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3:28 AM
This Idea Channel video about how Deadpool's perception of reality might be unique because of his unique relationship to his body explores what it would be like to be Deadpool, but is also happily aware of its Thermian assumption and calls itself out for that conceit.
This NerdSync video about Deadpool's thought bubbles has a more syncretic approach to examining the evolution of Deadpool's mental process and how we perceive it as readers.
Each of them, to a certain extent, attempts to rigorously examine Deadpool's experience on the assumption that his fictional world is "real." But they each also acknowledge the fundamental flaw in that assumption and recognise his fiction is, ultimately, not rigorous enough to withstand such scrutiny.
By contrast, many discussions of, eg, the motives and mechanics seen within Star Wars or Star Trek franchise iterations are actively resistant to an interjection of non-Thermian analysis.
 
3:45 AM
I'll have to check out the thermian argument first, I think.
 
The Thermian Argument is basically responding to a challenge to an author's choice by explaining how it makes sense in the fiction because of the author's other choices.
(Which, obviously, just says "The author made that choice because he made other choices" and shifts the challenge to the other choices, but a pure Thermian argument feels that one choice being justified by another choice fully answers the challenge to the first choice.)
"Why does Deadpool know he's in a comic book universe?"
"Because his ridiculous healing factor gives him a uniquely heightened-yet-detached relationship to his body, allowing him to see it as a thing outside his own self; as his body is the sole source of input about his world this lets him perceive and understand his world in an equally heightened-yet-detached fashion, seeing it as equally separate."
OR
"Because the authors were so sure the Deadpool comic would be cancelled that they just did whatever nonsensical stuff they'd never be allowed to do in another series."
 
Which are both valid and interesting answers.
 
4:00 AM
Yes. But the latter is a conclusive answer, while the former begs more questions: "Why does Deadpool have a ridiculous healing factor?" "Why did the Weapon X program give him his powers?" and so forth until it also eventually turns into "The authors chose it."
That doesn't make the former less useful to ask, but a fully Thermian analysis will inevitably be incomplete because it halts before the initiating cause.
 
@BESW Which is not an interesting answer, because anything fictional was written by the author.
 
@Magician This is actually something some folks will argue. But that's neither here nor there. I'm just saying that a purely Thermian explanation is definitionally incomplete because it excludes original causation.
 
...also, roughly half of that video was silly.
 
And more specifically, Thermian arguments are inappropriate when they're used in response to real-world challenges.
 
@BESW "Why fictional X?" "Because fictional Y." "But why fictional Y?" "Because we wanted to tell a story about fictional Y."
 
4:07 AM
So, for example, a diegetic justification for Deadpool's treatment of Blind Al wouldn't be an appropriate response to a challenge based on real-world concerns about treating a disability as comedic.
An explanation is only flawedly Thermian if it's in response to a question rooted in context outside the diegesis.
 
I've seen anti-Thermian arguments being used, even if not called that, and they are frequently only half an argument. All too often, they point out that something is fictional, and therefore can be different, while ignoring the actual reasons for why it was created that way.
 
So for example "all orcs are evil because they were created by an evil god" is a Thermian argument. You're saying the anti-Thermian argument is "But it's only that way because the author wrote it that way", when the real reason may be that the author wanted an inhuman evil to pit the heroes against?
 
E.g. the game mentioned in the video, though not by name, is Witcher 3. Which some have accused of being racist for only having white people in it. While it is fictional, and could have a typical USA distribution of ethnicities, it chose not to. The Thermian argument is "that's how the fictional world of Witcher is". The real-world argument is that it was based on Polish books by Polish writer inspired by Polish folklore, and made by a Polish studio.
Simply pointing out an argument is Thermian does not win the argument. It's a fallacy fallacy.
 
@Magician I don't think I ever claimed that to be the case, and I certainly didn't intend to.
 
@BESW That's more of a response to the video.
 
4:20 AM
@Shalvenay hiya
 
It is, however, often a non-answer that appears to address the querent's concern while actually ignoring the context and reason motiving the querent bringing the subject up in the first place.
 
@BESW I'd suggest it is on the querent to frame the question in such a way as to make it clear they're looking for out-of-fiction explanations.
 
@Magician That's fair, but I've seen a fair number of times where that is made clear, but Thermian responses are considered sufficient anyway.
 
Fair enough. Communication is hard.
 
The Thermian argument is not a fallacy, but it is a narrowly useful tool and using it outside of its niche ranges from useless to clueless to actively obstructionist.
 
4:23 AM
Why is it called the Thermian argument?
 
@BESW "Useless to Clueless" would be a good name for a ...?
 
@doppelgreener Because in the film Galaxy Quest, Thermians are a group of aliens who are culturally unable to grasp the concept of lying: they think that a TV show like Star Trek is, in fact, a documentary.
 
@BESW Nice.
 
Hah. I guess one could say attempts at reconstructing the larger "world" of D&D from its rules are Thermian.
 
Discussing the TV show as a work of fiction rather than a depiction of reality simply confuses them.
@Magician Indeed.
That's the context in which I brought this up earlier in the conversation.
The video about the Thermian argument is specifically saying that it's inappropriate to use as a response to criticism of an author's choices because it justifies one choice based on other choices--which are equally open to criticism, so it's just shifting the focus of the criticism rather than defending the choice.
 
4:30 AM
Not quite. It says internal consistency is meaningless, i.e. it denies this crucial link between author's choices. Which is why I think it's silly.
 
I think you're over-extrapolating from the video's context of defending criticism through arguments for purity.
 
"...there is no truth to move towards, arguments for purity or consistency miss the point entirely." By this logic, one can't justify choice A by justifying choice B from which choice A grew.
 
Well, yeah. If Choice A is, say, offensively racist (a group of sapient beings is predisposed to subservience) in context of the real world (this is a belief used to justify historical suffering), then no amount of Choice B's in-world justification (their god made them that way) will make it less so because the author had equal control over both and could have chosen to avoid the offensive Choice A by avoiding its causal Choice B.
But if the author's real-world intent is to call attention to and satirise the real-world belief, THAT will cast both choices in a different light.
 
And no, given the example of Witcher 3 the video provided, I don't think I'm over-extrapolating its reasoning.
 
The Witcher 3 debate is a mess, as non-Thermian defences of its choices also tend to fall into contradictions; from what I've seen the big mistake there was trying to find an objective rather than subjective justification for its choices.
While Witcher 3 was a Big Deal at the time the video was made, it's far from the only game which his example describes.
(If it were, it wouldn't have been such a Big Deal: specific defences of its creators' choices ignore--again--the context of the concern that it's simply one in a field of examples of similar choices which can't also be defended under its umbrella of justifications.)
 
4:44 AM
@BESW That is... a slippery slope fallacy? Criticizing valid artistic choices because someone else made poor ones, or could make in the future, is not reasonable.
 
And a lot of the attacks on Witcher 3 were pretty unreasonable. But the defensible concern is similar to analysis of a particular film using the Bechdel Test.
A great film can fail the Bechdel Test and be no less great; that so many films fail it is of concern, and the totally reasonable creative choices of any particular creative team making a film which fails the test don't make the general trend any less concerning.
 
@BESW That's kind of the point, though. The Bechdel test, as broad and limited as it is, only makes sense in looking at global trends. It's meaningless to criticize an individual work because it fails it.
 
It can be useful to ask why an individual work chose to fail it, though, as global trends are composed of individual works. If the greatest defence of a work's choices is "other people are doing it too, why aren't you picking on them?" then there's a problem.
 
I doubt many creators use that as an argument, though.
 
You'd be surprised, then.
 
4:53 AM
In which case it's laziness that's the issue, not -ism. And lazy art is bad art.
Fundamentally, I don't believe an individual work of art owes the world anything. It doesn't have to represent, advance or educate. It just has to be.
 
That's getting into the role of art in society, which is... fraught.
 
That's what such criticism is built on, though.
 
Aye. Which means that this conversation has probably reached the point where we're just going to have to agree to disagree.
I will say that the Witcher debate is a poor example to analyse, though, because the debate was very unreasonable on both sides and even when the creators finally calmed down and offered useful responses, not everyone agrees that their justifications weren't ignorant and it would've been better to simply say "Because we wanted it that way" and be done with it.
If art doesn't have to represent or educate, then rooting their defences in representation and education may have been a poor choice.
...so, in response to the original question in response to which I mentioned the Thermian stance, I don't think any fictional worlds are sufficiently internally coherent to withstand fully rigorous structural and meta-structural analysis. And whether our own reality is or not is still subjectively debatable; we don't seem have to finished the analysis yet.
 
5:11 AM
@BESW It's fairly natural to respond to "you're bad at X" with "we're doing X, just differently". Because they are. And I'm not sure what you're referring to when you say "creators finally calmed down", but I suspect "because we wanted it that way" may have been on the list of things they've said before that.
 
[shrug] I'm not going to get into the backlog of a debate I was never part of in the first place.
 
5:24 AM
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