The Force: Magical or Non-Magical, Five Philosophical Questions

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I’ve been meaning to get to this for some time. Philosophy and Star Wars (philosophy and popular culture) has always been something I utterly love. Last December, the BBC ran a story “Five philosophical questions to ask about Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Philosopher John Donaldson poses these questions:

1. If the characters in Star Wars have their destiny dictated to them by The Force, how can they choose to do anything themselves?

2. Is it possible there might be room for manoeuvre for the characters when their overall destiny is directed by The Force?

3. If the character is directed by The Force, how can they be morally responsible for what they do?

4. Is The Force a natural, non-magical thing? Or is it a non-natural, magical thing?

5. What’s the difference between a natural, non-magical thing and a non-natural, magical thing?

Ignoring the petulant debates surrounding The Last Jedi, I think addressing these questions can be a fascinating exercise. 

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The Force doesn’t dictate to any creature, it doesn’t direct their overall actions, and every creature is morally responsible for their own actions. When a Jedi, Sith, or Force-sensitive creature experiences The Force, they glimpse the myriad possibilities of their and others actions. Such a glimpse is overwhelming; therefore, a creature’s own bias, emotion, and knowledge inform how they interpret or give emphasis to what is seen. It is easy to come to a fatalist conclusion one that would absolve the individual from any responsibility but such a conclusion is erroneous. Every possibility glimpsed exists by virtue of individual choices.

The difficulty with maneuvering this aspect of The Force is that a creature’s awareness of possibilities then influences and alters those possibilities generating new and different avenues. A creature can get lost in a sort of feedback loop inadvertently or unconsciously bringing about a conclusion due to their anxiety, fear, overconfidence, or inaction/action. The knowledge The Force provides can be maddening because it presents all mutable possibilities at once. It would be perhaps most productive to consider The Force akin to the notion of Khora (I suspect Chorology: On Beginning in Plato’s Timaeus by John Sallis would be the most compelling). But what is certain is no action is directed by The Force; it does not independently act and cannot direct an individual any more than a path actively or consciously directs a walker. 

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Because the myriad if not infinite possibilities The Force presents only exists by virtue of individual action, each individual is responsible for the impetus of each possibility both singly and collectively. Every creature whether Force-sensitive or not is morally responsible for their own actions as well as their participation in collective action.

Following from the notion of Khora, The Force is natural and non-magical but exists primarily outside creature experience. Force-sensitive creatures are able to reveal to themselves and others glimpses of The Force. Experiencing themselves as creators of The Force, embedded in it, and affected by it, Force-sensitive creatures can act in such a way that appears magical to non-Force-sensitive creatures.

A ‘natural, non-magical thing’ is a shorthand term for things experienced by non-Force-sensitive creatures. Such creatures would see Force-sensitive creatures as wielding a ‘non-natural magical thing’ (The Force) due to their ignorance of it. In fact, Force-sensitive creatures are merely aware and consciously involved with a ‘natural, non-magical thing.’

 

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