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Byte-Sized Virtue S04E06 - Shame of the Uncovered
April 12, 2017

Byte-Sized Virtue S04E06 - Shame of the Uncovered

What can we come to know about Honor, as a virtue, by looking at its negation?

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There's something I forgot to look at last week!

Blackthorn's Corruption of Honor

If thou dost lose thine own honor, thou shalt take thine own life.

Which gets back to the last episode, and the conflation of a radical idea of personal reputation with the notion of Honor.

Of course, that's not quite the topic I wanted to focus on this week, though I think we will come back to it toward the end of the episode.

Let's start with the name of the dungeon that opposes Trinsic and the Virtue of Honor: Shame

Shame came into being in the years following the final defeat of the Triad of Evil, where it appeared to have been initially established as a mine before being closed due to its large and ravenous gremlin population.[1] On their quest toward Avatarhood, the Stranger would have occasion to journey here, seeking the Purple Stone of Honor. Within the dungeon's depths, the hero could also find numerous magical orbs which gifted those who touched them with supernaturally enhanced intelligence and strength. It's lowest passages at this time, were connected to the Altar Rooms of Truth and Courage, which interlinked it with the dungeons Deceit, Wrong, Destard, and Hythloth.

By the time of the Gargish conflict, the upper levels of Shame were largely devoid of monsters, and prospecting miners had begun to return to the area in search of gold. One of these fortune-hunters, an old ex-pirate named Ybarra, however, traveled too far into the dungeon's caverns, and found himself lost - his route of return blocked by beasts. The Avatar would have cause to seek out this poor soul, needing his portion of Captain Hawkins treasure map that they might complete their quest.

During the last days of the Avatar, the dungeon known as Shame was located where Destard had traditionally been, and was used as a testing ground for the nearby paladins of Trinsic, who retrieved their emblematic Chalice of Honor from its depths. During the Avatar's journeys in Trinsic in this age, the hero would have to brave Shame in the hopes of restoring this sigil, only to watch Blackthorn destroy it.

Now, of course, Ultima 9 uses that to expand the lesson it offers about Honor and Shame, via the character of Lucero

The Avatar first met Lucero's wife Lindonia. She spoke about how Lucero had become depressed after the Chalice of Honor had vanished, and how she didn't believe the Avatar would help without expecting something in return. Speaking to Lucero himself, it became clear that the loss of the Chalice had devastated him.

The Avatar later had to re-construct the Chalice by helping the people of Trinsic realize that they still had Honor. The Avatar tried to convince Lucero to help Virgil with the phase spiders to prove that honor was not dead. After the spirit of Dupre finally convinced him, Lucero went to battle and was victorious, but at the cost of his life. Telling the Avatar to tell his wife that he'd died in honor, he passed away.

Okay, So...What is Shame?

Shame is a painful, social emotion[further explanation needed] that can be seen as resulting "...from comparison of the self's action with the self's standards..." but which may equally stem from comparison of the self's state of being with the ideal social context's standard. Thus, shame may stem from volitional action [volition or will is the cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action. It is defined as purposive striving and is one of the primary human psychological functions] or simply self-regard; no action by the shamed being is required: simply existing is enough. Both the comparison and standards are enabled by socialization. Though usually considered an emotion, shame may also variously be considered an affect, cognition, state, or condition.

The roots of the word shame are thought to derive from an older word meaning "to cover"; as such, covering oneself, literally or figuratively, is a natural expression of shame. Nineteenth-century scientist Charles Darwin, in his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, described shame affect as consisting of blushing, confusion of mind, downward cast eyes, slack posture, and lowered head, and he noted observations of shame affect in human populations worldwide. He also noted the sense of warmth or heat (associated with the vasodilation of the face and skin) occurring in intense shame.

A "sense of shame" is the feeling known as guilt but "consciousness" or awareness of "shame as a state" or condition defines core/toxic shame (Lewis, 1971; Tangney, 1998). The key emotion in all forms of shame is contempt (Miller, 1984; Tomkins, 1967). Two distinct domains that shame is expressed are the consciousness of self as bad and the other is self as inadequate. People employ negative coping responses to counter deep rooted, associated sense of "shameworthiness" The shame cognition may occur as a result of the experience of shame affect or, more generally, in any situation of embarrassment, dishonor, disgrace, inadequacy, humiliation, or chagrin.

A "state of shame" is assigned internally from being a victim of environment where the sense of self is stigmatized like being denigrated by caregivers, overtly rejected by parents in favor of siblings needs, etc. and the same is assigned externally, by others, regardless of one's own experience or awareness. "To shame" generally means to actively assign or communicate a state of shame to another. Behaviors designed to "uncover" or "expose" others are sometimes used for this purpose, as are utterances like "Shame!" or "Shame on you!" Finally, to "have shame" means to maintain a sense of restraint against offending others (as with modesty, humility, and deference) while to "have no shame" is to behave without such restraint (as with excessive pride or hubris).

So, what can we deduce about Honor given these explanations of what its negation is?

Well, I think I may have addressed this in Epsiode 3:

Honor, as defined within Ultima lore, is “the courage to stand for the truth, against any odds. It is the courage to stand for truth regardless of the circumstances.” And one thing which is particularly demonstrative of pursuing truth with courage is to admit one's wrongdoings, to seek to offer reparation for faults committed against others.

Because it's very true that we aren't the worst things we've done. Which isn't to say that we can't be defined by the things we do...but it is to say that we have some choice, some say in the matter. In some respects, it's good to be defined by things we've done, if they are good things (you're listening to a podcaster talk his way through another podcast episode, right?). The hurtful things we do can define us if we allow them to become habitual and repeatable, or if we're genuinely not remorseful for the hurt we've caused. But if we have “wounded or damaged” others, and yet can summon the courage to truthfully admit our fault and seek to make amends...we can (and do) become something different than what we've done.

Finally, as I've noted in previous episodes (and previous seasons), I tend to take the Aristotelean view of virtue, which is to say that I generally tend to view Virtue as being a golden mean between two equal, but opposite, vices. If shame is one such vice, what then might the other be?


Shame of the Uncovered by Nick LaMartina, from the Ultima Forever soundtrack

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