Saga The Dark Side - is it evil?

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by DarthIshyZ, Jul 26, 2014.

  1. DarthIshyZ Force Ghost

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    I was having a discussion with someone earlier. Didn't want to hijack the thread any more, so want to move it. Is this the apporpriate place to discuss this? If so, I'll invite him here to talk further.

    My position is that the Dark Side of the Force is not inherently evil. It's the actions of the person. Palpatine even says so much when he says, "The Dark Side of the force is the pathway to many abilities some would consider to be... unnatural." I said that it's like going to buy a flathead screwdriver. The screwdriver in and of itself is not evil. It's a tool. It can be used for good or bad. The USER chooses to use it for screwing in a screw versus stabbing someone with it.
  2. MOC Yak Face Old Films' Curator

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    There are a few other threads here looking at the nature of the dark side, but I'll leave a call on that to the esteemed Saga mods. In the meantime...

    My take on this is that there are 'light' and 'dark' emotions, states, energies, call them what you will. The dark ones, such as fear and anger are not in and of themselves evil. In fact, they are necessary not only for survival, but in the sense that they are required to define their polar opposites. A yin and yang type thing. Using and manipulating these things to try and access the kinds of powers which Sidious describes as 'unnatural' are what I would consider to be evil, because they upset the light / dark balance and skew things in the direction of total darkness.
    Last edited by MOC Yak Face, Jul 26, 2014
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  3. EntechednReformatted Jedi Grand Master

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    I think the relationship between the Dark Side and evil is a bit more nuanced than is sometimes guessed. (I should say my view is heavily influenced by the Mortis trilogy, but doesn't depend on that storyline for support.)

    There is a Yin-Yang aspect to the Force, but it isn't so much Good-Evil as it is Creation-Destruction. Both are part of the natural world, both are essential. Destruction is not inherently evil. Supernovae are very destructive, but you wouldn't have the chemical elements necessary for life without them.

    Problems occur when evil individuals who are motivated by their own selfishness get into the mix, and decide to use violence and destruction for their own profit. This increases the amount of death and destruction in the universe, and causes an alteration in the balance between light and dark.

    But the real problem occurs when evil individuals are themselves able to use the Force and tap into its Dark Side directly. It creates a chain reaction: The Evil Force users tap into the Dark Side to perform selfish, evil acts. This slightly increases the amount of death and destruction in the universe. That tips the scales a little bit and makes the Dark Side stronger. Which makes the Dark-Siders stronger. Which allows them to spread their influence. Which means more death and destruction. Which tips the scales still more and makes the Dark Side even stronger. This vicious cycle just keeps rolling along, as it did for a thousand years before Ep. I, until the balance between the Light and the Dark sides are completely out of whack due to the vast influence of the Dark Force users (in this case Sidious) on galactic events.

    The way to restore balance is straightforward. You break the chain reaction by freeing the galaxy from the Dark-Siders' influence. Anakin did that. In the end, he sacrified his life to save his son and in the process freed the galaxy from Sith rule, thereby restoring the natural balance of the Force.

    That doesn't necessarily mean that everything will be hunky dory after that. I don't even think it necessarily means that the Sith are extinct. Maybe Plagueis or Maul is still out there. But unless they are in a position to wield vast influence over galactic events, the way Sidious was, their mere existence shouldn't upset the balance of the Force. After all, the Sith had been in continuous existence for a thousand years before Ep. I, and it wasn't until Sidious had achieved leadership of the Senate and effectively become the most powerful man in the galaxy that the balance of the Force was severely disrupted. (i.e. "The Dark Side clouds everything. Impossible to see, the future is.")
  4. MOC Yak Face Old Films' Curator

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    I agree. It's not a good v evil thing in my view. Light is in part defined by the absence of darkness. Without darkness we wouldn't appreciate light or probably even have a word for it. If everyone was 7 feet tall, there would be no 'tall'. Ok, losing track here... Fear, though potentially a path to the dark side, is also a survival mechanism. If you have no fear, you won't avoid things which are harmful, like sabretooth tigers.

    Edit: I've just re-read my post. I promise I haven't been drinking...
    Last edited by MOC Yak Face, Jul 26, 2014
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  5. DarthIshyZ Force Ghost

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    Paging @thejeditraitor...
    I agree with you two. I think it's a misnomer to call them "the light side" and "the dark side." The Force isn't evil, it's what people do with it.

    For instance, Anakin went down the path to the dark side in an effor to stop those he loved from dying. In my estimation, that is an admirable goal. Futile, yet admirable. He was guided by someone (Sidious) who was evil and directed in his use of the force in evil ways. He was instructed in evil. He was practically bathed in it. He abandoned those admirable, giving goals to start doing things that were evil: killing younglings, killing the Trade Federation reps, killing Admirals...
  6. Iron_lord Chosen One

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    "That cave ... Is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil, it is."
  7. MOC Yak Face Old Films' Curator

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    As I said in a similar thread elsewhere recently, I'm quite fascinated by the apparent contradiction regarding the dark side and fear. Anakin's turn is fueled by fear and yet his reason for turning was to eliminate it.
  8. Iron_lord Chosen One

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    From the ROTS novel:

    Palpatine shifted his weight, settling in comfortably. "Perhaps the real difference between the Jedi and the Sith is only in their orientation; a Jedi gains power through understanding, and a Sith gains understanding through power. This is the true reason the Sith have always been more powerful than the Jedi. The Jedi fear the dark side so much they cut themselves off from the most important aspect of life: passion. Of any kind. They don't even allow themselves to love."
    Except for me, Anakin thought. But then, I've never been exactly the perfect Jedi.
    "The Sith do not fear the dark side. The Sith have no fear. They embrace the whole spectrum of experience, from the heights of transcendent joy to the depths of hatred and despair. Beings have these emotions for a reason, Anakin. That is why the Sith are more powerful: they are not afraid to feel."

    Of course, "Sith have no fear" is something of a distortion- still - it does support the notion that Anakin's goal was to escape fear, when he turned.
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  9. Cael-Fenton Force Ghost

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    Well, but if you do x in order to quell your fears, then it follows that your action in doing x was caused by fear. I don't see any contradiction, really.

    Those were lies, to put it politely. Not simply a distortion, at least in Anakin's case. Palpatine was counting on Anakin's fears to precipitate his fall. Anakin's transformation into a Sith was totally about him giving in to his fear.
  10. MOC Yak Face Old Films' Curator

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    So what if Anakin's fears were conquered after he'd turned? How could fear continue to fuel him when it was gone? I know its all very hypothetical but I find it interesting.
  11. Cael-Fenton Force Ghost

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    But how can one conquer fear by giving in to it and letting it dictate one's actions? His fear wouldn't be "gone" when he's turned to the dark side. He wants the power to eliminate immediate triggers of his fear, and he thinks the dark side can give him that power. But his fear itself would be more powerful than ever, because he has allowed it to control him.

    Fear is unavoidable, of course, but it hardly takes a great Jedi Master to figure out that the way to "conquer" it is to act despite its influence, not because of it.
  12. MOC Yak Face Old Films' Curator

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    And therein lies the rub. It's brilliantly done. It really is.
  13. DarthIshyZ Force Ghost

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    Should I page Congress to come listen in, too?
  14. The_Phantom_Calamari Force Ghost

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    I think the dark side itself is clearly evil. It's just that evil is technically necessary for the universe to operate. Fear, anger, the destructive impulse--these are what we could call necessary evils. They're a part of nature, and they are things we must accept, but at the same time that doesn't mean we should give in to them or intentionally cultivate them, because they are not good things per se. To do so is to do something that's a step beyond evil.

    But I'm a bit confused by your position that there is no good and bad side to the Force, and that it is only how you use it that counts. The Force is created by all life, and there is certainly evil in life--so obviously the same must be true of the Force, which is really just a symbol for life. It's clear that practitioners of the dark side are able to draw strength from the Force by focusing their fear and rage. If there is an aspect of the Force that makes that sort of thing possible, then it is by definition evil. If you take issue with an image of the Force that has it as a literal ball of energy, half white and half black, with the Jedi drawing from the white side and the Sith drawing from the black side, then I suppose I would agree with you. But I don't think the films ever established such an image, really. When the Jedi say that the Sith make use of the dark side, they're merely saying that the Sith are exploiting a natural mechanic of the Force in an unnatural way. This is a mechanic the Jedi never use and have no need for, and it is called "the dark side".
    Last edited by The_Phantom_Calamari, Jul 27, 2014
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  15. DarthIshyZ Force Ghost

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    I'm trying to figure out why you say there is evil in life. When a baby is born, there's no evil there. Well, except for Damien Thorne, that is. Evil doesn't come, in my estimation, until after the child is exposed to evil, or follows some of their more evil feelings. (I want that rattle, I'm going to take it.)

    If I were to look at the Force as a literal ball of energy, I can't imagine how it could be half light and half dark. Let's go with that though, and ask a question from it. Let's say it is, half light and half dark. Sith open themselves to the whole of the Force. Jedi only open themselves to part of the Force. Wouldn't that mean the Sith are more powerful from the get-go? They're drawing on more of the Force than their oponent, after all.
  16. MOC Yak Face Old Films' Curator

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    You better page the Dalai Lama...
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  17. DarthIshyZ Force Ghost

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    Or the Dalai Yoda?
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  18. Darth_Nub Manager Emeritus

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  19. Cael-Fenton Force Ghost

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    Evil isn't exclusive to conscious human agency. Pain and fear exist independently of sentient will, and I think most would agree that those are inherently bad things, ie evils.

    Even if one thinks evil is strictly a property of human agency, I'm not sure I fully understand what the point about babies is. Infants may or may not be moral blank slates, but how does that change the fact that they very naturally, and very early in life, develop "bad" impulses? I think @The_Phantom_Calamari 's point (correct me if I'm mistaken) was not that these tendencies are always active in every person from the moment of conception until death, but that they are natural. Part of our nature. It seems to me difficult to deny that they are. Very young infants simply lack the cognitive facilities for being subject to them or receptive to their influence.

    Firstly, Palpatine had agenda when he said that, so I would question whether those words (and indeed anything he says to Anakin) are a reliable source as to the nature of the Force. Obviously it would suit him to get Anakin to believe that there is nothing inherently wrong with drawing on the Dark Side, whether or not that's true (I hope I'll be allowed to assume for the purposes of this thread that there is such a thing as "true", including moral truth, but if not please make that clear so I can argue for it).

    I don't see the Force as being merely a tool. A screwdriver doesn't, in itself, have the power to change its user. My interpretation of the movies is that the Force does. As Anakin/Vader draws more on the Dark Side, it changes him. He goes from the anguished teenager in the Lars garage weeping with guilt-stricken horror at what he's done, to the Jedi Knight who is remorseful about killing a defeated opponent, to the newly-minted Sith Lord shedding a silent tear after the massacres on Coruscant and Mustafar, to the monster of the OT who is complicit in a mind-bogglingly huge genocide and casually murders subordinates without a second thought. So personally I think that analogy is somewhat misleading.

    I get the impression that the general sentiment that the Force is like a power source, with nothing inherently good or bad about it, stems from rejection of the existence of malevolence as being a reified "thing" rather than a property of human choices. But one can believe that evil is a property of agency in real life without necessarily rejecting the in-universe depiction of the Force as Manichean.

    I believe there was an extensive discussion of this in another recent thread, and I don't want to start the same debate again. So I'll just say that personally I think the evidence in the films, ie the actions and words of characters who don't have any ulterior motive for deceit (unlike Palpatine) indicate that there *is* good and evil to the Force. Which doesn't mean that a person's choices aren't also good or evil. But to choose the Dark Side is inherently selfish, because the Dark Side is reliance on or being guided by one's immediate impulses, and that selfishness perpetuates itself in a way that ultimately corrupts even good intentions.
    Last edited by Cael-Fenton, Jul 27, 2014
  20. Iron_lord Chosen One

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    Certainly that's a common perspective on places like TV Tropes:

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheDarkSide
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DrunkOnTheDarkSide
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheDarkSideWillMakeYouForget
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ThisIsYourBrainOnEvil
    Last edited by Iron_lord, Jul 27, 2014
  21. Cael-Fenton Force Ghost

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    I kinda hate Nietzsche, but he's handy for aphorisms that sum up narrative tropes like the Dark Side:
    When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
  22. Iron_lord Chosen One

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    That might apply less to the Sith, and more to EU Jedi that commit atrocities in the process of fighting the Sith -

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HeWhoFightsMonsters

    still, it's pretty quotable.

    Hence the EU book Yoda: Dark Rendezvous giving us a SW version:

    "When you look at the dark side, careful you must be...for the dark side looks back."
    Last edited by Iron_lord, Jul 27, 2014
  23. DarthIshyZ Force Ghost

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    I've had two people mention another thread. Would you provide a link so I can go there?

    I still don't see the difference between the tool (screwdriver) and the Force. The Force isn't what made Vader become jaded by mass killings. It's the activity of doing it over and over. At first, he killed because he was ordered. He cried over that. Then, eventually, he built up his callous and didn't shed a tear for each life he took. What built up that callous wasn't the Force. His actions built up the callous.

    I saw that when I went to Germany and visited Dachau. They had the signs over the door that said, "Work makes freedom." Cruelty in the prisoners faces every day. But then the notes the captors took who were doing the killings talked about "processing units." That's pretty powerful stuff! They were manufacturing dead bodies! Did they have the Force bending them to that level? I think, just like Annie, it was by necessity... so that they could live with themselves.

    I'm starting to get emotional remembering that stuff, so I'm going to sign off for a bit.
  24. Iron_lord Chosen One

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  25. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    Feelings aren't evil. You all have been talking about fear and anger--everyone feels fear and anger at some point.

    It's how people react to that fear or anger that can be evil or not. It's behaviors that are wrong.

    The Sith taught that any behaviors were acceptable; they taught an end-justifies-the-means approach.

    In Anakin's case--wanting to save Padme's life was not an evil goal at all. But committing murder in order to do it--the action he took while using the Dark Side--was evil.

    So yes, the Dark Side is evil in that way.