Star Wars Day: fans debate '˜philosophy' of film in Glasgow

As the country goes to the polls to vote in the council elections, Star Wars fans were debating the philosophy of the iconic film franchise.

Professor John Donaldson, University of Glasgow, Philosophy Dept, at the event.

Professor John Donaldson invited members of the public to his deep-dive into themes of destiny, justice and the metaphysics of ‘the force’ at a special day of lectures at Glasgow University.

Among the seminar-style topics of conversation, heated discussions over the natural and unnatural state of the jedi power, known throughout the Star Wars universe of The Force.

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This isn’t the first breakout lecture the Philosophy professor has held.

Professor John Donaldson, University of Glasgow, Philosophy Dept, at the event.

“We held a Simpsons lecture late last year and interest in it absolutely exploded,” he tells me.

Today, May 4th, is internationally recognised as Star Wars day, and the first spent without Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original trilogy of films, first released in 1977.

“This was the first time we’ve ran Star Wars and Philosophy: Destiny, Justice and the Metaphysics of The Force’,” says Professor Donaldson.

“It’s a philosophy course intended for members of the general public to give them a flavour - a taste - of a subject that they wouldn’t otherwise get access to.”

The course itself doesn’t contribute any credit to a greater degree or qualification, but the Glasgow teacher hopes that it’s been able to help members of the general public approach their favourite film series with a different perspective.

“In the course we explore three main philosophical themes; the first is free will and if we actually have any. In the Star Wars universe, the characters are constrained and have their fates and destinies directed by a mysterious thing called ‘the force’.”

Listening to their points, the St Andrews Building lecture theatre debated whether Jedi mind tricks were of natural properties or were in some way magical, and what extreme adaptation the body and mind would have to endure in order for our midichlorians to develop.

“We explored the apparent tension in characters with a destiny having the apparent freedom to choose,” he says.

Professor John Donaldson, University of Glasgow, Philosophy Dept, at the event.

Next, the lecturer tackled the struggle between responsibility and free will, linking the divergent paths of the light side and the sith.

“The standard thought is, when we hold people to be responsible for their actions in a moral way - we praise them or we blame them - but we can only do that justifiably if they’re free when they act,” explains Professor Donaldson.

“If we have reasons for doubting that people are free - and we might do in the Star Wars universe because of the force in particular - then we might also have reason to doubt that they are morally responsible.”

The class also spent time considering The Force in finer detail: “We thought about what the force ‘is’, we did the metaphysics of the force and enquired whether a distinction between natural or non-natural energy makes a difference.”