This is a repost of an article I originally submitted to /r/teslore , after listening to one of the Selectives Lorecasts (I think it was the one on Sotha Sil ), and the points around water and memory reminded me of Giles Deleuze and Transcendental Empiricism. There are a few points I’d like to think about this, under a few headings below.
It goes without saying that these ideas are mostly my own. It’s been a few years since I studied Deleuze, so I could be a bit off in my memory (of which, see more below). I may also add more, these are fairly shorthand and badly-researched notes.
Deleuze, Narrative “Buggery”, and Vivec’s Children
Deleuze describes his conception of the history of philosophy “As a sort of buggery or, no less, an immaculate conception. I fancy myself coming up to authors from behind and conceiving monstrous children with them.” This works on two levels in TES, one general and one particular. And the general leads to the particular.
In the first instance, the general idea of doing unsuspecting violence to ideas is how Deleuze sees reinterpretation, and potentially also any interpretation at all. When you examine an idea and express an interpretation of it, you are doing violence to that idea; that is, remaking it into a shape that it wasn’t before. This ties in with the Sermons’ idea of truth as violence, in that you are imposing your own interpretation on the world, rather than reacting to a truth that already exists.
This is potentially also what happens with the particular incident – Vivec having children with Molag Bal. Vivec’s quest to destroy his children is as much an ideological battle as it is anything else – Bal has done violence to Vivec’s ideas, and changed them. The result is “monstrous”, and displeasing to Vivec. The Children are the products of violence, reinterpretations of Vivec by Molag Bal, and possibly vice versa. It’s also notable that these children are not bad because they are new – they are bad because they are old. Many of the children are in forms that are familiar (Dreugh, Scamp etc) and then destroyed by Vivec. The battles here are primarily ensuring that the new ideas (those of the Tribunal) are the ones that survive and shape Velothi/Chimeri/Dunmeri society. It may also be no coincidence that there are nine of them - the number of Daedric Princes that the Tribunal faith does not revere. Although as these were also less present in the old Velothi faith, this could be nothing.
Transcendental Empiricism and the Creation of Narrative
Deleuze posits that empiricism is a "science of imagination", that there is nothing in our experiences themselves that point to empirical results. In particular, he follows David Hume in rejecting necessary causality, and thereby the Kantian model of transcendental reality. But I think I need to clarify terms before I go any further.
Kant’s Transcendental Idealism. We can experience nothing without certain “forms of intuition” that give our experiences shape, but are still distinct from the sense-data we receive. The primary vehicles for this are space and time – we cannot imagine things without these notions, cannot perceive or conceptualise. Therefore, time and space are “before” (i.e. transcendental to) everything else, and thereby not something we experience (they are “ideal”, products of the mind). Space and time are thereby ontologically prior to, and necessary for, everything.
Hume’s Rejection of Necessary Causation. To quote Hume directly, he states that “there is no part of matter, that does ever, by its sensible qualities, discover any power or energy, or give us ground to imagine, that it could produce any thing, or be followed by any other object, which we could denominate its effect. Solidity, extension, motion; these qualities are all complete in themselves, and never point out any other event which may result from them.” Put simply, causality is not necessary. It is not even implied by sensory experience.
Deleuze takes Hume’s ideas further and considers that any necessary connection between empirical (sensory) phenomena is done by us, people, rather than being a thing that is already present in the world. Experiences is not set made up of interactions between predefined categories and forms.
So where does it come from? Deleuze posits that it is learned internally, a narrative that we and others tell ourselves about how the world works. Empiricism is “science of the imagination” because we have to imagine (and create) causality in order to make sense of the world.
In TES, this is done for us rather neatly by Akatosh and Lorkhan, with the nice additional dusting of spacetime relativity that allows them to possibly be the same thing. But events (whatever they are) can break the dragon and bring us back to the Dawn Era, which Deleuze considers is pretty much humans’ natural state of being anyway. Dragon breaks are the Deleuzian ideal, in that they are composed to time and space that are conceptually isolated from causality, with each agent able and willing to apply their own version of events. This happens in microcosm within each person (in this world and TES), and in particular with the notion of the Unreliable Narrator in TES. Any way of understanding in TES is compiled out of the summary of our previous experiences (which produces knowledge), how we're told to interact with them and how we ourselves make sense of them. The nature of anything does not impose a particular form of interaction, but how to interact is influenced by the entirety of our previous experience and our own will. We habitually make our own stories in TES and the world by our very being. It’s just that most people don’t realise that they are constructing their own reality.
Water, Memory and Being
The above point chimes with the Selectives' discussion during the Sotha Sil episode of the human body being made up of two-thirds water (memory) - anyone's mode of being is defined and influenced by their past experiences, and how they each interpret them. The force of water-memory propels people on – they cannot act in isolation from their memories and previous experiences, as to do so would mean that they would not act or function properly at all. Time is more a hydraulic ram, than water flowing downhill. Experiences cannot be ignored, they are what make up our current mode of perception and way we experience the world, via everything being grappled with and made sense of without reference to anything beyond the experiences themselves (because empirical reality is a product of the imagination). People then act in accordance with their (unique) set of memories and expectations, which is not informed by any objective reality, because there is no such thing.
That memory is water echoes this idea – water is fluid, ever-changing and particularly has different shapes depending on what container it’s put in. That is, memory will give different “outputs” depending on the person. There is no one true reaction that can be attained from memory, just multi-faceted reflections that mean different things depending on how you stand in relation to them.
This interpretation also puts a different spin on Vivec's water-face. The water-face is Vivec's memory of the events. This does not mean that it is a single "truth". It is the construction made by Vivec in an effort to understand both the event and what came before it in Vivec's experience. It is not a falsehood in that Vivec does not believe it to be otherwise, but it isn’t the singular “truth” either, because it is a construction from a being who has to make their own compilation of reality in order to understand it.