Ethics for Force Users
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The State of Nature has a Law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one: And
Reason, which is that Law, teaches all Mankind, who will but consult it, that being all
equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his Life, Health, Liberty, or
John Locke, The Second Treatise of Civil Government, §6
Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the
oftener and more steadily we reflect on them:
the starry heavens above me
and the moral law within me.
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason
(Kritik der praktischen Vernunft) [A 289, Lewis White Beck trans.]
1. Objective: To provide a definition of ethical vs. moral and to lay the framework to challenge Force users
to think outside their current schemas and develop an ethical mindfulness to their actions.
i. Who I am.
ii. Who you are.
b. Course overview – This is an intro level workshop for those who are living the JEDI path and who
wish to take a look into the moral dilemma.
c. Ethics vs. Morals – from Merriam-Webster Dictionary
i. Main Entry: 2mor·al
Pronunciation: 'mor-&l, 'mär-; 3 is m&-'ral
1 a : the moral significance or practical lesson (as of a story) b : a passage pointing out
usually in conclusion the lesson to be drawn from a story
2 plural a : moral practices or teachings : modes of conduct b : ETHICS
e. Ethics - eth·ic
i. Pronunciation: 'e-thik
Etymology: Middle English ethik, from Middle French ethique, from Latin ethice, from
Greek EthikE, from Ethikos
1 plural but singular or plural in construction : the discipline dealing with what is good and
bad and with moral duty and obligation
2 a : a set of moral principles or values b : a theory or system of moral values <the
present-day materialistic ethic> c plural but singular or plural in construction : the
principles of conduct governing an individual or a group <professional ethics> d : a
f. Situational Dilemmas – handout
i. The Underwater Tunnel.
ii. Overcrowded Lifeboat
iii. The Value of a Promise.
g. Some thoughts
i. Easier in a win/lose situation. But what about when a choice has two losing options.
1. what about two winning ones?
2. Buddhism – less suffering
a. 8-fold path
i. Right View
ii. Right Intention
iii. Right Speech
1. True & Useful
2. What about not saying anything?
iv. Right Action
v. Right Livelihood
vi. Right Effort
vii. Right Mindfulness
viii. Right Concentration
ii. KOTR:Sith Example - Is charity is ethical? There is a scene where you are asked for
some credits by a refugee and if you give him the credits some other refugees end up
killing the refugee for his money. Darth Traya went into a dissertation about how by
artificially supporting the weak and those who cannot survive on their own you cause far
more harm to the species and the universe than the tiny bit of good that you have doneIf
you have a group of people who are weak and you protect them they will come to expect
that protection and pass that expectation on to their progeny who will demand even
greater protection. The will demand this because they saw some suffering in their
parents and did not see it as an empowering symbol of struggle but as a failure in their
benefactor. Eventually you end up with a society where the lower class are entirely
dependant upon the upper and resentment runs deep on either side. The powerful cease
to trust the weak and the weak cease to trust the powerful. From this situation there can
be only slavery or revolution.
We must be mindful of what protection (physically, emotionally or financially) we give to
others for our charity may be the first link in the chains of bondage.
In reading various Star Wars commentary I've come across a lot of the backstory to the movies, particularly
about the Sith. Apparently it's standard practice for the Sith to betray each other: either the apprentice kills
his master to become the new master, or the master offs the apprentice and finds a replacement. Given Sith
ethics, this makes perfect sense.
But wait: at the end of Return of the Jedi Vader betrays and kills his master, and this is presented as a
majorly redemptive act! This is only redemptive if we think that Vader has some loyalty to the emperor, but it
turns out the Sith don't value loyalty at all, and the master/apprentice relationship only exists as long as it's
mutually beneficial to both parties. In other words, by killing the Emperor at the end of Episode VI, Vader is
only doing precisely what would be expected of a Sith.
In fact, we know that he was planning to kill Darth Sidious in favor of Luke the whole time—remember his
proposal in Episode V, "together we will rule the galaxy as father and son". So basically this was his plan all
along, except that he accidentally got killed in the process.
Now, one could argue that in the end he didn't kill Sidious to advance his own personal power, but instead did
it just to save Luke (and without regard for his own safety). This is true, but again it's perfectly in line with
Sith ethics. We are told over and over that the Dark Side is about giving in to one's passions, while the Jedi
way is to remain detached and unemotional. Hence, when Vader betrays the Emperor out of his paternal
attachment to Luke, he's still following the basic tenets of the Dark Side. (And still ignoring Yoda's advice from
Episode III, to give up his personal attachments.)
So, why give Vader any credit for returning to the light at the end of the series?
[One interesting interpretation of the whole saga I've seen various commentators hinting at is that Luke
represents a "third way" between the Jedi philosophy of extreme detachment and the Sith philosophy of
being ruled by one's passion. Furthermore, this is the kind of balance in the Force that Qui-Gon Jinn
(who had serious disagreements with the Jedi Council) was trying to engineer back in Episode I. It
doesn't really seem to be what George Lucas had in mind (since he's not terribly subtle with the lessons
he does intend) but it's an interesting way to look at the series.]
Some Moral Dilemmas
The following is a list of some moral dilemmas, mostly adapted from Moral Reasoning, by Victor
Grassian (Prentice Hall, 1981, 1992), with a couple additions. The question to consider with all of these
is why they are dilemmas. Some, however, may not seem to be dilemmas at all.
1. The Overcrowded Lifeboat
In 1842, a ship struck an iceberg and more than 30 survivors were crowded into a lifeboat
intended to hold 7. As a storm threatened, it became obvious that the lifeboat would have
to be lightened if anyone were to survive. The captain reasoned that the right thing to do
in this situation was to force some individuals to go over the side and drown. Such an
action, he reasoned, was not unjust to those thrown overboard, for they would have
drowned anyway. If he did nothing, however, he would be responsible for the deaths of
those whom he could have saved. Some people opposed the captain's decision. They
claimed that if nothing were done and everyone died as a result, no one would be
responsible for these deaths. On the other hand, if the captain attempted to save some, he
could do so only by killing others and their deaths would be his responsibility; this would
be worse than doing nothing and letting all die. The captain rejected this reasoning. Since
the only possibility for rescue required great efforts of rowing, the captain decided that
the weakest would have to be sacrificed. In this situation it would be absurd, he thought,
to decide by drawing lots who should be thrown overboard. As it turned out, after days of
hard rowing, the survivors were rescued and the captain was tried for his action. If you
had been on the jury, how would you have decided?
2. A Father's Agonizing Choice
You are an inmate in a concentration camp. A sadistic guard is about to hang your son
who tried to escape and wants you to pull the chair from underneath him. He says that if
you don't he will not only kill your son but some other innocent inmate as well. You don't
have any doubt that he means what he says. What should you do?
3. Sophie's Choice, not in Grassian.
In the novel Sophie's Choice, by William Styron (Vintage Books, 1976 -- the 1982 movie
starred Meryl Streep & Kevin Kline), a Polish woman, Sophie Zawistowska, is arrested
by the Nazis and sent to the Auschwitz death camp. On arrival, she is "honored" for not
being a Jew by being allowed a choice: One of her children will be spared the gas
chamber if she chooses which one. In an agony of indecision, as both children are being
taken away, she suddenly does choose. They can take her daughter, who is younger and
smaller. Sophie hopes that her older and stronger son will be better able to survive, but
she loses track of him and never does learn of his fate. Did she do the right thing? Years
later, haunted by the guilt of having chosen between her children, Sophie commits
suicide. Should she have felt guilty?
4. The Fat Man and the Impending Doom, with parts cut out in the 2nd edition; they seem to
have gotten removed to avoid unintentionally humorous overtones.
A fat man leading a group of people out of a cave on a coast is stuck in the mouth of that
cave. In a short time high tide will be upon them, and unless he is unstuck, they will all
be drowned except the fat man, whose head is out of the cave. [But, fortunately, or
unfortunately, someone has with him a stick of dynamite.] There seems no way to get the
fat man loose without using [that] dynamite which will inevitably kill him; but if they do
not use it everyone will drown. What should they do?
5. The Costly Underwater Tunnel, compare: 112 men were killed during the construction of
Hoover Dam on the Nevada-Arizona border (the "official" number was 98, but others had died
from causes more difficult to identify -- or easier to ignore -- like by carbon monoxide
poisoning): The first was a surveyor, J.G. Tierney, who drowned on December 20, 1922, and the
last was his son, Patrick Tierney, who drowned on December 20, 1935 -- 13 years to the day
after his father.
6. The working conditions in the summer down in the canyon
involved temperatures hitting highs of 119o, with lows of no
less than 95o (familiar numbers to those who have visited
the cities of Needles, Blythe, or Yuma in the summer). In
1931, about the time that Hoover Dam, a federal project
(with private contractors), was begun, the Empire State
Building, a private project, was completed. Although the
rule of thumb had been that one man would die for every
story built in a skyscraper, which would have meant 120
dead for the Empire State Building, in fact only 5 men died
in the whole project. By comparison, in the earlier (1908-
1913) building of the Los Angeles Aqueduct by William
Mulholland (d.1935), it was also the case that only 5 men
died (though when Mulholland's St. Francis Dam, in
Francisquito Canyon, collapsed in 1928, it killed over 500
people). The Golden Gate Bridge cost 14 lives (or 11 -- the
rule of thumb there was one life for each $1,000,000 of the
project, with the bridge costing $35,000.000). The Tunnel
under the English Channel, built in the early 1990's, cost 11
lives. When the Gateway Arch in St. Louis was being
planned, the prediction was that 15 workers would die, but
none did. Similarly, though much earlier (1927-1941), no
one died during the carving of Mt. Rushmore. Even with such progress over time, the John
Hancock Building in Chicago (1970) cost 109 lives, or, indeed, about one per floor, as predicted
for the Empire State Building. While it is usually ordinary workers who suffer in construction
accidents, it isn't always, as was the case with the Brooklyn Bridge, whose designer, John
Augustus Roebling, died in a ferry accident in 1869 while surveying the site. His son,
Washington Roebling, suffered such a severe case of the bends, working in a pressurized caisson
in 1872, that he supervised the rest of the construction crippled in bed, sending instructions
through his wife, until the bridge was completed in 1883. Overall, 27 died on the Brooklyn
Bridge, 3 from the bends. It was many years before it was known what to do about this
condition. Workers were still suffering from the bends when the Holland Tunnel was built in the
1920's. The chief engineer of the tunnel, Clifford Milburn Holland, died suddenly in 1924, aged
41, of "exhaustion." The tunnel, opened in 1927, was then named after him. The first tunnel
under the Hudson, for railroads, was begun in 1874; but construction was abandoned, restarted,
and not completed until 1908. All such bridges and tunnels eliminate the need for ferry boats.
Even in recent years, ferry sinkings and accidents are common, and they still result in the deaths
of hundreds of people at a time.
7. An underwater tunnel is being constructed despite an almost certain loss of several lives
[actually, all but certain]. Presumably the expected loss is a calculated cost that society is
prepared to pay for having the tunnel ["society" doesn't make any such calculation]. At a
critical moment when a fitting must be lowered into place, a workman is trapped in a
section of the partly laid tunnel. If it is lowered, it will surely crush the trapped workman
to death. Yet, if it is not and a time consuming rescue of the workman is attempted, the
tunnel will have to be abandoned and the whole project begun anew. Two workmen have
already died in the project as a result of anticipated and unavoidable conditions in the
building of the tunnel. What should be done? Was it a mistake to begin the tunnel in the
first place? But don't we take such risks all the time?
8. Jean Valjean's Conscience, with some comments; see the 1998 movie, Les Miserables, with
Liam Neeson, Uma Thurman, and Geoffrey Rush.
In Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, the hero, Jean Valjean, is an ex-convict, living illegally
under an assumed name and wanted for a robbery he committed many years ago.
[Actually, no -- he is only wanted for breaking parole.] Although he will be returned to
the galleys -- probably [in fact, actually] for life -- if he is caught, he is a good man who
does not deserve to be punished. He has established himself in a town, becoming mayor
and a public benefactor. One day, Jean learns that another man, a vagabond, has been
arrested for a minor crime and identified as Jean Valjean. Jean is first tempted to remain
quiet, reasoning to himself that since he had nothing to do with the false identification of
this hapless vagabond, he has no obligation to save him. Perhaps this man's false
identification, Jean reflects, is "an act of Providence meant to save me." Upon reflection,
however, Jean judges such reasoning "monstrous and hypocritical." He now feels certain
that it is his duty to reveal his identity, regardless of the disastrous personal
consequences. His resolve is disturbed, however, as he reflects on the irreparable harm
his return to the galleys will mean to so many people who depend upon him for their
livelihood -- especially troubling in the case of a helpless woman and her small child to
whom he feels a special obligation. He now reproaches himself for being too selfish, for
thinking only of his own conscience and not of others. The right thing to do, he now
claims to himself, is to remain quiet, to continue making money and using it to help
others. The vagabond, he comforts himself, is not a worthy person, anyway. Still
unconvinced and tormented by the need to decide, Jean goes to the trial and confesses.
Did he do the right thing?
9. A Callous Passerby
Roger Smith, a quite competent swimmer, is out for a leisurely stroll. During the course
of his walk he passes by a deserted pier from which a teenage boy who apparently cannot
swim has fallen into the water. The boy is screaming for help. Smith recognizes that there
is absolutely no danger to himself if he jumps in to save the boy; he could easily succeed
if he tried. Nevertheless, he chooses to ignore the boy's cries. The water is cold and he is
afraid of catching a cold -- he doesn't want to get his good clothes wet either. "Why
should I inconvenience myself for this kid," Smith says to himself, and passes on. Does
Smith have a moral obligation to save the boy? If so, should he have a legal obligation
["Good Samaritan" laws] as well?
10. The Last Episode of Seinfeld, not in Grassian.
The cast of Seinfeld, Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer, have a layover in a small New
England town. They witness a robbery in broad daylight. The robber has his hand in his
pocket, and the victim shouts that the man has a gun. As soon as the robber runs away, a
policeman appears on the scene; but instead of pursuing the robber, he arrests Jerry,
Elaine, George, and Kramer for having violated the new "Good Samaritan" law of the
town. Since the four of them spent the time of the robbery making fun of the victim, who
was fat, their role in the matter doesn't look good, and at their trial everyone who has ever
felt wronged by them in the course of the television series testifies against them. They are
convicted. Is this just? What were they supposed to do during the robbery? Should they
have rushed the robber, just in case he didn't really have a gun?
11. A Poisonous Cup of Coffee, with Jane and Debbie added for the sake of gender equality.
Tom[/Jane], hating his[/her] wife[/husband] and wanting her[/him] dead, puts poison in
her[/his] coffee, thereby killing her[/him]. Joe[/Debbie] also hates his[/her]
wife[/husband] and would like her[/him] dead. One day, Joe's[/Debbie's] wife[/husband]
accidentally puts poison in her[/his] coffee, thinking it's cream. Joe[/Debbie] has the
antidote, but he[/she] does not give it to her[/him]. Knowing that he[/she] is the only one
who can save her[/him], he[/she] lets her[/him] die. Is Joe's[/Debbie's] failure to act as
bad as Tom's[/Jane's] action?
12. The Torture of the Mad Bomber. cf. Clint Eastwood's movie, Dirty Harry. Now, however,
after 9/11/01, we have the case of terrorist suspects who may know of planned operations that
could cost the lives of thousands. The otherwise four-square civil libertarian and Harvard Law
Professor Alan Dershowitz has actually suggested legalized torture to deal with such people.
A madman who has threatened to explode several bombs in crowded areas has been
apprehended. Unfortunately, he has already planted the bombs and they are scheduled to
go off in a short time. It is possible that hundreds of people may die. The authorities
cannot make him divulge the location of the bombs by conventional methods. He refuses
to say anything and requests a lawyer to protect his fifth amendment right against self-
incrimination. In exasperation, some high level official suggests torture. This would be
illegal, of course, but the official thinks that it is nevertheless the right thing to do in this
desperate situation. Do you agree? If you do, would it also be morally justifiable to
torture the mad bomber's innocent wife if that is the only way to make him talk? Why?
13. The Principle of Psychiatric Confidentiality, cf. the 1997 movie, Devil's Advocate, and the
1993 movie, The Firm, on confidentiality between lawyers and clients.
You are a psychiatrist and your patient has just confided to you that he intends to kill a
woman. You're inclined to dismiss the threat as idle, but you aren't sure. Should you
report the threat to the police and the woman or should you remain silent as the principle
of confidentiality between psychiatrist and patient demands? Should there be a law that
compels you to report such threats?
14. The Partiality of Friendship
Jim has the responsibility of filling a position in his firm. His friend Paul has applied and
is qualified, but someone else seems even more qualified. Jim wants to give the job to
Paul, but he feels guilty, believing that he ought to be impartial. That's the essence of
morality, he initially tells himself. This belief is, however, rejected, as Jim resolves that
friendship has a moral importance that permits, and perhaps even requires, partiality in
some circumstances. So he gives the job to Paul. Was he right?
15. The Value of a Promise, Compare with the role of David Cash in the murder of Sherrice
Iverson by Jeremy Strohmeyer.
A friend confides to you that he has committed a particular crime and you promise never
to tell. Discovering that an innocent person has been accused of the crime, you plead with
your friend to give himself up. He refuses and reminds you of your promise. What should
you do? In general, under what conditions should promises be broken?
16. The Perjured President, not in Grassian.
A long time Governor of a Southern State is elected President of the United States on a
platform that includes strong support for laws against sexual harassment. After he is in
office, it comes out that he may have used State Troopers, on duty to protect him as
Governor, to pick up women for him. One of the women named in the national press
stories as having been brought to the Governor for sex felt defamed because she had
actually rebuffed his crude advances, even though he had said that he knew her boss --
she was a State employee. She decides to clear her name by suing the now President for
sexual harassment. The Supreme Court allows the suit to proceed against the sitting
President. Because the sexual harassment laws have been recently expanded, with the
President's agreement, to allow testimony about the history of sexual conduct of the
accused harasser, the President is questioned under oath about rumors of an affair with a
young White House intern. He strongly denies that any sexual relationship had ever taken
place, and professes not to remember if he was even ever alone with the intern. Later,
incontrovertible evidence is introduced -- the President's own semen on the intern's dress
-- that establishes the existence of the rumored sexual relationship. The President then
finally admits only to an ambiguous "improper relationship." So the question is: Is it
hypocritical of the President and his supporters to continued to support the sexual
harassment and perjury laws if they do not want him to be subject to the ordinary
penalties for breaking them?