We Want MoR – Chapters 9 and 10


Harry gets sorted, and learns a lot about himself in the process.

Original chapters, written by Eliezer Yudkowsky, can be read here and the audiobook chapters, recorded by Eneasz Brodski, can be found earlier in this podcast feed and on the website.

In next week’s episode, we will be covering chapters 12 through 14.

Discord Link

Album art courtesy of Lorec from The Bayesian Conspiracy podcast’s Discord. Thank you!

Coy on the same Discord manages an RSS feed that compiles the relevant audiobook chapters with the WW MoR counterparts. Just copy and paste that link into your favorite podcast app in the “add by url” option. Thanks, Coy!

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  1. Oops, you’ll actually be reading the comments? In the podcast? Which has 2000 listeners? I’m feeling Brian’s apprehension now about saying something insensitive or stupid in front of that many people.

    Anyway, this was a really interesting chapter, and there is so much to discuss! I’m going to leave half of it for the subreddit, which I highly recommend, by the way! Everyone has been hiding their spoilers so far, at least as far as I’ve seen, and XxChronOblivionxX’s comments are great! Going back and reading all of them is a really good idea, they are really in-depth and always very interesting.

    Okay, let’s dive into it, then! Let’s start with the title: Self Awareness. It’s a pity Brian didn’t try to guess it before moving on to read the answer, it would have been fun to hear what he made of it. My own guess on my first read was kind of boring – I thought that the Hat had just never been asked questions before, so it was its first interview/interrogation. The author’s idea was so much more interesting, and I love how the title manages to refer to two things at once. On the one hand, we have the Sorting Hat, which literally became self aware. But a bit more subtly, we have Harry finally displaying some self awareness and reflecting on his character and behavior.

    Which leads me to the next point – why was Harry so blatantly off-putting in the first few chapters of the story? He’s going to tone it down a bit from now on, but why did the writer decide to introduce the protagonist with his most negative traits in the first place? Couldn’t he have left them for later, when the readers are more invested and more willing to put up with some annoyance at the main character?

    Part of the reason is probably to demonstrate to the reader from the very beginning, that while Harry thinks of himself as super rational and of his judgements as super trustworthy, in reality he has a lot of flaws and a lot to learn. In fact, practically every time we’re actually supposed to just agree with Harry’s opinions, the author explicitly takes us out of the story and makes it clear that the ideas are not Harry’s own, but are the result of some real scientific experiment.

    However, there’s something else to consider – people don’t usually admit their shortcomings to themselves. I mean, it’s painful and unpleasant. And also it’s sometimes hard to see your own flaws. So usually when people face their faults, it’s because someone else called them out on them. But who can do that for Harry in an effective way? Many people will simply assume that he’s an asshole and never look deeply enough to say something meaningful. And Harry probably wouldn’t care about their opinion anyway. It will have to come from a person Harry already respects and has a close relationship with, but he currently doesn’t have that type of friend (and while Hermione might be a potential candidate, the two aren’t that close yet, and realistically they won’t be that close for some time). And even then he’s likely to manage to bullshit his way out of the more uncomfortable questions.

    So, how do you make him acknowledge his problems, preferably before we’re halfway through the book, so there’s some time to actually work on them? Well, the canon story already has the answer – the Sorting Hat can literally see in your mind! As a bonus, it’s specifically interested in discussing your character traits with you, because that’s what the Sorting is about! It’s the perfect way to plausibly have that discussion, and Harry won’t have a way out or a way to lie. Nice :) But that means that we need to see all his negative traits before the Sorting, and the Sorting is right at the start of the year, so by necessity Harry needs to be a major dick in the first few chapters. As in, actually demonstrate arrogant, neurotic and slightly cruel behavior, not just think about it or hint that he might be like that when really pushed. Actually show him at his most condescending worst, so the conversation with the Sorting Hat can happen and make sense to the reader. Hence the whole disturbing Diagon Alley arc.

    So, that much about suspension of disbelief, and why the author had to ask so much of it right at the beginning of the book. I’ll leave the rest of the analysis for the reddit thread, but I wanted to do one last thing here.

    Was it possible to figure out that the writer had intentionally written Harry as a bit of a dick? Yes! With the scientific method! :D Here we go!

    0. Observation, noticing confusion: Harry is not a very pleasant character. He has a lot of negative traits, like his arrogance/ condescension. I know that there are people who think that this type of behavior is okay, but I don’t agree with them. A book endorsing being dismissive of others isn’t going to be a fun read for me. But I’ve been told by a friend who knows me and who isn’t a dick, that this book is really good. So, what gives?

    1. Hypothesis: Okay, so we don’t know what’s going on, let’s just make some guess. One obvious hypotheses is that the author is an asshole and since his characters reflect him, they’re assholes too.

    2. Test: Here’s where it’s particularly easy to go wrong. You can point at all the parts of the text where Harry is acting like other people don’t have feelings or don’t matter and be done with it. Hypothesis confirmed. Except you’re supposed to try to *falsify* it, if you want to actually discover the truth, as demonstrated by the 2-4-6 puzzle. So…

    2. Test, this time for real: So, can we disprove the hypotheses? Well, this would require us to find a character who’s decidedly not a dick. Which isn’t even hard – McGonagall is a calm, responsible, patient and caring person. (Even though she’s strict, there’s a lot of warmth in her attitude towards her students. She’s almost motherly, but in a more no-nonsense way than Hagrid. Which is probably why she replaced him as Harry’s parental figure in Hogwarts – he needs someone he can respect and trust and who can handle him when he’s trying to be threatening or manipulative. That can’t be Hagrid, but the Head of Gryffindor is definitely up to the task. But I digress.) Hermione also doesn’t seem to be evil and I can’t imagine either of those witches ever deciding to scare Neville for fun, or going along with the justification of “but it’s exposure therapy”. So, the writer actually can write nice people, and the hypothesis failed. Let’s go back and try another.

    1. Hypothesis: The author has some morals and generally understands what makes a good character/person. But he mistakenly assumes that being a condescending dick is a positive character trait, too. He’s unaware that Harry’s behavior is unacceptable, and instead thinks that his protagonist is as good as McGonagall or Hermione.

    2. Test: We need to look for evidence that the author was aware of how disturbing and wrong Harry’s behavior is. Which, again, isn’t hard. McGonagall quickly becomes worried about his attitude towards people and life in general and starts wondering what’s wrong with him. Was he perhaps abused? Since the author wrote McGonagall’s lines as well (just not from a first person perspective) he must be aware of everything she’s aware of. Similarly, Hermione is immediately worried when she hears about Neville. On the other hand, Draco rape-is-cool Malfoy doesn’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with Harry’s behavior, except maybe that he’s still very clumsy with his manipulation attempts. Which means that the author can very much distinguish between “good” and “bad” and puts everything in the correct category. Which leads us to…

    1. Hypothesis: The author deliberately wrote Harry as a flawed character. One of the flaws he gave to Harry is arrogance. Because arrogant people are blind to their own shortcomings, Harry is then written as someone who doesn’t notice his flaws, or rather, he quickly rationalizes his bad behavior into “I’m so awesome, look how I’m helping Neville overcome his fears.” The books are written from his perspective, so the first-person-voice is that of an unpleasant person who’s unaware of his unpleasantness. None of this requires that the author should be equally oblivious, in fact judging by Hermione’s and McGonagall’s reactions, the author is preparing to give Harry a wake-up call.

    2. Test: Well, we made a testable prediction there – will Harry be called out in a way that he understands and has to accept?

    3: Result: Yup, chapter 10, the Sorting Hat makes him face his own rationalizations and outright states that considering his behavior and choices, he belongs in Slytherin. Harry finally panics and regrets how he acted, and ends up going into Ravenclaw instead (wohoo, saved in the last second).

    So, there we have it! The scientific method, applied to a question raised by MOR. There are a few more questions that Brian has already asked that are already answerable, if he decides to try. I’m even tempted to give a hint as to which ones, but realizing that you can attempt to answer your own question is half the fun, so… Man, this is hard. Mad respect to Steven for not having spilled the beans about the entire plot of the book five chapters ago! :P

    Btw, I’m not offended or anything, just mentioning. I’m a woman, not a guy like you assumed in the podcast. As I said, I’m not offended, just mentioning :) And sorry about any spelling mistakes / weird wording, English is not my first language.

  2. Chapters 12-14 are next? That is a lot of material to cover.

    • Hi, I just wanted to mention that the reference to Sally-Anne Perks, that Brian noticed, is probably not only about the canon version of HP.

      I’m pretty sure it must be referring to THIS pretty well known fanfic:


      Eliezer Y. had read a lot of HP fanfics before writing HPMOR, after all, and he would have definitely come across this one too. He
      does really put hundreds of pop culture and fanfic references into this book, and some the reader recognizes instantly, but others – no idea at all.

      Steven, you can look it up to find out why Sally-Anne was described in Chapter 9 as if she might misteriously disappear – it’s quite surprising why, actually, and it could maybe even fit into canon, if you squint.

      I recommend that Brian doesn’t read it though – it’s not a fanfic of HPMOR at all, but there is one very small detail that would spoil things for HPMOR, and it just happens to coincide with HPMOR too.

      Otherwise, great job this week, you guys. I really appreciate that you made sure our Harry got some love and support this week.

  3. Thanks for doing this. I just finished reading the story, and it is helpful to hear other viewpoints to help me absorb it.

    A few comments:
    -I could not find any verification that Sinistra was Head of Ravenclaw. (maybe corrected in later episodes, but I haven’t gotten there yet)
    -Brian is being awfully hard on Harry. While Harry may have intelligence, knowledge, and some executive planning well beyond an 11 year old, it does not mean all of his emotions and judgment is equally far along. There are many very smart kids who have not figured out a lot of the details yet. Bullying Neville is unfortunate. It is not f*ing horrendous, or however Brian characterized it. It is something that probably 10% of 11 year olds do. George and Fred did it, probably even started it, and they are older and should know better, but I don’t hear any condemnation whatsoever of them. Sorry if this is harsh, but I like Harry and feel compelled to defend him.
    -Harry is not neurotic for wanting to not disappoint all the people who hope he will be a major force for good. He has high expectations and wants fiercely to achieve or exceed them. That is what the best people do.
    -I think it is objectively true that Ron is a doofus, especially first year. In exactly the same way that the author ridicules Quidditch, and other aspects of the canon universe (Hermione not in Ravenclaw, etc.) he is ridiculing the fact that an NPC like Ron is a major canon character. Harry is not being cruel to a real Ron, he is ridiculing the canon.
    -I personally like when Harry is completely dispassionate and does not take emotions into account. It helps explain the actual methods of rationality, which I am interested in learning. If I am watching a really good car chase, I don’t stop and think about the guy in the Honda halfway through, and how he feels about a police car crashing into him. I don’t think about how horrible the hero is when his escape causes property damage to innocent people. It is a cool ride, and I enjoy it.

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