Creating a Political and Moral Universe (A RavenCon 2023 Panel)

The ingredients of universe-building are morality, science, politics, art, and religion. The interplay of these creates a moral and political universe. Each ingredient packs its own punch, and getting the ratios right means you won’t have an overcooked souffle of a universe.

These are my notes from RavenCon 2023‘s panel, Creating a Political and Moral Universe with Dr. J. “Cal” Baldari, moderated by Phillip Pournelle.

As a professor, Cal approaches world-building with five pages of notes for every page of writing. The one thing he doesn’t over-plan is religions, letting them grow organically keeps him from penning himself into a corner.

Morals versus Ethics

Morals are a personal belief system of right versus wrong — often guided by religion. Ethics are the rules a person uses to judge the ‘goodness’ of a person. One can be accidentally moral, but not accidentally ethical.

Cal claims that the characters of Batman represent the full spectrum of morals, fears, and ethics, and I’m inclined to believe him. But, I’m not knowledgeable enough to match them all up here. That said, writers can be drawn into heavy-handed representations of different approaches. Be sure that you don’t make each character a monolithic charicature of a moral and ethical viewpoint.

4 Types of (Emotional) Fears

Most people are guided in their behaviors by a combination of their morals and their emotional fears.

1. Ruin

The expectation that an action will lead to a negative outcome.

2. Regret

Comparing the path we chose to the one not taken.

3. Rejection

Being judged and found wanting by others.

4. Responsibility

The knowledge that if we choose wrong, it will be our fault.

3 Approaches to Ethics

Not all ethics work the same way, no matter what you prioritize in your path. But, most schools of thoughts boil down to one of 3 approaches.

1. Consequentialism

This approach of ethics believes that people and motivations aren’t judged, just the actions — and their consequences themselves.

2. Deontologism

Followers of this style of ethics believe in rules. If the actions follow the rules, no matter the motivation or consequences, then they are ethically right.

12-step programs draw on strict rules to help their followers live their way into right-thinking and behavior.

3. Virtue Ethics

With virtue ethics, people try to follow virtues they consider good and do their best to do better.

For me? I think motives matter and that people should always strive to do better.

P.S. Can you match the Batman character to the fear that rules them?

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