Schools of thought
- 1 Overview
- 2 Exemplar
- 3 Paragon
- 4 Schools of Thought
- 5 Further Reading
An exemplar is, most literally, someone whose deeds are considered to set a good example for the followers of the Way. Stories of the exemplars are regularly used in sermons, and taught to children. They are held up as examples of people who lead virtuous lives, and whose behaviour is appropriate to emulate.
Unlike paragons, exemplars are often more localised figures popular in one or two nations rather than recognised and revered across the entire Empire. While their role in the faith is considered secondary to that of the paragons, they are often significantly easier for the lay followers of the Way to identify with. Many of them are historical figures from the last three hundred years, rather than the more mythical characters who have been recognised as paragons. There is no doubt, for example, that Inga Tarn existed as a flesh-and-blood woman of incredible courage.
A paragon is someone whose life and deeds overwhelmingly demonstrated the power of a given Virtue. In many cases, a paragon's behaviour helped to define or redefine some element of the way. For example Empress Richilde illustrated that the virtue of Pride could apply to an entire Empire rather than a single nation.
A number of paragons are semi-mythical figures, many of them pre-dating the Empire. Tian, Korl, Isenbrad, The Marked, and The Sentinel are all examples of characters whose stories predate the founding of the Empire, in some cases by many centuries. They are often folk-heroes whose stories are known in many parts of the world, albeit often by different names. There has been a great deal of debate over the centuries about whether these figures are "real" in the way that Aldones di Sarvos or Empress Richilde are demonstrably real. Regardless, the popular stories about their virtuous nature are seen as some of the most inspiring by many of the faithful.
Paradoxically, many paragons are known for only a handful of core stories - whereas the exemplars may often have an entire body of virtuous behaviour associated with them. A key difference is that while there are many stories of exemplar deeds, they are generally of a smaller and more mundane scale than those of the paragons. Empress Richilde shaped an entire empire; Tian saved her people by bringing them the secret of fire; Inga Tarn by contrast had a number of heroic adventures, but nothing on so dramatic a scale.
Schools of Thought
Beyond the basic distinctions outlined above, there is a great deal of discussion and disagreement about the nature of the paragons and exemplars, and what their role is within the Way. In light of the forthcoming Symposium, members of Avigliana's School of Epistemology have pored through their records studying different claims made for the role and nature of the paragons and exemplars. After months of hard work, they have created the following summary in the hope that this identification of broad schools of thought will be useful to members of the Synod and other citizens.
They note that none of these schools should be considered exclusively, there are priests who make Purist arguments about the difference between paragons and exemplars, but express views they categorise as both Universalist and Liberationist when it comes to the issue of who should be recognised.
An exemplar is someone who exemplifies a virtue and is generally virtuous - a paragon is someone who displays a single virtue at every critical decision. Thus Inga Tarn is an exemplar because while she is almost always courageous, there are stories in which she chooses to do the loyal or wise thing instead of the doctrinally courageous thing. Empress Richilde is a paragon, because in every story about her life she always chooses the Proud course of action even when that is not necessarily the most beneficial decision.
An exemplar is someone who does something that helps to define a virtue, whereas a paragon is someone who helps to overturn incorrect understanding. The exemplars support mortal understanding of the virtues, the paragons help to perfect that understanding. The paragons take precedence over the exemplars, and must be more carefully considered because they are spiritual trailblazers - revealing new understanding of the virtues.
This line of thinking denies the suggestion that exemplars and paragons have any supernatural element. They are simply people whose virtuous behaviour inspires others. They argue for a change of doctrine to remove the miracle sign of the paragon and exemplar, claiming that reliance on such obvious fictional crutches is inappropriate.
True Virtue Exceptionalism
Exceptionalists claim that not only must paragons strongly demonstrate a single Virtue throughout their entire lives, they must not demonstrate any behaviour that is not virtuous by the doctrine of the Way. Paragons and Exemplars must not appear vengeful, hateful, peaceful, anarchistic and so on, and they must not demonstrate weakness in any of the seven virtues. Priests adhering to this approach have blocked several attempts to raise "inappropriate" individuals to the status of paragon or exemplar, including Emperor James who was bitterly argued to not only lack ambition but to demonstrate extremely suspect patterns of peaceful behaviour.
It is a straightforward fact that some of the stories associated with paragons and exemplars do not entirely make sense. Many theologians accept that some of these stories are metaphors, and that some of them are actually the deeds of other people that have been assigned to the paragon or exemplar in the popular consciousness. Virtuous Historians seek to define the actual facts about the lives of the paragons and exemplars. Some are concerned that by including fictional events, the paragons and exemplars cease to be mortal figures and become dangerously close to idols. Others are concerned that by assigning the virtuous actions of several individuals to a single figure, people whose virtuous behaviour should have been recognised are deleted from history. Some Virtuous Historians find common ground with the Pragmatic Secularists - stories of supernatural miracles are often evidence that a certain deed never happened, or that the paragon or exemplar has been conflated with a spirit, hero, or even a god from pre-virtuous times.
This is a very common approach that teaches that only a paragon leaves the cycle of reincarnation - is freed from the Labyrinth - and that all paragons are by definition liberated in this manner. They argue vociferously against the inclusion of any paragon who can provably be said to have appeared as a past-life. It was Liberationists who demanded the change in status of Atuman from paragon to exemplar following the past life vision of Aldones di Sarvos.
Avigliana's School defines this belief as the view that the Empire is too narrow-minded in its recognition of exemplars and paragons. Adherents take issue with the majority of exemplars and paragons being Imperial, claiming it makes little sense. Most believe that at the very least, the exemplars and paragons of the Sumaah Republic should be included in the Imperial lists, and they encourage the faithful to look beyond the borders of the Empire for obviously virtuous people who live in other nations. In recent decades they have been lobbying for closer contact with the faithful of Faraden, arguing that the Imperial Synod must embrace the exemplars of Courage, Pride, Loyalty, and Prosperity recognised by that nation. It is almost impossible to reconcile this approach with that of the True Virtue Exceptionalists who are apoplectic at the idea that the lists of paragons and exemplars might include figures who by default approved of the practice of Vengeance.
Aspirationalists argue that the distinction between exemplars and paragons is purely political, and has no benefit to the Way. The important thing is that these figures are inspirational. They argue for the removal of the two-tier system, classifying all the existing figures as either one or the other. There is a schism between Doctrinal Aspirationalists who believe all inspirational figures should be recognised (and recognisably) paragons, and the Common Aspirationalists who argue that they should be exemplars because priests have no empirical way to determine who is or is not a paragon. The former often accuse the latter of heresy (for undermining doctrine) and both tend to despise the absolute aspirationalists.
Avigliana's School identifies the critical realists as those who claim that, realistically, the only difference between paragons and exemplars is one of politics, not metaphysics. Paragons are generally presented as more "important" than exemplars and thus have a higher status, and more prestige. Exemplars, by contrast, are seen as more "mundane" characters, whose inspiration is more limited and prosaic in nature. The lessons they teach are "less important" than those of the paragons. The decision about whether a certain inspirational figure is a paragon or an exemplar is made by the Imperial Synod and, like all such judgements, is made for political purposes not spiritual ones. Popular and influential figures are more likely to end up as paragons than more virtuous people who do not have "the Highborn stamp of approval" (as the outspoken originator of this view repeatedly referred to it). Critical realists usually argue that not only should the distinction be removed, but doctrine should also be changed to remove the sign of pilgrimage criticising it is a political sign that has no grounding in faith or doctrine.
Foundationalists criticise the principle of the judgement of recognition. They agree with the critical realists that the process is one fraught with politics, graft, and vested interests and present a radical solution. All matters of exemplars and paragons should be decided by the Highguard National Assembly alone. The claim is that as the Highborn founded the Way, they are in the most able to correctly determine who is best suited to be exemplars. Their goal is to eliminate the corruption influence of politics on the process, so that faith and an understanding of doctrine determine who is recognised as an exemplar or paragon.
The Absolute Aspirationalists go much further than the aspirationalists arguing that nobody should be recognised as an exemplar or paragon, because saying that these people are better in some way than other humans is itself a challenge to the Doctrine of Human Destiny. By holding up examples that are often impossible to aspire to - no modern follower of the Way is going to bring the secret of fire to their people for example - they undermine the faith. Historically, such views have been drawn ire from prominent members of the Assembly of Ambition, who have even gone so far as to label them heretical.
Prior to the inclusion of the Imperial Orcs as a nation of the Empire, there was a lot of purely theoretical discussion about whether someone who was not a human could be an exemplar or paragon. Philosophers debated whether a dog or a horse, could be an exemplar - given that the animals often appeared to demonstrate behaviour in line with virtues such as Courage or Loyalty. The Imperial Synod reached no clear conclusion, and the matter remained entirely theoretical until the orcs joined the Empire, and embraced the Way.
After the adoption of the Imperial Orcs into the Empire, the question of their relationship with the Way became crucial. Past theological discussion centred around The Doctrine of Reincarnation and human destiny. There is no evidence that anyone other than humans reincarnate - indeed the orcs themselves freely admit that they do not reincarnate. It raises questions - can someone who is fundamentally cut off from the Labyrinth serve as an example to humans?
The most politically expedient view is to judge that orcs are just like humans - but the separatists argue that this approach flies in the face of evidence that orcs and humans are fundamentally different on a spiritual level. Some question the decision to create an Imperial Orc assembly, but it is the action of Hector de Rondell in 379YE raising a judgement of recognition for Thrace, the leader of the orc rebellion, as an exemplar of Ambition that is the most contentious. The argument of the separatists is that the orcs must be seen as a separate species - creatures complete apart from human destiny - that it is blasphemy to include any of their ancestors among the ranks of the exemplars and paragons. The Sumaah Republic cited Hector de Rondell's judgement as part of their recent declaration of war - in part due to their separatist leanings.
- The Judgements of the Synod
- Synod Positions
- Religious Crime
- Imperial Theology