Chapter 76: "And that's why I can destroy Dementors and you can't," said the boy. "Because I believe that the darkness can be broken."

This is interesting, because it touches upon a thought I had about the Dementors back in Chapter 45. In canon, Dementors are manifestations not of death or even fear, but of despair. (I believe Rowling has said she drew upon her own experiences of depression.) That's why chocolate helps, why they generate feelings of hopelessness, why they take away happy memories and leave unhappy ones, and why their ultimate power is to put people into a coma rather than to kill them. None of this makes sense for a manifestation of death.

But Harry's response would work either way. A happy memory, a pleasant thought, can shield against despair, but it can't destroy it. Hope, on the other hand, true grim hope – the belief that things can be made better and, crucially, the unshakeable determination to make them so, not by thinking 'wouldn't it be nice if…' but by knuckling down and solving the insoluble problem – is the only true cure for despair. And that sort of hope, which Harry shows, is actually pretty hard to hold truly, which would explain why almost no-one else has found the same way that Harry has.

I don't believe this was Eliezer's intention. Harry's views on death are far too close to Eliezer's own as shown in http://yudkowsky.net/singularity/simplified for me to feel that the Dementors are intended to be anything else. But I quite like my interpretation. Aside from anything else, since that sort of hope can be reinforced by being shared (enhancing both resolve and the feeling that the task is possible), it leaves open the possibility for a Patronus 3.0 by group-casting.

That's why chocolate helps, why they generate feelings of hopelessness, why they take away happy memories and leave unhappy ones, and why their ultimate power is to put people into a coma rather than to kill them. None of this makes sense for a manifestation of death.

I don't know about chocolate, but bad memories are definitely scars you get from death. And what I suspect triggered the idea in Eliezer's mind to make Dementors be about death is the idea of the Dementor's kiss, because of the old metaphor "kiss of death".

9HonoreDB9yI think what Harry says is heartfelt, but it's also a decent false trail to prevent Dumbledore from accidentally working out the secret and losing his ability to cast a Patronus. Not that Dumbledore necessarily needs that. He's in a great position for doublethink: he can presumably use the Pensieve, label the memory "the secret of dementors and the Patronus charm," then Obliviate himself. Locking the basilisk away in a secret chamber, if you will.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 9

by Oscar_Cunningham 1 min read9th Sep 2011725 comments

10


(The HPMOR discussion thread after this one is here.)

The previous thread is over the 500-comment threshold, so let's start a new Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread.  This is the place to discuss Eliezer Yudkowsky's Harry Potter fanfic and anything related to it. The latest chapter as of 09/09/2011 is Ch. 77.


The first 5 discussion threads are on the main page under the harry_potter tag.  Threads 6 and on (including this one) are in the discussion section using its separate tag system.  Also: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.  The fanfiction.net author page is the central location for information about updates and links to HPMOR-related goodies, and AdeleneDawner has kept an archive of Author's Notes.

As a reminder, it's often useful to start your comment by indicating which chapter you are commenting on.

Spoiler Warning:  this thread is full of spoilers.  With few exceptions, spoilers for MOR and canon are fair game to post, without warning or rot13.  More specifically:

You do not need to rot13 anything about HP:MoR or the original Harry Potter series unless you are posting insider information from Eliezer Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).

If there is evidence for X in MOR and/or canon then it's fine to post about X without rot13, even if you also have heard privately from Eliezer that X is true. But you should not post that "Eliezer said X is true" unless you use rot13.