Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine

By Kevin S. Decker; Jason T. Eberl | Go to book overview

17
Religious Pragmatism
through the Eyes of Luke
Skywalker

JOSEPH W. LONG

In a memorable scene from A New Hope, a skeptical Han Solo tells the idealistic Luke Skywalker, "Kid, I've flown from one 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 allpowerful Force controlling everything." Nevertheless, Luke becomes a hero because of his faith in his friends, his father, and most importantly, the Force, a mystical energy field in which he believes but which he cannot empirically verify.

The question of when to believe something and when not to believe is very important in the Star Wars galaxy and in our own. In fact, this is one of the central questions in the crucial branch of philosophy known as epistemology, the study of the theory of knowledge. Epistemology is important to all of us because clearly some things should be believed and others not. It seems, for example, somehow right to believe in the existence of black holes and wrong to believe in the existence of unicorns.

In this chapter, we'll explore the important matter of "when to believe" by first looking at the skeptical position of the nineteenth-century philosopher William Clifford, and then putting this position to the test with the help of arguments from the famous pragmatist philosopher William James. A pragmatist is a person who is committed to a practical and human view of the world and of epistemology. Pragmatists like James argue that in addition to reasons that show the truth of what we believe, there are also practical reasons to believe in something. We'll call the

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