Posts Tagged ‘Lenore Thomson’


Knowledge and Wisdom

October 6, 2009

Coruscant truly was the “bright center to the universe”: a glittering jewel that embodied the ideals of the galaxy, housing both the Jedi Temple and the Galactic Senate amidst a sprawling planet-wide cityscape. Nothing could tarnish its sheen.

And yet something went wrong. The democratic Republic became the authoritarian Empire, and despite its appearances in The Phantom Menace, Coruscant was a little more than an empty husk when it came to its former, noble glory.

The greatest twist in the prequel trilogy was not that Palpatine was a Sith Lord or that the Chosen One turned to evil; it was that democracy was not overthrown but instead surrendered. The Senate was complicit in its own eventual demise.

Meanwhile, the Jedi aided and abetted this destruction of democratic ideals, despite their own misgivings. By taking advantage of the trafficking of manufactured human life and allowing themselves to move from being “guardians of peace and justice” to fully fledged military Generals, they betrayed their own code of ethics, sacrificing ideals for expediency in a moment of manufactured desperation.

The Jedi sacrificed their ideals when it came to the use of clones.

The Jedi sacrificed their ideals when it came to the use of clones.

What allowed this to happen? Was it a shifting in the Force? No, that is merely a metaphor. In reality, it was the gulf “between knowledge and wisdom”.

On the one hand, you have compassion, true understanding, direct experience and an appreciation for the shades of grey that exist in real life: wisdom. Wisdom comes with both age and an open mind (and open heart).

On the other hand, you have rules, procedures, legalism and rigid modes of thought: knowledge. Knowledge is abstract and linguistic, and can be gained through purely academic means.

The Republic no longer embodied wisdom. The Jedi were stubborn and intellectual, while the Senate was bloated and bureaucratic. They were both victims of an overemphasis of superficial knowledge.

At its best, Star Wars has always been about more than just heroes and villains, instead shedding light on the nature of the human experience. This case is no exception.

Palpatine manipulated the bureaucracy of the Senate to great effect.

Palpatine manipulated the bureaucracy of the Senate to great effect.

Another way to look at the split between knowledge and wisdom would be by analogising to the left- versus right-hemispheres of the brain. The left-hemisphere is linguistic, linear and sequential, whereas the right-hemisphere is intuitive, dynamic and holistic. This is not the split between science and art, however — both can involve either hemisphere.

Yet another approach is to draw upon Lenore Thomson’s work on Jungian psychological functions, where Extraverted Thinking and Feeling, and Introverted Sensation and Intuition, are left-hemisphere functions, and Extraverted Sensation and Intuition, and Introverted Thinking and Feeling, are all right-hemisphere functions. The left-hemisphere functions are essentially “top-down” in their approaches, placing emphasis on external order and hierarchy, whereas the right-hemisphere functions are “bottom-up”, focusing on a more organic means of interacting with the world. In the Myers-Briggs system, this is the split between J-types and P-types.

But of course the point is not that order and hierarchy are bad and holistic and non-linear thinking is good. Rather, the point is that Western culture, like the Republic, has forgotten that rules and order are means to an end only. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the system should serve people and not vice versa.

This was the real downfall of the Republic. It’s a cautionary tale, and one we should all heed.