The Shades Of Grey and Examples Of Antithesis In Literature
In the book, on the Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche examines human ideas on morality by asking questions. Particularly why acts of helping someone other than oneself is considered good and why egoistical actions are frowned upon, especially considering when such actions are always beneficial to the individual acting. Nietzsche theorizes that all higher forms human civilization arose from those who were able to impose their will, desired power and preyed upon the weak. This form of morality is what is known as Master Morality. In response, those who were oppressed by those with power created their own system of morality in opposition to power and saw themselves as superior by not desiring power. This became known as Slave Morality. In dialectic terms, Master Morality is the original thesis on morality, and Slave Morality is formed as a reaction, forming an antithesis of morality. Examining these philosophies, and their impact in the real world is extremely difficult and complicated.
However, Star Wars provides a substitutive, representative world to better examine the real-life philosophies and the consequences of Nietzsche and the idea of master-slave morality and will to power. Star Wars is sci-fi fantasy universe created by George Lucas to entertain audiences around the world. However, a significant number of parallels can be drawn between the larger Star Wars universe and our real world. The parallels are strong enough that ‘Jediism,’ a religion based on the Star Wars philosophy, is recognized as an official religion in many Western societies including the US and UK.
Star Wars: the old republic is one of the most acclaimed role-playing games based in the Star Wars genre. The games are a depiction of a galaxy-wide conflict, set a thousand years before the first movies. The game allows the players to deeply question the philosophies of the different factions within the universe. This paper will use exclusively use the philosophies of the Jedi and Sith. In the game Jedi, have been driven to near total extinction by the Sith, and the fate of the galaxy lies at the hands of the Jedi Exile, the character played by the player. As a RPG, the player decides how the game ends. There are two main endings; a ‘light’ side and a ‘dark’ side ending. The ending depends on the philosophy that the player adopts. The game introduces two sets of codes, the axioms that define the philosophies of the Jedi and the Sith.
There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force
Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me
These codes of the Jedi and Sith offer the opposing viewpoints on the issue of morality and how those with power should influence the world around them.
The Jedi Code, loosely based on the principles of Buddhism, begins with the axiom “There is no emotion, there is peace.” Those seven words are guiding principle of the Jedi and their entire code. The ultimate goal of a Jedi is to keep the peace, and according to KOTOR, the path to achieving that goal is by detaching themselves from everything in the galaxy, including themselves, and focus on doing what is “right.” The ideal Jedi are selfless. Their code is objective and indirect. The code, by design, lacks any reference to oneself or any one group of people. It is abstracted away from the plane of individualism.
The Sith Code, from the very first line, is the anthesis of the Jedi code. “Peace is a lie, there is only passion,” could stand as a substitute for the entire code. The Sith do not believe that peace is a worthy goal because they believe conflict is the path to penultimate power. Passion fuels their hate, which they channel into power. Sith sees conflict as a pathway to absolute power for self. The Sith code is highly representative of the real-world philosophy of Nietzsche. Nietzsche valued conflict to better oneself– using one’s own will to create meaning. The well-known quote: ”what does not kill you makes you stronger” very much defines the Sith as an ideology. By asserting oneself and by imposing one’s own will, an individual can change the world and mold it with their power.
These codes contain the ideological groundwork of both philosophies and are presented in their idealized manner. An examination of these philosophies at the applied level reveals their strengths and failings, and thus consequentially a better understanding of the Nietzsche philosophies in the real world.
By Nietzschean principles, the Jedi code is incomplete as it lacks something that is instinctual to humans, the ability to be human. The axiom, that peace is achievable only upon the elimination of conflict, hides a more profound truth: peace can only be achieved if there is no ego. The code holds Jedi back from being human and finding value in their life. The Jedi could not permit themselves to have a sense of pride or desires. Their adherence to the Jedi Code and suppression of all conflicts only weakens a Jedi and does not prevent them from falling to the Dark Side. This is the major failing of the Jedi with Anakin Skywalker in the prequel movies. Anakin loved Padme and feared to lose her like he lost his mother. Anakin could not accept losing Padme because he loved her, and it brought him down the path to the Dark Side and the destruction of the Jedi Order. Forming bonds and having emotional value towards others makes can make an individual weaker and susceptible to the Dark Side but it also makes one human.
The common Jedi theme advanced throughout the game is altruism. In one of the missions of the game, the player upon freeing Atton (NPC) on Peragus, undertakes an apparently suicidal mission. As RPG, the option that nets the player most light side points states “Jedi’s life is sacrifice and therefore there is nothing to fear.” This teaching principle is echoed throughout the game. The basic principle of altruism is that a person has no right to exist their own sake and must serve others as the only justification for their existence. With self-sacrifice being the highest moral duty, virtue, and value. Duty is the moral necessity to perform particular actions with no reason other than the obedience of some higher authority without any regards to personal goals motives or desires. The core of altruism is self-destruction and the view that the self is evil with selflessness being the standard of the good. In Nietzschean terms, the Jedi are the embodiments of Slave Morality. The essence of Slave Morality is the utility for unity; the good that is the most useful to the whole community at the expense of the individual.
The Nietzschean interpretation is that Jedi are apathetic to the suffering of all life in the galaxy and only help out of obligation when they are nearby, not because they want to change anything or help. The Jedi are preventing the greater evil by not using their power to mold the galaxy as they see fit. If we look at the Jedi from a lifelong linear experience, it provides an overview of how the Jedi teachings are anti-life. The Jedi remove force sensitive children from their families at a very young age to prevent the formation of familial connections. These younglings grow up with and as a Jedi, only knowing the Jedi way, never forming any connections. Their goal of achieving the ‘zen’ state is taught to be achievable only through losing their ego, forgoing any selfish desires, teaching the next generation and finally dying of old age. By teaching the Jedi to never value their life, never seeking any selfish desires and to accept their death as a natural part of life; the Code destroys humanity of the Jedi, leading to a world where Jedi do not seek to become masters but seek to make others slaves as well, leading to a moral revolutions.
On the flip-side, the Sith code expects Sith to be more individualistic. To become the masters and subjugate the weak. However, the adage,” absolute power corrupts absolutely” holds. The failing of the Sith is that they are so consumed by their lust for power that they forget why they adopted the Sith code and plunge the Star Wars galaxy into repeated cycles of conflict.
The Sith indulge in their passion, destroying their humanity to obtain more power and become agents of evil that bring ruin to the galaxy. This is represented in-game by giving dark side user yellow eyes; the proverbial window to the soul. The real failing of the Sith is that they strongly rely on the Force at the source of their strength, rather than themselves. This against the Nietzsche’s idea of the will to power. In Nietzschean terms, the Sith are the embodiments of Master Morality. The essence of Master morality is individual strength that promotes power and influence. Another way of seeing this is that the Sith only care about themselves and consider everything that furthers their power to be good while anything that diminishes their power to be wrong. However, master morality only holds good, when the source of power used to subjugate the weak is realized from the within. The greatest failing of master morality as a moral code happens when a person with the ability to enforce change but fails to do so and continues to acquire power for the sake of power.
This weakness is exemplified in the game for the player to understand with the characters Darth Nihilus and Darth Sion. Both cannot live without the sustained use of the Force. Nihilus has amassed so much Force power that he became a ‘black hole of the force.’ He constantly hungers for more power and would have ended up cleansing the entire galaxy of life. Sion, on the other hand, seeks the destruction of the Jedi as his sole purpose in life. His goal was never to rule, enforce or control the galaxy.
Nihilus and Sion represent the best aspects of the Sith; power and will to power, they also represent the greatest weakness of the Sith; the loss of will by desiring power and the impotence of creating anything beyond destroying the Jedi. This is as the sith because they rely on the Force as a source of their strength, rather than in themselves. A good analogy is to compare the Force with a blade; a tool that can further one’s strength and obtain victories for the user if used correctly. However when one loses the blade, i.e., the ability to use the force, one loses all the strength as their power does not originate from within.
Inherently there is nothing wrong with seeking power according to Nietzsche, as it is the nature of all life to impose their will on the world but when one begins to amass power for the sake of power rather than seeking progress or to change anything, it becomes self-destructive to the point where nothing is achieved. The Sith, as an ideology, is unsustainable and leads to death rather than overall improvement. Moreover, as a continual lifestyle, it is vain and does not provide any amount of peace. So by extension, master morality is unstainable as it corrupts the ‘masters’ and results in harm to the entirety of the civilizations. In our real world, when great empires, like the Roman Empire, fall it is often because the rulers are cruel and corrupt.
A difference however between the Star Wars universe and our real world is that Slave Morality was the original thesis of morality with the Jedi and Master Morality, with the Sith, was formed, as a reaction, becoming the antithesis. Hegelian dialectic is defined as a thesis giving rise to a reaction, and an antithesis that contradicts or negates the thesis until the tension between the two is resolved; creating a synthesis. However, synthesis is not merely the ‘middle road.’ It is supposed to overcome two opposed theses. The problem is that a synthesis has never occurred between the Jedi and the Sith and is the cause of nearly all the wars in Star Wars. This means that until a synthesis occurs to Nietzsche’s idea of master-slave morality, there always would be conflict. The central theme of Star Wars is choice. A single being can become a hero and save the galaxy. A single being can also destroy the galaxy. The same holds in our real world. One person can make a drastic change. The lesson of Star Wars is for us to identify the synthesis in our moral codes and promote the improvement of civilization from within. For the Greater Good?
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