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[FINAL CHAPTER] Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 122

This is really the only sense in which I am disappointed in this story. One of the things that really got me excited about HPMOR was that the protagonist did not just shrug and accept that magic is magic, he sought to untangle how it's laws work, and the results were as bewildering as I imagine quantum must have been to scientists of the early 20th century. That is one of the puzzles that I really wanted to solve about this story, almost more than I wanted to know how the cloak and dagger mysteries resolved. It felt to me like we were promised that magic would be somehow logical, even if it did not initially appear so. It may in fact still be, but we have few answers about this fundamental and intriguing aspect of the universe. In short: HOW DOES IT WORK??? HOW?!? TELL ME!!!

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 121

I am among those with a sympathetic view of Snape. This was a satisfying chapter for me.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 120

Ideally he has been obliviated of that part of the conversation too. "the most important part of any secret is the knowledge that a secret exists", etc.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 118

It's not nearly that simple. In a nutshell, their brains are very noticeably different from normal brains, the track record of treatment has been not only ineffective but sometimes counterproductive, and the problem is considered by many to be intractable. The studies done were not done well, and there have been some promising results with "decompression treatment" for juveniles who are mild to moderate in their psychopathy, and no other group. It would be a great boon to society if adult psychopaths could be rehabilitated, but no one knows how to do it.

I encourage you to peruse the whole thing if you have time, but here are some excerpts:

Putting these results together begins to paint a picture of the psychopathic brain as being markedly deficient in neural areas critical for three aspects of moral judgment: 1) the ability to recognize moral issues; 2) the ability to inhibit a response pending resolution of the moral issue; and 3) the ability to reach a decision about the moral issue. Along with several other researchers,149 we have demonstrated that each of these tasks recruits areas in the paralimbic system, and that those precise areas are the ones in which psychopaths have markedly reduced neural activity compared with non-psychopaths.

What does all this mean? First, it suggests that the story of psychopathy is largely limbic and paralimbic rather than prefrontal.150 This dovetails nicely with the central paradox of the psychopath: he is completely rational but morally insane. He is missing the moral core, a core that appears intimately involved with the paralimbic regions. If the key to psychopathy lies in these lower regions, then it is no mystery that the psychopath is able to recruit his higher functions to navigate the world. In fact, when he gives a moral response, it seems the psychopath must recruit frontal areas to mimic his dysfunctional paralimbic areas. That is, the psychopath must think about right and wrong while the rest of us feel it. He knows morality’s words but not its music.

The received dogma has been that psychopathy is untreatable, based on study after study that seemed to show that the behaviors of psychopaths could not be improved by any traditional, or even nontraditional, forms of therapy. Nothing seems to have worked—psychoanalysis, group therapy, client-centered therapy, psychodrama, psychosurgery, electroshock therapy or drug therapy153—creating a largely unshakable belief among most clinicians and academics, and certainly among lay people, that psychopathy is untreatable, though as we will discuss below few if any of these studies were properly controlled and designed.

Most talking therapies, at least, are aimed at patients who know, at one level or another, that they need help. Psychotherapy normally requires patients to participate actively in their own recovery. But psychopaths are not distressed; they typically do not feel they have any psychological or emotional problems, and are not only generally satisfied with themselves but see themselves as superior beings in a world of inferior ones.

Treatment not only seems not to work, there is evidence that some kinds of treatment make matters worse. In a famous 1991 study of incarcerated psychopaths about to be released from a therapeutic community, those who received group therapy actually had a higher violent recidivism rate than those who were not treated at all.

The state of the treatment literature has been described as “appalling.”

Second, and most importantly, the decompression treatment was highly effective in reducing both institutional misconduct and recidivism, but only if it was lengthy and only—and here is the less promising aspect of the study—for juveniles scoring in the low to moderate ranges of the PCL-YV (≤ 31)

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 119

Harry has to some extent undone the work of Merlin. Merlin's interdict ensures that the most powerful magics slowly die out of the world as wizards and witches die with their secrets. Harry's scheme for immortality in the magical world puts a stop to the losses, and allows magical knowledge to be kept as it is re-discovered, however slowly. Previously the loss rate exceeded the discovery rate. I think that is about to be reversed. And the Interdict of Merlin was put in place to avoid a prophesied destruction of the world.

Ch. 80

And when (the legend continues) the Seers continued to foretell that not enough had yet been done to prevent the end of the world and its magic, then (the story goes) Merlin sacrificed his life, and his wizardry, and his time, to lay in force the Interdict of Merlin.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 119

Unexplained recoveries are a real thing. Everyone just shrugs and celebrates, or maybe credits God or the ginko biloba. It's been Flamel all along.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 118

Agreed, and add to all of those risks that Harry is an obliviation noob and he may not have gotten the wipe right. We don't know what Voldemort will or will not remember if he wakes.

Even in the medium case of possession by an amnesiac, V might figure out who he probably is, or get briefed by a servant who figures it out. The list of recently deceased epically powered wizards in the world is pretty short.

And Harry is being naive again:

On Harry's left hand, a tiny emerald glowed bright beneath the morning sun.

Not Heaven, not some faraway star, not a different place but a better person, I'll show you, someday I'll show you how to be happy -

The issue with psychopathy is not that these people are not happy, but that they are not capable of empathy. Not that it needs to be taught, but that the brain circuitry for empathy is not functional. Being raised in a kind versus abusive environment matters, but the difference that produces is between someone who is merely cold, selfish, manipulative, and calculating versus someone who is all of those things in a serial killer kind of way. Muggles have no therapy for it. Maybe magic does, but it isn't a question of teaching Quirrell to be happy. Quirrell will have to be changed into a person who is a capable of genuinely caring about people who are not him.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 116

Also if Hermione wakes up as a copy of Harry:

4 - Harry and most of the HPMOR readers will be extremely dismayed at this development.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, March 2015, chapter 116

I've argued before that HPMOR probably includes some kind of mind/body dualism. It occurs to me that an interesting experiment is about to be performed.

The body of Hermione Granger has been infused with the life and magic of Harry Potter. I assume for narrative reasons that Hermione will wake up as Hermione. But a copy of Harry could wake up in Hermione's body instead.

The mechanisms behind a person' life force, magic force, and mind are unknown to us. We don't also don't know whether or to what extent these aspects of a person are separate or connected. It should be assumed throughout this post that I am talking about the minds of magical people, and that muggles could be a separate case.

If Hermione wakes up as Hermione after being resurrected by Harry's life force and magic force I will conclude:

  1. A mind is probably not made up only of a person's life force and/or magic force. The only exception I can think of is if the mind runs on a substrate of your life and/or magic force but the Patronus 2.0 or resurrection process strip that information out of the projected life and magic, passing the substrate but not the pattern on it.

  2. Either the mind has at least something to do with the body OR magic will, upon resurrection, retrieve the mind that is supposed to go with the body OR Harry's intent is sufficient to establish what was supposed to happen here.

  3. Related to #1, atomic souls in the sense of "an animating force that contains a person's life, magic, and mind all in one non-physical object that persists beyond that person's death" would be ruled out. Life beyond death would not be ruled out, but souls could not be things with no smaller components if they exist at all.

  4. I would update to consider possibilities like "your mind is just your brain but magic stores it in other dimensions or on a magical substrate when required" more likely than I previously did.

If Hermione wakes up as a copy of Harry in Hermione's body I will conclude:

  1. Mind/body monism is almost certainly false. Your mind is not your brain in any sense; the brain is at best an interface that the mind uses or a home that it resides in. Monism could only be rescued if magic turned Hermione's brain into Harry's brain during the resurrection process.

  2. Your mind either is inseparable from your life and/or magic or it is a pattern on a life/magic substrate that is transmitted with that subtrate through the Patronus 2.0 resurrection process.

  3. I will update to consider atomic souls as described above to be more likely than I previously did.

Separately, in a world with mind/body monism, I wonder whether regeneration as a magic that always transfigures you back into yourself would prevent learning. Probably not. Magic tends to have the intended effect rather than a strictly mechanistic one.

(edited for formatting and grammar)

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