139

Obi-Wan tells Anakin that "Only the Sith deal in absolutes", and uses that as his identification that Anakin had actually turned to the Dark Side.

But it would seem the statement itself "Only the Sith deal in absolutes" would be an absolute statement itself, and that his rash actions based on this single statement is just as 'Sith-like' as Anakin's statement of "Either you're with me or against me" (paraphrased, I forget the exact statement.)

Is this not a very clear indicator that the Dark Side is present in all who use the force, and reinforces Palpatine's assertion that the Jedi are simply blind to the powers of the dark Side instead embracing their full potential?

  • 67
    Obviously, Obi-Wan is a secret Sith. – thedaian Dec 21 '11 at 17:12
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    Obi-Wan was the most awesome of the Sith! – Ian Pugsley Dec 21 '11 at 17:28
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    Wouldn't Yoda's "Do or do not, there is no try" be an absolute statement? – user15997 Jul 16 '13 at 7:17
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    "A Jedi will never make predictions, padawan." – Paul D. Waite Jul 16 '13 at 9:26
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    This is the same kind of spurious circular logic that a lot of right-wingers use when they say "Your intolerance of my intolerance shows that your message of tolerance is hypocritical!" to which the correct answer is "Well spotted, clever boy, now have a cookie and go away while the adults are talking." – Shadur Dec 30 '14 at 16:42
142

Out-of-universe, this is a pot of message situation - Lucas wanted to connect the Sith to statements that President Bush had made that Lucas presumably regarded as insufficiently nuanced. It's a real clunker of a line, given that it's truly the Jedi who view the world in Manichean "Light side / Dark side" terms. But that's hardly the only clunker in the movie.

"Anakin, you're breaking my heart" comes to mind...

Nevertheless, I think the line can be interpreted to make a little sense...Obi-Wan merely expressed himself a little clumsily (can you blame him, giving the circumstances?). One can imagine the following, more elegant exchange:

Anakin: In the circumstances surrounding loyalty, fealty and overall alignment of purpose and action, one is either of entirely one mind with the person so referred to by the practice of the perpendicular pronoun, or one must be said to be in a state colloquially referred to as being "at odds". Any state of matters which can be said to be as falling within these two extremes is so insufficiently asseverative as to be fundamentally and wholly indistinguishable from opposition.

Obi-Wan: Individuals or persons not counting themselves among the number of those who refer to themselves as "the Sith", would be hard-pressed to make a statement as utterly categorical, and not admitting, upon mature reflection, of views which, at the end of the day, would have to be said to be more balanced (in an, of course, non-epistemological fashion) and, frankly, more sophisticated.

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    Amazing! Your dialog would actually make the film worse. :) – Wikis Dec 21 '11 at 18:59
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    @Wikis - Diet Coke officially spat onto the monitor. – Chris B. Behrens Dec 21 '11 at 19:03
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    I just finished my first draft...it's 40,000 pages long. – Chris B. Behrens Dec 22 '11 at 21:39
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    There was a great British comedy series, "Yes, Minister", that specialized in this kind of humor. Some of the phrases and definitely the general tenor of it are lifted directly from some of the filibustery speeches that one of the characters regularly delivers. – Chris B. Behrens Oct 19 '12 at 13:50
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    I suppose that your proposed "more elegant exchange" between Anakin and Obi-Wan occurs in a mansion's library, both sitting, drinking cognac, and smoking pipes (don't forget the tiger rug). – Matemáticos Chibchas Apr 25 '13 at 6:33
47

That scene was actually there to express how Obi-wan was a hypocrite.

When Palpatine had told Yoda that his arrogance had blinded him, this was true, and was the reason why Yoda afterward had been struck by a concentrated blast of Force Lightning.

This shows how the Jedi and Sith in some ways had become very similar, without the Jedi Masters taking notice.

It is paralleled, when Obi-wan, telling Anakin "only a Sith deals in absolutes" reveals himself as a hypocrite, likely unknowingly.

Again, another subtle theme packed into the story.

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    I kinda like this answer, but I don't think this is the message that Lucas wanted to convey. – bitmask May 1 '12 at 12:31
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    I agree with your opinion, but it's not likely that's what george lucas meant. But yes, it's the Jedi that deal in absolutes the whole saga – Andres F. Aug 4 '12 at 18:16
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    I think that's exactly the point of the story. Sith vs Jedi, endless cycle, right or wrong, greater good or freedom. Cycle again. – Morg. Jul 7 '13 at 18:54
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    I feel like you are giving Lucas to much credit by giving it subtle undertones that weren't intended. Although I like your explanation. – Lord Apricot Jul 17 '13 at 12:42
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    Everyone deals in absolutes throughout the saga - - Luke: "That's not true! That's IMPOSSIBLE!" - Han: "NEVER tell me the odds" - Leia: "Help me, Obi Wan - you're my ONLY hope" - Admiral Ackbar: "We have NO CHOICE, General Calrissian! Our cruisers CAN'T repel firepower of that magnitude!" - Mace Windu: "Protect the senator at ALL costs." - Qui Gon Jinn: "There's ALWAYS a bigger fish." - Chewie: "Rrraaarrrgghh" – Wad Cheber Apr 7 '15 at 0:02
36

I hear this a lot, and have even made fun of it myself. BUT, I sometimes think folks aren't slowing down enough to consider what was actually said:

  1. First, what was NOT said. Obi Wan did NOT say, "There are no absolutes." And, he did NOT say only a Sith believes in absolutes.

  2. Second, what he DOES say is "Only a Sith DEALS in absolutes." Dealing in absolutes has more to do with the unilateral nature of the correspondence. Once you make unilateral proposals, you aren't negotiating, you aren't even really "dealing" at all. Instead, you're dominating the other party/person.

  3. Third, think of the context. Anakin is saying things like you're either with him or against him. Not, "let me hear what you think" or "give me your perspective on this matter." He's dealing in an absolute manner.

It's not a contradiction to say Only a Sith deals in absolutes. Making an absolute statement such as "There are no absolutes" would, however, be a contradiction.

Hope that's helpful.

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    Considering Obi Wan attacked Anakin immediately after uttering those words, I would say he's dealing in absolutes too. – corsiKa Jun 24 '13 at 5:02
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    Actually, it was Obi Wan who first tried to talk Anakin out of what he was doing and thinking. He tried to reason with him first. – FoxMan2099 Jun 24 '13 at 21:10
  • I'm glad this answer hasn't been retconned out yet. It's quite good. – DCOPTimDowd Dec 20 '16 at 16:50
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    As well as trying to talk him out of it before sabers were ignited, it was Anakin who charged Obi-Wan. You think the master of Soresu would strike first? – TylerH Jan 6 '17 at 15:03
26

I think that the word being overlooked here is "deals". It is one thing to make an absolute statement. It is another to make one that refers to a fight. The words "deals in" refers to how Anakin thought he had to fight Obi-wan. It was a battle deal. The only reason Obi-wan fought Anakin was because Anakin was attacking. So... to expand Obi-wan's dialogue, he was meaning, "Only a Sith will engage in combat due to absolute reasoning."

It makes sense now because Obi-wan was not making any absolute statement that was dealing in combat. He made an absolute statement but it was not one that made his conscious have to fight Anakin.

Of course, there are bound to be mistakes all throughout the Star Wars dialogue. We like to try to make sense of things, but in reality the things people say on Earth are often filled with error. People make mistakes, and this shines through even in movies. After all, movies are made by people.

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    "It makes sense now" - well I don't know about that, but I do really like your line of reasoning here! I also disagree that there are bound to be mistakes 'all throughout'. There was no budget for this movie that wouldn't have been approved, and there are probably about 20 million (for lack of a better term) Star Wars geeks who would have done it for free in order to make a canonically sound movie. – corsiKa Oct 19 '12 at 15:04
8

It's a fairly common fallacy. Who here hasn't heard "Nothing is black and white."? Many people are unaware of the inherent inconsistency of the statement. While many things are to some extent gray areas, a statement ruling out absolutes is itself absolute!

He probably meant something more along the lines of:

The Sith often make the naive mistake of simplifying a situation into black-and-white more than is reasonable. You're making a mistake consistent with the ideologies of our enemies. Can't you see how you've been fooled into working for the other side?

Importantly, that line was from the RotS. It's a well-accepted part of the SW universe that one of the reasons that the original trilogy was better was that Lucas wasn't so famous that you couldn't talk him out of his sillier ideas. By the time the prequel trilogy rolled around, he was much too big a person to say no to.

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    Zebras are black and white. – Oldcat Nov 8 '14 at 0:44
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    Damn, you caught me. – rsegal Nov 8 '14 at 2:33
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    And the fact that the statement "nothing is black and white" when taken literally espouses a logical fallacy does in no way detract from the fact that it's a very true statement. – Shadur May 1 '15 at 15:00
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    Shadur, what are you on about? It's both logically and empirically false. There are clear examples of objective fact, of evil and good in the world. – rsegal May 2 '15 at 17:52
5

In my opinion Obi-Wan used that line when he finally realized, that he can't talk down Anakin back to jedi way.

To me it was more like a quote, as if Obi-Wan quoted some ancient statement as last hope to get understanding of the situation into Anakin's head. I mean like we on Earth sometime use "The die has been cast" or similar statements and everyone in room knows what it means because its part of our history, as that statement could be part of history of the Jedi order. But this is just speculation.

4

I was struck by this line as well when I first heard it in the movie, as not very many lines of that caliber (as in thought-provoking) appear in the "newer" movies. This is a line written in the film to show how far Anakin had really gone. Obi-wan was really the only Jedi at the end who still supported Anakin, and still listened to him when he was angry about being rejected from the title of Jedi Master. The council had for the most part distanced themselves from him.

If you think about it, the Sith are portrayed for the most part as cold-blooded, robotic beings, fueled only by their desire for power, power and more power. The line referring to Anakin's new vision of everything as black and white meant he was losing touch with his human feelings and therefore reality. Cold hard logic: if I join Palpatine, I will be able to prevent Padme's death, regardless of anything else that might happen because of this!

This is further evidenced in the fight between the two Jedi, Obi-wan and Anakin where Obi-wan states:

"I have the high-ground Anakin"-Obiwan "you have no idea how powerful I have become!"-Anakin

At which point he, meaning Anakin, loses many of his appendages. Darth Vader had become so heartless that he did not even calculate the danger of his body being injured by attacking at point.

And anyways, what if I said everything I have said is a lie?

-6

Yes it makes Obi-Wan a sith, that is why they had to fight. There can only be two sith at a time, and since Palpatine was on another planet, the only solution was to strike Anakin down to restore balance to the force. A good Jedi like Obi-Wan is able to understand the importance of keeping the force in balance, even if it means embracing elements of the dark side while retaining his sense of justice, and without losing his perception of good and evil.

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    Congratulations on not having received more down-votes, so far. – bitmask Sep 14 '12 at 3:15
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    best answer I've ever seen on stack overflow – Morg. Jul 7 '13 at 18:55
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    This is one of those deeper answers that sees something almost certainly unintended. I like it! – Smithers Apr 30 '15 at 16:43

protected by Community Jul 16 '13 at 9:48

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