Star Wars and Philosophy
Editors: Kevin S. Decker and Jason T. Eberl
Published By: Open Court
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I have been having lengthy philosophical discussions about Star Wars with fellow fans for many years. Call me a nerd, but I have found religious and mythological references in every single movie in the Star Wars series. Iíve always wondered if George Lucas meant for these films to somewhat mirror events described in the Bible with a space faring twist. One day, while perusing the bargain book section in Barnes & Noble, I discovered that I was not alone. Apparently other Star Wars fans had been pondering many philosophical turns in the Star Wars galaxy and their musings had been compiled into one book: Star Wars and Philosophy.
Edited by Kevin S. Decker and Jason T. Eberl, Star Wars and Philosophy features seventeen philosophical studies written by philosophy professors and the like. They study quite a variety of subjects. Part I features The Philosophical Messages of Star Wars and tackles such subjects as destiny, stoicism, Far Eastern cultural references and moral ambiguity. Part II features the ethical questions in the Star Wars universe and discusses Jedi virtues, evil, environmental ethics and the ethics of cloning and future wars. Part III tackles the metaphysical and technological aspects of Star Wars and features such subjects as Heidegger and the Philosophy of Technology in Star Wars, the concept of droids and their role in the Star Wars universe, the casual way in which Jedi use the Force and Hegelís Philosophy of Spirit as it pertains to Star Wars. Part IV takes on Truth, Faith and a Galactic Society and discusses the Hegelian struggle for recognition, government in the Star Wars universe, the humanizing of technology in the film, the irony of lying Jedi and honest Sith and faith through the eyes of Luke Skywalker.
I have to say that I was a bit skeptical about Star Wars and Philosophy when I first picked it up. The chapter titles made me laugh, as did some of the excerpts I read, but I wasnít sure if I would enjoy this book or be bored to tears by it. I had taken philosophy in college and, after a slow start, had actually enjoyed the subject, doing rather well in the class. That, coupled with the fact that I have had some of the very discussions found in this book with other fans of the films, cinched it for me and I decided to buy the book.
I soon discovered that I had nothing to worry about. Despite several tongue in cheek references in the forward, the book contained extremely intelligent discussions of the various philosophical points in the Star Wars films (Episodes I to VI only). Each essay contains references to books by such philosophical greats as Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Hegel, Heidegger, St. Aquinas, St. Augustine and more. Each point discussed was well thought out and contained a great deal of supporting evidence for the authorís point of view.
I enjoyed each chapter, most especially the discussion of lying Jedi and truth-telling Sith and the religious parallels that can be made between events in Star Wars and various religions, discussions I have had often with other fans. I found James Lawlerís comparison of Anakinís love for Padmť to that of Faust and Gretchen to be particularly interesting, as I had never thought of it in that way before, but found Lawlerís explanation to be spot on. The only chapter I found fault with was Jerome Donnellyís essay on the humanizing of technology in The Empire Strikes Back. I felt he was reading more into things than were actually there. I found I completely disagreed with his point of view on the subject.
Most books featuring compilations of essays or short stories feature a section about the authors, but Star Wars and Philosophy does this with a twist. Entitled Masters of the Jedi Council, this section features facts about each author mixed with a variety of tongue in cheek Star Wars references, a very cute touch that kept me laughing.
All-in-all, Star Wars and Philosophy was a surprisingly intriguing and enjoyable read. It discusses so many interesting points and ironies in the Star Wars films that I would even recommend this to someone with no background in philosophy. I had once scoffed at the various books I had seen discussing philosophy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and more, but after reading Star Wars and Philosophy, I find myself a huge fan of this new genre.