Originally written for Jedi365.
In a recent – shall we say – discussion there was an issue raised of ethics being included in teaching techniques. Now this is something I have been embattled with for years (so a raw subject for me, one could say). The Jedi Community since the beginning has put technique and “powers” and martial arts and all this stuff first (because philosophy and ethics are boring – lightsabers and force powers are exciting). It is the forefront of most training programs (even the main website is proof of that). Funny enough this is even touched on in the role-playing guides as Lightsaber Syndrome. Here is a technique for energy manipulation. Here is a technique on how to dislocate a joint. Here is a technique on Subverting someone’s Free Will. And that is it. There is no ethical lesson, disclaimer, or meat to it. Just, here is a gun – use it responsibly.
The idea being – Well, we are all Jedi. So ethical education doesn’t need to be said. Which I cannot even comment on without saying some unJedi-like things. Because that type of thinking leads to Jedi who have been around for years and they don’t see an issue with removing and subverting a person’s right to chose (dominating a person’s mind). No problem with tricking a person into doing what the Jedi wants. After-all it is a Jedi doing it – so it must be for a good reason yes? No danger in that at all. No abuse of power possibilities what-so-ever. Because no Jedi has ever fallen or made mistakes or lost the struggle to power. Nope. Never happened and never will.
I get it. Ethics is a very murky subject. One the Philosophical community has been debating and working through for centuries. What makes an Action “Right” or “Proper”? What makes an Action “Wrong” or “Evil”? These are very big questions which have a lot of different answers available to them. So it can seem like a tough subject to tackle. However the Jedi is not some subjective Path which is solely left to personal interpretation. There are rules to which we adhere. A core we all must follow – in one form or another. That includes ethical action.
Yet it is a topic so overlooked in the Jedi Community it is scary. What are the ethical values of the Jedi? When is a bad technique a good one to use? How does a Jedi determine that their actions are Right? So far I have seen people claim a stance that – well they are a Jedi – so they are right. No ethics needed. But if Jedi don’t get any ethical education, how can we assume Jedi know what constitutes ethical action?
Most Jedi will fall back to Utilitarianism for their ethics. “The greatest good for the greatest number.” It is okay to punch someone if it helps other people. It is okay to subvert a person’s free will if it helps other people. It is okay to steal bread to feed children. It is okay to be a complete jerk as long as it helps other people. I mean that’s why the Jedi why love me right? Me being a raging jerk helps educate other people – ergo I am a shining example of a Jedi. Right? I am justified in my actions, right?
Of course not. Because Jedi do not believe “the ends justify the means.” In fact there is a very rigid thought against this ethical code. It is often even labelled as Sith Thought. This Ethical School of Thought is called Consequentialism. Meaning the Consequences of your actions (good or bad) are the only thing that matter. The Outcome is what defines an Action as Good or Evil. This is not something Jedi hold to – even with the greatest good attached to it. Why?
Because how you do something is just as important as what happens because of it. Your Intentions matter, yes. Your Actions matter, yes. And the Outcome matters, yes. One does not override the other. As Jedi we are bound to a certain rule of ethics (I call it the Jedi Method) – Jedi Intention + Jedi Action = Jedi Outcome.
This is basic Rule Utilitarianism. Jedi want to do the greatest good for the greatest number. But they must do so within the confines of the Jedi Path. They must do so within the ethical values of the Lifestyle they live. This means adhering to the Jedi Code, the Jedi Rules of Behavior, the Jedi Compass, the Jedi Circle, the Jedi Precepts, the 33 Teachings of the Jedi, take your pick (heck, choose all of them). There is this core of the path to which we must adhere.
My Point – Do not neglect your ethical studies dear Jedi. Do not assume a person is always right just because they wear the Jedi title. Righteousness has harmed more people than most like to admit. What you do – How you do it – These things matter. Don’t go the Quick and Easy Path. Yes, it is easier to subvert free will than talk things through. Easier to punch a person than show them why people want to punch them. But that really isn’t the Jedi Way now is it?
Now if you are curious about ethics and how they apply to the Jedi. You can brush up on Deontological Ethics, Ethics of Care, and Rule Utilitarianism. Then combined with your experience and knowledge as a Jedi (along with whatever Jedi Texts you like the most, Compass, Circle, Maxims, Teachings, etc.) and determine which you feel best fits the Jedi Way and Why. Cause Homework is fun! (I mean I actually enjoy repeating this assignment, but I also love the philosophy way more than the “cool” aspects of being jedi; so you know grain of salt and all that.)