A Philosophickal Debate

(continued from front page)

Alas, due to the general disruption and mayhem which ensured earlier this week, when conflict between these two learned gentlemen caused an explosion that burned down the Philosophickal Society's Lecture Hall on Culvert Street, the second crossing of these two great swords was a private function.

For reasons of safety, the debate was closed to the general public. It could be attended by invitation only.

Nonetheless, Gentle Reader, we see no reason to deprive you of a ringside seat! The Arcanum Illustrated Times was permitted to attend this valuable and enlightening dispute, and our reporter on the scene has recorded every word of the exchange for your enlightenment and amusement.

The proceedings began with introductions; the combatants on both sides listed their achievements. In the case of our own Professor Faraday, these achievements are well known, as the good gentleman has contributed enormously to our understanding of Electricity, Chemistry and Physics. However, Master Westwind's list was also of some interest; some of our more alert readers may remember his name in connection with recent efforts to establish a proper embassy from the city-state of Tulla, home to practitioners of magick and other dark arts. Master Westwind recently completed a tour of the north country, visiting Stillwater, Clearpool and other industrial areas, and submitted a report on the quality of the rivers and streams of that region which has been of great interest to Reformists.

Once the opening civilities passed, matters were quickly brought to brass tacks. As a citizen of the host city, Professor Faraday was permitted to speak first.

FARADAY: I welcome my esteemed opponent back to the halls of the Philosophickal Society. One hopes that a week of respite has given him a chance to gather his wits - and his spells - more closely about him.

WESTWIND: My wits were at my command before, good colleague. My spells, however, I have put away for this occasion. I face the assembly as helpless as any Tarantian.

FARADAY: Which doubtless means that you have a pistol tucked into your waistcoat! Such a provision shan't be necessary, I assure you. I hope to prove the superiority of Technology to Sorcery without resort to violence.

WESTWIND: I sincerely doubt that anyone will agree with your premise, unless you do brandish one of your gunpowder weapons in our faces! But I yield the floor to your opening remarks nonetheless.

FARADAY: As you say. Very well then: first let it be noted that this debate is inspired by a very real and pressing concern for public safety. Magick and Technology, arising as they do from contradictory and mutually exclusive principles of action, counteract one another's effects when they come into close proximity. The abrupt negation of any force - be it natural or mystical - can have an explosive and highly dangerous consequence. This was demonstrated, albeit unintentionally, when I attempted to bring a small dynamo-electric machine into a room which was occupied at the time by my esteemed opponent, who unwisely chose that moment to attempt a conjuration.

WESTWIND: I extend again my sincere apologies for that incident. May I say that your eyebrows are re-growing nicely?

FARADAY: Of course they are. But, to continue: accidents of this kind can be quite deadly. Recent events at the Vermillion Central railway station have shown that practitioners of the Sorcerous Arts cannot be trusted to obey even the simplest rules, rules which are created to protect the general public. Given this state of affairs, and the general irresponsibility of magickal practitioners everywhere, certain acts have been put before the Tarantian legislature, looking to ban Sorcery entirely from the city precincts.

WESTWIND: Bah! Your so-called "rules" would not be necessary, had you not filled this city with all manner of new-fangled and dangerous contraptions. The warnings posted at your railway station were not nearly express and explicit enough. As for your proposed law, a more unfair and wrong-headed piece of legislation cannot be conceived! I'm sorry to contradict my esteemed opponent, but the people of Tarant would be far wiser to ban Technology from their precincts than Magick.

FARADAY: A preposterous statement! Exactly the sort of illogical nonsense one expects to hear from a Magician. Banning Technology from the city is impossible. Tarant was built on sound principles of Natural Law, and its continued prosperity depends on the use of various mechanical devices.

WESTWIND: Mechanical devices? Call them what they are: infernal engines of destruction.

FARADAY: We are getting ahead of ourselves here, Westwind. Before this matter can be debated, we must agree to some common terms.

WESTWIND: Very well. We will review what little we agreed upon last time, I suppose?

FARADAY: With your indulgence, I offer a loose general definition of the term "Technology". For purposes of this discussion, we will call "Technology" all those useful tools, techniques and processes which result from the application of Science.

WESTWIND: Calling these Technologies "useful" is a matter of opinion! But otherwise the definition will pass, Professor. I remind you that the definition of Magick is very nearly as simple. The practice of Magick is an Art, rather than a Science; the difference between a Science and an Art is the fundamental difference between Sorcery and Technology.

FARADAY: If one employs the principles of Science, one achieves a result which can be reproduced by anyone, regardless of their circumstances, provided that the same techniques and tools are always used. In the pursuit of Technology, we perform many experiments; the result of any experiment must be repeatable to be considered valid. A machine must be based on sound and reliable principles, or it is useless.

WESTWIND: Pah! Every machine is useless, Professor. But let us make a contrast for your learned fellows. The practitioner of any Art - Magick is but one of many - achieves a result which cannot be achieved by every one, every time. In fact, the more powerful and complex the Magick being performed, the more unique it is - and the less likely it is that another mage will be able to successfully copy it!

FARADAY: And yet we see the same tricks performed by a half-dozen shabby magicians if we but walk for fifteen minutes on the city streets…

WESTWIND: Most of what you see in Tarant is not real Magick, Professor! It is mere sleight-of-hand, the tricks of petty confidence men; at best you'll see a glimmering of Talent, enough to change the ink on a card or conjure a posy from the air. Every one of those miserable pretenders would wet himself in the presence of a real Mage!

FARADAY: I've heard that real Mages occasionally do the same in the presence of small dynamo-electric machines, Master Westwind.

WESTWIND: I did spill a pitcher of drinking water on myself, sir. But I remind you that this occurred while I was trying to save what remained of your hair!

FARADAY: Please don't allow me to interrupt your discourse on the dubious Art of Magick, Westwind! We are all listening, I assure you.

WESTWIND: Very well. To conclude: the results of an experiment in Art depend entirely on individual Talent and Ability. It is not a Science. You cannot exactly reproduce the tools and the techniques which are used in any act of Sorcery, because the sorcerer's main instrument is the force of his own Will. The Will is a function of our inner being, and since the inner being of every man and woman is unique, the exact result of a Spell cannot be exactly predicted. Two mages can perform the same incantation, throw the same bones, burn the same incense, and still achieve wildly different results.

FARADAY: Exactly the problem! Magic is no more reliable than the individual men and women who practice it. Its action varies according to unknown formulae, and we have found its effect on Technological devices to be erratic, save that it is universally harmful.

WESTWIND: Yes. There is a good reason for this. We come again to the Will, which is the force by which a Sorcerer achieves his ends. Using his or her Will as a lever, the practitioner of Magick suspends, however briefly, the very same natural laws upon which a Technological device depends.

FARADAY: I had not heard it stated thus before, but I find the metaphor you employ intriguing. The notion may have some merit; certainly it is as good an explanation as any I have yet heard, to explain this generally observed phenomenon.

WESTWIND: The power of the sorcerer's Will creates, as it were, a field of effect. Within the radius of this field, the ordinary principles of Natural Law do not strictly apply. They are altered according to the sorcerer's direction, for his or her own benefit.

FARADAY: And thus the disruption of machines which depend on Natural Law for their operation! Yes, this may very well be the case. Of course, like all theories having to do with Magick, it will be difficult to prove. In general, you must agree, Technology is far more reliable than Spellcraft - especially as a means of securing Prosperity for the general population.

WESTWIND: Professor Faraday, Technology has brought Tarant some small measure of Prosperity- but at what cost?

FARADAY: I can't imagine what you mean, Master Westwind.

WESTWIND: But of course you can. Or do you suggest that the benefits of Technology have fallen equally to all? Isn't it far more true that while some prosper from the use of Technology - yourself, for example, and the wealthy gentlemen who divert themselves by attending meetings of a "Philosophickal Society" - that others in this city suffer terribly from it?

FARADAY: If you have some specific point to make, sir, pray do not keep us in suspense. I am most anxious to hear you justify the insult you've just offered, not only to myself but to our esteemed hosts.

WESTWIND: I insult no one unduly. I say only this: on the occasion of our last meeting, Professor, everyone was much impressed by the arguments you made in favor of Technology. I was somewhat skeptical as to the glorious portrait you painted of happy Tarant, however, aglow with its Industry and Progress. In the week that has passed since our prior debate, I have taken quite a thorough tour of this city and its surrounding suburbs.

FARADAY: And you have doubtless seen many wonders. Railways, steel and textile mills, factories which produce commodities of every kind! Our shops are filled to bursting with goods of every description, and virtually everything is made by machine. Perhaps you even saw some of the displays being built for the Great Exhibition, or the airborne glider that the esteemed Mr. Lilenthal demonstrated on the field at Kent.

WESTWIND: I have seen these wonders, and many others as well. At times, indeed, I was almost overwhelmed by the beauty and power of Tarantian invention. The gaslights which illumine your streets and homes impressed me most particularly, although they don't seem to burn so brightly when I am near them.

FARADAY: What fault can you find then with Technology, which has brought about these marvelous things?

WESTWIND: Only this: that for every rich gift that Technology has bestowed upon this city, I have seen it take away something equally dear. For every man who has made a fortune, a hundred have been rendered destitute. For every gentleman who enjoys a fine meal in the gas-lit comfort of his "club", a dozen children beg for bread in the streets.