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28 September 2004 @ 10:12 pm

Am I the only person who disagrees with Dante/Hohenheim and half-agrees with Ed? And still believe equivalent trade is still applicable?

From how I see it, the way the Gate works doesn’t really destroy the whole sacrifice something to gain something of equal value thing. Sure, you’re using the energies of dead people to change things and make pretty pyrotechnics in another world, but I’ve been wondering for a while why they never mentioned anything on the energy used. In order to do some of the transmutations Ed does, like changing one type of metal to another, requires changing one type of atom to another. And that’s pretty much a nuclear reaction. To keep it under control, you have to have a greater source of energy. (If this is wrong, feel free to correct me. I’m rusty on the quantum side of things) Has Ed never wonder where the energy for the change came from? Obviously, somewhere. Apparently in the FMA world the solution to this problem is the energy we eject in death. This does follow the whole “Great flow” thing to a degree---things die, became food for other things, the energy in their molecules go off to power something else. In this respect, isn’t this still equivalent trade? You get the requisite number of molecules sitting around. To change it into another thing, trade if you will, some energy is needed. If you’ve got the correct type of molecules, all you need to do is to make them bond in the right ways and in the right places to get your product. This is presumably what Ed and Al were doing in their HT, bring together all the right elements and connecting them together. Energy needed is a lot less this way, but some is still needed and that needs to come from somewhere. Thermodynamics always apply.

And on the effort thing : There’s just way too many factors involved in the reward of efforts. And if we recall episode 16, the soldier said there are things you gain when you lose something, and Ed didn’t understand it. I think he still doesn’t understand it. What you gain when you lose, when you sacrifice, is not necessarily the same as what you wish to gain. Then, Ed doesn’t understand what he gained by losing Al and his limbs, but he did got something back. He got a glimpse into the world he might never otherwise see (I’m not talking about the Gate here), and he grew up in a way that he might never otherwise have, gotten into a position to change things that he might never have found. Is that a good thing? Yes and no. That’s the compromise here. The results you get from the trade isn’t always what you want, what the optimum is, but you always get something back. And is that such a bad thing? Take Shou Tucker. He studied, transmuted his wife, and became a State Alchemist. In return he lost his humanity. For those who didn’t pass...well, the least they could get is that they would know more about their craft than they previously did (as a result of the study), and while they may not become an SA, they may find other paths in life. Becoming an SA isn’t necessarily a happy thing, as Roy has demonstrated.

On the child and parental love : The child is spending great effort to live, what happens if Dante kills it? Has it been born just to die, and where is the trade then? I may be a bit weird...but the fact that the child is living is the whole result of its effort to live. Every second we live, our bodies are spending a good deal of energy to keep us alive. It’s a second-to-second trade if you look at the molecular level of it, and if by some chance something happens to cut our line of living out, we die. It’s simple as that. Or, to use another example, suppose a soldier fights hard to live but dies on the battlefield anyway, what does he gain? He gets to live for a bit longer than he might have had he chose to die in the first place. (Okay, I think I’m weird) The child is sacrificing its ATPs and other energy-rich molecules to keep itself alive, if Dante kills it, that merely ends the trade. And the child’s energy-rich molecules would go somewhere else in the great flow of things. And love...love, especially the way a parent loves a child, is a bit difficult to explain because it’s not a trade-trade like. But it’s my personal opinion that in learning that you love someone, the knowledge and the feeling itself fills the heart and that alone is enough trade for the unconditional love that requires no payment. Hohenheim probably realizes how love can fill the heart just like that when he met Trisha, so, uh.

Maybe it’s just the perspective, like Hohenheim has his and Ed has his, maybe it’s the whole show trying to ask us “What do you believe?” I have no idea.

Hime D. ~創世の錬金術師~hime1999 on September 28th, 2004 11:37 pm (UTC)
Personally, I believe in Equivalent Trade. As you mentioned above, the ET does not mean that we will get everything we want. Rather, I think that everytime we do or don't do something, there are consenquences, and those consequences is the trade. Like for example, I have never managed to get myself a scholarship, which means I will still have to depend on my parents finacially. What did I get from my vain efforts to get one? Well, one could be that if I got a scholarship, I might lose the chance to get the bigger scholarship because we are not allowed to receive two scholarship at the same time. I have Chance as my trade. Other could be that I always manage to improve myself time after time. My trade is Improvement. Personally I see those two as better trades than the scholarship (dunno about my dad, though ^_^;;;).

I think what people tend to miss is not every trade is concrit or physical. People tend to forget that there are abstract trades. And besides, people tend to overlook things anyway.

/noise effort
-rosa_aquafire on September 29th, 2004 12:38 am (UTC)
Well, I`m actually going to disagree with you, Summer. I find that the way that Ed is clinging to Equivalent Trade like a rock to a drowning man shows that he` using it as some sort of cruch, and he`s going to have to find a way to live without it after basing his entire life on it ... assuming he isn`t actually dead and gone, of course. XD

Of course, I could be thouroughly wrong, and you could be right =p We`ll see on Saturday ...
mikkeneko on September 29th, 2004 01:59 am (UTC)
I hold the position that equivalent trade is not so much a principle of the world, as it is of the human mind. Since the way the human mind sees things structures the way humans interact with the world -- particularly how they interact with alchemy, which seems to involve a fair amount of personal mental energy in making it work -- most of the time this comes to the same thing. However, if the human mind can free itself from its assumptions, then it will be perfectly possible to do alchemy without equivalent trade.

As a matter of fact, I wonder if the reason behind the Philosopher's Stone's famed ability to bypass equivalent trade isn't simply a placebo effect. You believe it can be done, therefore it can be done.

As I've said before, anyway, nothing Dante said is logically contradictory to the brothers' view of equivalent trade. They say that nothing can be gained without sacrifice. She says that sometimes sacrifice can gain you nothing. The two ideas are not at all mutually exclusive.

It's Hohenheim's statement that's the problematic one, since he as much as said outright that in some cases it's possible to gain without sacrifice.
summerwolf on September 29th, 2004 03:54 am (UTC)
I don't have much time here, so I'll be brief and just say that I think it does seem that the limits and extents of the human mind is one of the things that governs alchemy in FMA, too. Like Al. Theoretically, he should not need to sleep, he should not need to turn and look at things, et cetera. He does it anyway out of force of habit and the mental limits that he can't do this and that without behaving that way. While this helps him retain his humanity, it limits what he can and can't do and so forth.....since Alchemy depends so much on the imagination (shaping the things into detail requires a fair bit of mental imaging, I think Ed said at one point)...

Sorry if that didn't make sense. My exams are killing my mind. XD:;;

Quite interesting thought on the PS, though...which happen to coincide with how everybody's suddenly afraid and limiting themself ever since Al became the PS. Ed's too afraid to even try alchemy and forbids Al to do it, for valid reasons, sure...but now that you mention it, I'm starting to wonder if it's an underlying theme.
crysiana on September 29th, 2004 06:19 am (UTC)
I kind of assumed that the whole way in which the Philosopher's Stone defied Equivalent Trade was really by...Not actually defying equivalent trade. If the souls of the dead are what power alchemy in the anime, and the Philosopher's Stone is created by feeding the souls of the dead into an array, then it's just a storehouse of energy that has been gathered from a previous sacrifice.
mikkeneko on September 29th, 2004 11:35 am (UTC)
I kind of assumed that the whole way in which the Philosopher's Stone defied Equivalent Trade was really by...Not actually defying equivalent trade.

Also possible. *laughs* I'm mostly speculating.

One thing that happened in the anime that I didn't expect at all was that the Philosopher's Stone erodes. The legendary Stone is supposed to be indestructible. If the Stone is really no more than a frikkin' big battery of dead souls, then that might explain why it runs out. But it's still kind of perplexing. Maybe that's why Dante mentioned that even Al as he is is not the 'perfect stone?'
Nikkisarashina_nikki on September 29th, 2004 09:10 am (UTC)
You make a good argument for the fact that sacrifice always gets you SOMETHING, even if that something wasn't what you wanted (or even necessarily something good.) However, the principle of Touka Koukan (right?) is that nothing can be *gained* without sacrifice. Which is clearly untrue. All the time things can be gained without sacrifice, through the generosity of others, through good luck, or through corruption.

Yesterday I was doing my laundry and I didn't realize until it was time to put my wet clothes in the dryer that I didn't have enough quarters for the machine. Some guy I don't even know gave me the fifty cents I needed. What did I sacrifice? Nothing. Did I gain something? Absolutely.

And here's on example from the other side. Two weeks ago another one of the washing machines ate one of my quarters. I put in $.75 and the machine told me that I had only put in $.50 cents. So I had to put in another quarter to do my laundry. Did I sacrifice something? Yes, a quarter. Did I gain anything? NO. Unless you think a sense of frustration counts, which I do not.

And anyway, Touka Koukan is trade of things *equal in value.* Exact Trade. A sense of frustration is not equal in value to one quarter. Therefore, it is not Touka Koukan. Ed lost a leg and gained a homunculus. Are they equal in value? No. Ed saved his brother's life for the price of one arm. Does anyone here think that Al's life is worth exactly one arm?

Touka Koukan does not exist. You may be gained and sacrificing things in a general sense, but you are not *always* sacrificing things and then *always* gaining something exactly equivalent in value.

And I definately agree with rose_aquafire that Ed (and all the alchemist characters of FMA, really) use Touka Koukan as a crutch. Life does not make sense. Life cannot be put into a formula and rationalized, however much you want to. Sometimes crappy things happen when you don't deserve it. Sometimes good things happen when you don't deserve it. That's life.
summerwolf on September 29th, 2004 08:15 pm (UTC)
I subscribe to the whole Chaos Theory whereas a butterfly merrily chasing skirt somewhere can irrationally cause a typhoon off a coast elsewhere. ANd if you look at the molecular mechanics of it, it's still equal. Our world is fucked up.

If I were the guy who gave you a quarter, he sacrificed that quarter, people who use that usually gain an uplifting sense in their heads, though I can't say for him of course.

I'd put up an argument for the broken machine thing, but I have an exam in fifteen minutes and my memory is kinda screwed (THANKS HAGAREN) right now. >
angsty lemon ukewabisuke on September 29th, 2004 09:37 am (UTC)
I agree with Summer. Just because ONE person does not sacrifice/benefit does not mean there will not be a reaction.

Action A does not always equal Action B. But it could be Action Z instead. An effect always has to have a cause but it doesn't have to be a direct -physical one - nor one that you'd expect from doing whatever (which includes bad things: A person who turns the steering wheel by accident while trying to get something under the seat will gain a car crash.). One action will cause another reaction which causes another one in an orderly fashion. Kind of like the chaos theory (a great disaster is caused by a sequence in events in a specific order) so I think of TK in that repect: A series of action and reaction.

Just because one party sacrifices and another doesn't doesn't mean there is no trade off. It's found all the time in nature in the form of energy exchange. Heat, atoms, electrons. All of them have exchanges and reactions until both sides even out. One side has to sacrifice something to the other side in order to do so. One side will gain something without giving.

But there is an exchange to make both sides equal : equal value.

In human terms, this idea is more abstract but if you think hard enough and dig around, you will find some form of tradeoff, though it may not be too obvious. But I usually do anyways because I'm weird. Life may not appear to follow a formula, but if it does on a molecular level, it will follow cause/reaction formulas at our level. It just doesn't have to be one reaction = one outcome all the time. It is often a series.

And I really shouldn't have posted right after I wake up so I probably don't make sense at all. I'm done.
Nikkisarashina_nikki on September 29th, 2004 01:02 pm (UTC)
Well, my stance is that although "some form of tradeoff" is taking place that does not qualify as Touka Koukan. Because Touka Koukan is more just a system of exchange, it is a system of *exact* exchange. A vague sense of "giving one thing and recieving some other thing in return" is not exact trade. So although an exchange *is* being made the exchange is not equal, balanced, or equivalent. Hence, no Touka Koukan.