Chancellor Palpatine: All who gain power are afraid to lose it, even the Jedi.
Anakin Skywalker: The jedi use this power for good.
Chancellor Palpatine: Good is a point of view, Anaking. The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way, including their quest for greater power.
Anakin Skywalker: The Sith rely on their passion for their strength. They think inwards only about themselves.
Chancellor Palpatine: And the Jedi don’t?
Anakin Skywalker: The Jedi are selfless. They only care about others.
This brief dialogue between the tormented Jedi Anakin Skywalker and the chancellor Palpatine, extracted from Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, summarises perfectly one the basis of the saga, that is the contraposition between Jedi and Sith, that like the future emperor claims “They are similar in almost every way”. From the words of the future Sith Lord, the two subjects are totally opposite: the first ones are selfless, the other ones are selfish, the first ones use the power for the good meanwhile the others ones use it, it’s implied, for the evil. In fact, looking in the Codes at the basis of both of them, which can be defined as philosophies, this appears even clearer.
The contraposition is evident, the two arrays are opposite, almost specular but what the chancellor said is also true, they are also similar. “Only a Sith deals in absolutes”says Obi Waw to his apprentice in one of the most dramatic moment of the movie, but the “There is no try, do or not do” of Yoda in the Episode V: The Empire strikes back is not an absolute? Jedi and Sith are more similar than the first ones want to declare and this is an overpowering proof.
FROM GREECE WITH FUROR
This relationship of both contraposition and similarity is present not only between Jedi and Sith but also and above all between two philosophies which characterized the Roman Hellenic age which are, as the title of the article anticipates, the Stoicism and the Epicureanism, with whom a lot of interesting reflections can be made.
THE STOIC SAGE
The Stoicism claimed that the wise one is who soars himself above the passions and emotions, taking an attitude of constant and coherent impassibility(apàtheia) than nothing can subdue deriving from a total adhesion to the lògos, active principle which permeates, organises and transforms continously the world. The stoic sage is one with the lògos, so he is indifferent respect of what happens behind it and in this way, he is free, not to do what he wants but to accept that what happens depends on something behind him and to be aware of it. The recognition of that universal rationality take him to considerevery human being like one of his kind and this leads to the recognition of a series of duties such as towards family, friends and society.
THE EPICUREAN SAGE
The Epicureanism instead claimed that the wise one is who satisfies his natural needs, who searches for the pleasure considered as lackofpain(aponìa) and lackofagitation(atarassìa) both in the body and in the soul. He is master of himself because he controls his passions and emotions, considers in himself and in no one other the cause of the events regarding him and he should be enough for himself, for this he does not live isolated but in small group of designated like him.
MANY JEDI, FEW SITH
From these descriptions, it is easy to understand which philosophy is nearer to that of Jedi or to that of Sith. The Jedi is the stoic sage, who is immovable to what happens around him because he is in harmony with the logos, or rather the Force, which like Obi Wan says to the young Luke “is what gives a Jedi his power. It is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together”. The Force is an entity, which permeates everything, gives life and controls it, it is what allows the Jedi to soar above the passions and allows them to recognise their duties towards the other men and the society.
The Sith instead is the epicurean sage who controls his passions and emotions, who satisfies them so to be not suffocated by them and uses them to controls himself and the events, he is individualist but recognises his belonging to a group of elected people. This last concept reminds strongly the famous “rule of two”, for which a Sith Lord was allowed to have only an apprentice, that is an elected, destined to reach often a greater power than of his master.
THE CONCEPT OF DEATH
Another similarity between Jedi and Sith and Stoics and Epicureans can also be found in the concept of death. The stoics consider the world formed by two parts: a passive principle composed by the substance and one active, predominant, composed by the logos, which is pneuma, blow that vivifies things, vital principle everywhere present that gives life and keeps everything united and that is the ultimate purpose of everything, the Force indeed. Both the universe and the individualare composed by this principle and when they reach the end of their circle, they dissolve in a general conflagration where everything concludes, in that bow, in the Force.
The epicureans have a similar but more materialist vision. For them everything is atom and it is composed by indivisible atoms, which move continously in the void creating new worlds. They considered the soul composed by these very thin atoms, which in the moment of death breaks up, dissolving the soul with the body. Knowing that, power and control are possible. These atoms are not other that the midichlorian, which for the Chancellor story, with the Force they can be manipulated to create life.
So, there are many similarities and contrapositions among the different philosophies and arrays, in the middle there is the Scepticism of Han Solo and those like him believe that all of this is only a bunch of stupid things.
Han Solo: Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no much for a good blaster at your side, kid.
Luke Skywalker: You don’t believe in the Force, do you?
Han Solo: Kid, I’veflowm from ne side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerfull Force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny. Anyway, it’s all a lot of simple tricks and non sense.
But it is commonly known that the time changes everything.
Rey: The Jedi were real?
Han: I used to wonder about that myself. Thought it was a bunch of mumbo jumbo. A magical power holding together good and evil, the Dark Side and the Light. Crazy thing is … it’s true. The Force, the Jedi. All of it. It’s all true.
True fan of Star wars know that there is a lot of more Jedi and Sith in the large universe of the saga and that reflections like this can be made even with other similar arrays such as the Nightsisters and the Grey Jedi, which will objects of future articles.
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May the Force be with you!