Heidegger and the Jedi

Movie marathons are, occasionally, very good for the mind. They relax and captivate. Last night I took part in a Star Wars marathon — we watched only the good movies, the originals. As I watched I consistently found myself in a phenomenological mood. I came to notice two big things.

First, there is a quasi-Heideggerian idea of destiny. The following clip should show this nicely:

Two ideas in Yoda’s speech seem in line with Heidegger. For one, we are told that “once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.” Here we can consider Heidegger and destiny — starting down a path. Once we go down a path, it is indeed very difficult to deviate from its course. Yet we might question Yoda’s wisdom in this. It seems we are to assume that the light side of the Force is then easy to deviate from. Therefore, it is not really the main way of destining and contributes to quite a different way of Being-in-the-World. To follow the light path is not the usual destiny apparent to Dasein at any moment. Proximally and for the most part, our mode of Being-in-the-World has to be the destining of the dark side.

The second item we can gather from Yoda is his proposition of knowledge. He says, “A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” We come back to Heidegger’s refusal of Descartes — there is no “Bridge Problem” because the res cogitans and the res extensa are not opposed entities. Rather, Dasein finds her or his  being as Being-in-the-World. One is effectively smeared with the “things” in-the-world, however they appear. Knowing, for Heidegger, then becomes a matter of separating those “things” from the self. It is not a Bridge Problem but a Hygiene Problem: How can Dasein remove those things from her or his concern, how could we look and not touch? Here Yoda fails as a Heideggerian (indeed the Jedi fail as Heideggerians). There is always necessarily concern contained within defense, so to pursue knowledge and defense is a hopeless task. Knowledge, as rigid objectivity, is of supreme difficulty.

Now, to continue an analysis of Star Wars through Heidegger, we must consider that George Lucas was pretty much a hippie. His distinctive focus on the Force (spirit/energy) should be proof enough of this. It could also be argued that the the Ewoks fighting the Empire is an allegory to the Vietnamese and the U.S. (Empires are bad). Though, as a side note, this critique would ignore some pretty racist overtones — notice how it still requires people rebelling from the Empire (hippies) to “save” the Ewoks. I would observe, with a smile, that the Ewoks weren’t really in any kind of danger until after the rebels (hippies) began interfering on Endor. The stormtroopers were just defending their shields from the rebels — the Ewoks didn’t really seem to care too much, and they weren’t getting killed until Han Solo (who was totally Jabba’s drug dealer) decided C3PO should get them involved.

Returning to Heidegger… it might be fun to consider the use of technology. Unfortunately, Lucas hits us with the old complaint that technology is bad. It is useful, but should be avoided — you can’t beat Darth with a blaster, you’ve got to solve your daddy issues to beat him. Heck, the technology of beauty — Art — appears only in the hip music of the bar, Jabba’s seraglio, and the Ewoks (primitive) dance. Thus, one of the main messages that arises from the trilogy is that love and compassion (which appear suspiciously like coincidence and being really lucky) will save humanity. Because technology will doom us unless its really close to nature.

Dang hippies.

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