[LMB] I'm misunderstanding beguilement?

Matthew George matt.msg at gmail.com
Tue Aug 6 20:33:07 BST 2019

On Tue, Aug 6, 2019 at 8:51 AM Howard Brazee <howard at brazee.net> wrote:

> What happens when a non-Lakewalker has some beguilement capability but
> doesn’t recognize it while using it?

I'd argue they can't be considered culpable.  That doesn't necessarily mean
that no steps will be taken, but in terms of justice there can be no
punishment.  "No punishment" doesn't mean no steps will be taken against
them, though.  Typhoid Mary seems to have been an honest enough woman, but
even if the authorities hadn't had typical Edwardian/Victorian
sensibilities, it would probably have been necessary to quarantine her
indefinitely.  And I don't say that lightly - I find imprisonment
inherently objectionable.  But killing her would likely have been even
worse.  (Thankfully curing the typhoid is now an option, but when it

Is it acceptable to use beguilement to make someone with dementia
> comfortable?

A question that, in the broadest sense, is brought up multiple times in the
Vorkosiverse.  Is neural regeneration appropriate if the only result will
be a damaged animal?  What standards of care are due a cryo patient that
has been turned into a vegetable?  There are less weighty related questions
that are as hard to answer.  A friend of mine was convinced that the last
books Terry Pratchett wrote were radically different because his dementia
was corroding his personality.  I felt that any changes in his style were
likely to his knowing that he was a beloved author who was both dying and
known to be dying, and so no longer felt the need to comply with arbitrary
censorship conventions, since anything coherent he wrote would end up
published.  My knowledge of Pratchett's reports on the development of his
specific case was a factor - but who could tell?

More generally, if an old person stops following societal norms and
conventions, how do you distinguish a lack of inhibition caused by
neurological decay from not caring about stupid customs because little
remains to be lost from ignoring them and little gained from following?
Dementia from being tired of toeing the line?

Frankly, with a sufficiently severe case of dementia, it becomes difficult
to condemn anything; even if we'd find actions emotional abhorrent, it's
hard to make a case on rational grounds.  I suppose the concept of
rejecting cruelty to animals remains.  Is it wrong to use beguilement to
control a horse?  Or to lure a bear to become prey?

Matt G.

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