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One of the Yoda's quotes which sticks in my mind most from the original series is

A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack!

To back this up we see Vader and Sidious using the Force against Luke, Vader throws things against him to wear him down and toy with him, throw in some Force chokes and he's definitely not following Yoda's teachings. Sidious uses the Force Lightning.

I've always assumed that using the Force in an offensive manner was banned for Jedi because it was a path to the dark side, to use the Force to attack rather than defense was to try and control it - very Sith-like.

However when we move onto the prequel trilogy we see the Force being used offensively very frequently (admittedly mostly against droids who may not be considered "alive"). The example which springs to mind is where we see Yoda throw the two red guards against the wall when he confronts Sidious (not to mention some rather offensive Force moves in the Yoda/Sidious and Obi Wan/Vader duels).

Why does Yoda forbid Luke to attack with the Force when it seems such common practice thirty years before?

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    As an out-of-universe explanation: in martial arts like karate,there is a similiar scenario where you are only allowed to use karate defensively BUT you can use preemptive strikes if you know that your opponent is going to attack you(better explained here: kendo-guide.com/terminology_sen.html ) – teair Jul 29 '14 at 7:05
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    Small uses of offensive force might not be to serious either. The dark side is a difficult path to turn from once started on it and yet we see Luke force choke a pair of Gamorreans in episode 6 and still end up refusing the temptation of the dark side. – sevvack Jul 29 '14 at 7:56
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    “Why does Yoda forbid Luke to attack with the force when it seems such common practice thirty years before?” Having it be common practice didn’t seem to end well for the Jedi, given that they were nearly exterminated. Maybe Yoda’s trying to avoid that happening again in future. – Paul D. Waite Jul 29 '14 at 10:33
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    Is it just me or is the title a little backwards? Shouldn't "original" be "prequel", or did I misunderstand? – Mac Cooper Jul 29 '14 at 15:32
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    The Jedi agreed to get involved in the Clone Wars because they saw it as vital action to defend the Republic and its people. As the War went on tho, it comes up quite often that many Jedi felt they'd made a mistake in joining the War as combatants, Jedi should not be fighting Wars - only by that point, withdrawing support would be crushing to the people they were supposed to defend (and also the Council had started suspecting the Sith being involved) So Yoda could've felt it'd be important to stress this to Luke, to prevent history being repeated via the same good intentions. – Shisa Jul 29 '14 at 16:45
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The answer to this lies in the way you interpret their actions. From my point of view, whenever the Jedi have used their force powers, it can always be considered defence as they are never the ones to initiate hostilities.

So now consider the context in which the Jedi used their force. They use their powers when fighting against something that they believe to be wrong. They are fighting in defence of a belief or a way of life rather than to attack something.

Consider a soldier in an army. Think of the weapons they use and the context. If they use their weapons and skills in order to attack others, they are generally punished for it ( in an ideal scenario). But when they use it to defend against an attacker, they may use it in the same way, i.e. , aim at enemy, pull trigger, the context of the actions makes it a defensive action.

I can of course the completely wrong, but that's my point of view

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    That makes Yodas words kinda hollow. In every major war (since and including WW2) both sides pretended to only defend themselves. And it makes sense: If I were to attack someone, I'd convince myself that it's only defense, since that guy insulted my mom (or something). By killing unarmed pusher I only defend the world against drugs. If you are on the right side, it's always defense, and you always believe, that you are on the right side. So, following your interpretation, Yoda says "Do with your power what everybody does: Wield it the way you see fit!" – Einer Jul 29 '14 at 9:32
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    You're right. Everyone always thinks they're cause is justified. But that's real life. There is no clear answer to this question TBH. But consider the context of the Star Wars universe. One of the teachings of the order is that just because you CAN do something using the force, you must first consider whether you SHOULD. I feel that that distinction is important. Also if you consider Anakin in the same context, you can see that in the original trilogy, he uses his powers more often than he did in the prequels. He even uses it on Admiral Motti, who is unarmed at the time. – Suman Roy Jul 29 '14 at 10:11
  • "...but from MY point of view, the Jedi are evil!" (Sorry, my mind went there.) – bluescreen_of_death Oct 17 '14 at 17:02
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    @Einer There is a story from Phil K Dick, "The Mold of Yancy", that directly addresses this. Yancy, a father-like figure, is used by the elite of an off-world colony (Callisto?) to brainwash their population through pointless platitudes. One is that "Yancy is against war, because war is a terrible thing to be avoided. Except just wars. We cannot allow ourselves to be pushed around, we must fight just wars". So one character asks his son "and how will you know when a war is a just war?", and his son replies "well, won't somebody tell us? Yancy maybe?". – Andres F. Jan 25 '16 at 20:24
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    In other words, Yoda and the Jedi were full of crap. The Jedi use the Force "defensively", but they get to define what "defensively" means, and in practice it means "whatever is convenient to the Jedi". – Andres F. Jan 25 '16 at 20:25
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I think one thing to remember is that Jedi can sense the intentions of others and sense danger. Therefore, a lot of what looks like offensive violence to us might actually be defensive.

A good example is when Yoda kills the two clone troopers in Revenge of the Sith. We the viewer have just seen multiple scenes of Jedi being betrayed and murdered by their own soldiers. We then see a close-up of Yoda's face as he senses the violence and betrayal. He then kills the troopers as they prepare to kill him.

The viewer knows that Yoda is acting to save his own life. But to an outside observer, it would have looked like Yoda massacred his own men without provocation. I think a lot of "offensive" Jedi action (such as Yoda taking out the red guards and Luke choking the Gamorreans) can be justified as defensive measures to attacks we never see, because they neutralized them.

As for questionable uses of the Force during the fights with Yoda and Sidious, I'm not sure they were really "offensive." Yoda was in a fight where, if he lost, he would've been killed. It doesn't strike me as "offensive" to Force push someone who has been trying to kill you for the better part of an hour.

The more serious philosophical question is that Yoda and Obi-Wan both seek out the Emperor and Anakin, with the specific intent to "destroy the Sith." Obi-Wan interprets that to mean killing them ("Send me to kill the Emperor. I cannot kill Anakin") and Yoda doesn't correct him, saying only something to the extent that Vader is no longer Anakin. So I think it's pretty clear that Jedi teaching allows for a certain amount of aggression and offensive use of the Force, under a general understanding that one must be acting in self-defense, or acting to destroy an evil threat.

  • Very well put. I had the same thoughts, but you phrased it better. – Suman Roy Jul 30 '14 at 6:41
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    legally - this is very very suspect. You don't generally get to say "someone who did absolutely nothing totally had it coming", which describes the two scenarios with Yoda. Yoda was actually in the wrong with Sidious, given that it was Yoda that sought Sidious out, and that it was Yoda that arrived armed for a fight, and who initially attacked Sidious' bodyguards. – bharal Aug 12 '14 at 23:33
  • @bharal Earth/Western/American legal systems are irrelevant here, as no one in the real world can legitimately claim foresight or pyschic awareness. You're right that you (Earth people) don't get to administer preemptive justice, but we also don't have any insight into the thought life of would-be perpetrators of evil. – Brian Warshaw Oct 31 '14 at 13:30
  • @BrianWarshaw jedi are peaceful - surely there are better solutions (with foreknowledge of violence) than using that foreknowledge to kill people? That sounds v. stalinist. More worrying is your happiness to hand over power to people who just "claim" to know when good or evil occurs. I suppose if the prequels were better they might have asked that question, or given it as an answer to how the jedi were overthrown with so few fucks given - that if you hand over your policing to "magic people who just know, ok?" then you don't care if they get overthrown by others who "know better than them" – bharal Oct 31 '14 at 15:28
  • Don't read too much into my comment, which only sought to stop you from using real-world human legal systems as a basis for judging whether or not a fictional society's moral code should allow for a particular sort of behavior. – Brian Warshaw Oct 31 '14 at 15:49
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Up to the point of the Clone Wars, this philosophy held true - the Jedi were peaceful, and hardly used their force powers at all, much less to launch any kind of attack. Yoda was loathe to change, and to embrace the clone army that they used quite aggressively, for this very reason.

The Jedi are supposed to act peacefully, and only use their powers to defend, not attack, but were forced to do otherwise during the war.

It could also be said that the Jedi Knights were abusing their power during the war, which could very well have contributed to how easily their senses were clouded to the growing power and threat of the Dark Side. They may have been more in-tune with themselves had they not been using their power so aggressively.

So, in ideal situations, a Jedi does not use their powers for attack...but the Clone Wars were not an ideal situation, and as you will recall, the Jedi suffered greviously for disobeying this tenant, so it makes sense that Yoda would include it in his teachings, even though he once used his powers in just such a way.

  • Interesting thought. – Suman Roy Jul 30 '14 at 8:25
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    +1 Interesting about their aggression possibly clouding the Dark Side among them. But note that being a pacifist when you have no reason to attack anyone is trivial. The true test of the pacifist is staying true to their philosophy when someone is attacking them. Therefore, the Jedi were wannabe pacifists, and not really committed to using the Force for defense. I say good riddance to the lot of them! – Andres F. Jan 25 '16 at 20:30
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Typically you see them use the force against other force users, against non-living(droids) or to respond defensively do an attack. And again you have to determine what use of force is ment. luke and yoda are doing simple force pushes or pulls, the emperor is using the force lightning which is a much eviler and more destructive use of the force. At the same time when a jedi fights they are using the force passivly to predict their opponents movements as well as to enhance their own. Therefore we can think of yoda's statement as jedi's should use there powers broad sense to protect, not instigate.

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I think the main goal of Yoda's teaching in the original trilogy was to prepare Luke to resist the dark side when confronting his father. He never wanted Luke to defeat the emperor, because Luke couldn't match the emperor's power in The Return of the Jedi, yet Yoda said that he needed no more training, that everything he needed he already knows...

I think Luke's training was special. Yoda realized where the Jedi failed, so Luke was taught in another way.

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