Star Wars: philosophy and entertainment

Leonard Finkelman, Linfield College assistant professor of philosophyStar Wars can teach us about philosophy, but philosophy can also change the way we watch the films.

That is the way Leonard Finkelman, assistant professor of philosophy at Linfield College, sees it. Science fiction in general, and Star Wars in particular, offers a great opportunity to consider philosophical questions according to Finkelman, who has a chapter included in The Ultimate Star Wars and Philosophy: You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned, released in October.

“From its start science fiction has been a distinctly philosophical genre,” Finkelman said. “You take real-world science as a starting point and depart from that in interesting and novel ways. (You can) explore the ethical consequences, the meta-physical consequences; you know perhaps the emotional consequences.”

In the book, Finkelman tackles the issue of de-extinction and cloning through the lens of Star Wars by tying it to the Zillo Beast, a creature that became extinct on Corsucant. It is a familiar topic, one Finkelman has also illustrated by using the books and films about Jurassic Park.

Cloning was a common practice in that distant galaxy, where entire clone armies were grown and trained to fight wars across star systems. A young clone named Boba Fett gained notoriety as the galaxy’s feared bounty hunter…One might wonder if the Zillo Beasts could be cloned, but it seems more appropriate to wonder why the Zillo Beasts hadn’t been cloned yet.

“The point of philosophy is to engage these questions for which the ultimate answer is perhaps beyond the reach of human capabilities,” Finkelman said. “The six films that we have are really pregnant with these philosophical ideas that I think are interesting in their own right, but are presented in a way that can hopefully get people who have never done philosophy to recognize that these are fun questions to debate.”

In the interview below, Finkelman wades into the debate over the Star Wars films and talks about the philosophic differences between Episodes IV, V and VI, and Episodes I, II and III.

Go even deeper into the philosophy of Star Wars, including a discussion of free will and what Finkelman expects from Episode VII: The Force Awakens, by reading this post at