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The Minor Exceptions to Gamp's Law

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

  1. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Second Year

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    Well explained! I'm not completely convinced, but I can see that it could be that way.

    I am unsure if you're correct about dementors ignoring animals, though, but maybe I've missed something. I think what Sirius says about Azkaban is that the dementors could sense his diminished feelings, which he has as a dog but coincidentally also wizards who go insane would have. I've not interpreted that as having anything to do with his soul, but with the strength/amount of emotions felt. The dementors only do anything to a wizard's soul when they give the dementor's kiss.

    Edit because I phrased this badly: I agree that dementor's are only interested in eating human souls, a bit like werewolves only want to bite humans. But I feel like dementors would notice and feed on the feelings of animals and make animals unhappy if they were around dementors. I also think animals could have some sort of equivalent to a human soul in the books.

    Another edit (sorry about this): aren't there ghost horses as part of the headless hunt?
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2020
  2. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Ghosts are also wearing clothes but I don't think anyone suggests that clothes have a soul :p
     
  3. RandyRanderson

    RandyRanderson Second Year

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    I'm not so sure @Taure . The quote you cite describing molecular change seems to only be an example of what she said previously, namely that transfiguration changes the nature of an object, physical and magical included. In any event, even if one subject predominantly deals with one category, this isn't fixed. Aguamenti is an example of a charm performing something that might usually be considered the purview of transfiguration.

    I would not consider gaining physical wings a power; the word power in such a context carries a magical connotation. Pottermore's usage of power, for example, includes describing the ability to read minds, converse with animals, and to change the past. The power that would best suit your definition would be superhuman strength. Even then though, superhuman implies more than a mere physical change. An incredibly strong body-builder is not superhumanly strong.

    Using vitalism to justify animation as a physical change seems like a bit of a stretch, at best. Yes, JKR has taken inspiration from previous doctrines. However, even in the case of alchemy, which she has explicitly stated she took inspiration from, it has not been much. She got two names for her characters and the inspiration for the Philosopher's Stone. JKR never mentions vitalism so far as I can recall. Vitalism was a defunct way of thinking that argued for a "force" that drove life and biochemical processes in living things. To say that JKR took that defunct way of thinking, subverted it to include inanimate objects, and made the vitalistic principle/force a physical one is to argue for a theory which is far less likely than the alternative.

    Your points about souls make for a stronger argument, in my mind. The fact that dementors do not seek the souls of animals makes for good evidence. However, I don't think this is as clear-cut as you say it is. Your argument about clothes, while humorous, are irrelevant under the magical system in canon, unless McGonagall needed to put on clothes after her transformation, which would put a different spin on the series' tone. Judging from what the ghosts could do and the historical context, the horses probably wore saddles as well. Dementors are the personification of human depression; it makes sense that they'd be interested in human souls and not other souls.

    Animals do have personalities and participate in being. Crookshanks has a distinct personality, for instance. Mrs. Norris has one as well. And again, I think the fact that animals can become ghosts is the strongest evidence as to why natural animals do have souls.
     
  4. JuniorAL

    JuniorAL Second Year

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    In my opinion, the Law should apply to everybody, regardless of magical power and creativity. They become irrelevant the moment you can think of a way of bypassing any of them with transfiguration alone.

    I agree that the 5 principal exceptions should be limited to physical things, but you should not be able to transfigure a desk into a pig to then kill, butcher, and eat it. I think transfiguration can't create nutrition.

    In addition, I think objects that have been turned into creatures cannot reproduce, this also applies to conjured animals, you would need to find two live specimens and have them mate like normal.

    Also, we know that Hagrid applied engorgement charms to his pumpkins while they were still growing out of the ground, he did the same thing to the hedges of the third task for the Triwizard tournament, so this has to be the best way to increase the quantity and quality of food, to apply regular engorgement charms while they are still growing naturally. Sorry for bad English I tried my best.
     
  5. aspiring_failure

    aspiring_failure First Year

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    Why is food an exception to Gamp's Law, other than JKR saying so. Why can't you transfigure your desk into a goat and eat the goat?

    One can reason away not being able to transfigure something into various precious metals or precious gems, as them having some special qualities (if you don't look at the problem from a scientific point of view).

    But even without looking at Gamp's Law about transfiguring food with any science in mind let's look at the facts:

    So, you kind of can create food out of nothing, by increasing the quantity if you have some. And you can create food before it was food (transfiguring a goat out of a bowling ball).

    I guess my questions are:
    a) why can't you kill a transfigured animal and make it into food?r
    b) what's really the difference between increasing the quantity of the food starting with some instead of creating without having any food?
    c) that doesn't seem to be the same with gold, precious metals/gems does it? You can't create more galleons if you have one.
     
  6. aspiring_failure

    aspiring_failure First Year

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    Sorry, I hadn't read your comment before I posted (it wasn't shown to me, don't know why). What you are arguing seems to imply that a transfigured animal is not equivalent to a real animal. So it would seem you cannot transfigure something into an animal at all, really.

    The only "solution" I can think of, is something along the lines of Plato's cave. The "form" of the animal exists beyond the material world and with transfiguration you are really trying to bring that "form" to the real world. Magic goes a long way into achieving this - maybe part of what makes transfiguration so difficult is that you have to go some of the way there (by visualizing clearly in your mind the object) - but when the transfiguration happens what magic creates isn't a normal pig. Rather it is the "idea" of the animal brought to the real world through will and magic and it's not truly part of the material world, hence you can't eat it.

    In any case, either there is no difference between a transfigured pig and a real one and you can eat it, or there is a difference, which has to be explained somehow (eg. HPMoR says all transfiguration is non-permanent to solve this issue)
     
  7. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    You can.
    You have some food vs. you have no food.
    We don't know if you can. But leaving aside Galleons (which might have goblin magic on them), it does seem to make sense you can't transfigure gold, period. Which would simply imply that gold is not only subject to an exception of Gamp's, but also other laws, which restrict it more than food.


    Anyway, to return to the original topic: I'm not sure there are minor exceptions. "Principal" could also mean fundamental just in the sense of e.g. how they can't be subverted, but there is nothing saying there have to be other "exceptions" less restricted. But assuming it's meant as a major/minor pair, then yeah, my first thought was exactly what you wrote @Taure .

    I like books and potions ingredients. The latter would be defined empirically; you can't use anything transfigured in a potion, so an "ingredient" is anything you might want to use. And (being a minor exception) they would work for other purposes.

    What do we think about compound items -- say, a trunk filled with clothes. Is that merely really hard, or are compounds an exception?
     
  8. JuniorAL

    JuniorAL Second Year

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    If Hermione who knows a lot more about magic than we do didn't consider the possibility of transfiguring a rock into a rabbit for them to eat, it must be because it's impossible to do that. Transfiguration can't create nutrition, a roasted rabbit that was once a rock will taste bad and provide no nourishment.

    What's the bigger assumption, that the trio had no knowledge of how to kill, butcher, and roast an animal (any animal, chickens included, the Weasleys had tons of chickens in their home so Ron would likely know how to prepare one). Or that it simply can't be done because transfiguration has limits that don't fit in with muggle logic and science?

    Edit: This is pure headcanon but Imagine you have a cat and then you transfigure one of your pillows into an identical copy of your cat, how could you tell the two apart? Just offer them some milk, the real cat will want to drink it while the pillow-cat will not. Objects that have been transfigured into animals lack a soul and have no need for nourishment, nor can they reproduce. They're similar to animated statues. I believe transfiguration masters would have these types of discussions all the time.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  9. aspiring_failure

    aspiring_failure First Year

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    Meh, this gives no explanation as to why it is impossible. Besides, I don't think your argument is valid: Just because things are some way in the books that doesn't mean that it makes sense, magical sense or otherwise. I'd think the point of such posts is to flesh out details of a system (or even create a system) which could explain or build upon Rowling's thinking.

    One glaring issue for example is Weasleys being poor. Both parents seem relatively intelligent (they also have really intelligent children), they seem rather good at magic, but they are poor. Now if I ask, why are Weasleys poor? It doesn't make sense (I can't think of a reason they would be poor, and none is provided in the books), your argument is "because they are".

    Sorry for going off topic.
     
  10. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    How does that even follow?

    The problem was never that they didn't have anything to eat. Ron doesn't complain they are starving. He complains the food is terrible. So the issue, here, is that all three of them are shit at cooking, and magic can't whip up a ready-to-eat three-star-dinner.

    Entirely aside from Gamp's exception, fishing works like accio. Doesn't help if you have no clue what to do with fish.
     
  11. aspiring_failure

    aspiring_failure First Year

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    Merely hard. I don't see why it would be an exception if one can transfigure them individually.

    Wouldn't you place somewhere in the principal exceptions magical animals/plants (and their byproducts)? It would seem rather impossible in the HP world to be able to transfigure a rock into a unicorn for example (the other way around is probably possible since it's possible to transfigure a wizard into an animal).

    edit. added a word. changed the formatting.
     
  12. JuniorAL

    JuniorAL Second Year

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    Here's a couple of relevant quotes about food from Deathly Hallows.

    He felt hungry now, and a little light-headed. Hermione had not packed any food in her magical bag, as she had assumed that they would be returning to Grimmauld Place that night, so they had had nothing to eat except some wild mushrooms that Hermione had collected from amongst the nearest trees and stewed in a billycan. After a couple of mouthfuls Ron had pushed his portion away, looking queasy; Harry had only persevered so as not to hurt Hermione’s feelings. Pg 277

    “Great,” said Ron irritably, “and now we’ve sorted that out, can we please get some food?” “Fine, but we’ll go somewhere else to find it,” said Hermione with half a glance at Harry. “There’s no point staying where we know dementors are swooping around.” In the end they settled down for the night in a far-flung field belonging to a lonely farm, from which they had managed to obtain eggs and bread. “It’s not stealing, is it?” asked Hermione in a troubled voice, as they devoured scrambled eggs on toast. “Not if I left some money under the chicken coop?” Pg 287

    Hermione bore up reasonably well on those nights when they managed to scavenge nothing but berries or stale biscuits, her temper perhaps a little shorter than usual and her silences rather dour. Pg 287

    Autumn rolled over the countryside as they moved through it: They were now pitching the tent on mulches of fallen leaves. Natural mists joined those cast by the dementors; wind and rain added to their troubles. The fact that Hermione was getting better at identifying edible fungi could not altogether compensate for their continuing isolation, the lack of other people’s company, or their total ignorance of what was going on in the war against Voldemort. Pg 292
    (Note: she was looking for edible fungi).

    “My mother,” said Ron one night, as they sat in the tent on a riverbank in Wales, “can make good food appear out of thin air.” He prodded moodily at the lumps of charred gray fish on his plate. Harry glanced automatically at Ron’s neck and saw, as he had expected, the golden chain of the Horcrux glinting there. He managed to fight down the impulse to swear at Ron, whose attitude would, he knew, improve slightly when the time came to take off the locket. “Your mother can’t produce food out of thin air,” said Hermione. “No one can. Food is the first of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfigur —” “Oh, speak English, can’t you?” Ron said, prising a fish bone out from between his teeth. Pg 292

    “It’s impossible to make good food out of nothing! You can Summon it if you know where it is, you can transform it, you can increase the quantity if you’ve already got some —” “Well, don’t bother increasing this, it’s disgusting,” said Ron. “Harry caught the fish and I did my best with it! I notice I’m always the one who ends up sorting out the food, because I’m a girl, I suppose!” Pg 293

    “You can do the cooking tomorrow, Ron, you can find the ingredients and try and charm them into something worth eating, and I’ll sit here and pull faces and moan and you can see how you —”
    (Note: She told him to find the ingredients). Pg 293

    During those few moments he spent alone with Harry, however (collecting water and searching the undergrowth for mushrooms). Pg 388

    He’s been providing us with food, because for some reason, that’s the one thing the room doesn’t really do.” “Yeah, well, food’s one of the five exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration,” said Ron to general astonishment. Pg 578

    Look at all these quotes and there's not a single mention or suggestion that they could simply turn rocks into fruits/animals or anything else edible, they're always looking for edible things out in nature or at farms and things like that. Sorry if I sound rude it's not my intent.



     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  13. Distended Destiny

    Distended Destiny Fifth Year

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    I'd say the clothes ghosts wear are a part of themselves. I think ghosts are formed from the self image of a dying person, and therefore are not souls. I'd suppose they are closer to living memories (think animated pensieve memories)?

    I think transfiguration is an art of transforming objects with general knowledge of characteristics, while Alchemy would require complete relevant knowledge of the item.

    I'd say proper transfiguration of food and water is impossible because we run into another limt: nourishing the soul.

    Another limit I'd suggest is that transfiguring a thing cannot help you further the transfiguration of the same ie. knowledge cannot be acquired through incremental transfiguration.

    TLDR: Transfiguration can help you until you run into fundamental no-nos like knowledge, souls, etc.
     
  14. aspiring_failure

    aspiring_failure First Year

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    @JuniorAL I think you went to a lot of trouble for nothing. I am aware of all that, and I imagine most here are. I've quoted one passage where Hermione says they can't transfigure food. The books say they can't create food by transfiguration, only increasing quantities (which they could have done when they had some, but didn't).

    What I'm asking, using Taure's post (I'm sorry for going slightly off topic), is why is transfiguring food impossible?

    1. You can create more if you have some, so you can create nutritional food. Thus it doesn't seem like there's some real issue with creating nutritional food in itself, meaning nutritional food doesn't have some quality that says it cannot be made (like you presumably wouldn't be able to make a human by magic through any charms/transfiguration etc).

    2. You can transfigure an inanimate object into an animal, (which you could then kill and eat).

    But it is mentioned as impossible.

    Could we think a reason/system which would give the above results? Or must we say that it's "magic, doesn't need to make sense" - read JKR had to make them face difficulties and that's what she could think of?

    @Sesc So you are saying one can circumvent Gamp's exception by transfiguring something into an animal and then making the animal into food?
     
  15. RandyRanderson

    RandyRanderson Second Year

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    @aspiring_failure
    My answer to 1 would be that creating food from nothing is different from duplicating food because replication is conceptually different from creation. Magic can recognize and hide a secret; I don't think there's a reason it wouldn't be able to tell the difference between replication and creation.

    I do concur that the evidence points towards it being impossible to eat a transfigured animal, though I don't think it's conclusive.
     
  16. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    I don't know about "circumvent" if the exception is "food", but yes, of course. We see lots of transfigured things that are in theory eadible. Birds, dogs, gerbils, snakes. A pig (McGonagall, PS). For some reason, people always focus on that, when the far more interesting question is actually vegetarian food. Can you transfigure an apple or can't you? If we knew that, the discussion would be solved conclusively. By requiring consistency, the answer would have to be "no", despite apples just being a part of an apple tree (you'd be able to transfigure the tree, and possibly unripe apples, but not ripe apples or a tree with ripe apples).

    But there are tons of threads on this, and it's not the topic of this one. So, no. Apology not accepted. Create the umpteenth transfiguration theory thread if you must.


    This thread topic is: If as opposed to "principal" exceptions there are also "minor" ones that cover aspects of things that can't be transfigured, then what would those be? So far, we got:
    • Books containing previously unknown knowledge
    • Objects that can be successfully used in potions
     
  17. JuniorAL

    JuniorAL Second Year

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    Another minor exception could be Maps, you can't conjure a map of a location. So there's no convenient way of conjuring a map of London and placing a homunculus charm on it (Like the Marauder's map).
     
  18. aspiring_failure

    aspiring_failure First Year

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    It seems obvious that you wouldn't be able to transfigure something into enchanted objects/magical beings and their byproducts. I don't think it is part of transfiguration theory that you can transfigure something to have magical qualities to merit being an exception.

    Also, transfiguring something into a book seems to me (and I'd bet to McGonagall) a really strange idea. Of course you could transfigure something into a book (that has a cover and pages). For that book to contain knowledge you don't have would be for transfiguration to create knowledge. Even creating a book with knowledge you do have would seem quite difficult if not impossible for anyone but the mightiest wizards. The whole idea seems quite muggle to me, something very HPMoR like (where it is investigated and shot down). JKR magic doesn't provide for shortcuts like these and creating knowledge with any magic (transfiguration, charms etc) would be an idea entirely foreign to wizards.

    To talk about "minor exceptions" there must be some understanding and agreement on the "principal" ones. On what transfiguration really achieves, its theory and what it is able to do. Only then can we carve out exceptions to make the hp world face difficulties more similar to our own. For all of you who have been here for years and have had countless discussions about transfiguration, its exceptions major and minor alike maybe it makes sense to have a narrow topic like this; for me it does not.
     
  19. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    A couple more:

    The Law of the Preservation of Style: you can transfigure clothes, but the end result cannot be more stylish than the clothes you started with.

    The Non-Reversibility of Spoilage: you can transfigure food into other food, but you cannot transfigure rotten food into fresh food.

    I like the maps one as well.
     
  20. JuniorAL

    JuniorAL Second Year

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    Thank you, I'm a big fan of your theories.


    And other minor exceptions could be:

    Extinct animals: You can't conjure a dinosaur out of thin air. You might be able to transfigure its bones into a real one though.

    Animals that don't exist: You can't conjure/invent a new animal out of thin air. Say, a cheetah that lives on water instead of land. Again you could transfigure a cheetah and give it powers but you cannot conjure a sea cheetah out of thin air. It's a 2 step process which I think it's fine, I also imagine that advanced wizards can perform multiple acts of transfiguration at once so that wouldn't be an issue to a master.

    Anything you conjure out of thin air will not last: Nobody mentioned this one yet.
     
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