Jump to content
Nepenthe

The Thermian Argument and Video Games

Recommended Posts

Lately when I've seen this argument brought up it's not really used to defend anything. It's mostly just used to answer the question of "Why is ___ a thing". Sure, "That's just the way it is." Is hardly a defense, but I barely ever see it used as as a defense over any legitimate one. I don't think it's always an instinctive catch all way to defend something. Media just comes out weird sometimes and there's no other real way to explain it. 

 

 

Edited by Wraith

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, when I say "That's just the way things are," I'm using that phrase as a catch-all for specific reasons that are meant to resign conscious artistic decisions as not being problems. "Supergirl shouldn't have a boob window." "That's just the way she likes dressing!" This is a Thermian answer because it refutes a statement concerning meta decisions the author made with false justifications about what Supergirl likes, and they're false simply because Supergirl can't like anything. She's not real so she can be made to wear anything. Thus the original point of contention remains: "Why does (the author make) Supergirl wear a boob window (when the author could make her wear anything, including something less obviously titillating without a real person's autonomy being violated)?"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, when I say "That's just the way things are," I'm using that phrase as a catch-all for specific reasons that are meant to resign conscious artistic decisions as not being problems. "Supergirl shouldn't have a boob window." "That's just the way she likes dressing!" This is a Thermian answer because it refutes a statement concerning meta decisions the author made with false justifications about what Supergirl likes, and they're false simply because Supergirl can't like anything. She's not real so she can be made to wear anything. Thus the original point of contention remains: "Why does (the author make) Supergirl wear a boob window (when the author could make her wear anything, including something less obviously titillating without a real person's autonomy being violated)?"

Well at that point you could just say "The author likes boobs". The Thermian answer is just going to lead to a circular argument. 

Instead of asking why at something where there's no answer, just criticize the work. Explain why you think Power Girl(she's actually the one with the boob window(Not that it matters but I'm being an an anal comic nerd right now don't judge me >:U)) having a boob window is dumb. It could be because of sexualization since Superman sure as shit doesn't have one. It could be that you just don't like tits being shoved everywhere and it takes you out of media. You could just think it looks stupid. It's all valid. Just taking the argument a step further makes the Thermian argument fall apart, making it pretty useless as a tool. It's why I rarely see it actually used as an argument nowadays(Kojima is still catching shit for Quiet's design even from fans of the series for a reason.) 

So yeah..I guess I pretty much agree with you as far as it's application as an actual argument goes. I just never really see it used much anymore and I think people are sort of moving away from it.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm glad you brought up this point since there are many poor, fallacious lines of argument used in the world and this is certainly one of them, and I always like seeing garbage arguments being called out and taken apart. At the same time, I wonder what there really is to discuss. It's pretty easy to see why this line of argumentation is fallacious and pretty hard to defend it. I WOULD like to discuss this issue, but I honestly don't see where to go with it next.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok, so I read up on this issue and people's opinions on it and came to this conclusion. This argument is flawed a bit:

The criticism of this argument that using in-universe justifications for a fictional work is ultimately pointless because fiction in itself is simply a construct made up by the creators to fulfill whatever ideas they had. The flaw here is that it is denying any value in a work beyond the author's message and his intents for creating said work. It stops being "entertainment" and becomes "propaganda".  The purpose for most forms of art is for entertainment, while propaganda is used to promote and enforce a political view. The Thermian argument therefore reduces most forms of media to propaganda agendas on the creators end in order to push some sort of political agenda. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This topic (and that Folding Ideas video you linked) is fascinating because this is stuff I've thought about before but could never precisely put into words until now. Now I know exactly what it is that makes me angry when people refute what I say with, "That's how things are," "This is just what appeals to the mass market more," "Complaining about it is pointless and won't change anything," etc. I always looked at those statements as cop-outs or a sign of disinterest in listening to the others' arguments, but I see that it's a lot more deep-rooted than I expected it to be. I'm still in the middle of watching that video, but yeah this is all really excellent theory to be made aware of.

Edited by Sean

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Well at that point you could just say "The author likes boobs". The Thermian answer is just going to lead to a circular argument. 

Instead of asking why at something where there's no answer, just criticize the work. Explain why you think Power Girl(she's actually the one with the boob window(Not that it matters but I'm being an an anal comic nerd right now don't judge me >:U)) having a boob window is dumb. It could be because of sexualization since Superman sure as shit doesn't have one. It could be that you just don't like tits being shoved everywhere and it takes you out of media. You could just think it looks stupid. It's all valid. Just taking the argument a step further makes the Thermian argument fall apart, making it pretty useless as a tool. It's why I rarely see it actually used as an argument nowadays(Kojima is still catching shit for Quiet's design even from fans of the series for a reason.) 

So yeah..I guess I pretty much agree with you as far as it's application as an actual argument goes. I just never really see it used much anymore and I think people are sort of moving away from it.

 

It wouldn't necessarily lead to a circular argument. An author liking something doesn't inhibit questioning that something's validity either within the context of the work's world or within the context of whatever broader social context that work is being examined in. After all, it can be presumed that everything within a work is going to be something the author likes (again, author power here), which means while it's a technical answer it's a useless one that doesn't reveal anything. When people ask why is x in something they're either asking what the author's logic was for including what appears to be a dissimilar or out-of-place element in a work, or they're leading into a larger conversation about stereotypes and cliches and negative reinforcement, and all that stuff. An example would be "Why include a magical negro character when you could have made a respectable black character?" That's a valid question that gets the ball rolling on discussing race within American media. You might not get a definitive answer, but again the point is to generally to induce a larger discussion about the bigger picture versus actually pinpoint the truth about why X author decided at two in the morning to make up a magical negro character. Critical thinking and extrapolation and connection of ideas is the basis of art criticism. Of course you can always criticize a work for any reason, but this question about "why" isn't invalid.

And on the contrary, I see the Thermian argument crop up a lot in gaming circles like GAF and even here, particularly when a feminist perspective is being used to criticize a work. The arguments about Bayonetta's design, Quiet's design (Kojima himself famously made a Thermian argument by declaring "People would be ashamed for criticizing Quiet's design" under the impression that he had given an in-universe reason for it!), Hitman Absolution's allowance of stripper murder, and almost anything on Feminist Frequency can be counted on to be quickly dismissed as valid criticism simply because the authors gave a canon justification for these things being in their respective games.

I'm glad you brought up this point since there are many poor, fallacious lines of argument used in the world and this is certainly one of them, and I always like seeing garbage arguments being called out and taken apart. At the same time, I wonder what there really is to discuss. It's pretty easy to see why this line of argumentation is fallacious and pretty hard to defend it. I WOULD like to discuss this issue, but I honestly don't see where to go with it next.

You could always discuss some specific examples if you can recall them. Sarkeesian calling out Hitman Absolution's use of stripper murder is a fascinating argument to have because there's the fact that while the game allows you to do this, it nonetheless docks points from the player's score if they do kill a stripper. I personally have my own reasons for dismissing the punishment as a meaningful condemnation of murdering a stripper but I can see why someone would disagree there.

Ok, so I read up on this issue and people's opinions on it and came to this conclusion. This argument is flawed a bit:

The criticism of this argument that using in-universe justifications for a fictional work is ultimately pointless because fiction in itself is simply a construct made up by the creators to fulfill whatever ideas they had. The flaw here is that it is denying any value in a work beyond the author's message and his intents for creating said work. It stops being "entertainment" and becomes "propaganda".  The purpose for most forms of art is for entertainment, while propaganda is used to promote and enforce a political view. The Thermian argument therefore reduces most forms of media to propaganda agendas on the creators end in order to push some sort of political agenda. 

If you're criticizing the labeling of the Thermian argument as a logical fallacy, I think you're a bit off the mark. First, it is only utilized as a rebuttal when the criticism of a game goes strictly into sociopolitical territory-- when someone criticizes a work as being problematic from a cultural or social point of view. It is not a condemnation of discussing the universe in the context of its quality as a fictional universe; as I said, talking about the mechanics of how skimpiness equates to power is fair game in nerd circles where people want to discuss canon. 

Second, art and what the layman terms propaganda aren't mutually-exclusive, as every work is inherently political regardless of intent due to the fact that it is made by human beings who perpetually exist in political environments and thus subconsciously draw upon political leanings to draft up characters, universes, and plot arcs. As Foldy the puppet says, art cannot avoid political messages anymore than a swimmer can avoid displacing water when swimming regardless of where to or how they're swimming. As such, it is fair game for a person to look at any piece of entertainment and examine it from a lens of feminism, race politics, class politics, lgbt and gender politics, and so on and so forth. Technically, a work is only propaganda when it proceeds to insist on ideological purity. But including politics in a work is just inherent by design. Steven Universe exerts that LGBT love cannot be thwarted by systemic prejudice. Man of Steel advocates that militaristic authority is not to be questioned. DBZ argues that social class doesn't define anyone's worth as a person. Sonic is against the wanton destruction of the environment as the behest of technological advancement. These are political statements coming from entertainment works.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you're criticizing the labeling of the Thermian argument as a logical fallacy, I think you're a bit off the mark. First, it is only utilized as a rebuttal when the criticism of a game goes strictly into sociopolitical territory-- when someone criticizes a work as being problematic from a cultural or social point of view. It is not a condemnation of discussing the universe in the context of its quality as a fictional universe; as I said, talking about the mechanics of how skimpiness equates to power is fair game in nerd circles where people want to discuss canon. 

Second, art and what the layman terms propaganda aren't mutually-exclusive, as every work is inherently political regardless of intent due to the fact that it is made by human beings who perpetually exist in political environments and thus subconsciously draw upon political leanings to draft up characters, universes, and plot arcs. As Foldy the puppet says, art cannot avoid political messages anymore than a swimmer can avoid displacing water when swimming regardless of where to or how they're swimming. As such, it is fair game for a person to look at any piece of entertainment and examine it from a lens of feminism, race politics, class politics, lgbt and gender politics, and so on and so forth. Technically, a work is only propaganda when it proceeds to insist on ideological purity. But including politics in a work is just inherent by design. Steven Universe exerts that LGBT love cannot be thwarted by systemic prejudice. Man of Steel advocates that militaristic authority is not to be questioned. DBZ argues that social class doesn't define anyone's worth as a person. Sonic is against the wanton destruction of the environment as the behest of technological advancement. These are political statements coming from entertainment works.

On the first point; basically, this argument can be viewed as using fictional in-universe reasons to argue a sociopolitical view?

On the second point; while it is true art will always have some form of propaganda, doesn't it not depend on the medium itself and what its intents are? Like, ok so Sonic is against wanton destruction of the environment as the behest of technological advancement. But if the author did not consciously intend for that message to permeate, is that view still valid? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.) Yes. It's basically saying "When someone asks why a work makes some meta social comment, it's irrelevant to defend that comment's validity by using logic that's only relevant to fiction."

2.) Of course it's valid. While authors have the power to write whatever they want, they do not have the power to fully control the public conversation about what that work of art says to individuals and groups. This is why people can be infatuated with works of art that the author didn't put a lot of work in, or why works of art can proceed to spark controversy when the author didn't intend for that to happen. This speaks to the general idea of institutionalism as a whole: an individual's point-of-view is limited and thus actions can have unforeseen consequences regardless of intent. If I'm driving in a car and accidentally hit a child because they ran out in front of me suddenly and my limited point-of-view didn't see them in time, my lack of intent to cause harm doesn't mean the child still isn't perceiving pain or worse.

This goes for our mental intentions too. Art will always be infused by sociopolitical threads because it's simply impossible for humans to escape cultural symbolism, objectification, subconscious bias, and things of that nature. We draw upon these things because that's literally the only context human beings know. We're social creatures: we understand the world as a result of other's ideas and actions. As a result, no work of art is wholly original, so those reused ideas, even if they weren't caught by the author, will still mean something to people who have the lived experiences and unique point-of-view to pick up on them. And sometimes those meanings are unintentionally hurtful or myopic or just plain ol' lazy. It just happens.

Edited by Nepenthe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From what i gathered the thermian argument only applies when real life questions are shut down by fictional answers. I think that makes perfect sense. its not like criticism denies the created world, it just questions if some things realy should be there. And since this has become a topic of real life values, countering it with fiction wouldnt realy answer what the person is questioning. So if the person criticises skimpy dresses, it stands to reason that this is because of a moral value. thus you should reason in a moral value way by talking about if skimpy dresses are actualy disturbing. otherwise you are basicaly saying shut up and kills the argument.

Edited by PandoloFox

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the other hand, a creator has the right to actualy be creative, following actual history and real human morals isnt a requirment when the creator is in fact creating a fiction ( as in not real ). criticising something that is supposed to not be real with reality also becomes invalid. if the fiction made isnt meant to reflect reality, criticising it because of lack of reality becomes redundant ( its the point after all ). the only games you can criticise based on reality and morals are games that tries to implement reality and morals.

moral and values however is something that always finds its way into things since its about perception about the creation. and fiction or not, some form of reality will be put in since humans creates stuff based on what they can imagen and imagination sterms from real experiences

Edited by PandoloFox

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're actually making a Thermian argument by using an undefined amount of simulated realism within a work to say that art cannot be critiqued at all from social and political lenses.

First, fiction- even if it the intent is realism- is by definition different from the real world because it's fiction. Thus under your logic the only thing people can criticize from a sociopolitical perspective is raw camera footage of things just happening, like funny cat videos, at which point you're not really engaging in art criticism so much as you are just talking about the world's flaws.

Second, the level of realism doesn't matter because fiction is still art. Art is made by humans, and humans live in a permanent environment of subconscious sociopolitical statements and cultural biases. This is because we learn and come to understand ourselves through exposure to other people's, institutions', and cultures' thoughts and actions. We talk to people almost every day, we are bombarded with news and advertising, we pick up stereotypes about other groups of people through our media and myopic world views, most of which is completely benign and subconsciously done. Thus, the use of cliches, stereotypes, and symbols in art with overarching meanings- even if subconscious- is inescapable for any artist.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not at all, that was not what i was getting at. Ofcourse you can actualy do that. I argued that the creator actualy has a right to be creative. Thus if he creates a world which in no shape or form reflects our way of living, then criticism based on our reality would be void. that isnt possible though, art is part of reality, you cant escape it. As i mentioned in that comment, morals and values always finds its way into creations since its about "perception". Even if the creator didnt mean anything with it, others will see it differently. Subjectivity at its finest. Nothing can escape criticism in the first place. But if a creation actualy was made that didnt reflect reality in any way, would you be able to criticise it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A person cannot create a work that is completely divorced from a human way of thinking because humans do not have first-hand knowledge of how to act any other way. We cannot go inside the minds of animals nor have we had proven alien contact. Our only perspective is the human perspective, meaning it's the only thing a person can reference when creating anything. Ergo, every human work on Earth is fair game to be criticized from a human perspective regardless of whether or not the work is consciously intended an accurate reflection of our reality, because all art can only be produced within a human framework. So subconscious ideas will seep in to fill in the gaps or come about accidentally. Just because they are accidents however doesn't mean they don't exist.

This also doesn't prohibit creativity. Anyone can create anything they want and anyone can say what they want about those creations. Authors are free to not listen and keep creating whatever they want. That's simple free speech. 

And again, trying to question or discredit the ability to criticize a work based upon a fictional universe's tone is basically a broad example of the Thermian argument. The lack of realism matters as much as the example in the op where women "have" to dress in skimpy armor because exposed skin gives them more power. Arbitrary creative distinctions do not directly reference the point being made with meta art criticism.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A person cannot create a work that is completely divorced from a human way of thinking because humans do not have first-hand knowledge of how to act any other way. We cannot go inside the minds of animals nor have we had proven alien contact. Our only perspective is the human perspective, meaning it's the only thing a person can reference when creating anything. Ergo, every human work on Earth is fair game to be criticized from a human perspective regardless of whether or not the work is intended an accurate reflection of our reality. This also doesn't prohibit creativity. Anyone can create anything they want and anyone can say what they want about those creations. Authors are free to not listen. That's simple free speech. 

And again, trying to question or discredit the ability to criticize a work based upon a fictional universe's tone is basically a broad example of the Thermian argument.

you are repeating what i said just that you are being more detailed.

My last question was not meant to be taken as me saying that it can be done. i myself said that it was impossible. See it as a very abstract question. We can not imagen what we havnt seen or understand. thus creating something that you cant imagen would make you unable to criticise it. 

Edited by PandoloFox

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

yes it is, but you were the one that chose to argue a logical paradox. i only mentioned it, and i used it to say that art can not escape criticism because of the fact that fiction not based on reality is as you yourself putted it " a logical paradox"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No, the logical paradox is saying that humans can create something they cannot imagine, because creation inherently requires imagination.

I honestly have no idea what else you're actually talking about. I never said fiction not based in reality is a paradox. I instead said that's literally the definition of fiction: a narrative work that differs from objective reality in some way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No, the logical paradox is saying that humans can create something they cannot imagine, because creation inherently requires imagination.

I honestly have no idea what else you're actually talking about. I never said fiction not based in reality is a paradox. I instead said that's literally the definition of fiction: a narrative work that differs from objective reality in some way.

I said it was impossible to begin with. If im being too abstract for you then forgive me. I will try to make myself more clear.

First i agreed with that you can not shut down an argument relating to reality by mentioning "in-game logic"

After that i went into more abstract territory. I said that something created that was not based on reality in any way would be void of criticism since it would be beyond what we can imagen. this is true, you cant criticise something you cant imagen. Then after that i explained how creating something that wasnt based on reality would be impossible because we can only create what we can imagen. Thus i used the logical paradox to explain why everything can be criticised.

But then i asked a retorical abstract question " but if it was possible then could you criticise it?" i am basicaly saying if god existed, could you criticise him. I have a tendency to be a bit flowery. i apologise. Now fire away if you find what ive said thus far stupid.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anything that can be criticized must be observable. To be observable, something must inherently reside within the bounds of physical laws known and unknown. If something is not at all observable, it is for all intents and purposes nonexistent.

But again, this kind of philosophical waxing is completely beyond the actual scope of the thread.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anything that can be criticized must be observable. To be observable, something must inherently reside within the bounds of physical laws known and unknown. If something is not at all observable, it by all accounts is non-existent.

But again, this kind of philosophical wazing is completely beyond the actual scope of the thread.

All true, but i would argue that something not known before cant be criticised for a little while. That is until we have made all observation necessary in order to undertsand it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So this form of argument/response actually has a definition? Interesting.

Really, I think intent is more important than any real justification, and in this case, honesty is the best policy, IMO. I've noticed that a lot of gamers will be more lenient on a developer who is actually honest about liking big tits rather than making excuses.

F83LPLw.png

Granted, while this tangent is sorta off-topic, since most of this discussion has been focused on topics relating to fanservice and sexism and whatnot, I just think that a lot of this stuff reveals a rather striking sense of immaturity in most of the industry, and probably modern consumer media in general. It's sex without the actual sex. Granted, society in general has a stupid and fascinating problem with sex, especially in the US, sex is especially taboo and often basically its own ratings category when ultra-violence is practically celebrated in media. The fact that Mortal Kombat 9 and X aren't rated AO is an especially bizarre thing.

... This topic might actually warrant its own thread. Huh. I'll think on that.

Edited by Candescence

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

You must read and accept our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy to continue using this website. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.