Tag Archives: Tagge

An appeal to the force

Whilst discussing the concept of the argumentum ad baculum the other day in Critical Thinking class, it occured to me that this scene from Star Wars might be an interesting example, in its fallacious and non fallacious varieties:

TARKIN: The regional governors now have direct control over
territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this
battle station.

TAGGE: And what of the Rebellion? If the Rebels have obtained a
complete technical readout of this station, it is possible, however
unlikely, that they might find a weakness and exploit it.

VADER: The plans you refer to will soon be back in our hands.

MOTTI: Any attack made by the Rebels against this station would be a
useless gesture, no matter what technical data they've obtained. This
station is now the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use

VADER: Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've
constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to
the power of the Force.

MOTTI: Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader.
Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure
up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the
Rebel's hidden fort…

Suddenly Motti chokes and starts to turn blue under Vader's

VADER: I find your lack of faith disturbing.

TARKIN: Enough of this! Vader, release him!

VADER: As you wish.

Script here.  Video here.

There seem to be a number of arguments on the table here. 

Tarkin (the guy who looks like Vincent Price) first suggests the Empire ought to rule by fear and force, using the Death Star.  This is not a fallacious appeal to force, as he simply advocates violent coercion. 

Tagge worries that such force will be inadequate, since it is force, it can be defeated on its own terms, or that machines have inherent limitations which can be exploited by force (a well placed shot, for instance, at a weak point).  He doesn't seem to advocate diplomacy and rational persuasion, however, though perhaps one might infer something like this from what he said. 

Motti (the guy who gets choked) agrees with Vincent Price and advocates the use of force with the qualification that it is totally awesome and ought to be used now. 

But Vader says force is nothing compared to THE Force. 

Here is where it gets odd.  Motti gets into a scrum with Vader over which force to use–force or The Force.  What is hilarious is that neither thinks he shouldn't be using force broadly construed.  Funnier still is that the argument over which sense of force to be used is resolved by force (broadly costrued again).  Here it is:

Motti criticizes Vader for his "sorcerer's ways" and for his religious devotion to the Force–arguing:

1.  The Death Star is the ultimate power in the universe and ought to be used against the rebels;

2.  Not even a complete technical readout of the Death Star can defeat it;

But Vader rebuts him, arguing:

3.  ad 1 and 2.  The planet pulverizing power of the Death Star does not compare to The Force.

Motti replies:

4.  A truly useful "force" would also be able to (1) locate the rebels; and (2) recover the stolen tapes.

5.  Point 3 is therefore false.

Vader replies:

6.  Choking Motti, saying "your lack of faith is disturbing." 

Here's the question.  Has Vader countered Motti by choking him?  Or is his use of the force a fallacious appeal to force?  It seems on one reading that Vader doesn't rebut Motti's points by choking him (that could be a sorcerer's trick, after all), so it is an irrelevant and therefore fallacious appeal to force. 

On the other hand, perhaps Vader is demonstrating the reality of the force in its use–as if to say, "if the force weren't real, I couldn't choke you from a distance."  But if that were true, then why would Vader say this:

"I find your lack of faith disturbing." 

At that point, the choking I mean, it's not a question of faith anymore.  Unless by "faith" Vader means a trust in his (Vader's) skills at locating lost plans, etc.  If that's the case, however, I'm not sure how distance-choking makes Vader's point. 

I'm inclined at this point to think that Vader has made a fallacious appeal to force–but I might change my mind if some one of you readers can distance-choke me.