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Official CommentsReligion — What is an "Ethos" in MOO3: World View

What is an "Ethos" in MOO3?

Every civilization, when established, is born with its own dominant ethos plus, perhaps, a lesser ethos or two (depending on starting variables, in particular the size of that civilization). Each ethos is generated randomly by mixing a single World View with one or two Ideals plus a single Tradition.

Designer's Note: Ethos Generation Tables are not included at this time. We've got 'em on huge, mind-numbing Excel spreadsheets (thanks to Harel and Jacob), but they're not for public display. Sorry.

An ethos is the expression of a population's most fundamental values, whatever their source and content. It arises from core beliefs about the world and one's place in it that are widely shared within the group. Broadly speaking, a group's ethos represents its philosophical or religious outlook. By laying out a world view and holding up ideals, an ethos establishes a social order that does not depend on the government. The government may try to influence its subjects' ethos, but a group's ethos ultimately depends on what its members believe--something the government cannot dictate.

The identity or nature of an Ethos is a combination of its World View, plus its Ideal(s), plus its individual Tradition (represented by a Greek letter) as listed below:

World View

The world view of an Ethos defines its overarching system of beliefs. These general beliefs about the universe determine what sorts of arguments and evidence a will count as providing a convincing justification for more specific claims about what is valuable or worth doing (i.e., for Ideals). The various World Views are:

    None: In a group with no overarching system of shared beliefs, there are no generally accepted standards to which one can appeal to justify a given way of life.

    Ancestral: An ancestral ethos may involve worshipping the spirits of one's ancestors, or it may simply instill an abidingly powerful respect for tradition. Either way, an ancestral ethos uses claims about how one's ancestors lived, and what they would approve or disapprove of, as foundations for its ideals.

    Monotheistic: A monotheistic ethos holds that there is one and only one divine being. It grounds its ideals in claims about what this being would find pleasing or objectionable.

    Naturalistic: A naturalistic ethos finds the divine in Nature. It derives its ideals from claims about what is and is not in harmony with the natural order.

    Philosophic: A philosophic ethos bases its ideals on what can be discovered using reason alone, unaided by the supernatural or the divine.

    Polytheistic: A polytheistic ethos holds that there are many divine beings, which have diverse powers, spheres of influence, and agendas. Although a polytheistic ethos usually includes a number of cults, one or two of these generally outrank all of the others in importance. Polytheists base their ideals on claims about what would please or propitiate the gods.

    Unique: A unique ethos is just that-unique. No two of them use the same method to derive their ideals.

    'There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'
    — William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, Scene 5

*Designer's Note: Not every individual who lives in a region with, say, a monotheistic ethos necessarily believes in a single divine being. Nevertheless, such people share a culture shaped by monotheistic stories, concepts, and expressions with those who do believe. Thus, their general approach to life will still be heavily influenced by monotheism. By the same token, some who subscribe to a philosophic ethos might accept the existence of divine or supernatural beings if they believe they have evidence that is consistent with a philosophical outlook (i.e., evidence that depends on reason rather than revelation or other sources not subject to rational investigation).

Now, everyone has some kind of world view, so it might seem strange to include a 'None' World View. Remember, however, that a World View is an outlook on life that is shared by most of the inhabitants of a given region. In MOO3 terms, therefore, a population group that has no overarching system of common beliefs or codes of conduct effectively lacks an Ethos. Members of such groups may subscribe to so many different and incompatible outlooks on life that there is no common consensus about what to believe, or they may all be nihilists or amoral hedonists who simply don't care what anybody else thinks. In either case, a group with no Ethos is not bound together by any shared fundamental beliefs.

A group with no Ethos will still have some kind of social order, but it will have arisen by default and won't be a stable one. Without common beliefs and values to unite it, such a group will not be very cohesive, and will be under significantly more internal social stress than one that accepts a general set of beliefs (i.e., an 'Ethos' in MOO3 terms). On the plus side, a group with no Ethos won't pursue any Ideals that could interfere with your grand master plan. Of course, the downside is a less secure social order.

As modeled in MOO3, it's generally a good thing for a population group to have an Ethos, since this will help with social stability by establishing and maintaining a social order desired by its members. Of course, the down side of this is that a group's Ethos may include Ideals that hinder your ambitions, stir up animosity with neighboring populations with a different Ethos, and so forth. (Hey, you've got to take the good with the bad, folks!)

NEXT IN RELIGION: "Ideals: Parts 1 to 5"

[ BACK TO RELIGION INTRODUCTION ]


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