Notas Tertius Part 2: Being even further unauthorised notes, musings and rabbit hole explorations on the Terra Ignota series. Covering the matter of The Will to Battle: Terra Ignota Book III by Ada Palmer
Page numbers are from Tor Hardback edition 2017. All notes and speculation are those of myself. Notes are written progressively and in some cases questions raised are answered later in the text. Allusions made by characters are speculative and might not reflect the intent of the author.
After chapter 9 the story shifts pace with events occurring in multiple locations and over longer stretches of time. Amid this, we need to get into the intricacies of Manicheanism, Hobbes’s natural law and deontology versus virtue ethics.
Chapter the Ninth – Repercussions
April 15 Day 8
“Burgos” – see earlier note on Las Huelgas
“Nature makes rights” – as in natural rights. This is a very thin excuse on Madame’s part i.e. that her right as a mother to protect her child justifies kidnapping Mycroft and stabbing him in a bid to capture her real target, Sniper. Interesting that she says nature rather than god makes rights.
“after enough play a bart becomes a habit” – The king contends that playing at being virtuous can lead you to become virtuous.
“Martin the Manichean” – a character from Voltaire’s Candide. Manicheanism was a religion founded in the 2nd century AD by the Persian prophet Mani and for a long time was a major rival to Christianity and Zororastrianism. It drew influences from both those religions as well as Buddhism and spread widely across Eurasia. The idea most closely associated with Manicheanism in the Western and Christian spheres is its dualism i.e. that good and evil are two competing forces. Christian orthodoxy treats evil as a consequence of the absence of God (in the same sense that darkness is not a thing in itself but the absence of light) but that view is undermined by notions such as the devil or demons etc which imply evil as an actual entity. Consequently, dualism is always on the verge of a comeback within Christianity and various sects and Gnostic groups in Europe have been charged with being Manichean.
Notably for this narrative, Manichean myth of creation has two gods in different realms (one good, one evil) encountering each other. St Augustine, was a convert from Manicheanism to Christianity and hence one of the most influential figures on the shape of Christianity wrote in opposition to Manicheanism.
“the Dawn of Reason with her rosy fingers” – Mycroft talks about the enlightenment with a nod to Odyssey for a change rather than the Iliad.
“Montaigne, Descrates, Pierre Bayle” – I think we’ve covered the first two before. Bayle (1647 – 1706) was a French Calvinist, which is a guarantee of a difficult life. He is most famous for his Dictionnaire Historique et Critique or Historical and Critical Dictionary, a precursor to later encyclopaedias of the enlightenment. Although Calvinism has a stern reputation Bayle was more of a sceptical and flexible thinker. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bayle/ Bayle was particularly interested in theodicy i.e. the problem of evil and that’s where Manicheanism comes back into the picture. Back to Mycroft…
“Bayle wrote that, for all the centuries of attempted disproofs, no one had ever actually made Good versus Evil seem truly unconvincing as a model of the world.” – Bayle had three key points in his argument:
1. The natural light and revelation teach us clearly that there is only one principle of all things, and that this principle is infinitely perfect; 2. The way of reconciling the moral and physical evil of humanity with all the attributes of this single, infinitely perfect principle of all things surpasses our philosophical lights, such that the Manichean objections leave us with difficulties that human reason cannot resolve; 3. Nevertheless, it is necessary to believe firmly that what the natural light and revelation teach us about the unity and infinite perfection of God, just as believe by faith and submission to divine authority the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation. (OD III, 992b-993a)https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bayle/
The first takes us back to Plato and the idea of an ultimate principle or ideal, the abstraction of abstractions, which is GOOD and which philosophical theologians in Jewish, Islamic and Christian thought have identified as God. The idea is inherently anti-dualistic. However, that does not conform with the conception of evil and Bayle argued that a Manichean can use Christian concepts of evil to support dualism. His point being that there isn’t a way of reasoning your way out of this and in the end it is a matter of faith rather than reason. That point led him to being accused of atheism.
Chapter the Tenth Our Secret Truth
The pattern of the books breaks here. Prior to this point, chapters represent days or parts of days that follow sequentially. From here, chapters can cover multiple days and there can be gaps. Likewise with locations. The chapter deals with transcripts Mycroft reads later.
A general observation: I think we already knew that the Mitsubishi Hive had amalgamated with an earlier Greenpeace Hive but it is a twist worth not. At some point a Greenpeace organisation had taken charge of large tracts of land as nature reserves and hence the unlikely pairing with Mitsubishi, a hive that focuses on land acquisition.
“hospiticide” – the act of killing a guest or a guest killing their host. Mycroft’s analogy is with a classic murder mystery setting where everybody has a motive.
“my cell” – whether this is a prison cell or a monastic cell is unclear and for Mycroft the distinction might not make sense.
“the Will to Battle” – Hobbes joins in the conversation between Kosala and the representative of the Greenpeace section of Mitsubishi. Safe to assume this is an addition by Mycroft.
“abusing anti-sleeping-meds” – Mycroft observes this in Papa and reveals that Mycroft also abuses anti-sleeping medication.
“they could sell in Detroit, Dubai, Manchester, Naples, Halifax” – places Mitsubishi own land. Notably Detroit and Manchester are cities of a kind not often mentioned in the Terra Ignota series: overlay associated with industry and post-18th century cities in terms of significance. I assume Halifax is the Canadian one rather than the Yorkshire one.
“canis” – MASON refers to Dominic as a dog in latin. As noted before, the Dominicans as an order were called God’s Dogs based on puns on “dominican”
Chapter the Eleventh – Inviolable
JEDD visits Hobbestown, a kind of libertarian enclave for Blacklaws — those people who only commit to follow the most basic cross-hive laws. The meeting covers a broader group of the Hiveless. The ‘Hobbes’ in Hobbes town refers to Hobbes’s pessimistic view of human nature rather than his theories of governance. I think this is a really astute observation by Palmer. Hobbes’s views of the human condition and rationalisation of more authoritarian (but law based) governance helps resolve the paradox of much of modern conservative libertarian thought. Hobbes takes a pessimistic view of human nature but proposes sets of natural laws that follow from that.
“Are these my Natural Laws” – Hobbes proposed 19 natural laws of human conduct, i.e. rules (and implied rights if we flip them around) that can be derived from reason. They form a kind of deontological framework that we’ll see cropping up in various guises in Western (and particularly English-speaking) politics.
From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_law#Hobbes
According to Hobbes, there are nineteen Laws. The first two are expounded in chapter XIV of Leviathan (“of the first and second natural laws; and of contracts”); the others in chapter XV (“of other laws of nature”).
The first law of nature is that every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek and use all helps and advantages of war.
The second law of nature is that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far forth, as for peace, and defence of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.
The third law is that men perform their covenants made. In this law of nature consisteth the fountain and original of justice… when a covenant is made, then to break it is unjust and the definition of injustice is no other than the not performance of covenant. And whatsoever is not unjust is just.
The fourth law is that a man which receiveth benefit from another of mere grace, endeavour that he which giveth it, have no reasonable cause to repent him of his good will. Breach of this law is called ingratitude.
The fifth law is complaisance: that every man strive to accommodate himself to the rest. The observers of this law may be called sociable; the contrary, stubborn, insociable, forward, intractable.
The sixth law is that upon caution of the future time, a man ought to pardon the offences past of them that repenting, desire it.
The seventh law is that in revenges, men look not at the greatness of the evil past, but the greatness of the good to follow.
The eighth law is that no man by deed, word, countenance, or gesture, declare hatred or contempt of another. The breach of which law is commonly called contumely.
The ninth law is that every man acknowledge another for his equal by nature. The breach of this precept is pride.
The tenth law is that at the entrance into the conditions of peace, no man require to reserve to himself any right, which he is not content should be reserved to every one of the rest. The breach of this precept is arrogance, and observers of the precept are called modest.
The eleventh law is that if a man be trusted to judge between man and man, that he deal equally between them.
The twelfth law is that such things as cannot be divided, be enjoyed in common, if it can be; and if the quantity of the thing permit, without stint; otherwise proportionably to the number of them that have right.
The thirteenth law is the entire right, or else…the first possession (in the case of alternating use), of a thing that can neither be divided nor enjoyed in common should be determined by lottery.
The fourteenth law is that those things which cannot be enjoyed in common, nor divided, ought to be adjudged to the first possessor; and in some cases to the first born, as acquired by lot.
The fifteenth law is that all men that mediate peace be allowed safe conduct.
The sixteenth law is that they that are at controversie, submit their Right to the judgement of an Arbitrator.
The seventeenth law is that no man is a fit Arbitrator in his own cause.
The eighteenth law is that no man should serve as a judge in a case if greater profit, or honour, or pleasure apparently ariseth [for him] out of the victory of one party, than of the other.
The nineteenth law is that in a disagreement of fact, the judge should not give more weight to the testimony of one party than another, and absent other evidence, should give credit to the testimony of other witnesses.
There are some important principles of equity, impartiality and universality within them.
“Eight Customs” – Hobbestown has only eight but they are similar in nature to Hobbes’s 19. The first of their customs covers much of Hobbes’s first two i.e. try to keep the peace but reserve the right to fight back. It is reminiscent of Theodore Roosevelt’s saying:
“I have always been fond of the West African proverb: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” ‘
“You’re nearly seventeen, Mycroft, and brilliant” – Mycroft rarely talks about himself as he was just prior to his infamous murder spree. Here he gives some insight into the pressures he felt at the time.
“sic et non” – as explained in the text, “yes and no”. Shades of Blish’s Case of Conscience here where a key character realises the answer to a moral dilemma is ‘yes and no’.
“Here virtue ethics opposes deontology” – two contrasting approaches to ethics. Deontology is a focus on rules of correct behaviour (including by implication rights). To be good is to follow the rules of being good. Virtue ethics places the emphasis on being good and places the emphasis on virtues such as kindness and compassion. Within Christian ethics (pertinent specifically because of the characters concerned) the contrast is between the Ten Commandments versus the Sermon on the Mount.
The odd thing is that JEDD makes this distinction to the question of whether Sniper killed him. He says ‘yes and no’ but there are four aspects here that make the issue factually rather than ethically ambiguous. The question is being asked of JEDD in terms of whether he actually died – and the answer is yes and no because he (supposedly) was killed and was brought back to life. However, JEDD is focussing on a different aspect: was it Sniper who killed him. The issue is again, yes and no because it was a living version of a Sniper doll that (apparently) shot him rather than Sniper himself. Legalistically, Sniper didn’t kill him but rather a being thinking the same thoughts and of the same character and nature as Sniper who killed him. The four-way confusion is all due to Bridger’s supernatural intervention.
P191 – P195
An attack on the Mason’s sanctum disrupts the meeting at Hobbestown and pushes the world onwards towards war.