Exploring the Jedi philosophy of Star Wars

Yoda might know his way around a lightsaber, but can his Jedi teachings help us navigate modern life?

Galactic peacekeepers

Star Wars has always explored deep philosophical and spiritual themes — especially through the teachings of the legendary Jedi master, Yoda. But how can Yoda's wisdom be useful today? Prof. Kevin Decker, Eastern Washington University helps Brut. make sense of it all.

Do or do not. There is no try.

That's a very Eastern perspective that, “There is no try. Only do,” that goes back to the Wuwei philosophy that is part of Daoism that trickles into samurai and martial arts training. The idea is that one becomes so well trained, musicians, I think can relate to this in a certain discipline, that it flows forth from the individual rather than being a concerted action. And in flowing forth from the individual, it harmonizes better with the force and therefore makes that person more likely to be successful.

You must unlearn what you have learned.

The whole process of unlearning to me is the basis for philosophy going all the way back to Socrates, who basically is undoing when he dialogs with other famous people, poets and generals in ancient Greece. He's basically undoing their web of presuppositions in which they are the expert about something like, how does one best worship the gods or what is justice?

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Yoda is trying to show that we can't easily compartmentalize things like fear and hate. We can't say I fear this thing, but I don't hate it or vice versa, but rather that the way our psychology works, that these things are inevitably knitted to each other and that a kind of greater intentionality about the attitudes that we have toward the world is necessary. If we're not to move down that step, go downward toward the dark side It’s much easier to be led from, say, for example, telling one small lie to having to tell bigger lies to cover up that lie. And oftentimes it just takes one bad choice that maybe we didn't even really think about to set us on that path.

In designing Yoda and the Jedi — the galactic peacekeepers of the Star Wars universe — creator George Lucas pulled from eastern and western influences. Despite being on the losing side in a majority of the Star Wars series, Decker thinks Jedi teachings still have merit.