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The Dark Arts

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Zed, Mar 6, 2009.

  1. Zed

    Zed Third Year

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    The running definition of the Dark Arts is that they are magic with the intent to cause harm to others. Curses, such as the Unforgivables, fit this criteria. The process of making a Horcrux is also harmful to others, as it involves murder and some other "terrible act". Enchanting objects to cause harm also falls under this category.

    However, let's look at Inferi. Corpses bewitched to act as puppets for a Dark Wizard. Is this perverse? Most would say so, yes. Is it necessarily harmful to others? If you were to simply go into a graveyard and resurrect corpses to act as guardians for something, no. It's not much different from animating any other object.

    Let's also consider Snape's lesson in Half-Blood Prince on the Dark Arts.

    "The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible."

    If one were to look over all the examples of Dark Arts throughout the books, they will see that it is a very diverse kind of magic.

    I had pondered this earlier today while watching The Order of the Phoenix, and came to the conclusion that a more accurate way to define the Dark Arts is magic without rules or inhibitions. Most of the spells taught at Hogwarts and used by normal witches and wizards have narrow, clearly defined purposes and uses. While a creative mind could find alternative uses for them, most spells have their parameters and limits, and the magic taught has limits.

    Now, if the Dark Arts were to be defined as magic without rules, one could see the corrupting nature of the Dark Arts to be the result of a person shedding their inhibitions and showing their true nature, corruptible, sadistic, evil, etc. They say that power corrupts, yes? Dark Arts are generally attributed to corrupting its users. However, there is a reversal of this idea, saying that power actually attracts the corruptible.

    Thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2009
  2. Zarent

    Zarent Seventh Year

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    Basically, the Dark Arts served as a way for JK Rowling to let the readers know 'OMFG THIS GUY IS A BAD GUY'. She's really not all that into having moral ambiguity in the HP books.

    That being said, if you're actually looking at it from an in-universe point of view, it's actually just stuff that the Ministry has classified as Dark, likely. This has also been touched on before. To go back to the over-used cliche [And I mean, REALLY overused], Harry is lecturing his super!Dumbledore's Army about this exact topic. He goes "It's all about intent. What happens if I use Wingardium Leviosa, a regular 'neutral' spell, to pick a rock up and drop it on someone's head? It becomes a Dark spell'.


    tl;dr version - Yes, you're right, but oldtopic is old. :(
     
  3. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    The way I see it, there are two ways to think of Dark magic, and both are problematic.

    You can think of Dark magic as something about the magic itself that is wrong in some way. This is problematic in that you can think of cases where using what is called Dark magic in canon is not just excusable but morally right. It's also hard to think of exactly how a force (or however you want to think of magic) can be wrong.

    Or you can think of Dark magic as something about the user rather than the magic: a matter of intent. However this seems to be too loose a definition: if this were the case then there would be no spells that were Dark magic and no spells that weren't: all magic would be potentially Dark magic, depending on how it was used.

    So there isn't really a simple way to define it.

    An out-world explanation for this, as always, is easy. JKR screwed up, end of. And I think its pretty clear that this is the case with Dark magic. She didn't think it through properly, or doesn't consider it the kind of thing that can be thought through in that way.

    However, if we want to speculate as to an in-world explanation...

    My favourite idea is that the wizarding world itself doesn't really know what Dark magic is. Its a linguistic device which can be roughly seen as the same as moral statements of right and wrong. We have no real working definition of what is morally right and wrong in the real world. There are various theories (utilitarianism, for example) but none of them really completely account for morality. In the end when we make moral statements in real life it's all based on our own personal opinion/intuition.

    So too, I would say, with the wizarding world and their use of the term Dark magic.
     
  4. Blaise

    Blaise Golden Patronus

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    @Taure: WTF? You basically defined dark magic.

    Dark magic = magic that requires negative intent/emotion to perform
    Dark wizard = one who uses magic (light and/or dark) to cause harm.

    Magic, whether light or dark, has nothing to do with the user when being defined. Two of the three Unforgiveables need an element of hate and negative intent to make them work. The third is a curse that people like to manipulate the true intention of in fanon ("It was developed by healers to get unruly patients to take their meds", etc), but the curse isn't called "Convincio" or "persuadio pretty please-io". It's "imperio", implying one's domination of another - which is not benevolent. Dark magic, plain and simple.

    Just because JKR doesn't go into a bevy of explanation for every little fucking thing doesn't mean that there's a lack of understanding about the line between dark and light magic. It is heavily, repeatedly reinforced that Dark magic has an element of causing negative harm in order to be properly performed. A light wizard using an AK to take a wizard off life support (or whatever) is a light wizard using dark magic - s/he still has to summon up the feeling of hate to make the curse work. A dark wizard using a cheering charm to distract their opponent before killing them is a dark wizard using light magic - there's no malice necessary behind the casting of the cheering charm. That's like me saying,"Oh, I'm using my AK-47 to shoot stuffed bunnies, so it's not a weapon."

    "I'm using this grenade to make a man-made swimming hole for the little orphan children, so it's not a weapon"

    "I'm sticking my dick inside her to help apply this herpes cream to her vagina, so even though I get an erection and explode inside her, it's not sex."

    So going back to the OP's example of animated corpses - we don't know what spells go into creating Inferi, but we can safely assume that raising a bunch of fucking dead bodies, for whatever reason, involves elements of what is defined as dark magic. I very much doubt it's as simple/benign as the shit Dumbledore did to animate the statues during his duel with Voldemort. Regardless of your intentions, using a rotted corpse to, say, walk your dog is still dark fucking magic. It is heavily reinforced that coming back from the dead, short of Harry's fluke, results in a perversion (i.e. inferi and Voldemort).

    And dark magic has rules. Examples:
    - AK ? Gotta hate you.
    - Cruciatus? Gotta want to hurt you really really badly.
    - Sectumsempra = a cutting curse that is cannot be healed naturally or with standard magic, leaving one to assume that the purpose of the curse was to leave the target good and cut up. How the hell could that possibly be benevolent?


    tl;dr the existence of interchangeably-categorized ("grey") magic doesn't discount the existence of magic that can be defined only as dark.
     
  5. Viper

    Viper Fourth Year

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    Rofl! She deserved every bit of it.

    And I agree with Blaise. I always saw Dark Magic as that magic for which you need to have a negative intent towards the person you are casting it.

    I remember a fic I read long back which had it down perfectly. I think it was about the Killing Curse, but it stated that, you can pretend to be righteous and shit while casting it, but in the end, you are committing murder.
     
  6. Portus

    Portus Heir

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    That was fuckin' funny. If I'd been taking a drink, I'd need a new monitor and keyboard right now.

    JB, you nailed it and I'm glad you replied before I could, 'cause you said it way better than I could've. I was thinking of Sectumsempra in particular. It works on its own, since HP had no idea what it did and just screamed it out while waving his wand wildly (alliteration, anyone?). It's meant to slice and dice, clearly Dark Magic.

    And the Inferi thing? Regardless of your "intent", such as guarding something or whatever, you're animating dead fucking bodies - not cool no matter the reason.
     
  7. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    JB: Your explanation works right up until we read the books/listen to JKR <_<

    There are plenty a spell labelled Dark magic in canon that require no harmful intent whatsoever. And by the out-of-book info JKR has given it gets even worse. All those jinxes and hexes that make people dance etc. are Dark magic (of a mild kind).

    In fact, there's only one spell in all of the books that we are told requires a negative emotion to cast (Cruciatus), and even that is in doubt, given that Harry cast it in DH without feeling sadistic joy in the pain of others, which we had been previously told was needed for it to work.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2009
  8. Zed

    Zed Third Year

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    Points taken. After thinking about it more, the "magic without rules" idea would apply more accurately to Dark Wizards themselves rather than the magic they use, and they become attracted to using spells defined as Dark due to this lack of inhibition. The notion that Dark Magic does not corrupt, but rather attracts the corrupt, is still valid. However, this is involving psychology/philosophy rather than magic, so the point is moot.
     
  9. Grubdubdub

    Grubdubdub Supreme Mugwump

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    If Magic is energy, the Dark Arts are oil. Burning oil is not evil, but it hurts the environment and what not. Furthering the analogy, it doesn't matter if you burn a forest or make dinner with that oil, it's still bad - though in obviously different degrees. Regular charms are the green energy - in general good but they can burn a forest just as quickly.

    You think it's a good analogy?
     
  10. Mordac

    Mordac Minister of Magic DLP Supporter

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    The thing is, you and I can, but I think it's pretty obvious that in JKR-ethics, killing is always wrong. That's why she avoided Harry actually killing Voldemort, because he needed to be kept "pure". In a sense, it's deontology taken to its extreme, the type of strawman consequentialists like to use against it. The thing is, she is serious. I think the issues in the definition of dark magic stem from it. Since killing is always wrong, using the AK is always dark magic, even if you are using it to kill Hitler.
    Her thinking that is so pervasive that she neglected to give the most obvious fate to the capture Death Eaters at the end of the First War, which was the death penalty. If they'd done that, the second war would have been much less serious, IMO. She depicted them as running roughshed over all kids of civil rights without any rebate of conscience, but they were still "noble" enough not to sentence them to death. Grotesque.
     
  11. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    Mordac: I agree with what you say, but the Dark Arts aren't limited to the killing curse. What implications would you say JKR's absolutism with regards to killing has for the rest of the Dark arts debate?

    Grub:

    No.
     
  12. Mordac

    Mordac Minister of Magic DLP Supporter

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    I think it stems from her perversion of deontology that has its pinnacle in her stance on killing. Likewise, she thinks harming someone is always bad--though obviously, less so than killing someone, whether there is a reason for it or no. IMO, that's why she made such a big deal of Harry using expelliarmus against Voldemort--it's one of the few combat useful spells that has no dark element whatsoever.

    Of course, even if I don't (or at least try not to) butcher deontology as bad as she does, I am fundamentally a deontologist, so I do think that the Imperius and the Cruciatus are always immoral. IMO, I'd restrict the definition of Dark Magic to Magic that has no other purpose than creating gratuitous suffering. This is a working definition, if you've got any improvements to add, please do so. I of course fully realize that this doesn't comport well with JKR-logic.
     
  13. Demons In The Night

    Demons In The Night Chief Warlock

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    No such thing as light wizards. Fanon concept. The existence of dark wizards and dark magic does not necessarily mean that there is a group of magic that you can define as 'light'. I believe there's a false dichotomy here, that is, if certain magic can't be defined as 'dark', then it must then be 'light', and vice versa.

    I don't like this for a few reasons (which I've stated many times before). The biggest being that it is extremely simplistic and cliche.

    IMO, wizard or witch who does not use dark magic =/= light wizard/witch.

    My in-world definition of dark magic is simply dangerous magic that the ministry restricts/bans which they don't want the general populace knowing/using for whatever reason (control, moral high ground, etc). It's a label and nothing more. Sure, there are unquestionably 'dark' spells, such as AK/Crucio and horcruxes, but beyond that it becomes nebulous and arbitrary.

    Out-world definition, JK just didn't think it through.
     
  14. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    My problem with the idea that Dark magic is an arbitrary label and nothing more is that Dumbledore, who knew more about magic than anyone else, seemed to believe strongly that Dark magic exists and that it is bad.
     
  15. InfernoCannon

    InfernoCannon Seventh Year

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    In my opinion, Dark magic is pretty much the same as crime.

    You can come up with a million logical reasons to justify your crime, but society still thinks you shouldn't have commited that certain crime. It's the same with dark magic- you could use the Killing Curse on a Death Eater who's about to kill/torture you and your entire family, but to the public you're still in the wrong.

    As such, I think that Dark Magic is any magic that is what people would consider Morally Objectionable. You can levitate someone of a cliff, which is objectionable, but you can also levitate a chair and move it across the room, which isn't objectionable. With the Imperius, anything you do is objectionable as your taking away someone's free will, even if it's for a good cause (say, making sure a toddler doesn't wander into traffic or to make sure someone doesn't kill someone else.)
     
  16. Portus

    Portus Heir

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    @ Inferno Cannon: You have your name spelled three different ways in your sig, avatar and "handle" for lack of a better word...
     
  17. Demons In The Night

    Demons In The Night Chief Warlock

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    I'm not saying there is no such thing as dark magic, as canon clearly states that there is. I merely think that most dark magic is arbitrary. We only know of a few examples of true dark magic (horcruxes, unforgivables, inferi), and yet, that can't be all that there is to it. Maybe I've been reading too much fanfiction, but I've always imagined a huge list of restricted spells and magical artifacts that the ministry labels dark, for whatever reason, in which using (or possessing) x spell/artifact results in punitive action.

    Even then, perhaps dark magic isn't as bad as we think it is. I mean, Harry (and apparently everyone else) had no qualms about using the Unforgivables (extensively) in DH.

    Sure there are those who will abuse it and become corrupted by it, as that is the nature of power, but I don't think that is an indictment of dark magic itself.

    I consider it just another tool in a wizard's toolbox, albeit an unsightly one with a lot of stigma attached, but it has it's uses, where it may be the most appropriate (or only) course of action.
     
  18. Bikiluf

    Bikiluf Seventh Year

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    Wow, this discussion goes way over my head.

    Honestly I always thought that dark magic is simply magic that can’t be reversed instantly with a counterspell. Voldemort’s AK misfired but it still left Harry with a scar for the rest of his life. So Dark Magic has to be a lot harder to reverse than anything else since wizards probably have all kinds of nifty spells to close wounds without scarring.
     
  19. Chengar Qordath

    Chengar Qordath The Final Pony Prestige

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    Yeah, the fact that Harry was used Unforgivables sevveral times in DH and even McGonagall used one that does seem to indicate that they're not like the Dark Side in Star Wars, as lots of Fanfic authors posit; you can use the Dark Arts and not be corrupted by them. Of course, a spell like the Cruciatus curse, which requires a degree of sadism to use properly, is rather just by its nature.

    I would have to go with a definition of the Dark Arts that's fairly close to what a couple others have posited; the Dark Arts are spells which have no moral context in which their use would be wholly legitimate.
     
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