CFJ 1062

          "Plato possesses at least 0.9 VTs." 


Judge:       Crito
Judgement:   TRUE

Justices:    Morendil (S), elJefe (C), Steve (J) 
Decision:    SUSTAIN

Eligible:    Andre, Calabresi, Crito, elJefe, General Chaos,
	     Kolja A., Michael, Morendil, Murphy, Oerjan, Steve

Ineligible:  Vlad (defaulted), Chuck (declined) 
Caller:      Zefram (not a Player)
On request:  Vanyel
On hold:     Harlequin, Vir


  Called by Zefram, 29 Oct 1997 17:16:03 +0000 (GMT)
  Assigned to Vlad
  Vlad defaulted
  Assigned to Chuck
  Chuck declines, Mon, 10 Nov 1997 11:18:01 -0600 (CST)
  Dice roll: ChrisM (deregistered)
  Dice roll: Crito (eligible)
  Assigned to Crito, 12 Nov 1997 07:49:09 +0000
  Judged TRUE, 13 Nov 1997 12:00:30 -0500
  Appealed by Steve, 16 Nov 1997 19:36:23 +1100
  Appealed by Michael, 17 Nov 1997 08:59:29 +0000
  Appealed by Gen Chaos, 18 Nov 1997 12:43:12 -0500
  Assigned to Justices Morendil, elJefe, Steve, 19 Nov 1997 07:41:58 +0000
  Justice Morendil SUSTAINs, 24 Nov 1997 13:39:09 +0100
  Justice Steve SUSTAINs, 25 Nov 1997 12:16:36 +1100
  Justice elJefe: OVERTURN/FALSE, 25 Nov 1997, 09:30:40 +0000

Reasons and Arguments of Judge:

All rise for the right honorable Judge Crito, court is in session.  Be seated. 

First, neither the original Transfer Order nor this CFJ make a clear
specification as to which "Plato" they are referring.  The CFJ does not even
make it explicitly clear that the "Plato" of the CFJ is the same as the "Plato"
of the Transfer Order.  However, the timing of the messages, the amount of VTs
specified in both messages, and common sense make an implicit link between the
two "Plato"s and the court finds this to be sufficient evidence that the two
messages refer to the same entity.  Furthermore, previous references to "Plato"
within Agora communications, the notoriety of one particular Plato, and the lack
of indications in these messages to the contrary, lead this court to conclude
that it is reasonable to assume the entity referred to as Plato in these
messages is the long since deceased, Greek philosopher.  It is the opinion of
this court, then, that these two messages unambiguously refer to the Greek
philosopher, Plato.

Next, the court must decide what it means to "possess" VTs.  Plato, being
deceased, is incapable of possessing anything in the physical sense.  It is
tempting to return a judgement of FALSE simply on these grounds. Unfortunately,
since VTs are an abstract entity, no one, living or dead, is capable of
physically possessing any VTs.  The Ruleset is replete with references to
Players and entities "possessing" such abstract entities - Currencies, Kudos,
Blots, etc.  It is clear then that the condition of an entity "possessing VTs"
is the condition that the Recordkeepor for VTs is required by the Rules to
record the fact that VTs are owned by that particular entity.  No physical
possession or capacity for physical possession is required.

How can such a condition be met?  In the current context of this CFJ, the
existence of a valid, successfully executed Transfer Order establishes the
requirement for recording VT ownership per Rule 1598.  So now this court must
decide whether Zefram's message of Oct 29, 1997 which purported to transfer .9
VTs from emself to Plato was a valid, successfully executed Transfer Order.

There is no dispute that Zefram possessed at least .9 VTs at the time e sent
this message and that the format of the message was valid according to the
specifications laid out in R1598.  The validity of the Transfer Order then
depends on the validity of the deceased philosopher Plato as a destination
entity.  This becomes the crux of the CFJ.

The court notes that there is no definition of "entity" within the Rules.
However, whatever definition is used, it is clear that a person falls within
this definition.  Does death deprive a person of personhood?  No.  Death is a
property of a person, therefore any person, living or dead, must be considered
an entity for the purposes of R1598.  Does the property of being dead deprive a
person of the capacity of possessing VTs?

First, there is no statutory prohibition that prevents a person from possessing
VTs based on any of that person's properties.  Secondly, the death of a person,
absent explicit legal prohibitions, cannot prevent the VT Recordkeepor from
physically recording the possession of VTs by that person, nor can it prevent
the Rules from logically requiring the VT Recordkeepor to make such a record.

It is the opinion of this court that the Transfer Order issued by Zefram, asking
that .9 VTs be transferred from emself to Plato, was valid and legally executed
on October 29, 1997.  This stems from the fact that there is no requirement for
Plato to physically possess .9 VTs and there is no legal or physical impediment
preventing the Assessor from recording the effects of this Transfer Order.
Therefore, the statement of CFJ 1062 must be considered true. A judgement of
TRUE is hereby entered.

All rise.  Court is adjourned. 

-- Crito 

Decision of Speaker (as was) Morendil:  SUSTAIN

The name "Plato", as mentioned in the Transfer Order that is at the source of
this debate, does not refer to a person whom any legal system currently in
existence would recognize as having any rights or obligations.

Were the same kind of dispute to arise in an RL court, the case would probably
be dismissed on the grounds of "no controversy". No descendants of the deceased
Greek philosopher, and more generally no legal or physical persons are currently
charged with protecting any rights of morality or possession attaching to the
estate of Plato. Therefore, in any dispute about Plato's supposed ownership of
any conceivable kind of fictitious or actual possessions, nobody's rights are
being violated, and there is nobody who might be said to have failed to perform
any kind of obligation.

Now, Agora is not RL, and things that might seem absurd in RL can be done in
Agora for the sheer fun of it, that much is granted. However, even for the
purposes of Agora, the above line of reasoning should alert us to the fact that
Plato is, in all relevant respects, a fictitious rather than a real person.
Transferring some amount of a Currency to, say, Homer rather than Plato would
achieve identical results; the names "Homer" and "Plato" in such cases serve as
mere labels used by a Player attempting to, jocularly as it were, divest emself
of some of eir possessions without specifying a beneficiary.

Transferring Currencies, on the other hand, to living persons such as Larry Wall
or William Gates might conceivably have different effects. One may be more
likely than the other to develop an interest for Agora, register to play, and
affect game play based on the amount of Currencies transferred to em while not a

With this distinction firmly in mind, I conclude that attempting to transfer
Currencies to a fictitious person should not be a legal Game Move, on the
grounds that except as stipulated in the Rules, arbitrary legal fictions should
not be allowed to be created to affect game play.

Couching this in terms of Rule 1011, which seems to be the only Rule that could,
or should, allow us to invalidate such attempts, is unfortunately a more
difficult exercise. It is possible that the recently adopted term of "Nomic
Property", as opposed to the older "Nomic Entity", does not adequately safeguard
against precisely that kind of abuse of Rule 1598.

I am therefore inclined to let Crito's Judgement stand. 

Decision of Justiciar (as was) Steve:  SUSTAIN

I have often remarked before that the transition from a face to face game to
game played over the Internet via the exchange of email messages brings with it
a number of tricky conceptual issues which need to be worked out in the course
of play. The treatment of the virtual objects referred to in the Rules, eg
Kudos, Blots, Voting Tokens and Locations, is one such area.

Over the years I have been a Player, I have developed a conceptual framework
which I find congenial for thinking about such issues. The elements of that
framework were in part articulated in my Judgement of the Appeal of CFJ 911. In
that Judgement, I rejected a 'numbers on paper' view of Currency holdings and
held that for the purposes of trying to determine what it means to own Voting
Tokens, we should think of them as being analogous to poker chips or Monopoly
money. In that Judgement, I used this principle to determine that debts are of a
different nature to possessions, on the grounds that a different kind of poker
chip or Monopoly note would be required to represent the existence of a debt.
Here, the principle could have been applied to deliver the verdict that since
Plato cannot possess poker chips or Monopoly money, having been dead for too
long, he likewise cannot possess Voting Tokens. Had I been the Judge of the CFJ,
I would happily have applied the principle and Judged the S tatement FALSE.

However, I am not the Judge of this CFJ, but a Justice on the Board of Appeals.
In my view, also developed over the years I have been a Player, this brings with
it a different set of responsibilities. In particular, I have often stated my
view that where a Justice disagrees with a Judge over a matter of taste, it is
not the role of the Justice to impose eir own tastes. The role of a Justice, as
I see it, is to correct errors of law where such have been committed, and to
clarify the Rules where they are silent, inconsistent or unclear by articulating
principles of 'probative usefulness', to borrow a phrase of Scott's. But where a
Judge has already articulated such a principle, perhaps not to the liking of the
Justice, but not actually mistaken in law, it is not the role of the Justice to
overturn the principle articulated by the Judge in favour of eir own. The game
is better served by encouraging differences of opinion to flourish.

Judges, of course, are still required to consider game custom. Where a prior
Judgement has established a principle of interpretation, and that principle has
become well entrenched, I do not think a Judge can blithely ignore it and
deliver a contrary interpretation, not at least without an excellent argument.
Oerjan's Judgement that a Player receives a message when it enters eir 'normal
technical domain of control' is, I take it, an example of a well established
principle of this kind.

I mention this in order to make the point that I do not consider my own
Judgement in CFJ 911 to be well established as game custom in this way. As I
began this Judgement by remarking, the treatment of the virtual objects
mentioned in the Rules is a tricky matter, and a subject of ongoing controversy.
Although in my Judgement of the Appeal of CFJ 911 I rejected the 'numbers on
paper' view in favour of the 'poker chip' view, this Judgement did not, in my
opinion, settle the matter for all time. Judge Crito is within his rights to
hold and defend the view I rejected. He does not err in law in doing so; he
merely differs from me in a matter of taste. I therefore rule to SUSTAIN Crito's

Decision of the Clerk of the Courts:  OVERTURN and judge FALSE

I reject the conclusion of the original judge as contrary to common sense. In
the ordinary meaning of the term, a dead person does not own property. Eir
estate may legally possess things under certain circumstances, but the CFJ does
not refer to Plato's estate, even if he has one.

I find it puzzling that the other Justices appear to accept this, but defer to
the original Judge's erroneous view.  Deferrence should be shown where the
differing interpretation is merely a matter of taste.  But as Justice Steve has
pointed out, a Judge is obliged to consider the Rules and Game Custom, and the
Justices should overrule em when these are flouted.  Common Sense also belongs
on that list.  (Rule 217)

-- elJefe