Forums > Senate Hall archive > SH Archive/Canon and Morality

(The portion of this discussion between the lines was copied from Talk:Light side of the Force. The topic may go beyond the scope of that article, and this forum seemed more appropriate)

Throughout this article, the Potentium is described as "misguided". Would it be better to say something like the Jedi interpretted the Potentium as being misguided? ~ Jaywin

  • True, not neutral. That fix seems good. -Fnlayson 15:51, 28 May 2007 (UTC)
    • What about the damnable Power of the Jedi Sourcebook and its OOU description of the Potentium as misguided? DarthMRN 21:09, 28 May 2007 (UTC)
      • Face it, people, the Potentium is evil. Not only does Vergere show this, it's even stated clearly in canon. Evir Daal 06:57, 29 May 2007 (UTC)

Some important points are being raised here. Specifically, what is the relationship between canon and declaring what is good and evil? The issue, in a sense, revolves around a fact-value distinction. We can certainly agree that canon is the last word on what the Potentium "is" within the Star Wars universe, (e.g., a morally relativistic and/or solipsistic-like philosophy). We can even agree that canon is the last word on how characters within the Star Wars universe "valued" the Potentium, (e.g., the Jedi believed that the Potentium philosophy was "evil" or "misguided"). However, what I would argue, (and I believe this is the crux of the matter), no one can canonize the value of this perspective to the reader. In other words, as a reader, I am free (along with everyone else) to make my own value-judgement on the merits (or lack there of) of this particular philosophy. When this article states explicitly that the Potentium is "evil" or "misguided", then that says to me that a particular philosophical position (i.e., set of values) is canon to the reader, which is unjustifiable. Thus, my argument is that any value judgements made about the Potentium in this article should be explicitly stated as being from the perspective of the characters within the Star Wars universe. Jaywin 16:06, 29 May 2007 (UTC)

  • No, since the SW universe is fictional, it can have an objective definition of good and evil. Compare Dark Side/Light Side to the alignment system in D & D, if you are familiar with that. A character may view himself any way he likes, but that does not really say anything about his alignment. The inherent morality of the campaign world assigns him his alignment, judging his actions and intentions by its own set of standards (and in the SW case, this would be those of Lucasfilm). So just as a Blackguard in D & D still is evil even if he thinks himself good, a Potentium follower in SW remains evil and/or misguided even if she thinks she's good. While this might not be entirely realistic, that's how it is, and we're supposed to follow canon. Think of it as the Force's own judgment of the Potentium, if you will. Evir Daal 07:03, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for the response. However, even though there's much of what I agree with in your statements, I don't believe your response addressed the point I was trying to make. This is probably my fault, since my above statement, "no one can canonize the value of this perspective to the reader," was a bit ambiguous. Let me rephrase it this way:

No one can canonize the value of this perspective, (or the value of any perspective, for that matter), from the perspective of the reader.

Consider the following set of statements.

  1. An article states that the Potentium is "evil" and "misguided".
  2. A person who reads the article likes the Potentium perspective.
  3. Does that imply that the reader is "evil" or "misguided"?

I would assume that most people would intuitively say that the answer to statement #3 is, "No, of course not". However, I would argue that the manner in which statement #1 is framed implicitly suggests that the answer to #3 is "Yes".

Now consider this set of statements:

  1. An article states that the Potentium is "evil" and "misguided", from the perspective of the Jedi.
  2. A person who reads the article likes the Potentium perspective.
  3. Does that implicitly mean that the reader is free to decide for themselves whether or not they agree with the Jedi perspective?

I would assume that most people would intuitively say that the answer to statement #3 is, "Yes, of course". However, I would argue that the manner in which statement #1 is framed implicitly suggests that the answer to #3 is "Yes" as well.

Though this all may seem a bit overboard to some, I think these questions that I'm posing capture the spirit of George Lucas' intentions of what he was trying to accomplish with Star Wars. Star Wars is a morality play framed as a Campbellian Hero's Journey. I've heard Lucas state on more than one occassion that he hoped that his films would facilitate, in part, philosophical reflection and discussion on the part of the viewers. So my overall general question is this:

Here at Wookieepedia, should the manner in which articles with moral/ethical statements be framed in such a way as to capture the spirit of Lucas' intentions? If so, does the manner in which a moral/ethical statement is framed help facilitate or impede philosophical reflection and discussion on the part of the readers? Jaywin 14:02, 30 May 2007 (UTC)
  • Complicated question you raise there. My thoughts on the matter is that since we can only guess at the authors intent, and since different authors clearly have different intents, there is no way we can write articles in a manner that helps the reader interpret what is written in a way that the official folks want them to. Furthermore, we are simply an encyclopedia. The sources themselves are the pieces of art. They are responsible for making readers think or feel this or that. Our job is simply to record the facts in a cold, hard manner. On the subject of morality, there is a stong indication that the GFFA has a god-imposed value system. When things are explitly stated to be good or evil in a canonical source, we must look at the source of the statement within the source. Is it a character? If so, then that is simply the opinion of that character. Does not qualify. Is it the author from the godlike perspective? Then yes. According to the inherent SW Alignment system, the object or subject in question is good or evil according to the fictional value standards of canon. In the latter case, like the opening crawl of AHN declearing the Empire evil, or the Power of the Jedi Sourcebook declaring the Potentium misguided, these are canonical god-perspective statements. As recorders of canon, we are obliged to have them in our articles. If the reader disagrees, he is free to do so. Everyone has their own take of the GFFA, as it should be. But the official standpoint, as long as it has been explicitly stated, remains unchanged.

On a related note, I see where you are coming from. A lot of articles are full of biased descriptions and statements, based solely on the editors interpretation of the topic in question, without any explicit support by canon. I would worry more about it, but since we have taken to supersourcing every sentence on the site, I'm confident these flaws will be ironed out.

Also, does the Potentium article actually say the philosophy is evil? Misguided according to canon, yes, but contrary to Evir Daal's assertion, the actions or consequences of something does not qualify for calling it good or evil in a NPOV article. DarthMRN 21:13, 30 May 2007 (UTC)

    • "Corrupt and misguided" implies evil, at least IMO. I confess, though, that I may be biased in this question, since I myself view the Potentium as evil (based on its great similarity to classical Dark Side teachings). But I try as best I can to keep articles I edit NPOV, and have never suggested to add "evil" to its description.

More generally, my views on canon morality pretty much coincide with DarthMRN's. He summed up about all that I were going to say. Evir Daal 09:47, 31 May 2007 (UTC)

Only a Sith Deals With AbsolutesEdit

Very thoughtful responses above. Hmmm....Let's try this little exercise to see if we can illustrate some possible complexities and paradoxes that can arise when we try to canonize value judgements:

  1. In Episode III, (i.e., a G-Canon source), Obi-Wan states: Only a Sith deals with absolutes.
  2. "Canon" is an absolutist position.
  3. "Canon" states that the Sith are evil, (i.e., an absolutist value-judgement).
  4. Thus, are canonical perspectives on value-judgements evil (including absolutist value-judgements on the Sith and the Potentium)?
  5. Of course, this last statement brings into question the paradoxical nature of the "goodness" or "evilness" of Obi-Wan's statement, since his statement itself is an absolute.
Jaywin 13:40, 31 May 2007 (UTC)
  • I fail to see the point of this exercise. Did anyone suggest we should canonize value judgments? Only the official peeps can do that, and we are forced to bow and scrape to their whims on the matter. As for the example with Obi-Wan, that may have been a statement from a G-canon source, but it was made by a character. Such a statement would only constitute the truth is there was nothing to evidence otherwise. But since there are both opinions and evidence to show Obi's statement to be false, it does not consitute canon. If the opening crawl of RotS had said: "Only Sith deals in absolutes" on the other hand, we would have had to adhere accordingly. In stead it took a fairly value-neutral stance by saying 'there are heroes on both sides' and 'evil is everywhere'. DarthMRN 14:05, 31 May 2007 (UTC)
    • I would even go so far as to say that a character's opinion wouldn't necessarily constitute the truth even if there was no evidence otherwise. The point here is to distinguish between a character's IU views and the morality of the GFFA. In the Galaxy, as opposed to the real world or many other (in my view more realistic) sci-fi/fantasy settings, Darkness and Light are akin to laws of nature, much like, say, the laws of physics, and remain the same in spite of what characters choose to believe. I try to pseudo-rationalise this in IU terms as an aspect of the Force, which imposes its own morality upon the Galaxy, but ultimately, this is specifically because GL and the chaps at Lucas Licensing made it that way, and thus we're stuck with it if we want to portray canon. Much as I don't want to describe, say, the Empire as "evil" (as I find it unencyclopedic to make value judgments in articles, and besides I'm not so sure the New Republic did a much better job anyway), I have to. Evir Daal 06:53, 1 June 2007 (UTC)
      • How do you mean? If you have a character's statement saying one thing, and you lack explicit proof to the contrary, be it another character's statement, a god-perspective statement from an author, or simply a contradiction with physical fact seen in another source, then saying they are wrong is purely fan speculation. For example, back in the 80's GL obviously intended the dark side to be some mythological evil which turned good guys bad on its own, but when taking into account the current state of the EU and the PT, the dark side has merely become a driving factor which must be added to certain life experiences and personal rationalization for the good guy to become evil, much like in real life. If Quinlan Vos starts blabbering about how he is justified in his deeds of darkness, not having fallen, simply ducking deeper into shadow, we cannot as editors use what we assume to have been GL's intent for the dark side back when he made the movies, as basis for questioning the canon of Quinlan's statement. The way things are with the EU, we have no choice but to rely on hard, solid proof in our reasoning, wihtout regard for precieved author intent, or our personal impression of the individual piece of art, even if that is how the artist wanted us to percieve it. Like for example the inherent morality you speak of. We can assume there is one based on what a lot of different media convey, and what that morality consists of, but without explicit proof we have nothing to counter a canon statement with. DarthMRN 13:48, 1 June 2007 (UTC)

ResolutionsEdit's starting to sink in where you guys are coming from! I have a couple of ideas (that perhaps might be more appropriate for Forum:Consensus track), that might be of interest for further discussion:

  1. We discuss the possibility of amending Wookieepedia:Canon policy and Wookieepedia:Neutral point of view to more clearly articulate the issue of how value-judgements are appropriately dealt with at Wookieepedia. (It might only take a sentence or two.)
  2. What about creating a forum for discussing the philosophical (e.g., ethical) aspects of Star Wars, (e.g., Was the New Republic a flawed political system and if so, why?)? Or would this be a violation of Wookieepedia:What Wookieepedia is not? Jaywin 12:44, 1 June 2007 (UTC)
  • I am very much for the first one. Impressions of how things really are isn't the same as explicit proof that they are that way. Though, with the supersourcing going on, I wonder if the problem hasn't been resolved already. When forced to cite every claim, including biased ones will be exceedingly difficult. The second one I'm opposed to. That is exactly the sort of forum activity that should be had elsewhere IMO. Though, with the Knowledge Bank in place, the door has been opened... DarthMRN 13:28, 1 June 2007 (UTC)
    • On the other hand though, the Knowledge Bank has proven useful in making us think of new details that we wouldn't otherwise have. I don't see a Philosophy forum really helping us improving articles like that. DarthMRN 13:28, 1 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Number one would seem appropriate to me. IMHO, even Lucas' opinions are just that - opinions, and thus shouldn't have this kind of impact on us (though they do at present). The second would be fun, but I doubt it would pass the policy. Commander Daal Imperial Emblem 13:36, 1 June 2007 (UTC)