OSC Answers Questions
I have read every book in the Ender Series, finishing "Ender's Shadow"
just today. Because of my love of the series, I managed to work it into a research
paper topic for school. I love the didactic motif that I've identified in the novels.
Therefore, I'm using that as my basis for the research paper.
I read several reviews of "Ender's Game" that mention the delineation of good vs.
evil being a matter of empathy. One does the same act, and the motive for the act
is what really makes it good or evil. I identified that in "Ender's Game." What is
your take on this and what were your intentions in the novel by its inclusion?
Also, it is my interpretation that Ender's book, "Speaker for the Dead" in which he
told the story of the Buggers, and caused humanity to feel great sorrow for their
destruction, ultimately turning the populous against him, was very similar, and
symbolic in my opinion, of the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation. I would
really like to use this argument in my paper. Am I on track?
Did Catholicism have any basis in your writings for the Ender Series? I also
noticed the religious conflict between the parents, and the placing of Saints'
names on all the children, in accordance with the Catholic requirement of raising
children in the Catholic Church.
Any comments you could offer would be greatly appreciated.
-- Submitted by Hazel Warde
OSC REPLIES: - September 4, 2000
"The motive for an act is what makes it good or evil." This is the
fundamental instinctive moral reasoning of most people. There are always some
who, with greater rigidity, insist that the act itself is either good or evil, regardless
of motive, but most people, in practical situations, judge a person's culpability on
their intention rather than the actual outcome of their actions. However, since
people can lie about their intentions after the fact, and since rules can be changed
to accommodate popular wrongdoers, moral judgment is always forced to some
kind of accommodation with the needs of the community. I don't think this
obvious trait of human moralities can be regarded as a theme or "teaching" of the
Ender series. Rather it is part of how the world works, and any moderately
observant fiction writer will take it into account in creating stories.
As to empathy, it is the essence of all "golden rules," but is not required for moral
behavior. Society has many means of enforcing or encouraging obedience to rules
without requiring empathy. However, civilizations generally value empathy and
regard empathic persons as paragons of virtue; nevertheless, power is usually
wielded by people who are not overly endowed with empathy. Empathy can, in
some situations, block actions that must be taken for the survival of a community.
(For instance, Ender, who might have empathized with the Hive Queens, was kept
from knowing that he was really in combat with them so that empathy with them
or with his own soldiers would not interfere with his taking the necessary actions.)
I have no idea what the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation is. I thought I knew
all seven of the sacraments. As to religious conflict between Ender's parents, I'm
not sure there was much. Both parents came from religious backgrounds that
rejected the population control laws, and while Catholicism requires saints'
names, Mormonism certainly does not bar those names, so there would have been
little or no conflict over naming. Catholicism was not a basis for the overall
series, but of course Catholicism was the sponsoring religion of the Lusitania
colony and therefore it played a role on Lusitania, as a sort of future-synthetic
Taoism played a role on Path. As a non-Catholic myself, I have no particular
reason to base my fiction on a Catholic foundation; but as an American, I grew up
with an awareness of Catholicism as a sort of all-purpose American hierarchical
religion, as opposed to the all-purpose Protestant congregational religion that we
see in many movies. In short, I use Catholicism where it's useful or indicated as a
source of cultural detail.
None of this contradicts your premises, except that I simply have no conscious
program along the lines you suggest. What is going on unconsciously is, of
course, for others to guess at and for me to avoid knowing ...