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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Light and Dark

Light and Dark
Honors Introduction to Philosophy Final Essay (Part Two of Two)
6 December 2016. 1258 words; 2544 total words.

C.G. Brooks

Opening Crawl
In my last blog post, Reason Confronts Passion, I discussed the age-old argument debating upon which mindset is better suited for us as a society and as individuals: driven by logic or emotion. I used the lens of Star Wars to make it a bit more palatable for myself and for the readers, so I will use the same lens here, though on different philosophical issues. . .


“Pray I don’t alter it any further.”
The expanded universe of Star Wars, now known as Legends, includes the fan-made content that became the decorations for the foundation the original trilogy set. Fallen Jedi and users of both sides of the Force are only a comic or novel away, loosening the definition of right and wrong for Force users and the average galactic Joe. Of course, Jedi and Sith are the poster boys for good and evil, but the balance between them is often the chief struggle of some Legendary settings and the protagonists themselves. When the prequel trilogy was added to the saga, we realized how out-of-balance the Force was. A temple full of Jedi believed there were no Sith left, only the occasional being who stumbled upon the seduction of the Dark Side (note that just because one uses the dark side or the light, it does not make one a Sith or Jedi, respectively; this was heavily misinterpreted by the fans after viewing the most recent installment to the saga, The Force Awakens).
The Jedi sought peace and harmony, yet also a balance in the Force. Their use of the Light Side would, therefore, constitute usage of the dark somewhere in the galaxy. The Jedi may have believed that their moral decisions were balanced by natural occurrences. Two types of evil are distinguished by philosophers: natural and moral evil. Moral evil is the result of a sentient creature’s choice to create evil, such as when Darth Vader slaughtered the Free Ryloth terrorists at the beginning of Paul S. Kemp’s novel Lords of the Sith. Natural evil is facilitated by non-sentient choices or events, such as a sandstorm on Tatooine or when the Sando Aqua Monster on Naboo ate the Colo Claw Fish that was pursuing Qui-gon, Obi-wan, and Jar Jar.
I believe if the Jedi truly believed in a balanced Force without Sith to oppose them, they must have reasoned that natural evil would tip the scales towards the Dark Side. The Jedi would then use moral good to maintain balance of the Force. Anakin Skywalker, Qui-gon believed, was the Chosen One destined to bring balance to the Force. By joining the Sith and wiping out most of the Jedi, Anakin, then Darth Vader, did bring the Force, in terms of good and evil, back near balance. Two Sith, Vader and Sidious, were matched by two Jedi, Obi-wan and Yoda. We now know there were surviving Jedi roaming throughout the galaxy, but perhaps those users of the Light Side also evened out the moral evil being wrought by the Galactic Empire.
By the time the original trilogy begins we currently know of only one other living Force user beyond the four mentioned above, who was introduced in The Force Awakens. When Darth Vader is converted away from the dark and kills his master, that leaves two beings in the known galaxy trained in the ways of the Force. Luke Skywalker, a practitioner of the Light Side, and Snoke, a master of the Dark Side. For this reason, I believe that Anakin Skywalker did bring the Force as close to balance as it had been in the now canonical story line.
Many years of galactic democracy and an order of Jedi were wiped out and replaced with an empire much farther on the scale to quickly realign that aspect of the delicate balance. While the republic was only mildly good, the Empire is wholeheartedly evil. Two Sith and a user of the dark are then matched with two Jedi and a destined user of the light. While the Jedi may have believed in moral good, Anakin’s moral evil is what actually brings the galaxy back to balance.

“I wish that were so.”
Even though a ‘chosen one’ may seem far-fetched in the determination of galaxy-wide balance, a similar point of view can be observed by the Manichees. Saint Augustine spent most of his early life with this Christian sect who believed two Platonic views of evil. First, evil is chiefly located within the body, and second, evil is a necessary aspect of existence. While Plato believed the origin of evil is the material of the universe itself, the Manichees, like Qui-gon, believed that the will of a single person can determine the existence of evil.
When George Lucas originally envisioned the Emperor, he saw him as evil incarnate. Darth Vader became evil whereas Darth Sidious (the Emperor) represents evil itself. If the Emperor is seen as a personification of the Dark Side of the Force and is therefore also responsible for all the lesser evils throughout the galaxy, Darth Sidious would be seen as a true Manichean evil. Augustine disbelieved this point of view and instead trusted in one supremely good God, the creator of all things, good, bad, and everything in between. Because of this take on God, and assuming the evil Emperor Palpatine is in fact not the manifestation of evil itself, Augustine would argue that Darth Sidious, Darth Vader, Darth Maul, and all other sources of evil converted themselves to evil through free will. They are responsible for their own falls, whether it be a Sith Lord’s fall to evil or a smuggler’s fall to villainy.

“It is your Destiny.”
According to the Christian faith, pride is one of the original sins. Pride motivates those to do things they are not entitled to and to desire more than they deserve. Pride is a driving force for Anakin as well as many evil-doers throughout the galaxy far, far away as well as here on Earth. Augustine was particularly fascinated with the idea self-inflicted bad decisions. The Manichean may claim that Anakin fell to the Dark Side because Palpatine twisted him towards the dark; however, the older Augustine realized that this point of view means that no one is responsible for their own actions. Anakin freely chose to turn to the Dark Side, albeit after some rough life events.
Why then does the original trilogy end with Darth Vader acknowledging the errors in his ways? What makes this fall to the dark so much worse than remaining in the light? I believe our need for closure, and the desire for the classic Hollywood ending, is what makes the (momentary) ending of the Star Wars Saga feel great, though not accurate. We know that with Luke comes light and with light comes dark and with dark comes Snoke, and eventually Kylo Ren. In the real world most people, if not all, want that Hollywood-style happy ending for themselves, though our definitions may vary. Regardless of the logic and reasoning that our happy ending cannot be the ultimate end, we instead simply hope that the light shines through the dark long enough for us to get our fill.

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If you want more philosophical connections to Star Wars check out this book.
Also, this novel is great for anyone who loves Sci-Phi and/or the implications of some great movies.

To read about the Christian God as a gamer, check out this blog post.
And if you’re struggling with the acceptance of your inevitable death, read this blog post.

1 comment:

  1. Funny, how Hollywood got to lay proprietary claim to good and happy endings - as though it invented or bought the copyright to virtue and rectitude. What would Plato and Augustine say about that?

    Thanks for the links. May the force be with you.

    ReplyDelete