Star Wars' five philosophical questions

Published: 14 December 2017

May the Force be with you! The UofG launches a short online course in the Spring for fans of Stars Wars.

The University of Glasgow is launching a short online course in the Spring for fans of Stars Wars.

The short introductory course to philosophy will ask five philosophical questions to uncover the deeper meanings behind the films.
The announcement coincides with the premiere of the latest film in the franchise, The Last Jedi on 13 December 2017. The Last Jedi sees Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher reprise their roles as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.

Dr John Donaldson, a Tutor in Philosophy at the School of Humanities / Sgoil nan Daonnachdan and Centre for Open Studies / Ionad an Oilein Fhosgailte, has created the online short course by turning Star Wars into philosophy studies material.

He started a classroom-based course last Star Wars Day (May the fourth) and was surprised at who was interested.

Free will /moral responsibility

Dr Donaldson said: "We wanted to make philosophy more accessible and get people interested by focussing on pop culture. Lots of people from around the world were interested, so we created an online course."

Star Wars and Philosophy: Destiny, Justice and the Metaphysics of the Force introduces fans to the ideas of free will and the link between free will and moral responsibility. The short course is open to the general public but does not carry degree credits.

Dr Donaldson is looking forward to seeing the new film and exploring its philosophical themes: "The themes are fairly consistent and I expect they can be applied to Episode VIII."

He has outlined five big questions fans should ask themselves during The Last Jedi.

  1. If the characters in Star Wars have their destiny dictated to them by The Force, how can they choose to do anything themselves?
  2. Is it possible there might be room for manoeuvre for the characters when their overall destiny is directed by The Force?
  3. If the character is directed by The Force, how can they be morally responsible for what they do?
  4. Is The Force a natural, non-magical thing? Or is it a non-natural, magical thing?
  5. What's the difference between a natural, non-magical thing and a non-natural, magical thing?

If you are after the answers, Dr Donaldson recommends looking into his course when it launches in Spring 2018.

Poster branding for Star Wars - Last Jedie - with all due acknowledgements to Star Wars / Lucasfilm

First published: 14 December 2017

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