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The Minor Exceptions to Gamp's Law

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Taure, Aug 31, 2020.

  1. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    We've had lots of threads speculating on the five principal exceptions to Gamp's law. But from the word "principal", it is implied that there are non-principal exceptions.

    For the purpose of this thread, I would propose we use the following terminology:

    (For what it is worth, my principal exceptions are food, gold, silver, bronze, and precious gems).

    So what minor exceptions can you think of? I'll start us off:

    Books

    You can transfigure things into books, but you must have read the book before, and remember it, to be able to create it.

    To be more precise, the test is this: you can transfigure a book if you would be able to read that book in a pensieve viewing of your memory of it.

    We know from Dumbledore in HBP that pensieve memories vary in quality. We also see in OotP that there is a lot more information held within a memory than a person is consciously able to recall. So you don't need to actively remember the entire book. But it does need to be in your head somewhere.

    Therefore, the quality/accuracy of a transfigured book would vary based on how well that book is preserved in your subconscious.

    In addition to the above, wizarding publishers will enchant books to prevent their being copied. So to transfigure those books, you would need to overcome that enchantment as well.
     
  2. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Second Year

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    Principal: I agree with food and would maybe group the others you mention into 'precious material', for lack of a better term. I think the material the Goblins use to make things might be all conceptually grouped into the same cathegory by wizards and witches.

    I would add magical creatures to the principal cathegory, as well as wands or similar conduits to perform magic with. For a fifth, maybe souls, or is that maybe not physical enough? I'm thinking you can make a normal cat, but it wouldn't have a soul in the HP sense, merely a furry shell behaving and living it's life like a cat until it dies and becomes nothing; or alternatively this cat would retain the soul of whatever its original form was. I'm going with soul for the fifth principal exception until I think of something better.

    Minor: Interesting idea, maybe potion ingredients? You could transfigure a daisy into fluxweed, but since it has to be picked during the new moon to work as a potions ingredient it won't work the way it should if you add it to a potion.
     
  3. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    I think Technology should be one, the Idea that a wizard(even one like Dumbledore) could just turn a tree into a Helicopter doesen't sit right with me, but I dont think it should be a principal exception either, for example I don't have a problem with wizards using transfiguration to create things like clocks or watches. I am not really sure how to make a consistent rule for it though, maybe have it so wizard can only create tech wizardkind in general knows how to build?
    I agree that Transfiguration alone couldn't creat those, but doubt it would be a Exception to Gamp's Law, rather its probably not part of Gamps law at all, since regular transfiguration is only about physical matter in the first place, meaning things like souls or magical traits aren't considered in the first place.
     
  4. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Second Year

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    Souls might be a bit of an over-kill on my part, but I think I'm sticking with magical creatures and wands. You can make animals, so in that case you should either be able to make magical ones, or there must be a rule against it.

    Speaking of technology, do we know for sure if Sirius's bike was originally muggle or if he might have made it all himself? I think I recall it being very big in canon, or at least big enough for Hagrid to be comfy on it. Sirius had muggle motorcycle manuals in his room, so I suppose it is more likely that it was an originally muggle vehicle that he just took apart and enchanted and maybe enlarged, like Mr Weasley did with the Ford Anglia.
     
  5. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    My point is that these things have naturally magical traits distinct from their physical substance, the purpose of regular transfiguration is to change the physical traits, the magical traits wouldn't be added either way.
    Yeah, that sounds about right.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2020
  6. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I don't see why technology couldn't be transfigured, with the sole exception that you'd need to understand the physical structures sufficiently to transfigure them. The example of a helicopter is a good, at a basic level helicopters are actually very simple machines. If you can transfigure the individual parts, then why can't you (if skilled enough) transfigure them already assembled?
     
  7. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    Not a real limit in Transfiguration, otherwise thirteen year olds wouldn't be able to turn teapots into tortoises.
    My main reason is that in my opinion it just doesen't fit the style of Harry Potter magic.
    Like I just dont think it should be possible to create things like tanks, rockets and computers.
    I assume for the same reason that you can turn a rock into a chicken, but not into a chicken burger.

     
  8. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Second Year

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    Ok, gotcha! It definitely makes sense that it could be that way.

    As for minor exceptions, in the books there is the question of why anyone would wear glasses or have achne with magic, so maybe there is something about fixing these things that is very difficult to get right? Eyesight might again fall into the not quite a physical thing pitfall, but skin or oily pores should be transfigurable, yet Eloise Midgeon doesn't seem to be able to find a solution even though she's desperate enough to almost curse her nose off in the end. You'd think Madam Pomfrey would have a solution if there was a magical one.

    Edit: I seem to have missed a few posts, but here's what I found on JKR's writing about cars (it's part of a longer one about technology from 2012, where the gist seems to be that wizards and witches see no point in or see themselves to be above muggle technology, except for transport:

    "There is one major exception to the general magical aversion to Muggle technology, and that is the car (and, to a lesser extent, motorbikes and trains). Prior to the introduction of the International Statute of Secrecy, wizards and Muggles used the same kind of everyday transport: horse-drawn carts and sailing ships among them. The magical community was forced to abandon horse-drawn vehicles when they became glaringly outmoded. It is pointless to deny that wizardkind looked with great envy upon the speedy and comfortable automobiles that began filling the roads in the twentieth century, and eventually even the Ministry of Magic bought a fleet of cars, modifying them with various useful charms and enjoying them very much indeed. Many wizards love cars with a child-like passion, and there have been cases of pure-bloods who claim never to touch a Muggle artefact, and yet are discovered to have a flying Rolls Royce in their garage. However, the most extreme anti-Muggles eschew all motorised transport; Sirius Black’s love of motorbikes incensed his hard-line parents."

    From this, it seems they do adapt existing muggle vehicles, but I definitely agree that they would be able to create their own car or bike from scratch.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2020
  9. Glimmervoid

    Glimmervoid Professor

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    I agree that you shouldn't be able to create new magic (muggle into wizard) but it seems possible to transform one form of magic to another. Wizards have wizard magic. Quintaped are transfigured wizards. And yet Quintaped no longer have wizard magic but are magical beasts in their own right.

    Maybe magic naturally adapts to your form, rather than being transfigured directly? That could square the circle.
     
  10. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    Thats why I specified regular transfiguration, Quintapeds were supposedly cursed, meaning Dark Magic was involved as well.

    I also assume that you can add charms to things you transfigure at the same time, like Mcgonagall using Daggers she transfigured immediately as projectiles.

    But I don't think those things would be considered as part of Gamp's law.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2020
  11. Heosphoros

    Heosphoros Fourth Year

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    Age. It's pretty clear in regards to people, as wizards can't make themselves eternally young, but this exception would extend this to subjects of transfiguration in general. If you have something old that you wish to transform the result will also be old, same thing with the new. Only things that are born or man-made have this propriety, something like a rock doesn't count even if some types of rock are older than others. Of course, in both objects and animals, two of the same can have varying states of conservation at the same age, how well preserved the result of the change is will depend on the caster's skill.
     
  12. cucio

    cucio Seventh Year

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    There's the Recursive Exception: nothing can be transfigured into a Gamp's Law Exception.
     
  13. haphnepls

    haphnepls Second Year

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    Maybe Clock? Not in general, but one that tells you the current time, in your time-zone.

    I'll start by saying that Tempus isn't a cannon spell, and as far as I know, there is no way to tell what time is it if you have only access to your wand so you cannot overstep that problem. Sure, you might have some ideas about an hour, but you'll never be able to tell the correct minute and second.

    Also, there is a problem with creating something that's supposed to run. I mean, we all know what second is, but can you really tell how long it is, and will the general idea of clock be enough to create it accurately.

    If you want to do it, you'll have to find another clock, and then, step by step, adjust its specifications so it runs properly.
     
  14. Download

    Download Seventh Year ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I'd expand that into a general requirement to know how the thing you are transfiguring works i.e. where everything goes in the object.

    To transfigure a book you must know where the letters go. To transfigure a clock you need to know how a clock works. As you get into ever more complicated devices the skill required grows, thus limiting transfiguration as an alternative to buying things.

    I kind of like it because it assumes anatomy must be taught for transfiguration which makes the topic pretty cool in another way. Or maybe that you can transfigure an animal, but because you didn't understand enough to create the organs right it won't live long.
     
  15. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I think this fundamentally cannot work, because we know that students can transfigure animals but there is literally no way they know everything there is to know about animal anatomy including how their brains work etc. It would require Hogwarts students to have a knowledge of anatomy, biology, chemistry far above the highest level of current Muggle science. And as far as I'm concerned, Muggle science should not be seen anywhere near a magical classroom.

    Plus, as far as we can see, anatomy is not taught at all.

    One of the best things about transfiguration is that you don't know how the object itself works; you just need to know how the magic works.
     
  16. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    What about describing it in terms of "the wizards needs to understand the concept of what they're transfiguring", that seems to fit more with what we see. So you could transfigure a helicopter if you understand the concept of what a helicopter is, and you can transfigure a dog if you understand the concept of a dog. You don't need to understand the fine level details, just the broad concept.

    And tied to that rather than "books" as a restriction, what about going broader and more thematic with knowledge as the restriction?
     
  17. Download

    Download Seventh Year ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Having books be an exception rubs me the wrong way. It makes magic seem to "care" too much about the whims of people, rather than a wild and powerful force.

    That said, maybe if you made it that your can't transfigure knowledge without knowing that knowledge.

    So the divide is between nature and man. Nature can be transfigured with ignorance, and man's knowledge needs man's knowledge to transfigure. Maybe replace "man" with sophant, so any intelligent being has the same restriction if they have access to a wand.
     
  18. RandyRanderson

    RandyRanderson Second Year

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    I'm not so sure. I think transfiguration does deal with more than simply physical traits. In Goblet of Fire, for example, Hermione mentions how you can transfigure yourself to get more powers. I don't think powers would be used to describe a change in physical traits; I would not call an extra arm or the development of gills a power. Animation via transfiguration, in the style of the chessmen of PS 1, would be another example of a non-physical trait. There clearly has to be a magical component for a stone statue to move. As a subject, transfiguration definitely deals with magical traits as well. This isn't a case of charms being added after, "
    McGonagall transfigured the chessmen to make them alive" and the powers are given via transfiguration (PS, GoF).

    For the purposes of this discussion, I think it's fair to say that Gamp's law would deal with magical limitations on physical things. While a separate law might deal with the creation of a ghost or soul, I think the exception to Gamp's law would provide for limitations on the magical properties of physical objects.

    I think it's fair to say that a minor exception to Gamp's law includes animals. You can transfigure an animal from a stone, for example, but you cannot transfigure an animal with a soul. This would not be a principal exception because it's a limitation on a physical thing that can be created. We know natural animals do have souls because they can give rise to ghosts upon death, which we know are imprints of beings with souls.

    I think other minor exceptions would be similar. You may be able to transfigure an object into an object with magical properties, but those magical properties would be limited.

    I'd say another minor exception would deal with the object being transfigured instead of the limitations on what can be created. Larger objects with more magical properties will be harder to transfigure. You can transfigure objects with magical natures but it gets harder as they get larger (like the dragon in GoF). I think there would be similar exceptions that deal with the object being transfigured instead of the end result.

    I don't really think there would be a limitation on the transfiguration of technology, though I agree there is probably a need for passing amount of familiarity with the object you transfigure. Students might not know the anatomy of a brain but they certainly know the basic of what a turtle is.
     
  19. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Second Year

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    ^ That's pretty much exactly how I see it as well!
     
  20. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I think that already went out of the window with the "food" exception. I don't think there's any avoiding the anthropocentric nature of magic when discussing magic in canon terms. Of course in fanfic you can change things and do an AU magic system, but in canon, the rules of magic are tied in with human concepts and ideas - magic treats squibs and Muggles differently, despite the only difference between the two being how society views them; magic treats secrets differently to other information, despite the fact that the only thing differentiating secrets is how people view them; love and bravery are magical forces; job positions have magical reality, etc.

    The problem with a "knowledge" exception is that transfiguration definitely can create knowledge, both natural and human. Natural as we've already discussed - you can create animals without knowing how they work. But human knowledge is also created. Consider the furniture we see created, which would require knowledge of carpentry to create without magic; or the sleeping bags we see Dumbledore conjure, which would require knowledge of how to work textiles.

    I doubt everyone who creates furniture with transfiguration is secretly a master carpenter; I doubt Dumbledore would be able to create a sleeping bag without magic. Magic doesn't just save time - it allows you to do things that you would be completely unable to do without it; it allows you to create things that you wouldn't be able to make otherwise.

    So there cannot be a universal, broadly expressed "knowledge" exception. But at the same time, I feel like there have to be certain specific limits - Dumbledore can't transfigure a piece of paper containing a list of Voldemort's horcruxes, Hermione can't transfigure a book telling them everything they need to know about how to destroy horcruxes.

    So I think a series of individual minor exceptions which relate to knowledge in specific contexts need to exist, without there being a general "knowledge" exception.

    In a similar way, I think there needs to be a series of "beauty/artistic merit" exceptions. It's clear from Dumbledore's armchairs that it is possible to create some form of decoration with transfiguration - you don't just get basic functional furniture without style. But at the same time, I feel like the wizarding world still values artistic ability - not everyone can produce beautiful things. So I think there needs to be a nuanced treatment of beauty and transfiguration which balances these two facts - just as with knowledge, it's not possible to create a broad exception expressed in general terms.


    I think all indications are that transfiguration is intended to be a physical change only. JKR has referred to it as working by changing the molecular structure; she has also used the contrast of physical change (teacup turned into a rat) and magical effect (making teacup dance) to define what transfiguration is vs. what a charm is.

    With that in mind:

    Transfiguration to give yourself powers: I see this as transforming your physical form to give yourself abilities based on that new physical form. E.g. transfiguring yourself wings to give yourself the ability to fly. I don't think it's possible to transfigure your own magic to gain new magical powers - we know from Hermione that it's OWL-magic, so it's not like it's super obscure, and if it was so easy then everyone would be doing it (or paying more skilled people to do it for them).

    Bringing stone chess pieces to life: It used to be believed that there existed a "vital force" which animated living things. This was considered a physical, mechanical force, not something supernatural. My preference is to say that this force is real and the Muggle description of matter is wrong/incomplete. There are two types of matter: living and dead. When you use transfiguration to bring stone to life, it is a physical effect, not a magical one: you are turning the matter from dead matter to living matter i.e. giving it vital force.

    Incidentally, I doubt that animals have souls. For a start, because souls in HP are what makes people people - the difference between an intelligent object like the Sorting Hat and a person is the soul. So souls are tied into personhood, I think, which animals lack. But on top of that, we know that Dementors ignore animals; this would seem unlikely if they could feed on them.

    I don't think Gamp's law should have any relation to non-physical things. There is a tendency in these discussions to try to shove every idea you have about transfiguration under the umbrella of Gamp's law, but of course Gamp's law is just one part of transfiguration theory, and there will be many other laws and theories besides. I think it's clear that Gamp's law and its exceptions concern what types of physical things can be created - e.g. "food". It should refer to a concrete class of physical thing, not an abstract category, nor should it be used to try to explain all the limitations of transfiguration. There are for sure other aspects to transfiguration and other limitations, but there's no need to shoehorn them into Gamp.
     
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