Sympathy/Empathy II.

Well, that was a long tomorrow, I’ll admit. I’ve been distracted with interesting conversations elsewhere – and the near-zero feedback, and indeed readership, here doesn’t really impell me to force myself to post.

Except for the thirteen of you who decided to come and have a look two days ago. I don’t know what happened two days ago to warrant such a spike, but it’s a shame there wasn’t anything for you.

It’s no longer all that interesting, but so as to not make a liar out of myself, here’s a vague idea of what I was going to say about sympathy and empathy.
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Sympathy/Empathy I: justification and some images

I thought I’ld actually share a thought here for once.

What is the difference between sympathy and empathy? What is compassion? I don’t pretend to attempt a rigorous analysis, but I was thinking the question over to myself last night, and thought I would share my conclusion, and some implications I considered.

The first answer has to be that there is no difference. We can use these words interchangeably. Often we do. Perhaps some people always do. The question should instead be, then, what difference will we decree that there is?
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Proferative and Contrastive Deixis in Rawang Ata

Distinct from the system of positionals is a system of deictics with a separate field of use. This system contains only five deictics, two of which are rare. Due to their association with transference, we will call them oblates.

1. Exclamatory uses

The core use of oblates is as exclamations when handing an object to an interlocutor. Four of the five oblates can be used in this way:





The first of these can be used in place of any of the other three. The second is used specifically when relinquishing ownership, as when giving a gift. The third, used more rarely, occurs when responsibility is relinquished – as when handing over a person or object to be guarded or kept captive. The fourth signifies that the item remains a property of the giver, and that benefits will continue to accrue to the giver, but that responsibility has been transferred – mostly used in legal instances, as when handing over stewardship of property.

The fifth oblate is in a way the opposite of the above – it is used when taking an object from an interlocutor:


All five oblates may be used a metaphorical way to refer to concepts and statements transferred in discourse, in which case they are used as interjections:


“There, think about that!”


“There, I’ve told you myself so you didn’t have to work it out”


“Hold that thought for now, it will be relevant later”


“That’s what I’ve given you, now give me your own thought”

(Used only in formal contexts, such as in instruction)

The oblates ia and niò may also be used in response to questions and statements, with meanings of “yes, I don’t deny it” and “I was the one who told you!”.

2. Pronominal and adjectival proferative uses

The exclamatory uses may not themselves be considered deictic, but the oblates (with the exception of the fifth) can also be used, with much the same meaning, as evidently deictic pronominals and as particles with deictic adjectival content. As adjectival particles, they follow the noun they modify:

Yuinù ia

“This stone I am giving you”

Kihantara ia

“She threw this thing I am giving you”

Note that oblates never inflect, not even for feminine agreement.

3. Pronominal and adjectival contrastive uses

Two of the oblates, ia and awì, have important pronominal/adjectival uses when contrasting two different options. The former is used with the preferred item, while the latter is used with the non-prefered item.

Wui kihantara awì, wakà ia.

“She didn’t throw that, but she threw this!”

Tyàyara awì, ìnga nao ia.

“She likes that, but she likes this more!”

It should be noted that the deixis in contrastive uses is entirely conceptual, and need not involve actual physical presence.

4. Discourse Deixis

Finally, the oblate ia is also the pronominal (and adjectival) used to refer to words and phrases that have occurred in speech:

“Tyàyara awì” – kosakkila ia

” ‘She likes that’ – that is true”

This use, however, is somewhat rare, as such constructions are generally avoided, and typically only occur in dialogue, where one participant discusses the words of the other.

Just felt like it…


Why have I posted this? Not sure. But one can never have too many Russian Symbolist paintings lying around your blog, can you?

[It’s a painting of the Tsarevich Demetrius, iirc – it’s by Mikhail Nestorov. Wikipedia assures me it’s public domain – do correct me if it isn’t]

OBSOLETE: Vajhoran Religion Continued… – OBSOLETE


The First City: Virtue and Law

Virtue imposes a series of codes that regulate entitlement. Nobody may claim more than virtue decrees that they may claim. Virtue is thus the first road to the first city. The exact nature of virtue is constantly debated, but a number of principles are common:

  1. What one has promised to another, one has no further claim to, save by the terms of the promise.
  2. What another has laboured to create, one has no claim to.
  3. What has been given virtuously to another, one has no claim to.
  4. What a group holds together, no individual has claim to.
  5. What a group holds together, any member has a claim to use.
  6. What is given to one by a promise, one has claim to only so long as one abides by the term of the promise.
  7. What one has claim to, one may give to another.
  8. One has claim to one’s own body.
  9. What another has claim to one may not damage or destroy.
  10. One has claim to use only those things one has claim to, or those things one’s group has claim to, or those things the use of which has been ceded to one.
  11. One has no claim to anything obtained through deception or without virtue.
  12. What has been taken from one, one may take from the taker.
  13. What of one’s one is damaged, one may inflict equivalent damage on the things of the damager.
  14. One may protect one’s claims however necessary.

Virtue, however, can be superseded by the second road to the city: law. Where people consent, their claims under virtue can be replaced by laws, providing that the laws are themselves virtuous. Laws may be seen as aggregate virtue; they defy one part of virtue to bring greater compliance to it overall. For instance, virtue prohibits bodily punishment, but the law may permit it in order to deter unvirtuous behaviour like theft. Virtue permits killing trespassers (who violate ones claims to one’s land), but the law may forbid it to prevent unvirtuous murder being presented as protection of claims. Virtue continues to bind individuals in matters where the law does not regulate, and with those not regulated by the law (e.g. when in a foreign land).

The Second City: Mercy and Restraint

Where virtue and law sets limits, the second city, the prevention of poverty, enjoins that those limits not be met. Mercy is the first road, in which the individual does not make his claims where they would create greater suffering for others. The second road, restraint, is where unnecessary claims are not made as a precaution against poverty – the individual is enjoined to consider their needs, their security, their suitable motivating rewards, and claim nothing beyond these things.

The Third City: Prudence and Temperance

To avoid inconstancy, there are, again, two roads. The first is prudence, in which the individual does not do now what will cause him difficulties in the future. The second is temperance, in which the individual does not accede to transient lusts that are not in accord with his general will.

The definition of a ‘lust’ is not what we might always expect, and is defined by its force and transience. For example, if a man likes drinking a certain amount of alcohol, this is a constant, if background, desire, and it is prudence to avoid it for the sake of a hangover, or for the sake of avoiding embarrassing behaviour. If, however, he does drink, and having drunk finds himself desiring more drink than he, when sober, would desire, this is a lust, and it is temperance to avoid it, in order to avoid shame and self-loathing when the lust has passed. Likewise, it is not a lust for a man to desire a woman, if it is a continual desire, though prudence may in some cases stop him from following it; however, if a man encounters a woman engaged in seductive behaviour and desires her when he would not normally do so, or if he encounters her when he himself is in an altered state of mind, due perhaps to intoxication, or to grief, or to excessive joy, then his desire is a lust, and it is temperance that calls him to restraint.

The Fourth City: Deliberation and Resignation

The final city, unity of desire with others, is, like the others, found by two paths. The first is deliberation. Here, the individual, wary of conflicting desires, consults with those who might be concerned in the matter at hand, at through argument and persuasion brings the desires of the parties into unity.

This is not always possible, and where deliberation arrives at no consensus there exists a second path: resignation. Here, the conflicting individuals all sacrifice their individual desires and pass the matter to an agreed arbitrator, who is impartial between them, and who sets a single desire that all parties abide by. In families, this may be a father, or a respected family friend; between strangers, it is likely to be a religious figure or a political authority.

Next: The Nine Vehicles

Positional Deixis in Rawàng Ata

Breaking from the religion-making for a moment, I’m concurrently going to post some musings on deictic systems in a constructed language of mine, Rawàng Ata. There will be a number of posts, but I’ll start off with positional deixis.

Some of this post may be incomprehensible if you don’t have enough linguistics terminology, but there shouldn’t be that much. The only really key one, I think, is ‘deixis’ itself. I’ve also chosen to write this in the manner of someone who expects a level of knowledge about the language from his reader, and thus I use terms that are not explained for parts of the language seen only in passing here. I don’t think this is likely to seriously impair understanding, and will serve to pique interest for when I get around to explaining these things in their own right.

Though do comment if there’s anything you find particularly curious, puzzling, interesting or the like.


1. Positional particles.

    Positional deixis is a form of deixis found in nominal and verbal modifiers, serving to specify items or actions more fully with respect to a frame of reference, or anchor. It is marked through a class of words called ‘positionals’. The positionals are a closed class, and are as follows:


    Is used to indicate proximity to the anchor (normally the speaker). Is automatically used with anything in contact with the anchor. Usually used only with those things that are to hand or that could be reached quickly. Can also indicate something closer to the anchor than to the secondary anchor.


    Is used to indicate a greater distance from the anchor – usually either not within easy reach or that are simply further than some other salient item. Can also indicate something closer to the secondary anchor than to the anchor.


    Is used to indicate something, at any distance, within the line of sight of the anchor.


    Is used to indicate something behind the anchor.


    Is used to indicate something that the anchor must tilt their line of sight to see.


    Is used to indicate something that has fallen down from the anchor.


    Is used to indicate something downstream from the anchor.


    Is used to indicate something upstream from the anchor. The concept of ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ is extensive: while the direction of nearby rivers takes priority, ‘upstream’ can also indicate ‘uphill’ or ‘further from the sea’ in general. At sea, in sight of land, it generally indicates toward the land, but further from land it refers to motion against the prevailing currents.

    2. Anchors

      In each use of a positional, an anchor is implied – this anchor fixes the frame of reference. Normally, this anchor is the speaker; the two exceptions are when version deixis interacts with the semantics of the positionals (see below) and when a special particle, the ‘frame shift’ particle, is employed.

      The frame shift particle is employed whenever the anchor changes from the speaker to another person or object. The new anchor is then deduced through a hierarchy:

      If directive syntax is being employed, the new anchor is the interlocutor;

      If a person is currently being referred to by means of a deictic pronoun, that person is the anchor (interlocutors take preference over other participants)

      If a local noun has recently appeared, it is the anchor

      If the speech or action of an individual is being reported, they are the anchor

      The topic is the anchor

      Where the positional modifies the topic and the above do not apply, the anchor is the interlocutor

      This hierarchy is not absolute, and where context is clear violations will occur, but this is the typical order of assumptions. No frame shift is required to return the speaker to the state of anchor – where context is clear, the passage of time suffices, and where disambiguation is required the use of a deictic pronoun with first-person semantics will make the return clear (or, for certainty, an actual first-person directive pronoun).

      One complication to the above is that positionals modifying imperative verbs assume that the interlocutor is the anchor, and then shift to the speaker in the presence of the frame shift particle, unless there is some other deictic pronoun, topic or local noun in the command.

      The frame shift particle is , and precedes the positional.

      3. Adjectival uses

        A positional can modify a noun simply by being placed before it. It also precedes any indicator particles or domain phrases.

        Examples (positionals and frame shifts in bold, nouns underlined):

        Ao kubirko

        “The bridge downstream”

        Byala, kò timengi yuinù

        “The stone that has fallen down the mountain”

        Datta ranyeka, mihàyara lelu kòma

        “The sailor says that the girl behind me is ill”

        Datta ranyeka, mihàyara kò lelu kòma

        “The sailor says that the girl behind him is ill”

        (This interpretation could be altered by the presence of deictic pronouns, directive syntax or local nouns in the immediate context)

        À bahaò: datta ranyeka, mihàyara kò lelu kòma

        “Sir, the sailor says that the girl behind you is ill”

        Kò ai in ua yuinù

        Not enough of those stones you have there.

        4. Adverbial uses

          Positionals can also be used to modify verbs, either directly or as verbal articles – in either case, they precede the verb, and raw positionals precede any verbal article. In the former use, they interact with the verbal ition deixis – positive ition gives the positional an allative meaning, while negative ition gives it a locative or ablative meaning:

          Hula bahànta

          “I threw it some distance away from me”

          Hula bahàntu

          “I threw it from some distance away” or “I was throwing it, and I was then some distance from where I am now”

          Note that although the ition suffixes are derived from, and similar in meaning to, the upstream/downstream positionals, they can be used together in a way that would appear to conflict:

          Ao rasittu

          “He came by river from downstream”

          Some contrasting examples including frame-shift:

          Kòma lùang tsūyara

          “It was the girl he saw when he looked from here”

          Kòma lùang tsūyaru

          “It was the girl he saw when he looked back over here from over there ahead of me”

          Kòma kò lùang tsūyara

          “It was the girl he saw when he looked ahead”

          Kòma kò lùang tsūyaba

          “It was the girl I saw when I looked over there in your line of sight”

          [The introduction of directive syntax promotes the interlocutor in the anchor hierarchy]

          And with an imperative:

          Uyā lelu dai hàntang kòmasa

          “Throw it behind you, to the girl!”

          Uyau kò lelu dai hàntang kòmasa

          “Throw it from behind me, to the girl!”

          Uyau kò lelu dai hàntang īkaròisa

          “Throw it to the girl from behind her!”

          (The use of a deictic pronoun for young women, rather than a noun, promotes its referent to the position of anchor when the frame shift particle is present)

          Uyau kò lelu dai hàntang tamussìsa

          “Throw it toward the mountain from behind me!”

          Uyau kò lelu dai hàntang byalasa

          “Throw it toward the mountain from behind its face!”

          (The use of the local noun, rather than the common noun, promotes its referent).

          The positionals can also be turned into verbal articles by means of the suffix nà. Their meaning in this case is usually locative, and the articles are definite:

          Ainà bahànta

          “That time I threw something around here”

          6. Exclamatory uses

            By themselves, positionals and positional articles can be used as exclamations, of three main sorts. The bare forms can occur spontaneously, and serve to call attention to something:


            “Over there!”


            “Look at what has fallen!”

            Positional articles are often exclaimed in an imperative or suggestive way, and have imperative-style anchoring:


            “Do it there!”

            Kò ainà!

            “Do it here!”

            Secondly, a suffix, -yem, may be added to cause reference to the totality of things within the ambit of the deixis:


            “Oh, all the things in front of me!”


            “Oh, all the things that have been done here!”

            Finally, the suffix –ta prepares a positional or positional article to answer a question:


            “Here!” (in response to a question, such as “where shall I put this?”)


            “The time downriver from here!” (in response to a question such as “which time when you were swimming?”)

            Next time: proferative and contrastive deixis!

            OBSOLETE: The Fifth Kingdom – OBSOLETE


            The Five Kingdoms

            The Five Kingdoms of Vajhoran belief are four competing religious aims that a spirit may have. Some Kingdoms are incompatible with others; some are not. In reputed chronological age, the Five Kingdoms are believed to be the Kingdom of Sorcerers, the Kingdom of Eternal Life, the Kingdom of Saints, the Kingdom of Monks, and the Kingdom of Emperors. The first aims simply at magical power over the world; the second aims to ensure speedy resurrection. The third aims to combine the personal will with the transcendent general Will; the fourth dissolves the self in nothingness. The fifth aims at crafting a good life.

            Overall, the Fifth Kingdom is the most important by far. The First Kingdom is not approved of – at best, sorcerers are capricious and fearful, and most are positively malign. The Second has no guaranteed success, and is useless without each incarnation having a good life. Likewise, a saint is better off than many, but could still have a better life; besides, the Kingdom of Sainthood is often arbitrary and never simple to attain. The Fourth Kingdom is unappealing to many, and in any case only accessible to a tiny few. The Fifth, therefore, is the Kingdom of the people.

            The Fifth Kingdom: Four Cities, Eight Roads

            The will is a will for itself; it presupposes its own reality. Yet in reality the will is nothing but emptiness. The will is thus ever in error, which opens the doorway to suffering. The spirit is an emanation of will, and thus contains error, and thus leads to suffering. But how exactly does suffering arise? The prototypical cases must be pain, poverty, inconstancy and guilt. Leaving aside pain, the remaining three species of suffering all have in common the thread of ‘hostility’. A spirit, emanating from will, desires things for itself; in this way, it is likely to come into conflict with other spirits. In poverty, the spirit is deprived of its desires by another spirit. In guilt, the spirit deprives another spirit. This creates suffering because the spirit is an emanation of will, and will itself has desires, which are the collective desires of all the spirits. When one spirit’s desires are not met, therefore, the will itself suffers, and therefore so do all spirits emanating from it. In inconstancy, the spirit deprives itself. In all three cases, therefore, there are two types of suffering – the general suffering of deprivation of the will, and the specific suffering of contradiction, in which the desires of the will are confused and contrary, which undermines the very notion of a unified spirit.

            Finally, pain (or that part of it not attributable to foolishness) is explained by the realisation that the will must be exemplified to be a will, and that the material world is therefore an exemplification of the will. Without the will, the material world would be without motion. Pain that the world inflicts on the individual is thus a manifestation of the suffering and internal conflict in the will itself, which arises from dissent among spirits.

            The ethical requirements, therefore, for the individual spirit are simple. Firstly, do not be inconstant. Secondly, do not create poverty. Thirdly, act in accordance with virtue, as this will place the will and the spirit in accord and eliminate the specific suffering of guilt, even if conflict within the will will create a general suffering. Fourthly, come to union with others as relates to desires. These are termed the “four cities of the kingdom”. The next task is to discover roads to these cities.

            OBSOLETE: Vajhoran Cosmology – OBSOLETE



            Vajhoran cosmology holds that the world consists of four parallel planes of massive (and possibly infinite) extent. At the top of the universe is the plane of light, which is a solid and unvarying substance. Some distance below is the plane of the stars, which is also solid and opaque, but pierced through with numerous holes through which the light shines. Below, clouds hang in the air, having drifted down through the stars. Next is the earth; water sits on the lower-lying parts of this varied plane. The earth has a number of holes in it, through which the sun and moons pass. Below is a darker, starless emptiness filled with water; at the very bottom is another plane of rock, this time with no holes.

            Studies have demonstrated that the part of the earth in which Vajhoros is located is at the summit of a large pseudo-spherical mound. Some have suggested that the entire world is a globe, which would not be a radical reformation of the traditional belief, but the idea is in any case not yet widely accepted.

            In keeping with this cosmology, popular belief holds that there are four sentient species. In the centre of the world are the humans. Beyond lie twilight star-lit lands where the is no sun or moon, or only a faint light of one in the distance; here there live colossal, slow-moving reptiles – dragons. Above, on the top side of the night sky, live star-children, constantly bathing in perpetual light; the light makes them able to float through the sky, and in the lower realms they can glow with blinding brilliance and cause fires with their touch; but they have no reason to intentionally descend. One comes to earth by accident every generation or so, as a meteor dropping from the plane of light breaks through their realm before it plunges to earth. If the star-child does not rapidly find a way to return, it may become bitter and hateful, a demonic figure. Finally, on the bottom of the abyssal sea below the earth dwell the fomorians, blind water-breathers. When young, they may swim up to the pools and oceans of the earth, and lure down humans from jealousy – they can cast illusions and appear as beautiful temptresses or dead loved ones. They are attracted to light, but are destroyed by sunlight, and even weakened by strong firelight – if undisturbed, they may gather around a house, gazing at the fire, until they become so weak they cannot move. Those who do not die on earth eventually eat enough (mostly of one another) that they become too huge and heavy to swim up to the earth, and the oldest and largest are confined to the very bottom of the abyss.

            Each species has two parts – body and spirit. They are not interchangeable – only a human spirit can appear in a human body (though the odd children’s tale claims an exception here or there). The two are entirely theoretically independent – although the body and spirit may influence one another, either may exist without the other, and they are not inseparably tied to one another. Spirits are beings of will, and lust for power, which the body gives them; a spirit clings desperately to its body, and rarely gives it up, although it is not unknown – possessions, for instance, or dementia. Eventually the body breaks down and stops working, but the spirit remains just as it was before. Disembodied spirits retain a form of primitive consciousness, and a geographical location, although they can move as fast as the wind. Nonetheless, they have little reason to. Being disembodied is a form of torture for the spirit – being purely of will, they are mostly wholly impotent.

            OBSOLETE: Vajhoran Religion, I – OBSOLETE


            So, now that views have safely drifted down to zero, perhaps I should post something on this blog thing that I have. One of the things I am fiddling around with in my spare time is a dominant state religion for a cultural zone on a fictional world of mine. Most mythopoeic posts here will relate to this world (which has no name), though I do also sometimes toy with an alternate history of our own planet as well. At present, I’m focusing on one particular continent, which has around six ‘advanced’ cultures. Vajhoros is one of them. Here is the beginning of an account of their state religion:


            The Foundation of Being

            In determining the foundation of being, our guide must be the principle of emanation. One thing is said to emanate from another if it is dependent on it for existence – if were the first item not to exist (at any point in time or space) the second item could not exist, the second is an emanation of the first. A rock, for instance, is an emanation of matter – were matter not to exist, rocks could likewise not exist. An emanation at one or more removes is a devolution. Generally, devolutions are also emanations, but this is not always true. The absence of land is an emanation of land. A sea is an emanation of the absence of land. Yet the sea is only a devolution, not an emanation, of land.

            Observation of the world divides it into two portions – those things that are emanations of matter, and those things that are emanations of will.

            Introducing the concept of divided entities, we may say that one entity is divided from another when neither is an emanation of the other. If A is an emanation of B, and C is an emanation of D, then if A and C are divided entities, B and D must also be divided entities. Examining humans, we find a body and a spirit, each clearly independent of the other. Body is an emanation of matter, and spirit of will; therefore matter and will are divided entities.

            If matter were will, or partly will, or comprised will, or permitted will, it would be an emanation of will; it is not. Ergo matter has the property of not being will. Likewise will is not matter. Matter is thus an emanation of the absence of will, and will of the absence of matter. The absence of will is an emanation of will and the same with matter and its absence; so matter and will are devolutions of each other. But they are also devolutions of absence. Absence is an emanation of substance and emptiness. Substance is an emanation of the universe – if the universe did not exist, there would be no substance. Emptiness, however, is not the emanation of anything – if nothing but emptiness existed, there would still be emptiness. Emptiness, then, is the thing that all other things emanate from. All things are ultimately devolutions of emptiness, and of emanation. Yet even emanation itself is devolved from emptiness – as all things depend on emptiness, there could be no emanation without it, as nothing would be left to emanate. Likewise, entities emanate from an infinite array of haecceities, which are themselves emanations of emptiness. The entire universe is dependent on nothing but, originates from nothing but, and is composed of nothing but emptiness.

            Next time: Cosmology.