on them but enter an agreement. That agree has the cost of abiding by a moral code and the benefit of access to the Physical Realm for spren, access to magic for humans and the ability to play a major part in world events for both. 

I agree with this - the Radiants aren’t having a moral code imposed on them; they are choosing to follow a moral code. Also, it’s built into the magic system that people attract Radiant spren who are compatible with them, so the moral code they choose to follow is going to match their beliefs and personality. I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with that.

41 minutes ago, DougTheRug said:

Third, the Radiant's own views matter to it. I remember a story arc from WoR that stated that Kal's and Syl's opinion of "honor" matter a great deal. Similarly, the opinion of the Radiants in the Skybreakers allow them to be on the opposite side of the war that the order was intended to be on.

And this is another important point. The Radiants aren’t blindly following some simple, rigid moral code. They’re actively interpreting what their Ideals mean as they go.

When Kaladin is seriously considering assassinating Elhokar in WoR, his bond with Syl almost breaks. This doesn’t happen because it’s set in stone that assassination or regicide is bad. It happens because, deep down, Kaladin believes it’s the wrong thing to do. That’s why the Ideal is to protect even those he hates, so long as it is right. (I know some people on this site would argue that killing Elhokar is justified, but that’s not the important point here. The point is that Kaladin judges it to be the wrong thing.)

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Posted (edited)

3 hours ago, ScadrianTank said:

who as a consequence of that bond will have to adopt a more extreme view of the world in all matters related to their Order, Oaths, and Spern.

Extreme depends on context, and sometime, what is considered "extreme" is the right thing.

3 hours ago, ScadrianTank said:

Who would have thought that they wouldn't get along with each other very well?

I mean, bondsmiths exist for a reason.

3 hours ago, ScadrianTank said:

What's even better is that the concept a spren represents isn't just a platonic absolute - it's filtered by societies' global view of that concept. So the interpretation of a Radiant Journey as a person getting closer to God by exhibiting divine virtues gets thrown out of the window because Radiant has to follow a simplified mortal interpretation of said virtue.

That's life though isn't it? Having to remove the filter of other people and the world at large to find absolute truth?

3 hours ago, ScadrianTank said:

The bond straight up forbids certain actions and declares them as unacceptable under any circumstance. Have to lie? Nope, can't do that - it's not honorable™. Break a promise? No, can't do that either.

I don't think an inflexible moral code is neccesarily a bad thing

3 hours ago, ScadrianTank said:

(Yes, I remember what Shallan said in part one of RoW, but all this tells us is that some Orders are better than others.

So inconsistency is better? Breaking codes is better than not doing so? I'm afraid I don't understand this line.

Edited by Frustration
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Posted (edited)

10 hours ago, DougTheRug said:

It seems like the main thrust of your argument is that "people shouldn't have morality thrust on them"

It's also the restriction on personal freedom to choose. 

10 hours ago, DougTheRug said:

First, now that the radiants are well known again, people do know what they're signing up for.

First of all, "now that the radiants are well known again". None of our main characters knew, Shallan in particular, but I guess they're all special cases, and it's not fair to use them as examples. Second, that's kind of true, but not really. It might be the case for those who joined through one of the "Urithiru branches" if they openly share the Oaths you'll have to swear. But if some Honor spren decided to bond a human after Adolin's trial, found their candidate from a village in the middle of nowhere - they wouldn't be as informed.

10 hours ago, DougTheRug said:

The spren certainly know, are able to communicate the options to the potential Radiant and also (usually) have choice in the matter.

The spren are able - they just don't. Not one of the spren we've seen in the books so far explained to the budding Radiant what the bond entails and requires.

10 hours ago, DougTheRug said:

Fifth, it just isn't a big deal to me to have a moral code being a part of the cost in a transaction like this. It's true for every relationship, sexual, contractual, employer/employee, friendship and etc, that there's a code of conduct included in the relationship. 

It would be a better argument if our Radiants entered that relationship consciously, by Intent, and in a situation where refusal wouldn't mean almost certain death. But honestly, the Oaths don't bother me as much as Honor allowing this to happen at all. The bond encourages you to grow, but only in a certain way, like one of those cube watermelons. Makes me want to join team Odium even more. 

8 hours ago, Frustration said:

I don't think an inflexible moral code is neccesarily a bad thing

I find it funny that none of the deadeyes who died in the Recreance would disagree with that statement. 

8 hours ago, Frustration said:

So inconsistency is better? Breaking codes is better than not doing so? I'm afraid I don't understand this line.

Having the freedom to chose to break a promise is better than not having it. 

Edited by ScadrianTank
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28 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

It's also the restriction on personal freedom to choose.

You still have the freedom to choose, you just have to live with the consequences

28 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

First of all, "now that the radiants are well known again". None of our main characters knew, Shallan in particular, but I guess they're all special cases, and it's not fair to use them as examples. Second, that's kind of true, but not really. It might be the case for those who joined through one of the "Urithiru branches" if they openly share the Oaths you'll have to swear. But if some Honor spren decided to bond a human after Adolin's trial, found their candidate from a village in the middle of nowhere - they wouldn't be as informed.

Eh, if a spren is willing to bond you you have already started living the ideals, and platueing isn't unheard of.

29 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

The spren are able - they just don't. Not one of the spren we've seen in the books so far explained to the budding Radiant what the bond entails and requires.

Well for the most part the spren don't know either

30 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

It would be a better argument if our Radiants entered that relationship consciously, by Intent, and in a situation where refusal wouldn't mean almost certain death. But honestly, the Oaths don't bother me as much as Honor allowing this to happen at all. The bond encourages you to grow, but only in a certain way, like one of those cube watermelons. Makes me want to join team Odium even more. 

Refusal costs them nothing but the powers

30 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

I find it funny that none of the deadeyes who died in the Recreance would disagree with that statement. 

I don't understand what you are saying

30 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

Having the freedom to chose to break a promise is better than not having it. 

They still have that freedom, always have.

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I don't think shards are moral or amoral, they are literally acts of god/nature. Ruin wasn't evil, preservation wasn't evil. They can do good things, they can do evil things. It is somewhat in the hands of the wielder, to an extent. If a tornado comes and blows up your house, the tornado isn't evil, it just is.

I feel like 'Honor' biased, letting some people like Kaladin get revenge when it suited Honor, but not let Moash get his and act like he did something wrong wanting it but the others it was fine because it was suited to Honor's goals(beating Odium).

And a lot of this is for narrative sake, like you could argue if you wanted that killing anything would break "Life before death", hell the whole contest doesn't make sense if your going to throw a Radiant in there in a fight to the death, it doesn't really make sense. But I don't think these super get addressed well.

But people's personification can make shard's power look evil, like how people think Braize/the singers are hell/demons. And people's perception of it can somewhat influence the power, but that can change, the power itself isn't evil.

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3 minutes ago, Frustration said:

You still have the freedom to choose, you just have to live with the consequences

4 minutes ago, Frustration said:

They still have that freedom, always have.

Like a person retains their freedom to choose when being rioted or soothed. 

5 minutes ago, Frustration said:

I don't understand what you are saying

That I find it funny that people who died because of those inflexible moral codes would probably do it again if they had to - because they are literally a personification of the virtues that cost them their lives. 

13 minutes ago, Frustration said:

Refusal costs them nothing but the powers

And refusing those powers would cost them their lives. For example, Kaladin would die in Sadeas' camp as a Bridgeman.

2 minutes ago, apepi said:

I feel like 'Honor' biased, letting some people like Kaladin get revenge when it suited Honor, but not let Moash get his and act like he did something wrong wanting it but the others it was fine because it was suited to Honor's goals(beating Odium).

Makes me wonder how Moash would change as a character if he bonded an Honrspren in WOK, even if he made the same choices.

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2 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

Like a person retains their freedom to choose when being rioted or soothed. 

They can: Break bond, not swear new oaths, or separate from their spren(until 5th ideal) nothing stops them

3 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

That I find it funny that people who died because of those inflexible moral codes would probably do it again if they had to - because they are literally a personification of the virtues that cost them their lives. 

What's funny about that? I find it admirable.

4 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

And refusing those powers would cost them their lives. For example, Kaladin would die in Sadeas' camp as a Bridgeman.

COULD cost them, and that is an external circustance completly and uterly separate from the bond itself

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I think the bad part of the radiant bond is that...it doesn't allow people to just..be who they are. Like Navani, she was a good person before she became a bondsmith, she was good at helping other researchers research, funding and helping others reach their goals. Nothing was inherently wrong with her. I personally wanted her to accept herself who she was, she didn't need to become a scientist, she was a useful member of society even not being one. Yet she was forced to progress.

This might be one of the flaws in the system, some people can't just be, some can't just accept themselves and instead have to reach out and be a 'better' person.

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10 minutes ago, apepi said:

I think the bad part of the radiant bond is that...it doesn't allow people to just..be who they are. Like Navani, she was a good person before she became a bondsmith, she was good at helping other researchers research, funding and helping others reach their goals. Nothing was inherently wrong with her. I personally wanted her to accept herself who she was, she didn't need to become a scientist, she was a useful member of society even not being one. Yet she was forced to progress.

This might be one of the flaws in the system, some people can't just be, some can't just accept themselves and instead have to reach out and be a 'better' person.

Hold on, how is that the bad part?

Becoming better is always good.

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4 minutes ago, Frustration said:

They can: Break bond, not swear new oaths, or separate from their spren(until 5th ideal) nothing stops them

I feel like I'm saying that they have bad working conditions and you're saying that they can just quit. I'm not saying that Radiants can't break their Oaths if they feel like they have to. I am saying that Radiants, by the nature of the bond and restriction of their Oaths, don't have the same freedom as a regular person. And since they have to follow those Oaths all the time, not just when working, they get warped by those restrictions. In Dalinar's conversation with Taravangian in RoW, he says that a person can't be moral and break a promise. While this is his personal philosophy - that I don't have anything against - it's a choice he can't make as a Radiant

30 minutes ago, Frustration said:

What's funny about that? I find it admirable.

Because, unlike humans, spren of Honor and Cultivation are practically incapable of going against their nature.

34 minutes ago, Frustration said:

COULD cost them, and that is an external circustance completly and uterly separate from the bond itself

Considering that Radiants were created to fight the Desolations, I don't see it as that separate. 

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3 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

I feel like I'm saying that they have bad working conditions and you're saying that they can just quit

That is exactly what's happening

5 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

I feel like I'm saying that they have bad working conditions and you're saying that they can just quit. I'm not saying that Radiants can't break their Oaths if they feel like they have to. I am saying that Radiants, by the nature of the bond and restriction of their Oaths, don't have the same freedom as a regular person. And since they have to follow those Oaths all the time, not just when working, they get warped by those restrictions. In Dalinar's conversation with Taravangian in RoW, he says that a person can't be moral and break a promise. While this is his personal philosophy - that I don't have anything against - it's a choice he can't make as a Radiant

But they retain free will do they not?

They have the ability to make choices not to choose the consequences of their actions, that's freedom.

5 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

Because, unlike humans, spren of Honor and Cultivation are practically incapable of going against their nature.

Unlike humans, spren's lives have no value.

6 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

Considering that Radiants were created to fight the Desolations, I don't see it as that separate. 

Shallan's life would have been in less danger if she never formed a bond

Not one of Dalinar, Jasnah, Lift, Stump, or the Shoemaker were in danger of death without their bonds

I fail to see how death without the bond is irreversibly linked to it.

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Posted (edited)

53 minutes ago, apepi said:

I think the bad part of the radiant bond is that...it doesn't allow people to just..be who they are. Like Navani, she was a good person before she became a bondsmith, she was good at helping other researchers research, funding and helping others reach their goals. Nothing was inherently wrong with her. I personally wanted her to accept herself who she was, she didn't need to become a scientist, she was a useful member of society even not being one. Yet she was forced to progress.

This might be one of the flaws in the system, some people can't just be, some can't just accept themselves and instead have to reach out and be a 'better' person.

I don't think that is necessarily true. While the bond system is designed to encourage progress, it does not force it. As @Frustration mentioned, plateauing was not unheard of, so if Radiant is comfortable at some level of Oaths, and feels they cannot/should/will not progress, they are free to do so. In Navani's example she willingly accapted first ideal (although you could argue it was under duress) and now can either progress if she will want, or stay (or safely break the bond).

17 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

I feel like I'm saying that they have bad working conditions and you're saying that they can just quit. I'm not saying that Radiants can't break their Oaths if they feel like they have to. I am saying that Radiants, by the nature of the bond and restriction of their Oaths, don't have the same freedom as a regular person. And since they have to follow those Oaths all the time, not just when working, they get warped by those restrictions. In Dalinar's conversation with Taravangian in RoW, he says that a person can't be moral and break a promise. While this is his personal philosophy - that I don't have anything against - it's a choice he can't make as a Radiant

I don't agree, because I don't think there is any evidence that there is something supernatural making Radiants keep the Oaths. While yes, the Radiants are restricted in some of their freedoms, it is a restriction they chose and if they for some reason decide that the trade-off is not worth it they can break the bond (as Kaladin almost did, and as Shallan did). In the past it was probably more common, simply because breaking the bond would not dead-eye the spren involved.

For the Dalinar example, that is a good example, but I think the issue is not the Oaths themselves and restrictions resulting, but the fact that Radiants treats Oaths as a moral system (which it is not necessarily). I think that some future Bondsmith could hold the same oaths as Dalinar, but also to think that sometimes breaking a promise is a moral thing.

17 minutes ago, ScadrianTank said:

Considering that Radiants were created to fight the Desolations, I don't see it as that separate. 

Radiants were not created to fight Desolations, Heralds were. Surgebinders (and their organizing into orders) was a side-effect that came from spren and other humans mimicking what was happening between Heralds and Honor.

Due to social pressure they most likely were mostly fighting Desolations at first, but for vast majority of time of existence of orders no Desolation was going on, and so Radiants were effectively more strict monastic/martial order.

EDIT: To be fully clear I personally believe that greater power should come with some enforceable restrictions, so to me Oath system is particularly nice in this regards. I.e. I believe that if you wish power greater than other humans, you should accept some restriction on how you can act in a trade-off.

Edited by therunner
one explenatory thought
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18 hours ago, ScadrianTank said:

I suppose that BIG HONOR™ and BIG GROWTH™ aren't that much better than BIG HATE™.

This is an interesting aspect of the OP’s argument that the thread hasn’t really talked about yet.

I think we should be suspicious of Honor and Cultivation’s motives. From what little we know of them, Honor doesn’t understand basic things about humans and doesn’t care about individual lives. Cultivation is manipulative and unpredictable. Whatever Honor was doing, whatever Cultivation is still doing, we have no reason to trust them or assume that they have the humans’ best interests at heart.

Having said that, I still don’t see any ethical issue with the Radiant bond.

The possibility for spren to become deadeyes is an issue, but that’s presented as a fixable problem, not something inherent to the Nahel bond. Normally, when deadeyes aren’t a thing, anyone who wants to can break the bond with no consequences except the former Radiant losing their magical abilities and the spren taking a nap.

Also, the only character we see involved with a Radiant bond who isn’t fully on board with what it entails is the Stormfather, and he’s kind of an edge case.

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28 minutes ago, RedBlue said:

This is an interesting aspect of the OP’s argument that the thread hasn’t really talked about yet.

I think we should be suspicious of Honor and Cultivation’s motives. From what little we know of them, Honor doesn’t understand basic things about humans and doesn’t care about individual lives. Cultivation is manipulative and unpredictable. Whatever Honor was doing, whatever Cultivation is still doing, we have no reason to trust them or assume that they have the humans’ best interests at heart.

I mean it's possible, but Honor did spend his last moments giving Humanity the visions and ordering the Stormfather to bond. The only time Honor showed not to understand humans is when he was being splintered, but when your mind is being ripped apart I don't think we can take that as an indicater for what kind of person you are.

31 minutes ago, RedBlue said:

The possibility for spren to become deadeyes is an issue, but that’s presented as a fixable problem, not something inherent to the Nahel bond. Normally, when deadeyes aren’t a thing, anyone who wants to can break the bond with no consequences except the former Radiant losing their magical abilities and the spren taking a nap.

Only the weaker/younger spren would take a nap, older ones would be perfectly fine.

But yes I agree completly

31 minutes ago, RedBlue said:

Also, the only character we see involved with a Radiant bond who isn’t fully on board with what it entails is the Stormfather, and he’s kind of an edge case.

Obedient but reluctant?

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10 hours ago, Frustration said:

Unlike humans, spren's lives have no value.

WAIT WAIT WAIT.

WHAT?!

EXPLAIN THIS. The storms do you mean, "sprens' lives have no value"???? :angry:

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12 hours ago, Frustration said:

Hold on, how is that the bad part?

Becoming better is always good.

I argue it doesn't necessarily even make you better, it can be progression for progressions sake.

12 hours ago, therunner said:

I don't think that is necessarily true. While the bond system is designed to encourage progress, it does not force it. As @Frustration mentioned, plateauing was not unheard of, so if Radiant is comfortable at some level of Oaths, and feels they cannot/should/will not progress, they are free to do so. In Navani's example she willingly accapted first ideal (although you could argue it was under duress) and now can either progress if she will want, or stay (or safely break the bond).

I don't know why she couldn't have bonded with just not being a scholar, I wonder if she chose not to, would she still have been able to.

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21 minutes ago, apepi said:

I don't know why she couldn't have bonded with just not being a scholar, I wonder if she chose not to, would she still have been able to.

The thing is, Navani was a scholar already. She just had to admit it to herself.

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Posted (edited)

40 minutes ago, Nameless said:

The thing is, Navani was a scholar already. She just had to admit it to herself.

^

It didn't force her into becoming one. It forced her into confronting her imposter syndrome and overcoming the effects of her past emotional abuse, and feeling more free to explore what she was already wanting to explore but feeling restricted from.

Edit: oh yeah, meant to reply to this as well:

13 hours ago, ScadrianTank said:

In Dalinar's conversation with Taravangian in RoW, he says that a person can't be moral and break a promise. While this is his personal philosophy - that I don't have anything against - it's a choice he can't make as a Radiant

He also says this:

Quote

Taravangian nodded, as if this were the inevitable response. Dalinar sat back on his seat, and they sat in silence together for a time, watching the tiny ruby. He hated how this had gone, how the argument forced him into the most dogmatic version of his beliefs. He knew there was nuance in every position, yet …

The argument pushed him into the most extreme version of his beliefs because he's not really a talented orator, but he's aware there is nuance, he's just not really great at arguing in-depth.

Edited by LewsTherinTelescope
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6 hours ago, Halyo_Alex said:

WAIT WAIT WAIT.

WHAT?!

EXPLAIN THIS. The storms do you mean, "sprens' lives have no value"???? :angry:

Spren hold the same moral value as Amazon's Alexa or Siri do.

They are AI nothing more, they aren't living beings and do not recieve the same value living beings do.

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1 minute ago, Frustration said:

Spren hold the same moral value as Amazon's Alexa or Siri do.

They are AI nothing more, they aren't living beings and do not recieve the same value living beings do.

I don't think that your analogy works. I think that it has been established that spren can think and act like any other living being. Sure, they're beings forged from investiture, but everyone in the cosmere is given sentience by investiture. By your logic,

(MB)

Spoiler

every single native Scadrian is not alive, because they are simply beings formed by the investiture of Ruin and Preservation.

 

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11 minutes ago, Nameless said:

I don't think that your analogy works. I think that it has been established that spren can think and act like any other living being. Sure, they're beings forged from investiture, but everyone in the cosmere is given sentience by investiture. By your logic,

(MB)

  Hide contents

every single native Scadrian is not alive, because they are simply beings formed by the investiture of Ruin and Preservation.

 

(SH)

Spoiler

Or Kelsier, as he is only Investiture.

Or the Heralds, or any Cognitive Shadow.

Or Adonalsium.

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1 hour ago, Nameless said:

I don't think that your analogy works. I think that it has been established that spren can think and act like any other living being. Sure, they're beings forged from investiture, but everyone in the cosmere is given sentience by investiture. By your logic,

(MB)

  Reveal hidden contents

every single native Scadrian is not alive, because they are simply beings formed by the investiture of Ruin and Preservation.

 

Let's take a talking sword from a more clasic fantasy, does this sword have the same moral value as a human being?

54 minutes ago, Knight of Iron said:

(SH)

  Reveal hidden contents

Or Kelsier, as he is only Investiture.

Or the Heralds, or any Cognitive Shadow.

Or Adonalsium.

See above

and on Adonalsium we don't know enough to say anything, may or may not have had a vessel

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2 minutes ago, Frustration said:

Let's take a talking sword from a more clasic fantasy, does this sword have the same moral value as a human being?

I would say yes, although it depends on the book.

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