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itsmeyouidiot
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PostSubject: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 4:45 pm

I've been reading the article on magic on the Felarya Wiki, and while many different types of magic are outlined, the definition of magic in general is never really given.

I personally believe that this is because magic is rather hard to define. You could say that magic is doing anything that would be impossible under normal circumstances, but that definition is so vague that it can apply to almost anything.

Magic is a supernatural occurrence, and anything supernatural is, by definition, unexplainable, as being above nature means not following its laws. To quote Terry Pratchett: "Magic is just a way of saying 'I don't know.'"

Once magic becomes adequately explainable, however, it's no longer magic. If magic follows a consistent set of laws, it is explainable and possible and thus part of nature. It is no longer magic, it is a science.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:01 pm

itsmeyouidiot wrote:
Magic is a supernatural occurrence, and anything supernatural is, by definition, unexplainable, as being above nature means not following its laws. To quote Terry Pratchett: "Magic is just a way of saying 'I don't know.'"
Plot device. Plot device, plot device, plot device. "A wizard did it", etc.

itsmeyouidiot wrote:
Once magic becomes adequately explainable, however, it's no longer magic. If magic follows a consistent set of laws, it is explainable and possible and thus part of nature. It is no longer magic, it is a science.
"Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science" -Wikipedia
Unknown =/= Unexplainable

"the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature." -Dictionary.com
Human control of nature? Sounds familiar... does this mean that technology is magic?

Spoiler:
 

Don't click spoiler if you're all srsbsns about this.
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itsmeyouidiot
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:16 pm

ZionAtriedes wrote:

"Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science" -Wikipedia
Unknown =/= Unexplainable
Well, the fact that magic can be taught makes it obvious that it has been explained to some degree.

ZionAtriedes wrote:

"The art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature." -Dictionary.com
Human control of nature? Sounds familiar... does this mean that technology is magic?

Well, according to Clarke's Third Law, it pretty much is.

EDIT: Okay, that image made me laugh. Laughing I kind of just wanted to share some insight in a serious manner, but you don't have to be serious here if you don't want to, I guess.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:23 pm

itsmeyouidiot wrote:
Well, according to Clarke's Third Law, it pretty much is.


You can't invoke Clarke's Third law without knowing the other two, which are also shown on the page you linked. The Second Law explains/covers your entire topic.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:26 pm

How about Zion's Revision to Clarke's Third Law? "Any sufficiently well-developed magic is indistinguishable from technology".

I'll be frank. I've always loathed the "magic is unexplainable and can do anything" argument because of the psychology behind it. I could type freaking volumes about that, but I'd undoubtedly cross a few lines there.

My case in point is that taking a completely nonchalant and carefree approach to magic just leads to Mary Sues, plot devices, and all manner of terrible writing flaws. While I view magic as being an extension of existing natural laws, I'm not violently opposed to a more "supernatural" model, as long as it's internally consistent and structured.

EDIT: While I jokingly claimed that the revision in the first line is mine, I am aware that something to the exact same effect was publicly mentioned by Larry Niven and several others. Just being facetious, ya'll, because people don't like me when I'm serious.


Last edited by ZionAtriedes on Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:57 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:33 pm

Naturally, there would be rules to magic. Otherwise, you'll have Mary Sues completely blowing up preds with magic or them teleporting out of pred's stomachs or using what has been established as Fairy magic and shrinking and growing and whatnot.

And yeah, "you can do anything because it is magic" is pretty silly. Even I try to have some sort of explanation as to how it works, kinda, even if it is admittedly ripe with pseudoscience, "Using an innate ability to use an ambient energy in the air that can be used to manipulate matter or energy remotely" is much better than "just 'cause it's magic, bro." if you know what I'm getting at here.
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ZionAtriedes
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:37 pm

aethernavale wrote:
The Second Law explains/covers your entire topic.
...Elaborate, please.

I don't see how probing the impossible explains magic. Maybe the extent of its power, but not its nature.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:48 pm

Defining magic itself is impossible because it's far too vague and magic by itself is an unfettered concept that can accomplish everything and anything. Methods of casting are really what counts, because really, magic is just author power.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:52 pm

Eh. If anything is possible through properly advanced applications of scientific laws and technology, that means that it's only logical that magic is just an extension of physical laws so complex or so elusive that we do not properly understand them.

Ergo, magic is not "Lol science u so dumb I hate you", so much as it is "there's a lot about the world we don't know yet, so let's call the stuff we don't know yet magical".

Magic CAN accomplish anything, in the exact same way that technology can. Both are manipulations of natural laws to achieve a goal engineered by a sapient intelligence, and really, the only difference is in name only. That isn't to say that magic can achieve anything by being unexplainable and mystical, but because it is simply a tool to be manipulated in various ways.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:57 pm

Aye, I'd imagine to the average person who lives on a magical world, the idea of magic being 'supernatural' would probably perplex them, as it's a part of nature to those folks. Not fully explained, perhaps, but it's there, and it's not weird to them.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 6:09 pm

Friendship = magic.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 6:09 pm

AisuKaiko wrote:
Aye, I'd imagine to the average person who lives on a magical world... it's a part of nature

Yes, yes, yes, YES! Thank you! I've always been frustrated by the "magic versus technology" argument, as if some inexplicable property of MAGIC!!! separates it from SCIENCE!!!, even on a world where magic occurs and can be learned/cast easily. After all, do we consider chemistry and physics to be in some epic struggle? Nope. I see no reason why those who develop on a magical world would see it as anything other than additional laws of natural science. Magic is science. I cannot stress this enough.

Science does not mean REAL-WORLD STUFF THAT'S NO FUN. It's not "that stuff I learned in school and it was boring so I love magic instead". Science is the study of the natural world via the scientific method. In case you didn't pay attention at all in school, the scientific method roughly boils down to "propose hypothesis, create controlled experiment, observe, revise hypothesis using gathered data". It is an orderly isolation of variables and factors, and observing how one factor interacts with another.

Science is NOT limited to REAL WORLD STUFFS. Science is not an imposition of the real world on fantasy. It's a methodical and orderly study of nature.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 7:04 pm

Yaaay. But yeah, I also agree that it is wrong to attempt to simplify magic to real world science. That's... a bit much. "Magic is a natural law we don't yet know" is good. "Magic is actually a concept we already know IRL" like, say, simplifying the healing factor to be nanobots or something, is not, usually.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 7:20 pm

The whole thing with science is that science is most often confused with technology. There is much more to science than creating machines to improve our lives. There are multiple types of science, and the way Felarya present magic, it's another type of science, though a very esoteric one. For example, a biologist and a geologist do research in two different field of science, that doesn't mean they're interchangeable. A mage may as well be a scientist with a funny hat.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Wed Oct 19, 2011 7:33 pm

Sean Okotami wrote:
For example, a biologist and a geologist do research in two different field of science, that doesn't mean they're interchangeable.
No, but they do relate to one another. One does affect the other. They're not entirely independent and different from one another.

The various disciplines of science are not divisions imposed by nature... they're imposed by us, to make it easier to understand. The universe doesn't have "physics, chemistry, geology, etc.", those are our creations. The universe simply works the way it works, and we seek to explain it. Any explanations, divisions, or schools of thought are a result of humans identifying how things already work by isolating variables and observing forces and reactions.

I don't understand why anyone would think magic doesn't fall into that. It makes no logical sense at all.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Thu Oct 20, 2011 7:42 am

There were two theories that people tried to apply, and I have no idea if either are still valid.

The first is that size = personal magical potential. Your body is a funnel, if you will, or a sponge, and thus the bigger you are the more you can hold / set through. This one's iffy for a few reasons (for instance, you can have a Neera that is has a great deal more magical talent / capability than a Human), but makes a degree of sense if you assume magic is something "physical" / it's "tangible".

The other theory was whether innate or learned knowledge allows more powerful effects, and the debate was pretty heavily split. This one matters more in regard to whether Magic is something you can understand or not. If you can't understand it, then very obviously someone who doesn't need to (an innate Ice Caster, for instance) will be able to utilize magical powers / effects more capably than someone who doesn't. If you can understand it, though, and it has a series of rules, it shifts over to the learned category as, well, look at what someone with an understanding of physics can do versus someone who just has an inkling of the basics.

The results of either of those two might be good to know, if Karbo's willing to answer. Or even just the conclusion, not the argument. Is Magic something that must be guided through a caster, or is it just "there" and pretty much a "punch-in use magic" system? Similarly, is it something that can be properly defined with mortal minds, or is it something that only the pseudo-Divine of Felarya (the Guardians) and those with specially created / modified minds can properly grasp?
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Thu Oct 20, 2011 8:26 am

ZionAtriedes wrote:
aethernavale wrote:
The Second Law explains/covers your entire topic.
...Elaborate, please.

I don't see how probing the impossible explains magic. Maybe the extent of its power, but not its nature.

Sean Okotami wrote:
Defining magic itself is impossible because it's far too vague and magic by itself is an unfettered concept that can accomplish everything and anything. Methods of casting are really what counts, because really, magic is just author power.

ZionAtriedes wrote:
Eh. If anything is possible through properly advanced applications of scientific laws and technology, that means that it's only logical that magic is just an extension of physical laws so complex or so elusive that we do not properly understand them.

Ergo, magic is not "Lol science u so dumb I hate you", so much as it is "there's a lot about the world we don't know yet, so let's call the stuff we don't know yet magical".

Magic CAN accomplish anything, in the exact same way that technology can. Both are manipulations of natural laws to achieve a goal engineered by a sapient intelligence, and really, the only difference is in name only. That isn't to say that magic can achieve anything by being unexplainable and mystical, but because it is simply a tool to be manipulated in various ways.

^ If the above requires further explanation to what I said earlier, then nothing I say will explain it to you.

Also, There are many different types of magic so I don't think either proponent of the original argument is valid, Malahite, as you can't apply either notion to all the topics.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Thu Oct 20, 2011 4:15 pm

aethernavale wrote:
^ If the above requires further explanation to what I said earlier, then nothing I say will explain it to you.
Er... wait, what? "Requires further explanation to what I said earlier"?

Even putting such embarrassingly clumsy wording aside, I see don't see what tree you're barking up. Clarke's Second Law is "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible." That has absolutely nothing to do with this. If you're unable to explain why it should, fine, but don't expect me to feel like the stupid one because of it.

What Sean is saying is that magic, in general, can mean anything. After all, I can write any plot, no matter how fantastic or unbelievable, and claim it's possible within my setting due to magic. However, that's not the point of this thread.

As authors, we like to be creative. Most of us are of the strong belief that working around limits and still making things happen takes more creativity than just "anything goes" (and I don't mean the musical, because that was genius). So, we impose a sort of structure to magic. Making anything possible requires knowledge of this structure. Sure, there's innate magic, but I think we can all agree that an innate magic user who practices and learns a bit of how their power works will be able to use it more creatively.

The question here isn't "what can magic do?", since freaking obviously it can do anything with the proper resources and knowledge, just like technology can. That's where Clarke's Second Law is relevant. The question here is something else: it's "what is magic within the Felarya setting and canon?" You can claim that physics can achieve anything, and that venturing forth is the only way to find its limits, which is very true... but that will be counted as incorrect on a physics test if the question is "what is physics?", because that's entirely beside the point!
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:52 am

Honestly, and I don't mean to degrade the work that has been done on it, but I believe that the current Magic page needs a lot of work. As far as I know it's barely used.

I think there's more than one reason for that, but there are a few that stick out to me:
The descriptions aren't very informative. They're written in a way unlike any other article in the entire wiki and the way some are named.
The article doesn't really explain the different ways magic is cast. In places it says it does, but it doesn't. To me, most of the articles there explain sources of magic power. Some, however, do actually describe ways to cast magic, while binding that way to a specific magic source.
We've been doing it wrong this whole time.

The way I now see it is this.
There are two general aspects to all magic.
Power and Manipulation.

Power is pretty self explanatory. It is the source of magic for casting. It determines the when and where caster can use magic and how strong a spell is at the moment of casting.
The current wiki article mainly lists power sources. As far as power sources go, I don't have a problem with what's there already apart from the poor wording. I'm sure more can be added.
Here's a few example from the wiki to give an idea of what I consider power sources;
Innate Magic, Ley Magic, Wild Magic, Thaumaturgy.

Manipulation is a little less obvious, although I'm sure everyone has some sort of idea what I'm talking about. Power by itself doesn't do anything, you've got to make it do what you want.
This is where manipulation comes in. Manipulation is what the caster does to make their power do their will. As power determines when where and strength, Manipulation determines effect, action and reaction. If a spell goes wrong, the type of Magic Manipulation will determine what is effected and how, with power filling in the details.
I believe the wiki really falls short in this aspect of Manipulation. It lists Artifact Magic, Alchemy and... Nothing else really.
There should be far more, as Manipulation, in my opinion, is usually the biggest defining aspect of appearance. That is; what a caster look like and what happens when they cast a spell;
do they do a dance, draw a magic circle or something else?. This lack of description and classification of this surprises me, as this is a community made of artists and writers, people concerned with how things look. When someone makes a wizard, witch or spellcaster character, I've noticed that the way their character looks when practicing magic plays a major role.

I've been working on this for a while, before this thread was posted, but I think that this thread is good as any to show it.
Google Drawing Link
This is by no means complete, but it does cover a lot already. Unfortunately the accompanying doc which elaborates on the classes of magic there is unwritten at this time.
Before I get down to the real classes of magic, I have to explain some other things first.
The classes of magic manipulation, Alchemy, Ritual Magic, Familiar, etc fall into larger classifications too.
You might think "how are these relevant?" Well, it is all relevant in the way I've laid it out.
There are two top level classifications, Mental and Physical.
These are pretty self explanitory.
Physical Power is a form of magic manipulation where magic is channeled through the body and/or physical actions. Thoughts play a minor role in the spells or magic. Will however, is still a major participant.
On the other side; thoughts and language are the domain of the mind. Mental magic uses either thoughts, language, will or a combination of those to achieve the manipulation of power.
Simple, right?
But that's not the end of it. Not every caster uses their own body or mind to cast spells.
That's where external and internal magic comes in. There are Internal and External versions of both Mental and Physical power.
External magic is usually still cast by a caster, but the power is usually drawn through something else. Rune magic is the best example; a caster draws a rune circle which channels and shapes the magic. They're not being subject to the power directly.
In general, External magic can still blow up in your face, but at least your face won't be blowing up.
Internal magic is primary drawn through and shaped by the caster. The spellcaster is a key element, without the caster an internal type spell is impossible.
If something goes wrong, the caster suffers as a direct result. This can lead to horrible maiming or grotesque transformation if physical magic or insanity and brain melting if mental.

So as you can see, these classifications are useful for determining the repercussions and toll that magic exerts on a caster. Whether it be the consequences of fudging a spell or the simple cost or form of exhaustion of casting spells exerts.

Moving on, This disconnect between power and manipulation is a good thing, as it allows huge freedom for the classification of magic. Most classes of manipulation can do the same things, in different ways, at different times or speeds.

To give an common example. A fireball is a classic magic spell. Under what I've been talking about, Alchemy, Familiar, Runic, Incantation, Telekinesis (At high power). Elemental, Transmutation, Artificing and Ritual magic would all be able to cast fireball in one form or another.

Possible forms of fireball for each class:
 

What I'm trying to do here isn't restrict magic, but give a base from which things can be built. I've had people come to me and ask for help with magic. It's the reason I made that chart.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Sun Oct 23, 2011 6:35 am

@AJ: No, no, no. The page itself is fine as it is. Don't forget: Felarya is a crossroad between dimensions. It's perfectly fine that magic remains vaguely defined, as from a logical stand-point, there is an infinite number of ways it can be seen, and trying to describe them will only cause disagreements over whoever thinks they have the real definition of magic, which is the very last thing we need. All that is needed is the way it can be cast, and that's it. It leaves it vague enough that you can view this from many different ways, but restrict it enough that you can't just point at someone and say "i keel joo", then he spontaneously explode.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Sun Oct 23, 2011 10:52 am

Sean Okotami wrote:
@AJ: No, no, no. The page itself is fine as it is. Don't forget: Felarya is a crossroad between dimensions. It's perfectly fine that magic remains vaguely defined, as from a logical stand-point, there is an infinite number of ways it can be seen, and trying to describe them will only cause disagreements over whoever thinks they have the real definition of magic, which is the very last thing we need. All that is needed is the way it can be cast, and that's it. It leaves it vague enough that you can view this from many different ways, but restrict it enough that you can't just point at someone and say "i keel joo", then he spontaneously explode.

Sean having a knee-jerk reaction to bringing some logic to magic? Big suprise there =P

Look, he's not saying to define ALL magic, just what is in the wiki. We have several set and specific magical disciplines listed there. Those do need to be refined and revamped to be brought up to speed with the rest of Felarya.

It isn't stopping anyone from making up their own form of magic (I did =D ), its just tightening up and refining the types of magic we have already set out as canon.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:04 pm

The big thing with the wiki is that it isn't unique to the wiki. Compare this with that

Notice any similarities? The Necromancy part and Fairy magic are unique to Felarya, but that's about it. I agree there could be more specific types of magic, but keep in mind that the magic the wiki puts up are casting methods and methods someone can acquire magic.
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PostSubject: Re: The definition of magic.   Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:41 pm

It's not really about defining magic, some of it is, but a lot of it is classification. You need a place to put that fireball spell of yours, or that sheild spell, or that one spell that allows you to switch places with an inanimate object. You can have whatever method you use to cast magic, or whatever spells you know upon entry to felarya, but here's where your spell stands in the archive spell database. (ASD. sounds official Very Happy )
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