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The Five Exceptions to Gamp's Law (Revisited)

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Taure, Oct 3, 2018.

  1. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    We've discussed this before but let's give it another go. In the past people have often taken a quite abstract approach to the exceptions, proposing items like "nutrition", "life", "secrets", etc. But what if they are much more narrowly defined?

    We know of one exception for sure: food. We've discussed at length, elsewhere, whether this exception means food in the literal "ready to eat" sense or if it means that transfiguration cannot create nutrition generally. This is essentially the question of whether you could eat McGonagall's pig/Cedric's dog, given that we know they are physically identical to the real deal.

    If the exception is food in the "ready to eat" sense, then you can eat transfigured animals, and the reason why Harry et al couldn't do this in DH is that they don't know how to butcher an animal.

    If the exception is food in the "nutrition" sense, then you cannot eat transfigured animals, even though they are physically identical to real animals, resulting in the conclusion that nutrition has a magical aspect which transfiguration cannot create from scratch (but can multiply/expand/transform if already present).

    In this thread I would like to consider what the exceptions would be if we take the first to be food in the narrow sense, and the others are similarly narrow.

    My initial proposal is as follows:

    1. Food
    2. Money
    3. Clothes
    4. Books
    5. ???

    The reasons being:

    1. Canon
    2. The Philosopher's Stone being an exception/special
    3. The wizarding economy
    4. The wizarding economy
    5. ???

    Of course, there are alternative explanations for why wizards have to buy clothes. They might be very difficult to transfigure. Or maybe regular clothes are relatively simple to create with transfiguration, but all magical clothes have enchantments on them which add value. But I feel like neither of these are quite up to the task of explaining things. You'd think at least one person who had the skill to transfigure clothes would have set up shop, selling clothes en masse for bargain basement prices. And you'd think that even if high quality wizarding clothes were enchanted, poor families like the Weasleys would create demand for cheaper, transfigured clothes.

    So, some questions for you all:

    A. Can you think of any canon situation where wizards have transfigured clothes/books? In particular, can someone check the Fantastic Beasts script to see if the apparent clothes transfiguration at the speakeasy is in the script or was a decision of the director?

    B. What would your "narrow exceptions" be?

    C. If you agree with my list, what would you have as number 5?
     
  2. Glimmervoid

    Glimmervoid Groundskeeper

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    If I may point on my devil's advocate hat: money.

    You point it as one of your exceptions and cite the Philosopher's Stone as an exception. This not need be a problem. After all, Gamp's Law are exceptions to transfiguration and the Philosopher's Stone are alchemy. There's no reason Gamp's Law should apply to alchemy.

    However let's say that alchemy does come within the sphere of transfiguration for the purposes of Gamp's Law. Are there other explanations?

    The main one is that Gamp's Law is only mostly true. There are exceptions to the exceptions - the Philosopher's Stone being one.

    I'm not a fan of this however.

    When wizards say something is impossible, I like to image they have reasons to think so other than just not knowing how to do something. There should be a difference between something that is magically impossible and something that wizards think should be magically possible but they just can't do.

    So are there other explanations. Can we come up with a case where money/gold is not an exception to Gamp's Law?

    I think yes.

    In the real world it is possible to gather gold from sea water. The technology for doing this is perfectly possible. It is not done because it is no economically viable. It costs more in electricity than the gathered gold is worth.

    It may be perfectly possible to transfigure gold but as long as it is a sufficiently difficult and time consuming process such that the gold gained is worth less than, say, the cost of supporting the wizarding doing the transfiguration (shelter, food, water, clothing, etc) then we can have gold be scares gold that is still transfigurable.
     
  3. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I'm not proposing that alchemy has anything to do with transfiguration, to be clear. I was/am saying that the Philosopher's Stone would not be considered so special if its abilities could be replicated by other magic. The fact that creating gold is considered amazing rather necesitates that it not be possible in transfiguration.

    The problem with your gold from seawater analogy is that it costs a wizard nothing to cast a spell. While difficulty can easily be used to say that very few wizards would be able to do it, it still means that among the cream of the transfiguration crop -- of which globally there will still be a fair number -- each has infinite wealth.
     
  4. Glimmervoid

    Glimmervoid Groundskeeper

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    My preferred option for the 5. ??? slot is Magic itself.

    We know something called magic exists that separates wizards from muggles. Let's call this the magic-spark. It is boolean, you either have it or you don't, and that seems to have something to do with magical gene(s) according to JKR.

    If it was just the genes then wizards could be able to transfigure muggles into wizards. That is a simple physical change that should be within the realm of transfiguration. I think that should not be possible.

    Much like with the nutrition food example, I would say this is because the magic spark has a, well, magical component separate from the magic gene(s). You could transfigure a muggle to have the correct genes but because you can't create the magical component of magic, magic cannot be created from scratch. Just as a transfigured steak might lack nutrition, a transfigured muggle-to-wizard would lack the magic-spark.

    This would have some important side consequences.

    We know that transfiguration can be used to created magical creatures. The Quintapeds are magical creatures transfigured from wizards. If the magic-spark cannot be created from nothing by transfiguration, that implies it would be impossible to transfigure muggles into Quintapeds or other magical beasts, but it is possible to transfigure wizards in such a way. Likewise, it implies that while you can change a rock into a dog, you could not change it into a Quintaped.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
  5. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I agree with all of the content of what you say, but I don't think this makes for a good exception to Gamp's Law. We don't know what Gamp's Law says precisely, but I suspect it's a general definition of what transfiguration is able to do, something like:

    "It is possible to transfigure any physical thing into any other physical thing."

    And then the exceptions are physical things which cannot be created with transfiguration (either at all, or only from a specific set of "starting objects").

    The thing with "transfiguration cannot create magic" is that, while it is very likely true, it seems to simply fall outside the definition of what transfiguration is. Transfiguration can't be used to create potions or to stun people either, because those are magical feats which lie outside of its domain. It doesn't make them exceptions to Gamp's Law.

    It's also worth noting that the 5 exceptions are actually the 5 principal exceptions. So there may be other, minor exceptions -- perhaps the principal exceptions relate to entire classes of object, whereas the minor exceptions are much more specific, individual objects which cannot be created.

    Edit: also, I retrieved my copy of the FB script. The transfiguration of the clothes is indeed in the script. So there goes that idea (unless it was a kind of switching spell, but the description specifically uses the word transform).
     
  6. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    Is there a point to be made viz. money vs. gold? I would put gold in there, not money, but I'm not sure it makes a difference. Gold galleons are the bank notes of the wizarding world, so implying you could transfigure silver would equate to having coins -- except that people still would have to accept it as a payment.

    Evidently, sickles are accepted as a form of payment, devolved from the actual value of the underlying silver. Wizards use sickles without wondering if they are getting an equivalent of the silver value, just as we do with our money. They use it in abstract terms, in units of "sickles", not silver. Hence, we can't derive the value of silver from looking at the money. Maybe everyone can transfigure silver, or maybe few people can, it doesn't matter at the outset. What's relevant would be whether silver is needed as a commodity. If it isn't, then being able to transfigure silver is of no use -- or not of any further use than, say, transfiguring wood, in order to sell it.

    "No transfiguring money" would have nothing to do with being an exception to Gamp's, but simply with it being hard to forge goblin money. And the obvious way of getting it -- transfiguring a huge clump of gold, in order to sell it -- is barred by the exception.


    With regards to clothes, you could, of course, look at it from the other side. It's so easy to transfigure (or otherwise magic together, cloth + cutting charm + sewing charm) clothes that there simply is no business to be had. Everyone who's short on money can do it themselves. And everyone who isn't is going to buy tailor-made, which is cheap (without extra-magic in the clothes), because it's so easy.

    And most stuff is like that, which is why I never got much further down the list than "food" and "gold". One possible other item could be wands, I guess. It makes for a pleasing argument that you can't use a wand to create a wand. But perhaps we should focus more on the "elemental" part of Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration. It's got two meanings -- one, "essential" or "basic", and two, literally, elements, however they are defined (chemical elements? alchemical elements?). The law, then, presumably, says you fundamentally can transfigure "elements" (except for ... etc.), or that "fundamental transfiguration" allows to change the nature of any one thing into any other (except for ...).

    If it's the former, we should be looking for "elements" that can't be transfigured, which would narrow the focus a lot. The only issue is that food would be an element. I dunno whether that is too plausible.

    Edit: I stumbled over this quite to good StackExchange thread. In view of the contexts in which the law is applied, I'm inclined to favour the "fundamental transfiguration" interpretation. Furthermore, the context is also "can't create", as opposed to merely "can't transfigure", so I guess Love might work, even though it would be a bit abstract to think of a way to "transfigure love". Soul, on the other hand, does work. We know "soul" is something tangible, since Voldemort splits it, and we know you can't create a soul.

    Finally, the existence of Leprechaun Gold further supports Gold as an exception. Hence,

    1. Food
    2. Gold
    3. Wand
    4. Soul
    5. ???

    I do like the look of the above combination, anyway.

    As a further issue, the linked quote from Rowling is interesting.

    There appears a distinction between legally not allowed and fundamentally impossible. I would set money naturally in the first category, the exceptions would be in the second ... and of course, Rowling's penultimate sentence creates an entirely different angle. And as it's from 2000, it's not that dated, in terms of "early books".
     
  7. Polkiuj

    Polkiuj Squib

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    I feel like Transfiguring Food and Money are impossible for the same reason, conceptually speaking.

    Food, conceptually, has to come from somewhere. Food has to be hunted or gathered, prepared and cooked in specific ways if it complex enough. A sense of effort goes into the concept of Food, often the more effort makes for better Food.

    Transfiguring something else into Food without any invested effort would be like eating your own flesh and blood. It won't work.

    Similarly. Money, conceptually, has to come from somewhere and loses its meaning in a vacuum. Money is traded for goods and work or it is stolen at great risk to yourself. It necessitates interaction with others. A sense of social obligations and expectations goes into the concept of Money. More you manage those expectations the more Money you can earn.

    So, Transfiguring something else into Money without paying for it would be like paying yourself for work you didn't do. It won't work.

    The basic underlying principal is that it is impossible to 'live' off of your own magic as is.
    With this interpretation, Transfiguring Food to eat would just be a more convoluted way of feeding off of your own magic, off of yourself essentially . You can still use magic to make hunting, gathering and cooking easier, but you must still do those things in order to earn that Food.
    And, you can still use magic to make working for or stealing Money easier, but you must still do those things in order to earn that Money.

    As for the the other three exceptions, I feel like Knowledge fits in, but I have no idea what the other two could be.

    I really enjoy thinking about things like these and discuss them, so I hope I didn't step on anyone's toes with this little rant.
     
  8. Shodan

    Shodan First Year

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    It's an interesting discussion, but I don't think that the soul would qualify as an exception: I've always viewed Transfiguration as changing something of the physical world, and while the soul might be tangible, it's not really an object. Moreover, magic affecting the soul (are there any other examples than Dementors and Horcruxes?) seems to obscure to be part of these (seemingly) universal laws.

    Wands might be possible, but I would go a step further: An important part of a wand is its core, which comes from a magical creature. Maybe it's not possible to transfigure any magical beings? That would make it impossible to create wands through Transfiguration while also affecting potion ingredients etc.

    And while I never put much thought into this, I think that another possible exception might be humans: Even though we know that it's possible to change one's appearance via Transfiguration, it might be impossible to transfigure anything non-human (namely animals or physical objects) into a human. Or are there any canon examples saying otherwise? If it were possible, I'd imagine fake persons running around would lead to a lot of confusion...
     
  9. Andrela

    Andrela Plot Bunny DLP Supporter

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    1. Food.
    2. Gold.
    3. Soul.
    4. Magic.
    5. Love.
     
  10. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Auror DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

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    I like the idea that they might not always be negative. So for me one would be that continuity of consciousness is not preserved in living transfiguration with the exception of the animagus transformation.

    There's a lot of really good abstracts that I love in conloadhs song, or its most recent name, that exceptions are anything that would allow satisfaction of fundamental desires and thus alter essential human experience. Time, love, nutrition, life, etc.

    However, generally speaking, I do prefer it to be really common broad categories of transfiguration that are possible and commonly used, with some unique exception. Rare and esoteric magic that most would struggle with should be impossible because of its intangibility, and the exceptions are for things every wizard would try otherwise (like making food).

    Like a more specific and accurate version of i before e except after c, to help with shit wizards do all the time.

    Edit: or something like, no magical effect or creature or component can be transfigured except those that are of the same origin as a spell's component wand's core.

    Or better yet. No magical creature, or artefact or potion can be transfigured from a mundane object. Excepting where the mundane object has previously been that magical form.

    So you can turn Malfoy into a ferret and that ferret into Malfoy. But you can't turn any ferret into a Malfoy.

    I think you can play around with exceptions to restrictions that would be fun and different from story to story. Rather than just impose restrictions with Gamp's laws.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
  11. Methos

    Methos Groundskeeper DLP Supporter

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    Looking for the previous debate, to find the chain of conclusions that defined @Taure opening posts about food and transfiguration.

    I also want to offer another suggestion.
    various materials have in addition to the known characteristic, magical properties, which I don't think transfiguration can duplicate.

    Take simple potions, shrinking.
    Can transfiguration duplicate it ?

    Maybe there are some magical properties transfiguration can duplicate or mimic and others it can't.

    Note: we should also think about alchemy, what its purpose and how it links with Transfiguration.
     
  12. Download

    Download Dark Lord DLP Supporter

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    I'm going to go with this.

    I want to shit on the clothes and books suggestion but I'm not really in the mood for it. I'll just say I reject the notion that magic gives a shit a bout human problems. I justify food being untransfigurable because it's not "real" and therefore provides no nourishment. You could transfigure something that looks, feels and tastes like food but you'd starve eating it.
     
  13. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    And the difference between "food" that isn't food, and gras that isn't gras, and wheat that isn't wheat, and grain that isn't grain, and bread that isn't bread is ... where? Because if gras isn't gras, then transfiguration isn't transfiguration.

    That was the exact (rather long-winded) argument we had in the other thread. Also @Methos.

    TL;DR: You run into issues regardless which way you turn. The cleanest way really is to declare "food" to be meant in the most narrow sense possible of "ready-made dinner", and not to stipulate that everything you could potentially put into your mouth isn't the same as the transfigured something. Not intending to restart that discussion, however. As I said in the other thread, people think what they think. It's a bit like Muggles vs. Wizards.


    @Shodan: If it's tangible and can be put into a container, it's an object in my books. And IIRC "magic can't create souls" is commonly known, not obscure, so I do think it literally being an exception of Gamp's makes sense.
     
  14. Thaumologist

    Thaumologist Supreme Mugwump

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    I like the idea you can't transfigure magic, but as mentioned upthread, it might not count.

    But I feel that no matter how good your transfiguration is, you couldn't turn a stone bowl into a pensieve - it requires that extra spark.

    That does mean you could possibly transfigure one enchanted (term used lightly) item to another. So an invisibility cloak could become an invisibility cravat.

    But you couldn't transfigure a normal travelling cloak into an invisibility cloak, you would need to use potions, or a charm, to alter it instead
     
  15. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    I mean, yeah. You also probably shouldn't be able to transfigure the Weasley Family Clock, or the Ford Anglia, or the magical astrolabe. Simply because it makes no sense that those are created piecewise and charmed, if you could simply transfigure the entire thing.

    The question is just why. Adding "magical artefacts" to the list of exceptions might work, but you could just as well stipulate that it's too complex to transfigure. Whatever mechanism governs transfiguration, no wizard will ever manage to use it to create complex magical items. That sounds fair enough.

    On the other hand, the "complex" in "complex magical items" also means you could argue that a law on "Elemental Transfiguration" has nothing to say about things that are as un-elemental as it gets. And hence you wouldn't need an exception at all.
     
  16. d4st

    d4st Squib

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    Imo one could be sentiant life. Life/Love/will under one étandard.
     
  17. Arthellion

    Arthellion Minister of Magic

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    Another possible exemption.

    Sound.
     
  18. Shodan

    Shodan First Year

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    Well, if you put it like that it does make sense that there would be a law stating that it's impossible to create souls with magic. And while you could say that Gamp's Law is not specifically about Transfiguration, I don't think that's the way Rowling intended it: It's called Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration, after all.

    And, concerning the creation of souls: That's not something I would try to accomplish with Transfiguration, which I've always seen as changing something physical to something else. And while souls exist in the HP universe, they seem to be a rather abstract concept. Sure, Voldemort was able to split his soul and put it into physical containers, but a) he was an extraordinary wizard who knew more about the subject than any other before him, meaning that even though he knew that you could bind a piece of your soul to an object, thus binding it to a physical thing, that's something hardly anyone else knew, and b) the Horcrux and the soul piece itself are not the same. The Horcrux is just the container, and we don't know anything about the soul itself.

    It's the same thing with love: How would you transfigure emotions? What would you get from turning a stone into love? We know that it's not possible to create true love with magic, but I don't think this would fall under Gamp's law but rather under a more general rule (because this affects potions and possibly other magical disciplines as well).
     
  19. Lindsey

    Lindsey Headmaster

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    I've always assumed the GAMP laws did not mean that these Transfigurations were impossible, but instead it tended to result in unpredictable results, or not complete and usable Transfigurations. As for books, yes you can transfigure something into a book, but chances are, it's going to be empty.

    1. Food

    One would be able to transfigure a chicken into a salad, if one is skilled enough, but if someone transfigured wood into an apple... they would essentially be eating a piece of wood nutrition wise, that tastes like an apple. I like the idea that in transfiguration, a small piece of what they originally are is left. In the case with food, it's the nutritional value.

    2. Gems

    Following the same rules as above, gems are not as pure as if they were in nature. People could easily create gems, and other materials for decoration or to 'look' wealthy, but they do not hold the same value as if they are were created by natures magic. I've always liked the idea of certain gems and metals having magical properties. Dresden Files is a good representation of this, where gems can store magic.

    3. Soul
    One cannot transfigure or untransfigured a soul. When Malfoy was turned into a ferret, he was still Malfoy. As we know souls exist in canon, it is pretty reasonable that souls cannot be created or destroyed outside of Death. Thus, in my headcanon, when you transfigure something to an animal, it will obey your will and one can determine it's personality. Aka, you can transfigure something into a lion that acts like a dog.

    4. Magic
    I like the idea that one cannot transfigure non-magical to something magical. This could be why most people get clothes or other such objects. One can easily transfigure cloth if they so desire, but the fabric won't be weaved with magic and certainly not enchanted. I do wish Rowling spent more time describing magical fashion as I think clothing would be bizarre, with shifting colors, images, and unnatural designs. The ones with money, have clothes almost made of magic.

    5. Humanity
    One cannot transfigure something into a human (more so than just a soul issue). It cannot also transfigure someone's emotions, feelings, desires or wants. You could also call this category 'intangible objects'.
     
  20. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    Transfiguration canonically includes conjuring things, and the way Gamp was used in DH was "Your mother can't produce food out of thin air, no one can. Food is the first of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp's Law ..." That was what I meant with the context. Strictly on a semantic basis, a sentence that goes "You can't conjure love" makes as much sense as "You can't conjure food". I agree it's iffy on Transfiguration, but it's not entirely impossible for it to be an exception of a Law that also covers conjuring things.


    As a side note, do we have to investigate the "Principal" in "principal exception"? It's the same issue as with elemental, it's ambiguous. You could derive more, minor exceptions from the phrasing, or it could simply mean that an Elemental Law must have Principal Exceptions.

    @Lindsey: I don't think that works. See the quote. The Exception is cited as a reason why no one can conjure food. Not that it's hard. It's fundamentally impossible.
     
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