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Monday, November 28, 2016

Reason Confronts Passion

Reason Confronts Passion
Honors Introduction to Philosophy Final Essay (Part One of Two)
28 November 2016. 1286 words.
C.G. Brooks

“There is no emotion, there is peace.”  –First line of the refined Jedi Code
“Peace is a lie, there is only passion.”  –First line of the Sith Code

Two Sides of the Force
One of the largest themes in the Star Wars Saga and its expanded universe is the battle between good and evil, personified chiefly through the Jedi and the Sith respectively. The Jedi are taught that calm and distanced decision-making are the key factors to living a good life. Conversely, the users of the dark side of the Force, the Sith, believe in the power of their emotions and strength that passion can bring them. (I will have to exclude the influence of the Force for this blog post’s actual purpose, though I will occasionally refer to it as a catch-all term for both Emotional and Logical ways of thinking, whereas each pole is aligned with one mindset.) This epic struggle between good and evil, logic/reasoning and emotion, is central to the setting of Star Wars in that galaxy far, far away. However, the confrontation has formed a battlefield much closer to home: within the minds of those on Earth. Those who have elected to contemplate the poles of Logic and Emotion have lived centuries before my time, so I will attempt to integrate this new-aged media franchise into my take on the broad subject.
The Sith are generally portrayed as stronger in their use of the Force, and this is an accurate representation for the emotional toll on consideration. Our emotions tend to be stronger ‘in the moment’ and loud enough to drown out most pleas for logical consideration wailed by the light side. However, many reflect upon their emotional actions and wish they had remained logical; in this way, the Jedi mindset is weaker but longer-lasting. I think this also accurately represents the nature of our decisions and with which gut feeling we listen to most. The difficulty is in balancing the two practices, though other methods are often employed by those who care about the battle itself.
Many humans throughout our short history have ignored the struggle between the two poles altogether. ‘Going with your gut’ is a go-to plan for most, and for many it works out just fine overall. There are some, however, who believe that our natural tendency to stray toward the dark side should be corrected, and of course we have attempted to do so. These Jedi are in the minority; however, the argument for Reason is strong and should be considered with the methodical mind it takes to orchestrate the lifestyle.

It seems I am one of those Jedi whose natural inclination to look for Logic wormed its way into my overt thought processes. I feel that most of my life has been driven by careful and thorough reasoning, or at least more than the average person, and in recent years my focus to be as logical as possible has had a sort of pull over every major action I have decided upon.
I was late to join the dating scene in high school, but it seemed I was a top resource for dating advice, undoubtedly for my cool head and objective thinking rather than any firsthand experiences. I enjoyed offering advice to those who needed it, and I never missed an opportunity to preach the merits of what I dubbed ‘the light side’ and ‘the Jedi way’ over their opposite counterparts. I noticed that most cases of listening to one’s heart led to it becoming broken, whereas the discipline to listen to one’s mind led to a short headache at worst (though regret is another strong tool of the dark side). Because of these observations I decided to weed out the emotional actions as often as I could manage. My friends, however, usually went with their emotions.
With logic as my sole influence I would surely become happier in the grand scheme, though never as happy in a particular instance as a Sith. I saw this as acceptable, though challenging. Humans are emotionally driven by nature; therefore, as long as my will power was strong enough, I could overcome the pull towards the dark that so many others naturally gravitate towards. Unfortunately, when the time finally came to put my teachings to the test, it did not take long to succumb to the allure of the dark side.
My heart was far louder than I anticipated, and eventually my entire mind was clouded by emotion. For first three quarters of high school I was working towards the mantle of ‘Darth,’ until I eventually broke up with yet another crazy girlfriend and resolved to take a break. Nearly three years later do I now realize how clouded I had actually become, yet my resolve to stay on the light side has definitely become changed.

The Knights of the Old Republic
        I was not the first to distinguish this dichotomy of logical and emotional ways of thought. Philosophers for centuries have debated the pros and cons for each side, advocated one or disputed the other. Plato and Aristotle saw Reason as superior to Emotion; Reason is what sets humans apart from animals, and this mindset influenced philosophers for centuries. Descartes is a sort of Jedi Master within my parable; Descartes was enraptured with logic and reasoning, and he believed Reason is far more applicable than any other option available to humans, eventually deciding to throw out as many irrational thoughts as possible.
Advocating Emotion’s merits was Hume, who recognized that everything we do is influenced by our feelings and is only backed up with logic after we have made up our minds. Hume famously stated that, “Reason is a slave to the passions.” Like the opening line of the Sith Code, Darth Hume advocates the inescapable influence of passion and emotion upon our lives. Hobbes also recognized the power of passion, though he acknowledged it as an ineffective lifestyle for the human race.
Plato’s version of this dichotomy was a chariot pulled by two horses, one aligned with emotion and the other to logic. It is the task of the charioteer to reign the horses into submission and force the pair to work together as dictated by the charioteer. Through trial, error, research, and a bit of reluctance I have come to the conclusion that Plato’s point of view is the most applicable. Humans are, as Hume put it, enslaved by their passions; however, if this alone was the case we would not have such a strong, innate desire to follow the reason of law.

“Trust Your Instincts”
Humans like to categorize things, to organize, to solve whatever puzzles of the universe we believe we can comprehend. We enjoy order and, through that, logic. Some individuals fall to the light amidst a majority of the dark, but their philosophical nature does not merit exceptional wisdom or credibility. When creating a code for such a vast amount of people, it is most applicable to reign the horses together as Plato suggested and make both poles work together to suit the individual. Flexibility is key to such a doctrine, and rigidity is its downfall, especially in our modern era.
No one side is definitively superior to the other, though a majority of one over the other may be more practical for most individuals. It seems cliché to combine the two poles together and call it the best option, but that is, in many cases for philosophy, often the best answer, if not the right one. It just so happens that for the majority they should “concentrate on the moment. Feel, don’t think.” But everyone should have the discipline to look at their situation objectively then trust their instincts.


  1. This is absolutely breathtaking. I've been a Star Wars fanatic since I was a small child, but I have been irritated by the high amount of individuals who claim to love Star Wars to simply fulfill a geeky trend. Your intelligent correlation between Star Wars and philosophy is proof that you are integrous as a Star Wars fan.

  2. "Humans are, as Hume put it, enslaved by their passions" - More precisely, Hume said (in direct rebuttal of Plato) reason is and SHOULD BE the slave of the passions. Without passions we'd not know where and how to apply our reason, he thought, nor even want to. I don't think Hume would agree, though, that we should "Feel, don’t think." We should do both.

    Have you had a look at "Star Wars & Philosophy"? - https://www.amazon.com/Star-Wars-Philosophy-Powerful-Possibly-ebook/dp/B003S3RL2Q