Saturday, September 22, 2018

What does "known world" really mean?

[This idea came out of conversation with Lonespark.]

Underling: Sire, I have returned from the scholars.

Overling: And . ? .

Underling: They are divided.

*Overling makes sound of frustration*

Overling: Preparations have been made, food has been stockpiled, and the army is ready to march.

Underling: I am aware, sire.

Overling: The entire kingdom waits on them . . . and they're divided.

Underling: They are all in agreement that the prophecy's use of the phrase "known world" means that you will not conquer the entirety of the world, and therefore it would be unwise to--

Overling: Make war on regions unknown to us.  I figured this much out on my own.

Underling: The disagreement arises from an ambiguous dative noun.

Overling: One word?

Underling: The word means to or for yourself, sire.  One camp of scholars believes that the word modifies the conquest.  In that case the noun is simply reiterating your connection to the conquest, and we would actually translate it as a possessive, namely: "your conquest".

Underling: In this interpretation, the noun doesn't change the meaning of the sentence at all, and the known world would be understood to mean the world known by the prophet.  Attempting the conquest of any areas unknown at the time of the prophecy would be folly.

Overling: And the other camp?

Underling: The other camp believes that word modifies the participle we translate as "known".  In that case the sentence in question states that your --understood from context instead of explicitly stated-- conquest will be of the world that is known to you.

Underling: The scholars in this camp caution that this would only encompass the world as you know it now, parts of the world only discovered by us during or, especially, because of the conquest would be counted as part of the unknown world.

Underling: There is consensus that this would be understood in the time and culture of the prophecy, and some work has been done, but not yet achieved as broad support, claiming that the exact word choice makes that explicit anyway.

Overling: So the scholars, after all of their study, have determined that the prophecy either does or does not cover territories we already knew it might or might not cover.

Underling: Yes, sire.

Overling: Do the scholars say anything else?

Underling: They unanimously request increased funding to the university.

Overling: Would increased funding bring them closer to an actual conclusion?

Underling: Some believe that it could be allocated in ways that might possibly result in the resolution of their disagreement over the correct interpretation of the prophecy.

*Overling raises an eyebrow*

Overling: What ways?

Underling: As an example, it was suggested that increased funding could allow them to train additional scholars who could then be tasked, as part of their undergraduate work, with scouring the archives for similar phrasing within contemporaneous writings.  If a definite pattern were to emerge from such work, that would vindicate one interpretation or the other.

Overling: And if such a pattern did not emerge?

Underling: Then, as you might imagine--

Overling: It wouldn't help in the least.

Underling: Yes, sire.


Underling: There was consensus that additional funding to the university would not harm their ability to interpret the prophecy.

Overling: I should hope not, given that they're already incapable of interpreting it.

Underling: Indeed, sire.


Underling: Should I . . .

Overling: Tell the generals that we will be using the "Old World" plan for now, and have them brief the army accordingly.

Underling: Yes, sire.

*Overling starts to turn to go somewhere else*

*Overling changes mind*

Overling: Oh . . .

Underling: Yes, sire?

Overling: Increase funding to the university by ten percent, with the provision that it must start training scholars able to make actual decisions.

Underling: Sire, they had all reached conclusions that they were sure enough of to passionately defend.  There were simply--

Overling: Two such conclusions.


Overling: The provision remains.

Underling: Yes, sire.

Overling: That will be all.

Underling: Yes, sire.

*underling leaves*

*Overling goes to the somewhere else mentioned earlier*

* * *

The original idea was basically one line of dialogue, something like:
Some of the scholars interpret the prophecy as saying you'll conquer the world as known today, some interpret it as the world known to the scholar, and all of them say you should increase funding to the university.

1 comment: