N asks:

Ok, ill concede the Arceus point. However, the Dark type is literrally evil type in Japanese! Doesn’t this imply that there are quantifiable measurable charactheristics of evil in the Pokémon world and therefore morality is objective over there? Also if i am not wrong there are a couple of Pokémon that can “sense” the good in people.

[Continuation of this]

I think Dark-types, if anything, are a really good argument for the absence of an objective morality in the Pokémon universe – the type literally called あく/悪,“evil” is made up mostly of Pokémon who, while commonly associated with negative emotions or dirty fighting, are for the most part portrayed as more misunderstood than malevolent, and basically fine when you get to know them (Absol and Darkrai are the poster children for this).  Either that, or Pokémon’s position is that evil is a real objective thing but it’s totally rad.  Also, I suspect taking “Dark type” = “evil in an objective sense” would mean that humans, who seem to be typeless, can’t be evil in the Pokémon world – or at least, they can’t be as evil as, say, Pangoro, of whom the Pokédex says “although it possesses a violent temperament, it won’t put up with bullying.”

There are lots of Psychic and Fairy Pokémon that can sense emotions or even read minds, and that kind of power might well be a good way of deciding, for instance, whether you can trust someone.  You could determine whether someone bears ill intent towards you personally, or whether they are generally callous or compassionate, selfish or generous, honest or deceptive.  I don’t know for sure off the top of my head whether official sources have ever phrased that as “sensing the good” in someone, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that this ability has been officially attributed to… I don’t know, let’s say Gardevoir; it seems like a likely suspect.  So at some point someone in the Pokémon world has claimed that Gardevoir can “sense the good in you,” and that has somehow become common knowledge.  Well, what does that mean, and how do we know what it’s sensing?  Would we trust that more than… well, more than if a human made the same claim in the real world?  ‘cause there are real people who claim to be able to do that.  If the person saying it is a trainer with a Gardevoir, might they have some ulterior motive?  What about if they’re a person, organisation, or even a historical government from a region where Gardevoir are native?

I think the only way this question could be meaningfully simpler than it is in the real world is if someone at Game Freak or Nintendo or the Pokémon Company deliberately set up the world that way, and then told us so.  And even then I would still try to poke holes in it, partly because that’s just what I do, but also because I think the act of explicitly setting out to create a fictional world where morality is definitively known to be objective is itself an invitation to philosophical challenge.

6 thoughts on “N asks:

  1. Maybe this person meant Togetic as “sensing good”?

    Ruby: “Togetic is said to be a Pokémon that brings good fortune. When the Pokémon spots someone who is pure of heart, it is said to appear and share its happiness with that person.”

    The other Pokédex entries talk about it appearing only before kind-hearted people, but this entry says pure-hearted, which is… vague?

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  2. As you stated however, Dark Pokémon that are clearly good break the “evil” rule. Absol in particular, since it outright warns people of disaster and people incorrectly thought it was bringing disaster. That isn’t evil in any sense of the word. Dark is one of the worst defined types in the series since it has “evil” Pokémon (Hoopa), mindlessly destructive Pokémon (Hydreigon), troublemaking Pokémon (Murkrow), misunderstood Pokémon (Absol), and night based Pokémon (Umbreon). Heck, it even has Mr. I’m Not Evil, I Just Play That On TV (Incineroar). It’s hard to see what all those Pokémon have in common…

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    1. Well, Pokémon types are mostly ways of talking about how a Pokémon fights, and Dark-type moves tend to be ones that function by exploiting treachery, malice, or fear – tactics that might be judged “evil” even if used for good ends. The Dark type in Pokémon is sort of… a refusal to play by the rules. Trainers who use that type, like Karen and Sidney, associate it with individualism and freedom. I might actually call it more D&D-“Chaotic” than “Evil.”

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  3. In that case, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the objective morality debate in modern D&D; wizards of the coast went out of their way to establish races like goblins and orcs as objectively, irredeemably evil. Despite established lore for all D&D settings having numerous examples that seem to prove the lie to that assertion, and even in-universe, characters who reject it (like the famous/infamous Drizzt Do’urden).

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    1. The contradiction is kinda baked into all modern fantasy – because basically all modern fantasy owes *something* to Tolkien, and Tolkien himself (as a devout Catholic, for whom forgiveness and redemption were foundational to his faith) was always a little bit conflicted about his orcs and goblins being irredeemable. “Always Chaotic Evil” is a convenient excuse if you need to set up enemies that the party can kill without having to ask questions, but that can never be what the story is *about*, because that just isn’t interesting – you kill them and you move on. D&D originally grew out of wargames, so the combat was the meat of the game and it was okay for the story to be window-dressing that sets that up and establishes the stakes. Some games and groups still need that, but a lot of modern D&D cares much more about storytelling and roleplaying, and likes it to be possible for players to resolve problems without fighting. When *that’s* the goal, “Always Chaotic Evil” is more a hindrance than a help, unless you set it up specifically in order to challenge and subvert it. Races like the orcs and the drow evolve to fit the needs of the game – even demons, if you want your story to be less about fighting evil and more about asking “but what actually *is* evil?”

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