Movies

The Force Awakens the philosophers

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.

It raised 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 Prof George Backen, professor of philosophy at Adams State University in Colorado.

PERFECT MIX

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

FANDOM: Fans dressed up as characters from the movie franchise at the For the Love of The Force Star Wars fan convention in Manchester, northern England.

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 Prof Kevin Decker, professor of philosophy at Eastern Washington University and co-editor of the book The Ultimate Star Wars And Philosophy.

Prof 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.

"If, for example, The Force Awakens means all kinds of people wake up suddenly being able to use The Force who have never had any training or knowledge of it, that would be a fundamental shake-up in the Star Wars universe," Prof Decker said.

Philosophers debate whether human-like droids such as R2-D2 are conscious or self-aware, and how that could be tested. The Imperial Stormtroopers have long been likened to Nazi armies, and many feminists view Princess Leia's gold metal bikini and metal collar captivity in Return Of The Jedi as embodying a tyrannical ideal of feminine beauty.

College philosophy courses based on Star Wars are hugely popular with students, said Prof Backen.

Star Wars