'Star Wars' proves treasure trove for philosophers

Fri Dec 4, 2015 12:05pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

NEW YORK (Reuters) - As any philosopher will tell you, there is a lot more to "Star Wars" than a bunch of spaceships, lightsabers and princesses.

Rich in mythology, symbolism and theology, the movie franchise set in a galaxy far, far away has for decades proved a treasure trove for earthbound philosophers, raising issues such as the nature of good and evil, free will and determinism, the prophecy of the chosen one, and the true nature of The Force.

"'Star Wars' is very powerful because it helps us understand ourselves in the light and dark side of The Force. We feel this in our lives when we have this pull of immediate gratification but a desire to achieve long term goals," said George Backen, professor of philosophy at Adams State University in Colorado.

"George Lucas hit on a perfect mixture of myth, Flash Gordon, Westerns and Japanese culture, and it really resonates with people," Backen added.

For more than 30 years, academics, students and people of faith have used 'Star Wars' as a springboard to explore themes like moral ambiguity, father-son relationships, concepts of feminine beauty and the yearning for something better in life.

Now they are anticipating new topics to explore with the arrival on Dec. 18 of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

"I wonder if 'The Force Awakens' theme is a kind of post 9/11 take, where former certainties are rattled and things we thought were reliable are disrupted?" said Kevin Decker, professor of philosophy at Eastern Washington University and co-editor of the book "The Ultimate Star Wars and Philosophy."

Decker, who has seen the six movies more than 100 times, will also be looking for any radical changes to the concept of The Force as the ultimate arbiter of who is good and who is bad.   Continued...

People dressed as Storm troopers stand at a bar as they pose for a photograph holding cans of beer at the  'For The Love of The Force' Star Wars fan convention in Manchester, northern England, December 4, 2015.  REUTERS/Phil Noble