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The Ethics and Morality of the Jedi Mind Trick - moonspinner
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The Ethics and Morality of the Jedi Mind Trick
I started discussions on this on tfn and the Homepage forums but they didn’t really take off. I’m still not very satisfied with this poll, but I tried hard to make it as objective as possible.

Poll #920947 The Ethics and Morality of the Jedi Mind Trick

When viewing a mind-control/brain washing scenario, who do you empathize with more?

The mind-controller.
13(34.2%)
The mind-controllee.
25(65.8%)

How similar or dissimilar is the Jedi Mind Trick of Star Wars to the Imperius Curse of Harry Potter? [Choose closest to your opinion]

Identical: one is magic, one is the Force, both are methods of mind control.
15(40.5%)
They are only similar in situations where the Mind Trick is being abused.
16(43.2%)
Polar opposites: they are not the same thing.
6(16.2%)

Do you think the Sith can use the Jedi Mind Trick?

Yes, it’s just another Force power.
28(73.7%)
No, it’s the 'Jedi' Mind Trick after all.
1(2.6%)
Yes, how else did Palpatine influence so many Senators?
5(13.2%)
No, we never see that in the films.
2(5.3%)
Yes [other reason. Please state]
1(2.6%)
No [other reason. Please state]
1(2.6%)

Do you think Anakin Skywalker ever used the Mind Trick, as a Jedi or as Darth Vader?

Yes
27(71.1%)
No
11(28.9%)

Do you see mind control as a violation, regardless of the circumstances?

Yes
29(76.3%)
No
9(23.7%)

Do you see mind control as an acceptable form of violation?

Yes, if the situation is expedient enough.
19(48.7%)
Yes, if the mind-controllee is a criminal or morally suspect person.
4(10.3%)
Yes, if the mind-controller has good intentions and is only trying to correct the other person.
5(12.8%)
Yes [please give other reason].
3(7.7%)
Never.
8(20.5%)

If you absolutely had to choose between torture (Crucio) and mind-control (Imperio) in an expedient situation, which would you choose?

Crucio.
12(31.6%)
Imperio.
26(68.4%)


If you like, you can say something[s] about why you have a particular opinion.

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Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

34 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
souderwan From: souderwan Date: February 5th, 2007 11:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Interesting poll, LN. I was thinking about this recently when working on my own story and debating whether or not I wanted to use this particular tool.

The mind trick looks pretty cool and the surface and it made for great entertainment in AotC, but....Wow! Could you be any more abusive, Obi-Wan?? Anyway, I can accept the mind trick if the overall good is served by the violation (like in ANH when Obi-Wan gets them past the storm troopers).
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 5th, 2007 12:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
My 'tude to the mind trick is influenced a lot by the fact that I was into Harry Potter long before I watched my first Star Wars movie. In Harry Potter, the Imperius Curse (which I see as essentially the same thing) is one of the three Unforgivables, and that's regardless of how it's used. Hence, the 'these are not the droids you're looking for' always strikes the [wrong?] nerves with me.

However from my poll results so far, GFFA-wise, the mind trick is regarded as something different, more benign.
From: galadhir Date: February 5th, 2007 12:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the distinguishing factor to me is that the mind trick is canonically only supposed to work on the 'weak minded'. In other words it isn't irresistable - it's more in the nature of a strong suggestion. You therefore probably couldn't use it to force people to betray their friends or do anything that was wildly against their basic nature (unlike an Imperius curse.)

It's canonically used to get a couple of guards to look the other way (when actually finding the droids would get them into a lot of extra work, and noticed by higher-up scary people, which they probably wouldn't want anyway.) To get a drug dealer to go home and think about his life (which - who knows - he probably already does wonder about what the hell he's doing with his life.) To get a junk dealer to accept a currency which he would have to go to the trouble of changing, rather than the local one. You know; they're all small things that these people might have done anyway, just helped along, rather than an irresistable outside compulsion.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 5th, 2007 01:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Your points are very sound. I've actually read a theory on hypnosis that's based on this: you can't hypnotize someone to do something against his/her will. Is that how you see the Mind trick? A kind of benign hypnosis? Does this also mean that you don't think the 'weakness' of the mind depends on the 'strength' of the mind-tricker?
From: galadhir Date: February 5th, 2007 01:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the 'weakness' of the mind is an absolute and denotes how influenceable that person is in a personality sense. Even in RL, some people are very suggestible and some people aren't, and I think it probably is just like hypnosis in that some people are ready to go under with the merest suggestion and some people resist it tooth and nail - and therefore can't be influenced at all.

But also, some people who would be uninfluenceable in the normal course of things might be influenceable if they just came into contact with someone who had more empathy/charisma/force sensitivity than they are used to. So the ability to use the mind trick might vary between Jedi without it necessarily being a crude matter of strength against strength.
r0ck3tsci3ntist From: r0ck3tsci3ntist Date: February 5th, 2007 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Obi_Wan used the mind trick in AotC?
r0ck3tsci3ntist From: r0ck3tsci3ntist Date: February 5th, 2007 05:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
*whacks own head* Oh yeah!
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 5th, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lol!
From: galadhir Date: February 5th, 2007 12:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've put that I don't think the Sith use the Jedi Mind Trick because I think that the mind trick depends on being able to establish a sort of living force sympathy between user and victim. It's a sort of hypnotic suggestion that requires a kind of empathy between the two - and the Sith, I think, would go for a more straight-out compulsion, or even the torture option (or both) :)
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 5th, 2007 01:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good point. The way you describe it, it doesn't seem like something the Sith would bother to use even if they have the power, like healing.

But there's something I don't understand: you mentioned compulsion. Is this another form of mind control or something else entirely (bribery, coercion, etc?)
From: galadhir Date: February 5th, 2007 01:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm using 'compulsion' in the sense of *forcing* someone to do something, rather than *persuading* them to do it. It's like the difference between persuasion and possession. In one the controllee has no choice what so ever and is essentially like a puppet being operated by the controller (which is how I think the Imperius curse and the Sith Mind Trick - if there is such a thing - would work) and in the other the controllee actually assents to the suggestion, and it doesn't work if they don't, as in hypnosis.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 5th, 2007 02:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Okay, I get the distinction. Like I said, it actually makes a lot of sense.

I'm inclined not to think that Sith could do mind tricks, if only because torture is so much more enjoyable. :p But why do you think Anakin won't have done mind tricks as a Jedi?
From: galadhir Date: February 5th, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
*g* That's just my personal feeling that the mind trick requires a certain level of empathy/sympathy on the tricker's part and Anakin doesn't seem the sort to be capable of it. But I'm not absolutely wedded to that idea - it's probably just me being unfair to Anakin.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 5th, 2007 04:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually I agree with the fact that Anakin would never do a mind trick. I just don't agree with your reason.

I think Anakin, having been a slave, would see mind tricking as another form of invasion, regardless of its benignity. Hence the reason why Anakin's the Fearless Hero and OW the Negotiator.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 5th, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree with the idea of Anakin not using the mind trick but I don't agree with your reason. My opinion of that is that Anakin, a former slave would place a high value on mental freedom and hence have more scruples about infringing on someone else's.
vanimy From: vanimy Date: February 5th, 2007 02:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's a tough issue you're addressing. The way it's presented in the movies you think it's normal for a Jedi to mind trick someone... But when you think about it, it's ambiguous at best.

I would've answered 'I don't know' to the question about the Sith using mind tricks if I could have. I really have no idea about it...

I think that since they say that mind tricks only work on the weak minded people tend to not feel too concerned about it...
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 5th, 2007 03:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
::face_doh! :: I knew I had forgotten some options. I should have left a 'Don't know' for that question.

So you think Anakin used the mind trick as a Jedi? ::intrigued::
vanimy From: vanimy Date: February 5th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I think so...

When Padmé asked him about that in AOTC he said it only worked on the weak minded. If he was repulsed by the mind trick process he would've told her he didn't use it at all... *shrugs*
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 5th, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Perhaps he didn't want to ruin the mood? I think he just wanted to reassure her that it couldn't be done, regardless of intentions.
From: bobill Date: February 5th, 2007 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
dude, I second (third? fourth? n+1th?) the interesting ness of this poll. Therefore I shall take the 10 minutes before my next class starts to express more interest.

When viewing a mind-control/brain washing scenario, who do you empathize with more?

Such an interesting question, one that I will not even begin to answer. It really is the trick of the director, isn't it, to choose whether the story is about the manipulator or manipulated. It's kind of like the whole Antigone thing in the Sophocles trilogy... Is the story about Antigone the tragic killed, or Creon the killer?

Do you see mind control as an acceptable form of violation?

I put yes [give other reason] but frankly I don't know. I mean, right now, while I sit in this confortable chair basking in the sunlight, I'd abhor anyone who tried to read my mind. But if for some reason my mother was dying of crack and the only way I could save her was to mind-trick some evil doctor with a magical antibody to save her, I'd totally try to justify it by weighing the advantages and disadvantages, saying I didn't actually hurt the doctor, etc etc. (sorry for the ramble/bad grammar... class in 5...)

I'm interested to what your answers to the poll were.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 6th, 2007 06:10 am (UTC) (Link)
It really is the trick of the director, isn't it, to choose whether the story is about the manipulator or manipulated. It's kind of like the whole Antigone thing in the Sophocles trilogy... Is the story about Antigone the tragic killed, or Creon the killer?


Oooh! Exactly, isn't it? With Imperius, we're introduced to it from the perspective of the controllee. We root for him to break off the mental hold. With the mind trick, we're introduced to it from the perspective of the controller and it's funny.

But like Moody said to the students when he taught them with spiders: "Funny, isn't it? How would you like it if I did that to one of you?"


Do you see mind control as an acceptable form of violation?

Actually it's meant to address you. Would you accept to be violated via the mind trick? Would you be ok with it?

I'm interested to what your answers to the poll were
:) I wanted to get as many opinions as possible before voting myself but they're up now.
From: bobill Date: February 7th, 2007 04:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually it's meant to address you. Would you accept to be violated via the mind trick? Would you be ok with it?

Oh, well in that case, no. I have far too many embarrasing secrets, and I'd never forgive anyone who violated me.

Of course, there's no hard-fast reason why people need to look for my forgiveness...

:) I wanted to get as many opinions as possible before voting myself but they're up now.

I'm sooo holding you to that!
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 7th, 2007 08:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Of course, there's no hard-fast reason why people need to look for my forgiveness...

When you put it that way... ::laugh::

I've actually voted. You should be able to see my points when you click 'View Results'. I noticed that you thought Anakin did the Mind-whammy. Care to explain why you think so?
fialleril From: fialleril Date: February 6th, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for broaching this topic. I think you know my feelings on this, but I'll share again anyway. ;)

I think mind control of any kind is one of those things that comes very close to being unforgivable. (Notice I only say very close, because I don't think there's anything that is literally unforgivable.) The problem with the mind trick, or with any form of mind control, is that it robs the victim of a part of what it means to be human (or sentient, if you prefer, since we're talking Star Wars). Even if, as some people have suggested, the victim does in some way have to consent to the mind control, as in hypnosis, the fact that they are being relieved of free will remains.

Actually, this whole discussion reminds me very much of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov. He believed that people want nothing so much as to be rid of their free will, to find someone to tell them what to do, so that they could have peace. He, the Inquisitor, would be that person, and he would essentially control all the desperate masses eager to be rid of the freedom that makes them human, and for their own good.

But they wouldn't be human any more. Their minds, their thoughts, their feelings, their lives would not be their own, or even their community's. They would simply be automatons, living a life of blissful ignorance that is not really a life at all. Because without freedom, nothing that makes life truly life is possible: love, self-expression, artistry, variety, emotion, etc.

A mind trick such as "These aren't the droids you're looking for," seems like a very small thing. But it is, nevertheless, a taking control of someone else's freedom. "You want to go home and rethink your life," although on the surface seemingly more innocent, is actually much more problematic. If Elan does go home and rethink his life, and if he changes his ways, what then. Is that a good thing? It would be too easy to say yes. But the truth of the matter is this: if he does change his life, did he really choose to do so himself? And if not, was the change worth the loss of his freedom?

For the last question, I believe I would actually prefer to be tortured rather than to be mind tricked. However, when someone is tortured past the breaking point, the torture itself can become a form of mind control. So actually, I think there is very little difference between those two options. Personally, I think that both are equally abhorrent...
fialleril From: fialleril Date: February 9th, 2007 07:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Er, sorry for the pontificating there. *cringes* I think I killed the thread...
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 9th, 2007 07:48 am (UTC) (Link)

::blushes:: No you did not! And no, I don't mean to ignore you in the least. I'm still thinking up a worthy response to your very solid, very intelligent points. :)
fialleril From: fialleril Date: February 9th, 2007 08:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh no, I didn't think you were ignoring me. LOL. Just I read back over it and thought I sounded rather...preachy. ;) Hopefully not too bad...
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 9th, 2007 09:56 am (UTC) (Link)
::smiles:: I like unconventional people, remember?
fialleril From: fialleril Date: February 9th, 2007 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
True, true. I only hope that's a good thing. ;) /snark
sunnyskywalker From: sunnyskywalker Date: February 11th, 2007 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is a fascinating poll. I've been thinking about this issue on and off for a while, and it's good to see others have too!

I said that the Mind Trick is the same as Imperius, because that is the closest to my opinion, but I think we're hampered by the fuzziness of the descriptions sometimes. Harry can fight off Imperius, with practice, so it doesn't completely overwhelm the controllee's will - but it does seem a lot stronger than the Mind Trick. We've never heard of anyone going, "Bah! Imperius doesn't work on me!" There are also other forms of mind control in HP, like Confundus and Obliviate, and it's hard to say exactly how those differ from Imperius. Is it a similar process, but different in aim and maybe strength? Or is it completely different?

Regardless, the Mind Trick is a little creepy to me, even though it does make for some funny moments. I can grudgingly accept Obi-Wan's "These aren't the droids you're looking for," because he's trying to keep Luke, the droids, and himself from ending up in the Empire's hands. That would mean Obi-Wan would probably be toast, Luke would either be dead or under Vader's power, the Rebellion wouldn't get the Death Star plans... it's a pretty desperate situation. But when he uses it to get rid of an annoying drug dealer in AotC, I think he's definitely abusing it. A lot. He could have gotten rid of Elean without that, but he messed with his head anyway, which seems to me like a profound lack of respect for other beings' free will.

Sorry to go on so long!
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 12th, 2007 01:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for voting on the poll.

Is it a similar process, but different in aim and maybe strength? Or is it completely different?

Your points on Harry being able to fight off Imperius can be paralleled to the mind trick working in a very limited capacity on Jedi. After all, one might say that the Muggles who are never trained to fight off Imperius would be completely overwhelmed by it. In that sense, the Mind Trick seems stronger since strong-willed people, Jedi or non-Jedi alike, are immune to it while the Imperius can and does work on wizards.



Regardless, the Mind Trick is a little creepy to me, even though it does make for some funny moments. I can grudgingly accept Obi-Wan's "These aren't the droids you're looking for," because he's trying to keep Luke, the droids, and himself from ending up in the Empire's hands.

Your elaboration is something I've thought off and on and I've never been entirely confident of the final conclusion I've drawn. Does doing a little evil for a greater good justify the evil or lessen the good? Of course, that depends on whether or not one views mind tricks as evil. After all, invasion of privacy or not, Obi-Wan did help Elan 'Death-Stick Dealer'.

skye_princess From: skye_princess Date: February 12th, 2007 12:01 am (UTC) (Link)
This is a very interesting point that you have raised with this poll. Personally I would not like to be mind-controlled because regardless of how much free will one actually would have, your thoughts and your actions are one hundred percent NOT your own. One can resist but the controller will inevitably, no matter how slightly, exert more strength and power over you in turn.

I liked your question about whether the Sith would have used the Jedi Mind Trick. I think that they would have used some version of it. I'm not sure how similar it would have been to the Jedi Mind Trick, but I believe that all the basic principals and goals would be the same. I have not read the EU so this statement is based completely on my own observations but I suspect that the origins of the Jedi and the Sith are a lot closer than people are aware of. There are too many similarities between the two orders for them to be ignored: lightsabers, similar uses of the Force, etc. In the case of the Sith the mind trick would, in my opinion, be closer to the Imperius curse. A more sinister purpose exists behind the two thus the similarity in my mind.

One final point I would like to make is that the debate about whether the Jedi Mind Trick is good or bad would depend entirely on the circumstances in which the mind trick is used. In A New Hope when Ben Kenobi uses the trick on the two Stormtroopers to get past them is an example of when the trick is used with good intentions. If for example Darth Vader or Anakin as he is walking down the dark path uses the trick in a similar manner like his master in the cantina in Attack of the Clones, then, depending on his intentions, the trick could be seen as bad. Circumstance is very important before one can pass final judgement on an issue.

Overall a great poll. I like these sorts of questions that generate a lot of great discussion on everybody's part.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 12th, 2007 01:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I too have little or no knowledge about the EU so I appreciate the perspective your points are coming from.

I suspect that the origins of the Jedi and the Sith are a lot closer than people are aware of. There are too many similarities between the two orders for them to be ignored: lightsabers, similar uses of the Force, etc. In the case of the Sith the mind trick would, in my opinion, be closer to the Imperius curse. A more sinister purpose exists behind the two thus the similarity in my mind.

In other words, it is not the action in itself but the intention of the action that renders it evil? Hence, the Jedi Mind Trick is not evil because it is performed by the good Jedi while the Sith Mind Trick is evil because it is done by the Sith?

Circumstance is very important before one can pass final judgement on an issue.

I agree. Using an extreme example, killing someone is intrinsically wrong but there's a big difference between murder and self-defence, and there's also a difference betweeen pre-meditated murder for self-defence and killing someone while Driving Under the Influence. The lines can get pretty gray.

The question is - does doing a little evil to achieve a greater good make the little evil justifiable or make the greater good, less or even as evil?

skye_princess From: skye_princess Date: February 12th, 2007 03:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, the intention behind the action is in my opinion the determining factor in judging said action good or evil. A Jedi can have bad intentions and a Sith can have good intentions. It all depends on the circumstance. Take Anakin for example. His actions that led him down the path to the Dark Side are generally judged as evil, but I believe that his intentions deep down were good. This goodness inside him was buried for many years under the overpowering influence of the Emperor. When he and Luke meet in battle in Return of the Jedi, his goodness is able to surface and thus he is redeemed for his actions. On first appearance Anakin is evil but inherently he is good. Luke was able to see this and so was Padme as she lay dying on the asteroid station.
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