Geeks With Blogs
Scott Miller Appsguild - Software craftsmanship, project management, and the biz of software
My friend and I were having an interesting conversation last night - one of those conversations that you have when it either really late or your are drunk (which we weren't).

The conversation was on personal alignment - you know, like D&D alignment. Not that we are gamers, but we were discussing our own personal alignment and the ramifications thereof.

Lawful Good Neutral Good Chaotic Good
Lawful Neutral Neutral Chaotic Neutral
Lawful Evil Neutral Evil Chaotic Evil

I personally think that I am Chaotic Good.
My friend was asserting that everyone is essentially Chaotic Neutral. As the Wikipedia entry says, many professionals and others, both inside and outside gaming think that assigning characterization is basically wrong - that a person is "good" or "bad" based on actions, not the other way around. This made a lively philosophical and religious discussion - "Is your character determined by your actions, or your actions determined by character, or both?"

What do you think?

Posted on Saturday, December 23, 2006 6:14 PM | Back to top


Comments on this post: What is your personal alignment?

# re: What is your personal alignment?
Requesting Gravatar...
Interesting thought...here are some of my thoughts to add to the conversation...

I don't think you can limit it to actions and character. There are two other aspects that need to be considered: environment and values. For instance, in ancient Greece if a baby was born with a defect, the parents would leave it on a hillside somewhere. Were these parents considered evil by their peers? Probably not...because their environment dictated that this action was not one of evil...it may have been perceived that it was merciful. Now if that happened in North American in 2006, the parents would be strung up and sentenced to prison (or death if you're in Texas). This is where environment and values come into play: what does the society say constitutes good from evil?

Or another scenario: a loving father, devoted to his wife and children. He would sacrifice anything for them and their extended family. He's a caring man who volunteers at his church and helps shovel his elderly neighbors walkway. Sounds pretty Lawful Good right?

Well when he's at work, he's ruthless. The company must succeed at any cost, and he needs to be successful as well. So if that means sacrificing a co-worker, or fudging some numbers, so be it. Well...wait...that doesn't sound like Lawful Good anymore. Someone scheming for the downfall of a coworker might be seen more evil than good. But...what is he then?

So you have the mixed alignment issue as well. I agree that you can't characterize one basic alignment to people, because I think people have different alignments depending on environment, values, and situations.

"Kill this person or I'll kill your wife" What do you do? The Lawful Good person would say "I'm not going to kill that person. Go ahead and kill my wife you scoundrel, I'm not going to break any laws!" Now...is that realistic? Does every single action we do fit into an alignment? No. That's why the message of Christianity is one of grace: nobody could live up to the standards of God, which is why Jesus died for all sin and allow people to re-connect with God in a way they otherwise wouldn't have been able to.

So yeah...just some extra thoughts.
Left by D'Arcy from Winnipeg on Dec 23, 2006 6:51 PM

# re: What is your personal alignment?
Requesting Gravatar...
Another aspect I thought of is whether a persons actions truly are a reflection of how "good" or "evil" they really are (or maybe that's just another way to look at what I posted earlier)...

For instance, someone who's mentally ill and believes they are doing good when they are really killing or injuring someone. To rational people, what they did was wrong. But were they pre-disposed to perform an "evil" act, where malice and intent were apparent...or were they acting out what they thought was a "good" act? This could be a case where a "good" person does a contradictory action, but does not really reflect the true character of the individual.

So maybe in addition to environment and values, we also have to add in motivation...which I think is different from values.
Left by D'Arcy from Winnipeg on Dec 23, 2006 9:51 PM

# re: What is your personal alignment?
Requesting Gravatar...
Most definitely. I know someone who has bipolar disorder and there is sometimes confusion about whether an act is good or evil.
The definition of "good and evil" in the Wikipedia description of alignment mostly centers on altruism and selflessness. Altruism has always been a thorn in an evolutionary scientist's side, but some have suggested that altruism in the animal kingdom is not always pure selfless altruism. Therefore, the black and white definition of "good" used in alignment may be far too simplistic.
AS for my original question, "Is your character determined by your actions, or your actions determined by character, or both?", most people hold to the Christian tenet that how you act (your "fruit") displays your true character.
Left by Scott Miller on Dec 23, 2006 10:14 PM

# re: What is your personal alignment?
Requesting Gravatar...
I think that character is only truely visible to one's self. It is internal and your actions are the portals to view one's charactor.

Everybody can fake actions, and as D'arcy said, many other factors impact an action. Consistant actions, over a period of time, provide a pretty good indication of a persons charactor.

I really like the points D'arcy brought up. Especially the father at work. I would like to see you expand on the impact of values.

As Scott touched on, altruism (one of my favorite words) in the scientific sense, really doesn't have much to do with selflessness. It is more about prioritizing the group (family, species) over the individual. From a human perspective, this is considered selfless, but the animal is just trying to extend the life of his bloodline, not do somebody a favor just because they are nice. The definition of altruism in regards to people is much more complimentary and much less applicable to most human's behavior.
Left by Tim Hibbard on Dec 24, 2006 12:42 AM

# re: What is your personal alignment?
Requesting Gravatar...
I agree, Tim, that character is only visible to one's self. Everything external can be faked.
I would bet that most people, if asked to classify their character, would choose "Good". As some psychology experts say, even serial killers sometimes think that they are mostly good. Examples are BTK in Wichita, who tortured women but still was a leader in his church. Another example is the serial killer Sylar in the show Heroes (which is my favorite TV show). A watchmaker by trade, he believes that he is "fixing" the mutant heroes, as he cuts open their skulls and takes out their brains (I wonder how he absorbs their powers - if he eats their brains?).
Left by Scott Miller on Dec 24, 2006 8:57 AM

Your comment:
 (will show your gravatar)


Copyright © Scott Miller | Powered by: GeeksWithBlogs.net