“I do not insist that my argument is right in all other respects, but I would contend at all costs both in word and deed as far as I could that we will be better men, braver and less idle, if we believe that one must search for the things one does not know, rather than if we believe that it is not possible to find out what we do not know and that we must not look for it.”
Let me begin with a caveat, that the opinions expressed in this series of essays are mine alone and as such are susceptible to all the normal vagaries of opinions. But, I do feel that my opinions are firmly grounded and well researched. They are based upon multiple readings and studies of all of the Gor novels, all of Norman’s other written works, and additional extensive readings and studies into philosophy, science, psychology and history. In addition, one of my majors in college was philosophy. Personally, I choose to live by a Gorean philosophy in my life though I do not consider myself a Gorean lifestyler, by its most common definition. I simply see no reason in my own life for the necessity of trying to emulate the societal and cultural institutions of Gor. Others have different desires and that is fully their prerogative.
Some initial clarification is necessary to delineate the scope and direction of this series. The philosophy of Gor and the Gorean lifestyle, though related, are still separate entities. The most common definition of a lifestyler is one who follows a Gorean philosophy AND also emulates some of the societal and cultural institutions of Gor such as slavery, the Caste system or the Home Stone. The Gorean philosophy consists of the underlying principles of the Gorean world, separate from their manifestation into man-made institutions. One could create a more expansive definition of a lifestyler to include those who just follow a Gorean philosophy, but that would not be its most common usage. The key here is that one does not need to be a called a lifestyler (as it is commonly defined) to follow a Gorean philosophy in their life. I am not denigrating the lifestyle here, only trying to properly define the terms, by their most common usage, that will be used in these articles.
Even though the societal and cultural institutions of Gor most often derive from the philosophy, that derivation is not a logical necessity. Other institutions, some drastically different, could be derived from that same philosophy. For example, the barbarian cultures of Gor possess some drastically different societal and cultural institutions than the civilized cities of Gor, yet they all follow the same basic philosophy. These institutions may even vary from city to city. Thus, those institutions are generally unimportant to a comprehension of the philosophy except as examples of one possible method of the enactment of the philosophy. They are also unnecessary to actually living according to the philosophy. You do not need to own a slave or possess a Home Stone to live according to a Gorean philosophy.
If we examine the books, trying to separate the philosophy from the societal and cultural institutions, we can see that those matters that may seem most abhorrent to our own moral sense, such as human sacrifice or legal slavery, belong to the category of societal and cultural institutions. Fortunately, such matters are unnecessary if we are only concerned with the philosophy. Any philosophy, in its application into a societal or cultural institution, can be abused or twisted but that does not invalidate the underlying philosophy. Consider how Christianity has been twisted over the centuries into such matters as the Inquisition and Crusades. Consider how Nietzsche’s philosophy, though he despised anti-Semitism, was twisted by the Nazis for their own sinister purposes. Do not equate what you might see as “brutality” within the Gor books as indicative of what the philosophy actually entails. Look below the surface to find its roots. A mere surface reading of the books is insufficient to properly understand its depths.
Not everyone believes that the Gorean philosophy is valid or worthy. But, if we analyze the efforts of these critics of Gor, we can see that their primary criticisms concern the societal and cultural institutions of Gor rather than the actual philosophy. The existence of forced slavery in the books is an often touted “evil” of Gor despite it not being an aspect of the philosophy. Thus, those criticisms have no correlation to the philosophy. If anything, the critics often deny even the existence of any Gorean philosophy. On those rare occasions when they do contest particular aspects of the philosophy, they more often that not misunderstand and misrepresent what are the actual philosophical principles of Gor. For example, some critics claim that the Gorean philosophy stands for the proposition that women are inferior to men. This is completely wrong and is not a Gorean proposition. Gor depicts men and women as simply different, not that women are inherently inferior to men. The critics need to better understand what they wish to oppose. And if they truly understood the Gorean philosophy, most of them might not be so critical.
So what is the reason to present this series of articles? I think that discussions of the actual philosophy underlying Gor are far too uncommon online. When philosophical topics are raised on message boards, they often garner few replies. There are many more discussions on the practicalities of living a Gorean lifestyle today, on the emulation of the societal and cultural institutions of Gor. Just look at how prevalent are the discussions of slavery on websites and message boards. There is no other topic that garners half as much attention as slavery. But, I believe that the Gorean philosophy is of significant importance and that it warrants much more discussion than it currently receives. This series will be an effort to raise the awareness level of the philosophy and hopefully institute some meaningful dialogue on the subject matter.
There would be no lifestyle without the Gorean philosophy. The philosophy is the required foundation for the lifestyle. And if one wishes to follow a Gorean philosophy in their lives, it is essential that they understand fully what they are trying to follow. Otherwise, they do a disservice to themselves. One could convert to Catholicism, and then go to Mass, receive the Eucharist and go to confession. But, unless they understood the basics of the faith, the essential fundamentals of that faith, they would only be going through the motions. And no one should just “go through the motions” in their chosen lifestyle. Comprehension is essential and highly beneficial.
Introduction to Gorean Philosophy
“Philosophy begins when one learns to doubt–particularly to doubt one’s cherished beliefs, one’s dogmas and one’s axioms. Who knows how these cherished beliefs become certainties with us, and whether some secret wish did not furtively beget them, clothing desire in the dress of thought? There is no real philosophy until the mind turns round and examines itself.”
The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant
What is the Gorean philosophy?
Let us break that question down. What is Gorean? What is philosophy?
Before we can begin to discuss this fascinating subject, we must first try to define our terms. Without a common definitional basis, there might be confusion and misinterpretation. It is far better to try to circumvent those potential problems at the start. Socrates was an ardent advocate of the great importance of defining terms when discussing philosophical issues. Please also understand that these definitions are geared specifically to pertain to the subject matter at hand. As such, these definitions may not be appropriate in a different context.
We shall begin our discussion by first trying to define “philosophy.” The term “philosophy” is derived from two Greek words that literally translates as “lover of wisdom.” The proper definition of philosophy though remains a bone of contention even to modern day philosophers. Thus, many different definitions exist, varying from the simple to the complex. So, what are we to do? Which definition would be best for our purposes? Well, if we are to discuss a Gorean philosophy, then maybe we should consult Norman, a philosophy professor, for his own definition of philosophy. But, that is not to be found within the Gorean series. Fortunately, Norman’s book “The Cognitivity Paradox” (published under his real name John Lange) provides us with just such a definition. This book also points out the weaknesses of numerous other definitions of philosophy and is highly recommended for anyone interested in Gorean philosophy or philosophy in general.
Norman defines philosophy simple as “a proposal,” something essentially offered for consideration, a matter to be discussed and examined. In general, a proposal would not be considered to have a truth-value in the ordinary sense. It is not something we would commonly assess as either just true or false. But, nearly all philosophers would contend that philosophy can be cognitive, that it can have a truth-value, so they might contest Norman’s definition. They would see philosophy as having far greater worth than merely being a proposal. But, Norman avoids this criticism by choosing to extend the meaning of truth-value to create a derivative cognitivity that is applicable to such proposals. Obviously some proposals are better than others and it is possible that some proposal can even be considered the best. Thus, if a set of conditions are devised to judge a proposal, based on some ideal, then those conditions could be used to assess its truth-value. We shall return to Norman’s definition later in this series to assess the cognitivity of the Gorean philosophy.
Academically, philosophy has four primary components: logic, metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. Logic is essentially concerned with correct methods of reasoning, how we prove certain statements, including such matters as deductive and inductive reasoning. We shall mostly ignore this aspect of philosophy when we are exploring Gor except in as so much that we shall rely on logic when making our points. Metaphysics concerns explanations about the general aspects of reality such as the nature of our minds, bodies, God, space, time, the world and universe. We shall explore this topic as it applies to Gor, especially concerning the fabricated metaphysics imposed upon the Low Castes, also known as the Double Knowledge. We will also explore how different Gorean cultures, the barbarian peoples, have their own metaphysical beliefs. Epistemology concerns the nature and extent of human knowledge, asking why we believe what we believe and whether true knowledge is possible. We shall explore this aspect as well as it applies to Gorean philosophy. Though some cultures may differ in this respect as well, there is more commonality here than in the area of metaphysics. Ethics concerns the proper way to conduct one’s life and issues of morality. We shall spend the most time discussing this subject as it applies to Gorean philosophy. When people generally refer to the Gorean philosophy, this is the topic they mean. They are most concerned about how to properly live according to this philosophy.
There are also derivative forms of philosophy, subjects that are more specific in nature such as political philosophy and aesthetics. It has even spread in modern times to cover such areas as the philosophy of sports, sex, health, business and many more. We may touch on a few of these derivative forms where they are applicable to Gor. For example, we shall examine some aspects of political philosophy such as the relation of Plato’s “The Republic” to the structure of the Gorean city. We may even touch upon some aspects of aesthetics as beauty is very important on Gor.
Let’s now define “Gorean,” an often controversial term online. There is often debate and disagreement on defining this term and many people have their own definitions of such. My definition is intended to be limited to the context of “Gorean philosophy.” I intend “Gorean” to be an expansive term, encompassing nearly all of the societies and cultures of Gor, from the cities such as Ar and Ko-ro-ba, to the barbarian lands of Torvaldsland and the Barrens. What unites these disparate peoples is an underlying set of philosophical principles. This is what makes those people Gorean “by nature” as opposed to Gorean simply by their place of birth. Though their societal and cultural institutions vary, often quite significantly, these peoples are still united philosophically in many ways. Their metaphysics may vary, as well as their epistemology, but the foundation of their ethics is the same. And it is the ethical aspects that are of the greatest importance to those who wish to live by a Gorean philosophy. A few Gorean societies and cultures may try to repudiate these principles but they are not the norm. They are rare exceptions, such as the Panther Girls, who are unwilling to accept all of the principles, though very often they succumb to them in the end.
So, essentially this series will cover the commonalities and differences in three philosophic aspects among the disparate peoples of Gor. Metaphysics and epistemology will be dealt with briefly as they are of lesser importance to our interests and objectives. The area of ethics though will be central to our discussions. We shall also cover a number of other philosophically related matters. The primary objective of this series will be to help people understand the underlying principles of the Gorean philosophy, that apply to nearly all the peoples of Gor, and how they can impact upon societal and cultural institutions. We shall also better comprehend how a Gorean philosophy can be adopted and followed in our own lives.
Though understanding the Gorean philosophy, once it is presented, should not prove too difficult, enacting its principles in one’s life can be more problematic. This is because many of the philosophical principles of Gor are antithetical to the standards we are used to on Earth. We have been socially and culturally conditioned against these natural principles. And such conditioning can be very difficult to overcome. It is not an easy matter to cast it off and to embrace a philosophy so counter to it. It takes a massive effort of will, a true test of self-discipline and self-examination. Not everyone can or is willing to do this. But it can be done. Living according to a Gorean philosophy is a definite possibility.
There is a popular quote from the books that is often quoted as a proposition of how to live one’s life in a Gorean manner.
“Do not ask the stones or the trees how to live; they cannot tell you; they do not have tongues; do not ask the wise man how to live, for, if he knows, he will know he cannot tell you; if you would learn how to live do not ask the question, its answer is not in the question but in the answer, which is not in words, do not ask how to live, but instead proceed to do so.” (Marauders of Gor, p.9)
Though this is a fine quote, its applicability to those on Earth is very limited. Its primary applicability is to the Goreans of the books who have been raised since birth to believe and understand the basic philosophy of Gor. It thus comes naturally to them and they do not need to engage in lengthy meditations over their philosophic choices. We on Earth, due to the strong societal and cultural conditioning we receive since birth, cannot simply “just live” as Goreans do. We have forgotten how to do so. We must awaken to the realities of nature and that requires intensive self-examination to overcome our life-long conditioning. We must ask the stones and trees how to live. Thus, we must make take an active role to study and understand the Gorean philosophy. We would be much better off following the advice of Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
If the Gorean philosophy is a positive philosophy, which I believe it to be, then it seems obvious that it should be promoted and encouraged. What reason is there not to promote a positive philosophy? In the Gorean books, Norman holds out a slim chance that those of Earth will one day “awaken” to the natural truths of the Gorean philosophy. He does not indicate that only a select few should follow the philosophy. It seems evident that he feels the entire planet could benefit from such a philosophy. He hopes for a future that has regained a connection to the natural world. Thus, it makes sense to promote such a philosophy, to encourage people to learn and understand it. Turning people away from such a philosophy does a disservice to our society. Maybe the information presented here might help even a few comprehend the philosophy and choose to follow it in their lives.
Finally, I cannot stress enough that all education about Gor, including the philosophy, begins with the Gor books. If you wish to properly understand Gor, you must read the Gor books. There is no real substitute. Reading websites and message boards is insufficient for a proper understanding of Gor. They may help you better understand what you have read, but you should have the foundation of having read the books first. Otherwise, you will be unable to discern the errors from the truth. And numerous websites do contain inaccuracies concerning the books. Without the books, you might be able to acquire a passing knowledge of Gor, but true comprehension will likely elude you. And if one truly cares about Gor, enough to want to live according to its philosophy, then reading the books should be a given.
“…love of learning, which can be one of the deepest and most honest of loves.”
(Tarnsman of Gor, p.38)