Lit Socrates in Star Wars: Vergere in the NJO and philosophy

Discussion in 'Literature' started by DigitalMessiah, Aug 2, 2013.

  1. Gamiel Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2012
    star 5
    Still believe it only would be useful as a stabbing sword or maybe as a budging weapon if it only narrows down to a point at the top, as a cutting weapon it would lose it's benefits a sword normally has
  2. AlyxDinas Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 12, 2010
    star 4
    We're getting a bit hung up on a metaphor, I'd say. As for "Everything I tell you is a lie.", Vergere is challenging Jacen to conceive of his own ideas, by himself. Remember that she places a massive premium on authenticity in action; this necessarily means authenticity in the ideas that motivate those actions. Not just good faith in your deeds but good faith in your very being.

    Now, this is partially another thing that people like to use to make her into a deceitful Sith. But it doesn't work still because she has pretty clear morals about a lot of things that clash hard with Sith ideals. And her actions reveal which of her words were actually lies.
  3. HWK-290 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 29, 2013
    star 2
    That's the context in which Vergere and Jacen use it.

    A red-green colorblind man points to a referee's red card and tells you that it's brown. He's lying... but he's also telling the truth. It's a matter of perspective. It depends on your point of view. In fact, the card is neither red nor brown - such objects emit no inherent color, the color that you're seeing is the spectrum of light that the card fails to absorb and instead reflects. Your eye catches this as a color and thus the card is "red" - or in the other guy's case, brown.

    In this case, the "lie" is an "untruth". It's a more archaic offshoot of usage that doesn't see the light of day often.

    lie (n.1) [IMG]"an untruth," Old English lyge "lie, falsehood," from Proto-Germanic *lugiz (cf. Old Norse lygi, Danish løgn, Old Frisian leyne (fem.), Dutch leugen (fem.), Old High German lugi, German Lüge, Gothic liugn "a lie"), from the root of lie (v.1). To give the lie to "accuse directly of lying" is attested from 1590s. Lie-detector first recorded 1909.
    http://etymonline.com/?term=lie


    EDIT: This is why we have the English phrase, "to tell a lie". If "lie" always meant deliberate misinforming, then "to lie" would be sufficient. "To tell a lie" is just another way of saying "to tell a falsehood" or "to tell an untruth".

    EDIT 2: The story of the three blind men and the elephant is a perfect parable for "the truth is always greater than the words we use to describe it".
    Last edited by HWK-290, Aug 5, 2013
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  4. Jedi Ben Chosen One

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    Jul 19, 1999
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    Interesting, thanks. Can't help but wonder if Traitor's tendency to opt for opacity in language didn't open the door unintentionally to the obfuscation displayed in the later stories LOTF / FOTJ.
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  5. Reveen Jedi Grand Master

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    Oct 4, 2012
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    Pretty cool thoughts, and it gives me the idea that this entire Vergere brouhaha could've been avoided if Denning had done some weekend reading on philosophy and ethics.
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  6. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    I would argue, and the intent behind this thread when I made it is, that Traitor needs to be read in a way by which you question your interpretations and see if they hold up, not just with the dialogue and action, but with the narrative intent. And yeah, the deliberate ambiguity definitely allowed for what followed, but I would argue that it was intellectually dishonest on the part of the writers.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 5, 2013
  7. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    Only problem with that is how do you work that out when the said narrator is unreliable? I get the concept but I'm not convinced it works in SW. I know Banks does a lot with in one of the Culture books but that works very differently.
  8. Gamiel Force Ghost

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    Dec 16, 2012
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    Well, yes but a metaphor that district from what you are trying to teach is not a good metaphor
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  9. AlyxDinas Force Ghost

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    Jul 12, 2010
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    It doesn't. Not really. The easier thing to do would argue that what Jacen learned was somehow different than what Vergere meant to teach since having her be Sith makes no sense any way you look at her. But even that's sort of wrong since we get more then a sense of what Jacen learns and it's very holistic and serene. Which doesn't really help LOTF's tragic fall narrative. The smart thing, and that's assuming anything justifying Jacen's fall could be called smart is to take what Luceno said about Jacen's moment of oneness with the Force being something he would never experience again but would spend of his life trying and turn that into the thing that motivates his five year journey and his delving into the dark side.

    Only if you really, really get distracted by or overly obsessed about it.
  10. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
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    Which narrator is unreliable? The first two parts of the book are from Jacen's POV, and we don't get into Vergere's headspace. Most the third part is from Ganner's POV, and we don't get into Jacen's headspace. At this point in the story, Jacen is "allied" with the Yuuzhan Vong, just like Vergere, and is also spouting Yuuzhan Vong prattle to keep up appearances. But we know that Jacen is just playacting. Or were there readers that legitimately believed the first time that they read Traitor that Jacen had sincerely joined with the Yuuzhan Vong?

    So, the third act working as a key to unlock the cipher that is Vergere in the first two acts, we realize that she also was playacting when speaking of "our masters" before the same sort of monitoring systems that Jacen was playacting in front of Ganner for, prior to Jacen causing them to fall asleep. The epilogue also serves to allow Vergere herself to explain the most controversial line in the book, but Stover may have been a bit too coy about it, since most people didn't pick it up. She does explain the way to read the book with the "is it what the teacher teaches, or what the student learns" quote and her expression of pride in Jacen, insinuating that ultimately the two were one(!). What did Jacen learn?
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 5, 2013
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  11. Gamiel Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2012
    star 5
    But if I don't obsessed about it they take away my 'True Fan' card[face_worried]

    On a more serious note: I fully see what you mean and I will stop now (unless somebody else take it up) it is just that I have been thinking about the three-edged blade thing from time-to-time since I heard it and to me a three-edged blade just don't sound useful. It is probably the asperger in me...
  12. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    The problem isn't opacity in language; the book is pretty clear. The problem is opacity in the reader.

    I mean, honestly, "Everything I tell you is a lie" is explained explicitly in the book.


    The truth is always bigger than the words we use to describe it.

    You will never find literal truth in a statement from somebody else, because language is an imperfect tool. I can tell you something is red, but that doesn't tell you what color it is. Not really. It gives you a sort of idea of where to start, but I'd have to narrow it down -- dark red, bright red, fire-engine red, brick red, maroon, crimson -- and even that doesn't tell you exactly what this thing looks like, doesn't create an image in your head that you can trust to be absolutely accurate to reality. I can describe the same thing in incredible detail to eight different people and they will have eight different mental images of it and none of them will look exactly like the real thing. How much worse a tool is language for communicating great, essential philosophical truths? How can I tell you about the nature of reality in words? Reality is simply too great, too infinitely complex, for our words to encapsulate it in its entirety.

    Anything I say is going to be something less than the truth. I mean, even saying that everything is a lie is a lie, because obviously it's not perfectly encapsulating the truth of what I'm trying to convey -- but the point is that it's a striking way of encapsulating the point in a way that will hit the intended target and make him think, and that's the best you can do with words.

    It's why all the angst over "There is no dark side" misses the point by a hundred thousand miles. IT'S A LIE. IT'S ALWAYS BEEN A LIE. IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE A LIE. The words are so much less than the truth Vergere is trying to describe. But she needs to use the words in a way that will punch Jacen in the face and get him engaged by what she's saying and willing to reconsider the entire way he thinks. She's not telling him that the entire dark side is pretend, which would be obvious if anybody paid attention to anything in the book other than those five goddamn words. She's suggesting that when Jacen passes the buck for his failings by going, "But the dark side made me do it!" he's copping out and failing to take responsibility, and that he needs to be concerned not by an external boogeyman named Danny Dark Side, but by the evil of which he is innately capable, the darkness in his own heart. Danny Dark Side doesn't reach in from outside and take over him -- he gives in to his own weakness, his own desires, his own anger, his own human wretchedness, and makes the choice to do what he does. He could retain control. He could resist the temptations whispered from the darker corners of his own nature -- it's not Danny Dark Side whispering in his ear, it's not Satan telling pure lovely Jacen "Do it!"; it's the weak, angry, imperfect desires emerging out of Jacen's own personality. It's that dark side -- the external dark side that exists to take the blame for Jacen's own failings, the crutch he uses to avoid facing the darker parts of himself, the boogeyman dark side he can fear and project on and still feel good about himself -- that doesn't exist, and that he needs to accept doesn't exist before he can understand himself and understand how to actually resist the dark side and be a better Jedi.
  13. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    I'm not so sure Vergere is saying there's no external dark side, so to speak, either* ... though no doubt she was trying to break Jacen out of blaming it. The central thesis of the novel is dialectical monism. It's present from prologue to epilogue and her purpose in saying there's no dark side is to break Jacen out of dualistic thinking so that he realizes that the Force is monistic, which I think most people get, but it's a dialectical monism.

    Outside the universe, there is nothing.
    This nothing is called hyperspace.
    A tiny bubble of existence hangs in the nothing. This bubble is called a ship.
    The bubble has neither motion nor stillness, nor even orientation, since nothing has no distance or direction. It hangs there forever, or for less than an instant, because in the nothing there is also no time. Time, distance, and direction have meaning only inside the bubble, and the bubble maintains the existence of these things only by an absolute separation of what is within from what is without.
    The bubble is its own universe.
    Outside the universe, there is nothing.

    pg.1

    Vergere had regarded him from one corner of her bottomless eyes. "You need not like someone to love him. Love is nothing more than the recognition that two are one. That all is one."

    pg. 288

    "Jacen, I am so proud of you," she whispered. "This is the greatest moment of a teacher's life: when she is surpassed by her student."
    Jacen found himself blinking back tears of his own. "So is that what you are, finally? My teacher?"
    "And your student, for the two are one."

    pg. 291

    There's more to what Vergere is saying than monism. She's proposing dialectical monism. So it's partly true what people get, that the Force is one and all is one, but the whole necessarily expresses itself in dualistic terms. The teacher and the student are defined by each other and can't exist on their own. Existence is dependent upon nothing The light side is dependent upon the dark side. Truth is dependent upon lies.

    "The Force is one, Jacen Solo. The Force is everything, and everything is the Force. I've told you already: the Force does not take sides. The Force does not even have sides."

    pg. 167

    "the force is one, jacen. it encompasses all opposites. truth and lies, life and death, light and dark, good and evil. they're all each other, because each thing and everything is the same thing. the force is one."

    pg. 195

    I think if there's a takeaway, it's that Vergere is trying to open Jacen up to the Force's universal dialectic: the Unifying Force.
    [IMG]
    There are light and dark sides because they are necessary, but there is the universal dialectic that is the source of all things, from which the will of the Force is derived.

    *Edit: I'll just say I'm undecided about whether there's an external dark side, I suppose if duality is purely phenomenological then perhaps it isn't external and it's a product of the individual's perception of the Force, but I think that the duality is ontological which would suggest that there is indeed a dark side of the Force beyond individual perception.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Aug 5, 2013
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  14. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    I don't take it as necessarily saying that there is no external component to the dark side whatsoever -- what I'm saying is that the external dark side as boogeyman that Jacen's blaming for his own weaknesses doesn't exist. Whatever the nature of the dark side is, it's not some outside presence taking over his body against his will.
  15. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    In this case, I'm in complete agreement.
  16. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    I think that's likely it, Traitor likely works well as an intro to philosophy and if it gets more people interested in it then great; but if you've already encountered the philosophic concepts it uses then its impact is going to be substantively reduced.
  17. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

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    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    Have you? Any recommendations for further reading?
  18. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    Ohhhhh, tough one - it's a long time ago for me now and there's likely a smattering of really good stuff been published in the interim I don't even know about.

    Part of the problem is the range of concepts involved - you've got ontology, epistemology, metaphysics and ethics - those alone can easily rack up thousands of pages each.
  19. Zeta1127 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 4
    Most of the stuff in Traitor probably went over my head, I was confused by the stuff more than anything, but Vergere reminded me so much of Yoda, though I didn't make that connection until much later.
  20. Force Smuggler Chosen One

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    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    Agreed @Zeta1127 That stuff has gone over my head before as well. Though to me it seemed straightforward that Vergere was beyond the Jedi and Sith thing and wanted Jacen to rethink everything and help both sides etc.
  21. Iron_lord Chosen One

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    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    I wouldn't say that's entirely incompatible with her having been both Jedi & Sith, and dumped both Codes in favour of something better.

    With Lumiya being a failed apprentice of Vergere's, who's got her own agenda, and trying to use Vergere's name to legitimate it.
  22. HWK-290 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 29, 2013
    star 2
    As far as an introduction to moral philosophy and rudimentary epistemology goes, Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy and Kant's Critique of Pure Reason are good places for anyone to start. You've likely read those already, though.

    I'm not even going to touch on Nietzsche.
    Last edited by HWK-290, Aug 6, 2013
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  23. Force Smuggler Chosen One

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    Sigh. I was afraid that someone would say that........
  24. Iron_lord Chosen One

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    Mostly because Legacy is stuck with her having trained Krayt to a degree. At least, The Essential Guide to Warfare states it, so we don't just have Krayt's own word for it.
  25. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    Descartes can easily put a person off epistemology for life and Kant ain't much better. Were it not for Onora O'Neill's work, I never would have cracked Kant, but I needed the help!

    Nietzsche is actually quite readable, which sets him apart from the crowd, but all over the place even when you break him into early, middle and late period works.

    Wouldn't class any of these as being particularly introductory though.

    Hmm, let's hit the net, we have:
    http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/What-Does-it-All-Mean-Thomas-Nagel/9780195174373

    Hmm, Nagel's always worth a read and this sounds a good starting point.

    This sounds off the wall but it's really well-done:
    http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Action-Philosophers-Fred-Van-Lente/9780977832934

    Van Lente distills the essence of key philosophies into bite-size pieces so the student is armed with enough to be able exploring properly the fields they're most interested in. And as this thread mentions Socrates....:

    [IMG]

    Then there's Marx:

    [IMG]

    Considerably denser but very good, but with a focus on logic, is:
    http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Logicomix-Apostolos-Doxiadis/9780747597209

    [IMG]
    Last edited by Jedi Ben, Aug 6, 2013
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