In TES lore, soul trapping humanoids is related to necromancy and is believed to be immoral. However, soul trapping creatures is perfectly acceptable.

According to Skyrim Wiki, this is because:

The souls of humanoids trapped in these soul gems remain conscious. They are generally regarded as unethical, and their use is prohibited at The College of Winterhold, despite the institution's lenient stance on the practice of Necromancy. Soul Trapping humanoids is considered a crime in many of Skyrim's Holds.

However, I am unable to find any justification for this from in-game sources.

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    Probably because to soul trap a black soul you need to murder someone, and that's not really socially accepted... – Arperum Dec 9 '13 at 13:32
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    "Soul trapping is immoral and should be outlawed!" "Oooooh! Look what I figured out how to do! Soul-powered robots to do all our housework... if you know what I mean." "Err... that does look cool... would it work with a kitten's soul?" "Yeah... I guess?" "Ok, new rule. Soul trapping is only bad on people!" "Wait, what? I like kittens more than people." "Tough, use an elk in yours." "I hate you some days." – Sconibulus Dec 9 '13 at 13:41
  • This is getting awfully close to, "Why did the devs design it that way?", which is off-topic. – Frank Dec 9 '13 at 14:27
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    @fbueckert: I can't see how that is true. This is part of TES lore, and there ought to be some reason behind it. – Twilight Sparkle Dec 10 '13 at 6:27
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    @TwilightSparkle Mike was soul trapped once. Not very pleasant. You should think about that once in a while. – MikeTheLiar Dec 10 '13 at 13:47

It's not just soul trapping black souls that is considered immoral, but every aspect of necromancy, from the in game book The Black Arts On Trial (You have no idea how many times I typed Dark Arts...).

Necromancy is inherently dangerous. One cannot 'dabble' in it. The simplest spell requires the spilling of blood, and immediately begins to corrupt the caster's soul. This is not conjecture, but simple fact. It is irresponsible of the Guild to teach and thereby encourage a sort of magickal study which has proven itself, time and time again, to bring nothing but terror and misery on the practitioner and world.

As soul trapping black souls falls under necromancy it will also corrupt the caster's soul. It's also counter to the will of Arkay and anyone knows messing with a god is a bad idea.

There are some things related to Necromancy that are acceptable, the conjuration spell such as Guardian Spirit can summon a spirit from the afterworld, but the difference is that the summoning is with consent unlike with necromancy.

  • I think the OP is asking why it's not considered immoral when an animal is soultrapped. Necromancy is not limited to humanoids, yet the immorality associated with it is. – Kevin Dec 9 '13 at 14:17
  • Thank you, that is an excellent answer which makes good use of in-game sources. I have one other question; in my edit I noted that Skyrim wiki claims that black souls remain sentient within the soul cairn for all eternity but white souls don't. I've tried really hard to find some justification for that, but I couldn't. Do you happen to know any in-game sources that supports or debunks this claim? – Twilight Sparkle Dec 10 '13 at 7:00
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    @TwilightSparkle there seems to be little reference to the Soul Cairn (only used in Dawnguard and in Battlespire), but as far as I can tell only souls trapped in a black soul gem (or directly by the Ideal Masters) are send to the Soul Cairn, and there's no real reason to use a black soul gem when a cheaper soul gem works. It can happen however: uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Soul_(cow) and uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Arvak . – Elva Dec 10 '13 at 10:38

The reason why is because when a soul is tapped in a Black Soul gem, the soul is transferred into a state of infinite torment within the Soul Cairn. They can no longer go to any other afterlife, and their souls will eventually be eaten by the Ideal Masters (rulers of the Soul Cairn).

However, other soul gems just absorb the life force of the creature, and after it is used, their soul goes on to whatever creature afterlife they go to.

It's not soul trapping that is immoral, it is using Black Soul Gems.

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