Han, Luke, and C-3PO - "Doomed" by Determinism


Han, Luke, and C-3PO, “Doomed” by Determinism


            In his visit to the Death Star, which we find out is now back under construction, Darth Vader tells a commander that “the Emperor does not share your optimistic appraisal of the situation,” to which the commander responds nervously “we shall double our efforts” (“Star Wars: episode 6, Return of the Jedi”).  But really what does it matter if they “double their efforts?”  With his ability to use “the force,” How does the Emperor already not know what the outcome and the timetable for the completion of the Death Star will be?  Or has his comments to Darth Vader, which Vader in turn relays to the commander, cause them to “double their efforts,” and thus fulfilling the timetable the Emperor wishes.  So, what could be seen as an omniscient ability to see events in the future, was actually a cause from one’s own doing (in this case saying the right thing at the right time).  This does not explain away “the force” in my mind, but it does show instances where “the force” can be explained in other terms.  In my previous papers “We’re Doomed: Star Wars and Determinism,” and “A ‘Knowledge’ of ‘the force,’” I have maintained my stance that Luke Skywalker and Han Solo’s fate has always been predetermined.  Now, after viewing “Return of the Jedi,” I must conclude (sadly) that the argument for determinism is still the strongest in explaining where Luke and Han end up at the end of the “Star Wars” trilogy.  This is, in my opinion, because there are just too many “internal” and “external” constraints that Han and Luke must contend with.  Finally, I will reinforce my determinism argument by following another character through the original trilogy, C-3PO.  I contend that from the moment C-3PO was created and programmed, he took on a predetermined fate just as Luke and Han did.

            First of all, referring to determinism, John Chaffee writes that “the keystone of d’Holbach’s view is that we are inextricably ‘connected to universal nature’ and so are subject to the ‘necessary and immutable laws that she imposes on all the beings she contains’” (The Philosopher’s Way 179 Ch. 4).  When referring to “Star Wars: episode 4, A New Hope,” I stated that “Luke’s actions of choosing to fly a dangerous mission towards a heavily armed Death Star, with a low probability of success,” was because “the ‘internal’ constraint he [was] suffering from [was] his idealistic view of the rebellion; and after this idealism was established, the choice to fly the mission no longer actually existed” (“We’re Doomed: Star Wars and Determinism” 2).  Then, in reference to “Star Wars: episode 5, The Empire Strikes Back” I reiterate “my determinist argument by saying that Luke is determined to believe in the force because his internal constraint that the force is necessary, force... him to believe” (“A ‘Knowledge’ of ‘the Force’” 5).  Finally, to continue my determinist argument with “Star Wars: episode 6 Return of the Jedi,” and as Chaffee states, that we are “inextricably ‘connected to universal nature,’” (179 Ch. 4) I will use an example of an external constraint that causes Luke’s predetermined fate.  When Luke is trapped in the pit with the Rancor, his fate is determined because it is “universal nature” that gravity exists, and it is because of that existence, that Luke knows that the gate will fall and eliminate the Rancor.  He also has the internal constraint of knowing how to survive in a life and death situation.  It is this internal constraint that allows Luke to live, and it is this lack of an internal constraint that causes the Gamorrean guard to parish.  Now, I will recap and continue my determinism argument for Han Solo.

            In “The System of Nature,” Baron d’Holbach writes:

             “the will, as we have elsewhere said, is a modification of the brain, by which it is disposed to action, or prepared to give play to the organs. This will is necessarily           determined by the qualities, good or bad, agreeable or painful, of the object or   the motive that acts upon his senses, or of which the idea remains with him, and is resuscitated by his memory” (The Philosopher’s Way 179 Ch. 4).

So, our responses are predetermined before we even produce them, because of our past experiences.  Referring to “Star Wars: episode 4, A New Hope,” I describe the first time we see Han Solo.  “When we first see Han he is making a deal to take both Obi Wan and Luke to take them to Alderaan.  Already Han is suffering from both ‘internal,’ and ‘external’ constraints as he makes the decision to take them to their destination.  Externally, he must make the decision because he is under threat of his own life, due to the money he owes the gangster Jabba the Hutt.  Internally, he is suffering from his own obsession with obtaining money” (“We’re Doomed: Star Wars and Determinism” 3).  In “A ‘Knowledge’ of ‘the Force’” I determined that “Finally, we can see Han Solo’s fate as determined in a much more literal way; he’s frozen in carbonite!  I would argue that there cannot be free will if that is the case” (4).  Now, with this, I was making the argument that the “external” constraint of being frozen in carbonite, would take away any ability to make any personal choices, and if you cannot make a choice then you cannot have free will.  However, the argument can (and will be made later in this essay) be made that Han ending up in the carbonite, in the first place, was not determined.  Finally, another instance of Han Solo’s determinism can be seen in “Star Wars: episode 6, Return of the Jedi,” when we see Han ask Leia “You love him don’t you?” when referring to her feelings for Luke.  He then goes on to say that he’ll stay out of their way in the future.  This may appear to some to be an instance of free will because I think it’s safe to say that as an audience we believe Han to be madly in love with Leia.  However, it is exactly this love that causes Han to react the way he did.  His love for Leia is his internal constraint, which causes Han to act only in Leia’s best interest.  By that, I mean, whatever will make Leia happiest (in this case Han thinks that her happiness will be best in a relationship with Luke) will determine the choices Han makes.  Why then does Han, for instance enter the asteroid field in “Star Wars: episode 5 The Empire Strikes Back,” knowing the odds, and in turn endanger Leia’s life?  That could be a question contained in an indeterminist argument.

            John Chaffe writes “while determinists both ‘hard’ and ‘soft,’ view all human actions as necessarily caused by preceding events, indeterminists are convinced that at least some human actions are independent and that freedom of choice is a genuine possibility, at least at circumstances” (The Philosopher’s Way 193 Ch. 4).  Chaffee goes on to state that “our beliefs in self-improvement, morality, religion, social improvement, crime and punishment, and countless other dimensions of our private and public lives” (The Philosopher’s Way 194 Ch. 4).  It’s these issues of “self-improvement,” “morality,” religion,” and “social improvement” that I believe that the indeterminist can use to make his or her argument.  First of all, if their lives are determined, why would Han and Luke seek out their own personal self-improvement?  We see it occurring with Luke as he attempts to become a Jedi, and Han as he eventually joins the rebellion.  We see both Han and Luke act morally (more Luke than Han, I would argue) throughout the trilogy; Han as he returns to aid Luke in the destruction of the Death Star, and Luke as he refuses to strike down his father as the Emperor commands.  Then, with the idea of religion, I feel it’s safe to say that at least with Luke, “the force” could be considered a religion, and Luke could be considered a follower of it.  Finally, social improvement is evident throughout all three of the films, with both Luke and Han.  I think attempting, and eventually succeeding in removing the Empire, is the ultimate attempt at social improvement.  So, the indeterminist would argue that if our fate is determined, what would the point be in taking any of these actions?  I would argue that because these concepts exist (self-improvement, morality, religion, and social improvement) we are just determined to abide by them.  These issues actually become “internal” constraints, and our decisions are based upon them.  Now, in reference to “internal” constraints, we’ll take a look at C-3PO, who I believe has nothing but “internal” constraints.

            In “We’re Doomed: Star Wars and Determinism” I contended that “in the beginning of ‘Star Wars: A New Hope,” we hear the droid, C-3PO exclaim to his partner Artoo-Deetoo ‘we seem to be made to suffer, it’s our lot in life,’ and this comes after the simple statement of ‘we’re doomed’” (1).  Now, I would argue that the only reason C-3PO feels he is “made to suffer,” is that he was programmed that way.  Can C-3PO be said to have free choice, being that he is a droid?  I would argue that he cannot.  In “The System of Nature,” Baron d’Holbach writes:

     “If when tormented with violent thirst, he figures to himself in idea, or really perceives a            fountain, whose limpid streams might cool his feverish want, is he sufficient master of              himself to desire or not to desire the object competent to satisfy so lively a want?  He will        no doubt be conceded, that it is impossible he should not be desirous to satisfy it;but it          will be said if at this moment it is announced to him that the water he so ardently desires is      poisoned, he will, not withstanding his vehement thirst, abstain from drinking it; and has,          therefore, been falsely concluded that he is a free agent” (The Philosopher’s Way 180 Ch.          4).

Now, of course C-3PO would never be desirous of water, but the point I believe d’Holbach is making is that our choices are determined by our greatest “desires,” and so there can be no free will.  In his example, the desire to live would cause one not to drink the poisoned water because at least on might live longer (though eventually dying of thirst) if they abstain from the poison.  Now, C-3PO does not even have that choice, all of his choices being predetermined when he was programmed.  Therefore, all of his actions are based on someone else's design.  So, for instance in “Star Wars: episode 6 Return of the Jedi,” when C-3PO causes a distraction and draws the storm troopers into the Ewok’s trap, that “choice” had to be predetermined.  He analyzed that Han and Leia were in trouble, so his programming “kicked in,” and he choose to make the distraction.  I believe it would be hard to argue against C-3PO’s determinism.  However, there may be an argument for libertarianism.

     In “Existentialism is a Humanism,” Jean-Paul Sartre states:

    “The doctrine I am presenting is the very opposite of quietism, since it declares, ‘there is no     reality except in action.’  Moreover, it goes further, since it adds, ‘Man is nothing else than       his plan; he exists only to the extent that he fulfills himself; he is therefore nothing else           than the ensemble of his acts, nothing else than his life” (The Philosopher’s Way 212 Ch. 4).

So, Sartre is stating that we exist, because of our actions.  So, we must have free will because we have the ability to make good or bad actions.  Chaffee states that “for these individuals who choose a life of trivial action, their lives and their selves are also trivialized” (The Philosopher’s Way 212 Ch. 4).  We see C-3PO making the decision to be idolized by the Ewoks, yet he also states that he cannot “impersonate a deity.”  Isn’t that exactly what he is doing be allowing himself to be idolized?  Finally, is that allowance of idolization a choice (probably more bad then good), and if you say that it is, then you may argue that C-3PO has free will.  I of course, using determinism, would argue that like Han and Luke, C-3PO has a predetermined fate, and I would say that his is even more so.

            The same argument can be made for C-3PO that I made with Han and Luke, that because of the issues of “self-improvement,” “morality,” “religion,” and “social improvement,” that C-3PO follows the beliefs of an indeterminist.  He does show moments of all of these things; self-improvement- he gladly looks forward to an oil bath in “Star Wars: episode 4, A New Hope,” morality- he shows some rather moral concern when Luke, Han, and Leia are in the garbage compacter, religion- he at least acknowledges that there is something referred to as “the force,” and with social improvement- does he not also contribute to the downfall of the Empire?  However, I must argue that this is still determined because he must be acting based upon how he was programmed, which again was designed by someone else.  This also must be said that C-3PO’s knowledge of the force cannot show that he has free will because again this knowledge was not obtained by himself.  He was either programmed to have knowledge of the force or his programming is such that new information is retrieved, analyzed and stored, but the obtaining of it still cannot be considered free will because C-3PO is not responsible for how the information is processed; that was determined by the programmer.  Finally, I would say that compared to Han and Luke, C-3PO’s determinism is far more tragic.  Whereas Han and Luke can believe that they have free will, and live to have what they consider a “fulfilled” life, C-3PO cannot.  Even if he is programmed to believe that he had free will, can it ever really be considered as such?  The rest of the “Star Wars” universe, I believe proves that it cannot.  In the “Star Wars” universe droids are essentially treated as slaves.  This is seen in “Star Wars: episode 4, A New Hope,” when C-3PO and Artoo Deetoo are sold to Luke’s Uncle Ben.  It is also seen when Luke offers the droids as a peace offering to Jabba the Hutt, in return for Han Solo’s life.  So, can one argue that a slave has free will?  I believe that one cannot, and if this is true, C-3PO’s determinism makes him less free than Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.  Finally, as I stated earlier, Han Solo being frozen in carbonite didn’t allow him to have free will.  I believe this also to be true with C-3PO, only it is his programming that is his carbonite.  Darth Vader chooses to test the freezing process on Han Solo because he had the “internal” constraint of indifference.  It didn’t matter, to Vader, what happened to Solo, so it made it the decision to test the process inevitable.  I believe that the same can be said about C-3PO’s creator, in that he was determined to program C-3PO a certain way, and therefore C-3PO is determined to act in that “certain way.”  So, I believe what I’m trying to iterate is that all determined actions come from a previous determined action and since we cannot ever find the original (the very first) action, all actions must be considered determined.

            After another viewing the three original “Star Wars” films I have not wavered in my belief that all of the characters in this universe have determined fates.  It may not be a popular or even enjoyable to think in this determinist perspective, but I believe that it is determinism that makes the “strongest” argument.  It can be seen in “Star Wars: episode 4, A New Hope,” when Luke decides to get in his X-wing fighter and take on the Death Star.  It can also be seen in “Star Wars: episode 5, The Empire Strikes Back,” when Han Solo lacks free will when Boba Fett delivers him, frozen in carbonite, to Jabba’s palace.  Finally, it can be seen in “Star Wars: episode 6, Return of the Jedi,” with C-3PO, in his programmed action to become a distraction, as Han and Leia have been captured, by storm troopers, on the forest moon of Endor.  Though it may be unpleasant to think like this, perhaps we can take some advice from David Hume’s writing.  He states “most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras” (“An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” 314).  So, when philosophical thought gets you “down,” such in making the argument that all of life is determined, you can pop some popcorn, put in a “Star Wars” DVD and just enjoy the show, though you might ask yourself, "what 'determined' me to make this decision?

Works Cited

Chaffee, John. The Philosopher’s Way. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. Print.

d’Holbach, Baron. “The System of Nature.” Chaffee, John. The Philosopher’s Way. 4th  ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 180. Print.

Freiwald, Hans. “A ‘Knowledge’ of ‘the Force.’” 2012. Print.

Freiwald, Hans. “We’re Doomed: Star Wars and Determinism.” 2012. Print.

Hume, David. “Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.” Chaffee, John. The Philosopher’s Way. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 314. Print.

Kershner, Irvin, dir. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Twentieth Century Fox, 1980. Film.

Lucas, George, dir. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Twentieth Century Fox, 1977. Film.

Marquand, Richard, dir. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.  Twentieth Century Fox, 1983.  Film.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. “Existentialism is a Humanism.” Chaffee, John. The Philosopher’s      Way. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 212. Print.