I've found a way of interpreting the alignments. First, LAW. Here is the standard description:
"This alignment is associated with God, order and peace. In the game it is represented by the Messian religion, and the colors blue and white. The Law alignment promotes order and safety, but taken to an extreme it leads to dictatorship and elitism. The main goal of the Law factions in the game is to establish the Thousand Year Kingdom, a paradise on Earth ruled over by God. The truth is that only a select few who are judged worthy would be allowed to live in the Thousand Year Kingdom, while everyone else would be killed. Those who do live in the Thousand Year Kingdom would be subjected to its strict, absolute laws."
My interpretation of LAW is that the alignment promotes taking a step back in the path of progress. Much of the good points about LAW are based on misconceptions about the state and authority. The state always looks for excuses to consolidate its power and influence and don't actually care about the people. The Order of Messiah is an organised religion outright. The Millennium Kingdom is no less than social Darwinism and spiritual Darwinism, the game even states this outright. LAW doesn't need to be taken to an extreme to create authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and elitism, for it is actually innate when you consider the moral and spiritual totalitarianism they always carry out. If LAW really wanted peace, they would comply to the will of the people, but they don't, naively thinking that laws always create peace. LIGHT-LAW would represent the ruler who acts benevolent but just creates laws. NEUTRAL-LAW would represent someone who just either obeys or enforces laws. DARK-LAW would represent someone who is shady, but ultimately law-abiding and intolerant of subversion. LIGHT-LAW entities are beings that create laws in an attempt to bring peace and morality, essentially peace through moral authoritarianism. NEUTRAL-LAW entities are simply agents that serve higher masters, whether they be LIGHT or DARK, and encourage lawful behaviour. DARK-LAW entities believe that they can do anything they want while they impose harsh laws that they follow.
Here is the standard description:
"Also known as "Balance", this alignment accepts the need for laws to govern the world but not at the cost of personal freedom. It rejects the concept of relying on Lawful or Chaotic powers to focus instead on personal empowerment, individuality and the inherent strength of Mankind. Although presumed to be the most idealistic alignment by many, it is also the hardest alignment to attain because of its isolationist nature, and tends to not be considered a permanent solution. This is shown by the "canon" neutral endings of many of the games often leading directly into the problems that arise in the next games."
My interpretation of NEUTRAL is that the alignment basically does nothing in the path of progress or could just take careful steps forward and back. While it tries to be individualistic, it has no cause, and no cause equates to inaction. It may be humanistic, but I don't see idealism in isolationisitic status quo maintenance. "Not a permanent solution is right", the balance may actually be a transition point. LIGHT-NEUTRAL is essentially pursuing the common good but with no real cause. NEUTRAL-NEUTRAL is total lack of ideals or cause. DARK-NEUTRAL is shady, but ultimately self-interest oriented. LIGHT-NEUTRAL entities always try for common good but willing to make compromises. NEUTRAL-NEUTRAL entities are either mercenary-like entities or entities that don't care for any cause. DARK-NEUTRAL entities are simply selfish entities that don't care about other people.
Here is the standard description:
"The alignment is associated with Lucifer, freedom and war. In the game it is represented by the Gaian religion, and the colors red and black. This alignment promotes freedom of choice, thought and action above all else in stark contrast to the controlling nature of the Law alignment. However, this freedom can lead to a vast amount of suffering and anarchy, leading the world into a primal state of unsuppressed vice and survival of the fittest. The main goal of the Chaos factions is to crush the Messian forces opposing them and attain complete and total power over Tokyo."
My interpretation of CHAOS is that the alignment promotes going forward on the path of progress. I don't think CHAOS has anything to do with war, rather authority and law actually cause more wars. CHAOS is only interested in freedom, equality and diversity is surely on of those freedoms, especially as chaos is actually something diverse and complex. Much of the bad points about chaos are based on misconceptions. Anarchy does not equal social Darwinism; in fact, we could all rule ourselves as soon as we realise we don't need order. Survival-of-the-fittest may be a misinterpretation of the ability of individuals to rise up with their personal power, or of the fact that life is flow which you have to adapt to or be tuned in to in order to succeed. I don't think the makers of the games did any research on anarchism (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchism). I don't think the Gaians are a religion, rather a spiritual movement similar to 60's counterculture. The old gods could just be representations of nature, the Earth, the presence of the Earth, and the chaos innate in the universe. Much of CHAOS practically screams "death of the old world, birth of the new world". LIGHT-CHAOS is the true nature of chaos as the "divine nature" of the universe, complex and beautiful, yet unpredictable. NEUTRAL-CHAOS is the aim for freedom but at the same time amoral. DARK-CHAOS is destruction for the sake of it but just a challenge that needs to be embraced. LIGHT-CHAOS entities represent the flow of nature, the natural state, and chaos in the universe. NEUTRAL-CHAOS entities are life-loving hedonists that seek freedom and represent life. DARK-CHAOS entities represent destruction but also challenges of life that must be accepted in order to make it less painful.
What do you think? GalaxiaWild 11:27, January 30, 2011 (UTC)
EDIT: It is interesting to note that Shin Megami Tensei doesn't elaborate on the philosophies of its alignments. Another misconception of survival-of-the-fittest is that it is dog-eat-dog. The Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin suggests this is not the case as this section from Wikipedia shows.
Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin viewed the concept of "survival of the fittest" as supporting co-operation rather than competition. In his book Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution he set out his analysis leading to the conclusion that the fittest was not necessarily the best at competing individually, but often the community made up of those best at working together. He concluded that
In the animal world we have seen that the vast majority of species live in societies, and that they find in association the best arms for the struggle for life: understood, of course, in its wide Darwinian sense — not as a struggle for the sheer means of existence, but as a struggle against all natural conditions unfavourable to the species. The animal species, in which individual struggle has been reduced to its narrowest limits, and the practice of mutual aid has attained the greatest development, are invariably the most numerous, the most prosperous, and the most open to further progress.
Applying this concept to human society, Kropotkin presented mutual aid as one of the dominant factors of evolution, the other being self assertion, and concluded that
In the practice of mutual aid, which we can retrace to the earliest beginnings of evolution, we thus find the positive and undoubted origin of our ethical conceptions; and we can affirm that in the ethical progress of man, mutual support not mutual struggle – has had the leading part. In its wide extension, even at the present time, we also see the best guarantee of a still loftier evolution of our race.
GalaxiaWild 18:23, January 30, 2011 (UTC)
EDIT: There's another reason why SMT'S CHAOS is based on misconceptions. "Survival of the fittest" was actually supposed to mean "Survival of those most suited to conditions", which actaully included cooperation and, sometimes, altruism, not a dog-eat-dog or every-man-for-himself mechanism. It still counts as being like CHAOS and law of jungle though, because chaos itself is the ever-changing flow of life that we constantly need to adapt to in order to succeed in life. And if CHAOS is related to nature, then it it still counts GalaxiaWild 19:20, January 30, 2011 (UTC)
There are a few misconceptions I spotted here. Unfortunately, I can't go into detail about them because that would go into the realm of philosophical and religious debate (which isn't allowed on this forum). In you're article about Chaos, however, I can probably clarify two things: 1) There's a pretty good reason Chaos doesn't resemble anarchism - it isn't. It's based around cosmic chaos, a perception of the universe as ever random and entropic in nature. It's the kind seen in Elric of Melnibone or Planescape. It probably isn't there because of misconception, but rather as a choice of accenting the extreme and alien nature of one of the alignments demons represent, the same with Law and Neutral. 2) The Cult of Gaia is just that: a cult. A religion. They pray to idols, they build shines and churches (hidden, but still existent), they take tithe from their followers, they have a dichotomy with Law and they summon spiritual beings into the world through ritual. Perhaps if you take the representation from Nocturne, you may have something in a spiritual movement (and would probably have to take the Messians as an organization of monotheists or something of the like), but if you're taking it from the first and second games, it's a creative liberty and would take a lot to prove it as a viable interpretation.
As for the interpretation as a whole? I can't comment on most of it, because (again) most of doesn't have a place on this board. As an interpretation in game fiction? It's terribly biased, politically motivated, doesn't follow the canon of the games and pretty much destroys the main messages in the series: that it's your choice and that no answer is technically the wrong one. It also sort of ruins the key point of interest in Law vs. Chaos stories, where both sides have an about even amount of good and bad traits (even if the story and author decides that one is better than the other). The interpretation here seems more like the kind a political/philosophical tact (a thing that's usually counted a demerit).
If this is your philosophy or political leaning or whatever sort of space it fills, that's perfectly fine and more power to you for having it! As an interpretation for the games, this just isn't good. -- Otogi_2
What about LAW or NEUTRAL? GrassoLife 20:52, February 8, 2011 (UTC)
...what about them, exactly? -- Otogi_2
I mean how do you view the LAW and NEUTRAL interpretations? GrassoLife 07:09, February 9, 2011 (UTC)
In the games? The same as I said: it's an extreme and alien take on both views. In real life? I'll say when this board turns into a "Politics" board. -- Otogi_2
Maybe you're right Otogi_2. It's no use trying to interpret an alignment differently because it won't work. The only good solution is to choose you path in the games based solely on your personal choices and where they take you, regardless of where it takes you (heavily NEUTRAL statement alert).
PS: Does NEUTRAL count as anarchism? GalaxiaWild 16:45, February 9, 2011 (UTC)
Actually, you can have different interpretations in the games, you just have to back them up with the canon and try to objectively reason how things that don't obviously fit interpretation can work. I will say that the lack of character-based interpretations within alignments (savage, anarchist and cosmic chaotic demons in the same game) is something that leaves many wanting, as it would at an even larger layer of complexity to the system. As of now, however, most characters pretty much align themselves with the standard "Law is God, Chaos is Darwinism and Neutral is Balance" way of alignment, with the differences between focused on how much they do so rather than differences (with the exception of Raidou 2). I will, however, vouch for your thinking about the games, since it's interesting to find out what your mindset is regarded as.
PSS: From what I've read, even LAW can count as anarchism. -- Otogi_2
@Otogi_2 How? And what about NEUTRAL? GalaxiaWild 20:11, February 9, 2011 (UTC)
All alignment, up and down the board, can be anarchistic (from what I've read). From an academic perspective, it's about not having rulers. Order (and for some cases, even law) is compatible with it.
@Otogi_2 Don't you think saying LAW is compatible with anarchism is a little off, because you live under God, who explicitly counts as a ruler in the games? GalaxiaWild 20:33, February 9, 2011 (UTC)
Not at all. Though it would be an interesting plot seed to see a group or demon of law to see it like that, there are such people who identify themselves as Anarcho-Christians who believe that mortals (and if you were to go into the game with this, presumably demons who aren't The Great Will) shouldn't hold leadership. The same would probably apply (if perhaps only a text mentioned). -- Otogi_2
@Otogi_2 I have heard of Christian anarchists. I've also heard of Jewish anarchism, Buddhist anarchism, and Islamic anarchism. I know how CHAOS can be anarchistic, and you explained how LAW can be anarchistic. But what about NEUTRAL? You never said anything about how NEUTRAL can be anarchistic. GalaxiaWild 19:07, February 10, 2011 (UTC)
Same with Law; laws are okay, just no rulership. It would just presumably have less "hard" laws and more flexibility. In the games, it would be about a collections of fae having a closed society, I guess? Or maybe spirits of Law and Chaos trying to achieve synthesis by constant, even interaction?
I have to ask though: why all the questions about anarchism here? And on a smaller note, why is everyone typing the alignment names in all caps? -- Otogi_2
@Otogi_2 Anarchism is something I'm exploring, I'm trying to imagine a society in a natural state with no government but we still have self-rule and progress. And the alignments are in captial letters because I belivere that's how it is in the games. GalaxiaWild 06:50, February 11, 2011 (UTC)
Okay, but why explore it here? Why not a site that discuses political philosophy? This a wiki about a JRPG about capturing demons like Pokemon. It explores morality, sure, but even as a hardcore fan I'll admit it's more limited than some other games, and much less applicable to the real world than most other games. Pretty much every alignment is fantastic and extreme in some fashion, and that really, really isn't a good thing to mix in with real-world politics. -- Otogi_2
@Otogi_2 For one last point before I conclude this discussion, knowing all I needed and wanted from this discussion, I have a habit of going in depth, it's a side-effect of being sucha thinker. GalaxiaWild 21:00, February 11, 2011 (UTC)
@0togi_2 I think I forgot something in CHAOS. The demons are always trying to restore their godly forms. Maybe it's symbolic of something that is misunderstood becoming accepted, thereby something what was once feared becomes embraced. GalaxiaWild 08:38, February 18, 2011 (UTC)
Now that's a good interpretation. Sadly, it's undermined by some Chaos endings, especially in Strange Journey where it seemed to be way of establishing dominance and returning to power over the Earth (or taking over the Earth). Or it could be a show of Anarchic Egoism, meaning that there can be more interpretations of the alignments than it appears. Or it's accidental symbolism, and we're seeing more into this than the creators did; it's happened before. -- Otogi_2
@Otogi_2 When has Accidental Symbolism happened before? GalaxiaWild 08:57, February 19, 2011 (UTC)
Since the very first days of storytelling, I'm guessing. -- Otogi_@
@Otogi_2 I think this is worth noting about each alignment:
The statements in bold are the important parts
LAW: The Law alignment promotes order and safety, but taken to an extreme it leads to dictatorship and elitism.
CHAOS: I think it's safe to say that the suffering, unsuppressed vice, and rule of the strong is the result of taking Chas to an extreme.
NEUTRAL: Is it possible to take NEUTRAL to an extreme?
I'm thinking that the alignments are only bad if you let them get taken to an extreme, theoretically meaning that all the alignments are good if you don't let them go to extremes (that said they'll still have they're own disadvantages). Maybe LIGHT is more moderated, NEUTRAL indifferent, and DARK the embodiement of extremes. How can you take alignments to extremes and how can you prevent that? Maybe you can't in gameplay but theoretically speaking how? GalaxiaWild 20:02, March 10, 2011 (UTC)
It's VERY possible to take neutral to an extreme. An extreme neutral leader would ban BOTH religious groups as dangerous to the status quo. I mean, they do try to overthrow governments so they can implace institutes to slaughter the competition. Or maybe a leader with a 'hang all murderers' point of view when someone decides to try to attack the opposite group (Messian attacking Gaeaen church for example). The first is more neutral-dark while the 2nd is more neutral-light?126.96.36.199 11:07, July 30, 2011 (UTC)
I'd say another interpretation of NEUTRAL-extreme would be like what is seen in Persona 3 and 4. The view that everything is just as equal, and therefore everything is worthless. Lies, deceit, and opinions are just as real as the truth, and death is just as desirable of life. It reduces everything to uniform grey, just like how LAW makes everything silent white and CHAOS makes everything roiling black at the same extreme. 188.8.131.52 13:53, July 31, 2011 (UTC)
I find it pretty interesting that you would go as far as linking anarchism (the political ideology, not the vague anti-authoritarian ideal) to Chaos when that alignment is basically "might makes right." If you wanna attach ideologies to the SMT alignment system then I'd say anarchism is more Neutral. Yes it wishes to abolish authority to prevent a minority from inflicting upon a majorities liberty, but it also recognizes the need for social regulation. After all if people can do anything they want, what is to stop them from violating the liberty of another? Ultimately all the alignments do have negative and positive aspects if one approaches them in a non-partisan way. There is no right answer and that's what makes these game better than their western counterparts, narrative-wise, where your options are "Give the starving child food" or "Kill the starving child, slowly."
So, political ideologies cannot be attached to the SMT alignments, especially given the narrative of the games. Hell, what's to stop you from creating a more regulated Chaotic society more in line with anarchism, or something I like to call naturalistic anarchism (my own little fusion of anarchism and natural principles), or a moderate Chaos ideal. But that might depend on whether Chaos's goals are truly freedom or just social "Darwinism". 184.108.40.206 19:34, September 8, 2011 (UTC)
I'd look at it more like this.
Law, Chaos, and Neutral are all forms of establishment and manifestation through power, just as they are with the Reasons of SMT:III.
The main driving aspect of them are the Alignments of Light, Neutral and Dark.
What you do with them and act upon the values and ethics you hold in your heart all is what comes with the actions you make.
Categorization isn't the best way to learn about things, but they do provide figureheads and examples to expand upon and delve upon more on.
For example, Light Chaos is a world where the inhabitants do as they please with out being horrible and selfish onto others, allowing for vast amounts of power with great responsibility, for a balance.
Dark Law is a world where established quota is pushed to the brink of extremity, and that can be nearly any law. Those that break those laws are subject to the example of cruel inhumanity, except for those that established the world in the first place.
Neutral Neutral is our world, tongue in cheek. Anything happens, anything goes, and it leads into a great stirring whirl of indecision and irresoluteness. It's all still, and something should move, but nothing will fast enough because there's too many karmic counterbalances of moral and ethical underworkings that divide many people into selfish or apathetic viewpoints of meh and disinterest, leaving it up for the tides to guide them.
Just saying. Mask no Oni 05:09, December 21, 2011 (UTC)