I omitted some details to simplify things. But now let's enter into full Tolkien geek mode! Unfortunately I gave away my Tolkien collection years ago when I realized how un-humanistic it was, so I can't provide quotes and page numbers, but I do rely on my memory.

The people of Numenor had been wanting to stop dying for several generations

True - I omitted this part to make things simpler.

he made him think the proper way to go about actualizing this was to worship Melkor (essentially Satan), do human sacrifice in his name, and go about conquering the world, including the land of men

Not quite. He made him think that to be immortal he had to go to the land of the Valar and possibly fight them. I don't remember if it's stated explicitly what purpose the human sacrifice had. And conquering the world was something the Numenoreans had been doing for generations, without Sauron, and anyway it's hard to see how they could have expected that to grant them immortality.

Also, it's explicitly said that Men did NOT become immortal by stepping on the Western Islands

That may depend on what version of the Alkallabeth you're reading. I don't remember which version(s) this is, but after Eru caused the Downfall, the punishment of the King and his army who had disembarked on the shore of the Undying Lands wasn't death. They were "imprisoned in a cave beneath the earth", IIRC, and there they would not die until the end of the world and the Last Battle.

In other words, they became so immortal that even Eru couldn't kill them, although he killed everyone else in Numenor...

Yes, of course, I realize this is reading out of context. Firstly it's an older story left from before the legendarium became much more explicitly Christian. And second it makes no sense for Men to become immortal just by stepping on the shore of the West.

But considered as a legend told by later Men, it's illuminating.

The Elves and Valar indeed said to Men, that Men would die faster if they went to the Immortal Lands, like moths burning in too bright a fire.

And you believe them? They're obviously speaking in their own self interest :-) Incidentally, these are the same guys who said that they had no idea what death was for, except that it must be good for something since it was a gift of Eru.

The Light Elves and the Valar are an evil, immoral bunch who never helped others when they saw them suffering. They abandoned Men for the first several millenia of their existence to Melkor (and later Sauron), and then blamed Men for "falling". Later they abandoned all non-Numenorean Men to Sauron, and then blamed them for becoming "corrupted and evil", and supported the Numenoreans in enslaving them. All this was before the Fall of Numenor, so they hadn't had the excuse of the West being "removed from the circles of the world".

The "righteous" weren't righteous by "saying they wanted to die"

It's the ideal. As you note, Aragorn and some others (e.g. the early Kings of Numenor) actually achieved it.

Later men were lesser men, in keeping with the story. But I'm pretty sure someone like Faramir would say that anything done by the early Numenoreans must have been right, and would claim to want to want to die on that basis.

The righteous, the Elf-friends, were primarily "righteous" by not engaging in human sacrifice, and by not supporting the wars of conquest.

True. And I expect they also kept saying they wanted to want to die without protest in old age.

I think Tolkien is actually pretty sympathetic to those people that desire immortality (as long as they DO NOT go about killing other people to ensure it)

Where do you see even a hint of this?

The Nine Kings of Men who were given rings by Sauron became immortal - and became Ringwraiths. It's implied pretty clearly, in Bilbo's descriptions of the One Ring (he felt "spread out like butter over too much bread", i.e. had lived too long), that this is partly due to becoming immortal in itself, and not just due to being dominated by Sauron's will. Orcs and Southrons were dominated by Sauron's will and weren't wraiths. And the Nine Rings did not AFAIK confer "trivial" invisibility as did the One Ring.

he even has Arwen not being cool over Aragorn's death

Meh. She chose to became mortal to marry him. She was angsting over her own impending death. After he died, she willed herself to die just a year later - explicitly in despair. And before that, her father and family never really accepted her choice, and they "parted in bitterness", i.e. fought and never made up. Hard to say if Tolkien was sympathetic, but other people in Middle-Earth definitely weren't.

The Light Elves and the Valar are an evil, immoral bunch who never helped others when they saw them suffering. They abandoned Men for the first several millenia of their existence to Melkor (and later Sauron), and then blamed Men for "falling".

Dude, they created the whole of the Sun for Men's benefit. That's a big thing, the whole of the Sun.

As for the first fall of Men, Tolkien leaves it deliberately vague, so we can't know how much they were to blame.

And after Melkor was defeated, they raised Numenor out of the oceans, and increased the li... (read more)

Many of us *are* hit with a baseball once a month.

by Alexandros 1 min read22nd Dec 201031 comments


Watching the video of Eliezer's Singularity Summit 2010 talk, I thought once more about the 'baseball' argument. Here's a text version from How to Seem (and Be) Deep:

[...] given human nature, if people got hit on the head by a baseball bat every week, pretty soon they would invent reasons why getting hit on the head with a baseball bat was a good thing.

And then it dawned on me. Roughly half of human kind, women, are inflicted with a painful experience about once a month for a large period of their lives.

So, if the hypothesis was correct, we would expect to have deep-sounding memes about why this was a good thing floating around. Not one to disappoint, the internet has indeed produced at least two such lists, linked here for your reading pleasure. However, neither of these lists claim that the benefits outweigh the costs, nor do they make any deep-sounding arguments about why this is in fact a good thing overall. Whether or not they are supported by the evidence, the benefits mentioned are relatively practical. What's more, you don't hear these going around a lot (as far as I know, which, admittedly, is not very far). 

So why aren't these memes philosophised about? Perhaps the ick factor? Maybe the fact that having the other half of the population going around and having perfectly normal lives without any obvious drawbacks acts as a sanity test? 

In any case, since this is a counter-argument that may eventually get raised, and since I didn't want to suppress it in favour of a soldier fighting on our side, I thought I'd type this up and feed it to the LessWrong hivemind for better or worse.