Saga It Is Your Destiny: What Does Star Wars Have To Say About Fate?

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn, Nov 26, 2013.

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  1. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn The Other Saga Moderator

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    Of course I would. I'm not arguing that "will" doesn't exist or isn't a convenient construction, just that it's only part of the larger system. One can (to some extent) will what one does (without getting into Ben Libet and the Readiness Potential, etc). However, even with that being the case, one cannot at bottom will what one wills. Does that make sense? Even people who do harmful things (such as your hypothetical mugger), are on some level also victims of brain chemistry and circumstance that led them there. As such, I think it's better to consider that when dealing with them, people in general, and the world at large. I daresay that seems to me to be a Jedi-like approach.

    Now see, that's what I'm trying to determine. It seems possible to construct a story where there is a prophecy, but it's vague, it's only one of a thousand predictions and happens to be the one the characters pay attention to, etc. In such a case, I don't think destiny would have to damage the story, because (as in real life) none of the characters could be sure of what would occur. I'm not sure the PT works that way, though.

    Here's something else to consider: Does the fact that Luke and Yoda saw the "city in the clouds" with Han and Leia there before the events at Cloud City happened diminish Han's agency in picking the destination? If no, what is the difference between that and the prophecy (that's an honest question)? Sometimes it feels different to me too, but I can't quite articulate why. Is it the fact that Anakin knows about the prophecy?

    The difference may lie in a different place than destiny altogether, in the idea that Anakin was the Chosen One - and this singular title refers to being created by the universe itself directly, in reaction to worldly power balances. There's a metaphor I think I've used before: in the OT, think of the Force like the wind with which the Force-users can sail. Only they know how to do it, and they can sense it. But regardless of what they do, it will keep blowing in pretty much the same way - it's on a different level of scale than they are. Whatever politics and group dynamics are at work in the galaxy, the Force is part of nature. In the PT, it's like the Force-users can control the weather (knocking the Force out of balance) and said weather also cares about the workings of mortal creatures in the galaxy (creating Anakin). Maybe it's not the application of destiny that reduces the sense of character agency, but the greater application in the PT of the idea that the Force has (and needs to have) a will that participates in galactic workings and politics.
    Last edited by Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn, Nov 30, 2013
  2. only one kenobi Jedi Grand Master

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    Thanks for the clarification. I have seen plenty who would argue that will is entirely illusory; it would be churlish to argue against the concept of constraints upon will but... there must, surely, be a level of responsibility inherent in our dealings with each other and, as a function of that there must be an agreement that if one desires a right (a freedom) one must be willing to accept that responsibility within the framework of that right. In other words, there must be a point beyond which an act is seen to be the responsibility of the perpetrator.


    Hmmm... That, then, isn't 'destiny'. It is the nature of the fulfilling of the prophecy as being destined that is the issue, as I see it. And, as I said, that Anakin is born of a virgin birth highlights that aspect (ie he is produced for that purpose; he has a pre-ordained purpose, the essence of a pre-destined fate)

    The events at Cloud City are pre-meditated by Vader. He is using his actions, and planning his actions in order to draw Luke to him.

    That last line I disagree with. I don't agree that the Force has to have a will, and - in fact - the supposition of a human like will upon the Force is somewhat anathema to my understanding of it and, indeed, would seem to contradict the concept of free will. I see the Force as...ambivalent/disinterested - not even capable of what we would term interest. I like the metaphor of the wind, btw. A very good one, akin to the flow of a river in many ways. I find the whole idea of our problems/errors being sorted out by some over-arching nannying consciousness relegates human agency/choice/responsibility to meaningless-ness.
  3. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

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    It isn't exactly undermined. Anakin had a chance to do what was right, but opted out against it. But fate has a way of working itself out and lo and behold, here comes Luke, who has a different viewpoint from his mentors. He believes in his father and through his beliefs, he is able to help his father make the right choice. Luke is Anakin's second chance at making things right. He knows that he has done terrible things and doesn't believe that he can come back from it, but Luke's faith and love proves to be stronger. It is another example of lifeforms working together for a mutual advantage. Luke wants to save his father so that he would be spared a life of servitude and be himself again. Anakin wants to save his son so that he can live the life that he deserves. But to do that, the root cause of it all must be eliminated.

    Indeed, Lucas says as much. Going I-VI, you don't know if Luke will kill his father and Palpatine, or if Anakin will come back from being evil and do it. You just know that there will be a conclusion in ROTJ.

    Except it goes against the films and Lucas intentions. Qui-gon says that quieting their thoughts, they can hear the will of the Force through the Midichlorians. Not to mention that Anakin is created by the Midichlorians and the Force, then the Force is interested in what goes on with the living beings.

    Then there is this from Lucas.


    "I would like to see our society mature, and become more rational and more knowledge-based, less emotion-based. I'd like to see education play a larger role in our daily lives, have people come to a larger understanding—a “bigger picture” understanding—of how we fit into the world, and how we fit into the universe. Not necessarily thinking of ourselves, but thinking of others.

    Whether we're going to accomplish this, I'm not sure. Obviously, people have a lot of different dreams of where America should be, and where it should fit into things. Obviously, very few of them are compatible, and very few of them are very compatible with the laws of nature. Human nature means battling constantly between being completely self-absorbed and trying to be a communal creature. Nature makes you a communal creature. The ultimate single-minded, self-centered creature is a cancer cell. And mostly, we're not made up of cancer cells.

    If you put that notion on a larger scale, you have to understand that it's a very cooperative world, not only with the environment, with but our fellow human beings. If you do not cooperate, if you do not work together to keep the entire organism going, the whole thing dies, and everybody dies with it. That's a law of nature, and it's existed forever. We're one of the very few creatures that has a choice, and can intellectualize the process.

    Most organisms either adapt and become part of the system, or get wiped out. The only thing we have to adapt to the system with is our brain. If we don't use it, and we don't adapt fast enough, we won't survive."

    --George Lucas, Academy of Achievement Interview, 1999

    "One of the main themes in the film is having organisms realize that they must live together, and that they must live together for mutual advantage—not just humans but all living things—and everything in the galaxy is part of a greater whole."

    --George Lucas, “The Mythology of Star Wars,” Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth DVD, 2001


    "The overriding philosophy in Episode I—and in all the Star Wars movies, for that matter—is the balance between good and evil. The Force itself breaks into two sides: the living Force and a greater, cosmic Force. The living Force makes you sensitive to other living things, makes you intuitive, and allows you to read other people's minds, etc. But the greater Force has to do with destiny. In working with the Force, you can find your destiny and you can choose to either follow it or not."

    --George Lucas, quoted in L. Bouzereau, Star Wars: The Making of Episode I, 1999


    "I tried, in my going through mythology, to distill down into certain basic ideas things that seem to exist in a great deal of mythology. Again, to try to find the themes and ideas that continue over a great amount of time and across a wide spectrum of cultures. The Force is a result of that. The Force is the way that many people view the great mysteries of “Is there other realities at work other than the one we can perceive.” I think that the Force represents life—I mean another way to describe it is “life-force.” It’s the spirit of life rather than the physical manifestation of it."

    --George Lucas, Laserdisc Commentary, Star Wars Trilogy Definitive Collection, 1993
    Last edited by darth-sinister, Nov 30, 2013
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  4. only one kenobi Jedi Grand Master

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    The will of the Force need not be conscious - and could be seen as describing the natural flow of the universe. But, beside the point as...it is what the PT specifically introduces (which was not in the OT) which I have registered as altering the importance of choice - most particularly I see to remember bringing up Anakin's virgin birth as emphasising the distinction.

    ...says nothing about a conscious universe deciding our fate and instead focuses on how our choices and actions are imperative in making a better world.



    As above.

    Just...nonsensical drivel. (and...is it a quote by Lucas? Isn't it, rather, Bouzereau paraphrasing what he thought Lucas was talking about?)


    again says nothing about a conscious universal mind putting things right for us.
    Last edited by only one kenobi, Nov 30, 2013
  5. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn The Other Saga Moderator

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    Calling something an illusion doesn't mean one is denying its existence, just pointing out that it may not be what it appears. "Will" or "responsibility" is a convenient bite-size portion of the whole universal swirl of cause-and-effect. It summarizes those causes and effects taking place within a brain-mind, a thing which feels like it has agency . Even with that being the case, though, I don't think we should ever forget or ignore that the volition of that brain-mind is based in and dependent on - driven by - other, outside causes. I guess what I'm saying is that a mind can be viewed as a certain type of cause, but it's also the effect of lots of other causes.


    I'm not sure how that's relevant. Luke and Yoda both still sensed/remote-viewed the events at Cloud City before they happened. "I saw a city in the clouds." "Friends you have there." "They were in pain." "It is the future you see." "Future... will they die?" "Hmm. Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future." Yet, it doesn't seem either of us have a problem with that turn of events. Han and the rest are unaware of this sensing; that's one difference between that situation and the prophecy. But I do think perhaps the relevant difference is in the way the Force is pulled in as an agent rather than a background aspect of the universe (in the prequels, I mean).

    Just to be clear, that was my point. That the way the Force seems to have independent agency in the PT feels different to me to the way it's portrayed in the OT, and that that agency may actually be the source of the problems some are having regarding the weakening of the characters' independence and the importance of their choices.
    Last edited by Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn, Nov 30, 2013
  6. only one kenobi Jedi Grand Master

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    What, exactly, would be fooled? And what purpose would there be in an allegedly non-agent sense of self fooled into believing it has agency (and what is it to believe, and what could be doing the believing)? On top of that..the fact is this allegedly non-agent sense of self communicates (materially) with others about its sense of self-agency. Just think about that for a minute or two. The allegedly non-agent self is very evidently acting with agency.



    Yes..it was the fact that it was Vader, and not some ethereal super-mind, that had decided upon the path that he had; that also Lando was to play his part and that Solo was headed where he was. The future was based upon the actions already in motion.



    I re-read what you wrote and, you were actually quite clear and I had misunderstood. It seems, in fact, we are arguing the same thing. It is, imo, the addition of an over-arching, universal over-seer which will see it's Will played out one way or the other that is the fundamental shift; that is anathema to the idea of choice (and of individual responsibility)
    Last edited by only one kenobi, Dec 1, 2013
  7. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn The Other Saga Moderator

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    I'm not sure where "fooled" came from. Though a "non-agent sense of self fooled into believing it has agency"... well... a human mind seems to be a type of biological machine that applies its senses to the world around it and to itself. The information about the world and about itself can be useful for future planning. This is consciousness. However, the senses and information within it are necessarily limited to those parts of the world apprehended by and available to the human.

    So let's say very simply, Luke goes to the fridge to get a drink and drops the blue milk jug, causing it to spill. Luke spilled the milk. Luke had gone to the fridge to get the milk because he felt thirsty. Why did he feel thirsty? Because he hadn't had enough water the previous day. Why not? Because they ran out of water at Anchorhead and he had to have alcohol instead the previous night. Why did they run out of water? Because the vaporators have been running at below-capacity. Why? Tatooine's orbit and rotation is making the weather much more dry than it was last year. Why? Etc.

    Luke spilled the milk. But that's not the end of the story. The unit of cause-and-effect that takes place starting from [Luke's awareness that he wants to do something] and ending with [actually doing it + reactions to that] can be useful, but it's necessarily limited. Minds are part of the Whole Sort Of General Mish-Mash, and while part of me thinks the recursive introspection of consciousness makes their actions unique in some way, another part of me isn't so sure.

    Also possibly relevant is the way consciousness seems to be a part of the mind that does analysis, not the part that generates "will" (a type of feeling - an authenticity assigned to the actions taken by parts of the body or the world seen as elements of "self"). Per Ben Libet (and the result has been replicated, though it does have some problems), by the time the feeling of "will" begins to come to awareness, parts of the brain have already been prepping for action for a half second or more. The mind has a lot more going on than the "self" is aware of, and that self - the awareness part, I mean - may feel like it's driving the bus, it may very well be more of a navigator or even passenger or backseat driver.

    One's actions can be driven by a will, but one can't just will whatever out of thin air. The will is still part of the system.

    The future is always based on actions already in motion, so I don't think that's any different. However, are you saying here that the Force stepping in doesn't necessarily break causality but takes away the availability of choices for the characters (since it is superpowerful)?

    I think we are.

    (Sorry if any of the above seems incoherent or out-of-order, it was slightly stream-of-consciousness. Ha ha.)
    Last edited by Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn, Dec 1, 2013
  8. DRush76 Force Ghost

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    Why do people (and Lucas, for that matter) seemed to think that destroying evil will solve everyone's problem? Or that the destruction of evil will bring balance? Why would destroying the Sith bring order to the Force? I find this attitude sad. And it tells me that most people are incapable of accepting the balance of both good and evil within the universe or within ourselves. As long we adhere to this extreme viewpoint on nature and moral compass, we'll never get anywhere.
  9. MOC Yak Face Moderator, Classic Trilogy

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    I don't think the idea was ever the complete destruction of evil. That's implausible. The idea was that the Sith had skewed the force too far towards the dark side, or evil, and that their destruction would bring it back towards a natural balance between light and dark, good and evil.
  10. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

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    Because it contradicts your narrative?

    "you can choose to either follow it or not".

    This must be labeled "drivel" in the absence of an actual argument against it, because it provides exactly what your position depends on ignoring: Lucas' own words stating the importance of choice in the PT era, a statement which we arguably don't even need in light of the filmed content making the same point. When promoting the "Simon Says" approach to the films in which nothing can be held true unless Lucas said it outright in interviews, it's a bit disingenuous to simply ignore Simon when he does in fact say it.

    As to the implication that a virgin birth undermines the importance of choice, that makes no sense at all; ask Christianity.
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  11. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

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    There is good and evil in everything. Positive and negative. Yin and Yang. Light and Darkness. The spiritual belief is that these things should be balanced. That there should be good and evil, but they must be in a direct contrast to each other. What happens in "Star Wars" is that evil begins to take over due to the lines of black and white becoming crossed, resulting in levels of gray. Greed, corruption, fear, jealously and selfishness dominates the galaxy. Anakin's destiny is to right this by eliminating himself and Palpatine from the mix, resulting in the balance returning to the Force. The Sith and their actions are the instigators in the Force coming out of balance. Evil will still exist, but it will still be tempered by all things that are good and noble. Lucas never says that evil is completely gone.
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  12. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    The virgin birth makes absolutely no sense in Christianity either, nor does the idea that it was somehow Jesus' "destiny" to die a horrific death because other humans are ***holes.

    I don't really care what Lucas said about it. His saying in an interview that Anakin still had a choice about overthrowing Palpatine, does not change the way I saw the story. And Anakin overthrowing Palpatine because it was the right thing to do, makes a much MUCH better story to me than Anakin overthrowing Palpatine because he was supposed to, due to "destiny."
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  13. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

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    Well, I'm not going to get into a Theologian debate. But in relation to "Star Wars", it is a mixture of both. Anakin saving his son because it was the right thing to do. That doesn't change because he was born to destroy the Sith. It just means that in doing the right thing, after all those years, he winds up fulfilling his destiny. He didn't choose to kill Palpatine because of his status as the Chosen One. He did it for his son. It just happened to work out that way.
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  14. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    In that case, the whole "destiny" and "Chosen One" storyline is unnecessary and pointless at best.
  15. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

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    PALPATINE: I have the power to save the one you love. You must choose.

    And here we see the PT intently focused on the importance of choice yet again. You really can't get any more explicit than that.
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  16. Darth Raiden Jedi Grand Master

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    This is how I view it as well. I don't think of the whole virgin birth of pointless it just keeps new fans guessing as to what will happen next, what happens to the prophecy is luke the chosen one etc. I guess its just there to raise the steaks and I'm fine with that.
  17. MOC Yak Face Moderator, Classic Trilogy

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    Perhaps if the films were released in1-6 order it would be different, as the viewer didn't know what happened, on the first watching at least. As it is, though, we know how episode 6 ends, so when a prophecy is introduced in episode 1, complete with immaculate conception, which predicts exactly what we know already happens, it's surely natural for the viewer to feel that there's a strong element of predetermination in the story. I don't think the fact that some people make some choices along the way necessarily detracts from that ultimate conclusion. Of course, everyone makes dozens of choices every day. The point is that despite those choices, the final outcome is known. If that prophecy turns out to be false, one would have to wonder what the point of its introduction was in the first place, from a storytelling point of view. In other words, if the prophecy isn't true and absolute, then the ending of the saga is the same as the foretold prophecy purely as a matter of coincidence. That seems a bit weak to me in terms of plot.
    Last edited by MOC Yak Face, Dec 1, 2013
  18. Darth Raiden Jedi Grand Master

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    Thats true and i understand that, it seems to be one of those curveballs Lucas tends to throw and it seems to be predetermined if like you and I were bought up with just the OT, but its just one of those plot points that suppose to add a bit more tension as we reach the conclusion ROTJ and expand on the star wars universe, I guess this is one of those elements Lucas wanted for 1-6 viewing order esp for new fans. Not everyone will buy it, but for me it works just fine
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  19. MOC Yak Face Moderator, Classic Trilogy

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  20. Slicer87 Jedi Master

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    Star Wars says that both free will and fate exist together. In TPM when Anakin asks if he could leave to become a Jedi, Shimi responds that this path was placed before him, that only he can decide to follow it or not. Yoda also talks about choosing paths (fate) in TESB, and warns that choosing the path to the dark side will not end well. In ANH when Luke complains to Leia about Han not joining the Rebels to fight. She tells Luke that only Han can choose his path (fate again).

    In the PTs, Anakin at first chooses to follow the choosen one path. Then in ROTS he decides to follow the dark path instead which ends up ruining his life. In ROTJ Vader finally decides to resume the choosen one path that was placed before him so many years ago.
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  21. Ananta Chetan Jedi Grand Master

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    Fate and free will in the saga, as seen as paralleling an Eastern Mystical perspective, is said to be a paradox that cannot be comprehended at the ordinary common level of mind, but is only reconciled and understood in the highest levels of meditative experience.

    That doesn't mean that it still isn't stimulating and enjoyable to contemplate and discuss though... :p
    Last edited by Ananta Chetan, Dec 2, 2013
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  22. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

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    But as you say, that's a result of the order in which the films were released. In-universe predestination shouldn't be assumed anytime a filmmaker elects to make prequels.
  23. MOC Yak Face Moderator, Classic Trilogy

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    Yeah, fair point. In universe I can't question Lucas on this. It's his story to tell as he wants. In Ep 7 he can have Leia wake up and discover that the first 6 episodes were just a dream if he wants. Where would that leave the prophecy I wonder? :p
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  24. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

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    Not really. It gives a purpose for the hero's journey. For his existence. In the hero's journey, the hero is often born to do great things. Neo was the One who would end the war. Liu Kang was the one who defeats Shang Tsung and Shao Kahn. Beowulf is the one who defeats Grendel. Arthur is the one who will become king and rule over Camelot. Here, Anakin is the one who will defeat the Sith. But along the way, he loses his way and has to be saved by his son. Lucas has two levels going on here. On the small scale, the battle is between a father and son. The fallen and the redeemer. It becomes a personal battle between the two of them. On the larger scale, the battle is about ending the war and restoring the balance to the Force. Luke and Vader just aren't really aware of where this will go. They are focused on their own personal struggle that they are oblivious to everything around them. It only becomes clear again at the end, when Luke sees his mentors and his father standing alongside them. They had forgiven Anakin and gave him the gift of consciousness and a corporal form, so that Luke can know that his father was truly saved.

    We must remember that most of us have seen the ending and we finally got to see the beginning. For someone new, they are thrown the curveball of Anakin becoming evil and abandoning his destiny. So now it looks like it will be up to Luke to do it, but then maybe there is hope for Vader. The reactions will be different for the newer generations compared to you and I.
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  25. MOC Yak Face Moderator, Classic Trilogy

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    Yeah, it'll certainly be a different experience for the first time viewer. But the fact remains that Anakin doesn't abandon his destiny, or at least, that's the overwhelming message sent. He goes off the rails (to put it mildly) but ultimately he fulfills it to the letter. Anyone watching the films 1-6 for the first time will see a prophecy introduced at the start and that prophecy fulfilled at the end. The point I'm making is that that sends a message that in SW, destiny dominates all ... in the end. If that's not in fact the case, then the introduction of the prophecy at all is a pretty strange piece of narrative IMHO.
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