A Therapist Looks at Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Part 2 – Finn

Posted on December 23, 2015


SPOILER ALERT.  As with my last post, I must forewarn you that I am going to give away some of the plot for the film.  If you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know, read no further.

Let me offer some philosophical questions for consideration.  Is empathy something we learn or is it inherent to out nature?  If it is part of our nature, can it be trained out of us?  Are there individual differences that persist despite our experience?

I do not have definitive answers to offer.  The existence of terrorists seems to indicate that there is the possibility of training the empathy out of a human being.  Also, as anyone with more than one child knows, we are unique from the moment we enter into the world.

Finn was taken as a child from his parents.  He was raised without a name and only a number (FN-2187).  He was trained to be a stormtrooper and follow orders.  Finn was trained under dehumanizing conditions.  Yet, he retains both an experience of empathy and a moral code that is not consistent with his training.  He is disturbed by the death of a fellow stormtrooper.  He does not fire on unarmed civilians when ordered to do so.  He helps resistance pilot Poe escape because he believes it is the right thing to do.  He comes back to rescue Rey when he could have left.

Empathy is the ability to put one’s self in the experience of another and care about that experience.  It is one of the aspects of our nature that most defines our humanity.  Absent any empathy, I would assert that we are missing an essential part of our humanity.  Empathy is also one of the most important attributes for maintaining relationships.  It is essential for making others feel loved and cared for.

Let’s go back to my earlier questions.  Writers Lawrence Kasden and J.J. Abrams appear to answer the question that there are some aspects of our individuality and our humanity that cannot be trained out of us (or at least not every one of us).

What is it that makes us who we are?  There is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual answer to that question.  There is a particular biology to each of us.  Some aspects of our nature can be attributed to biological factors such as brain chemistry.  Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder and other disorders often have a biological factor involved.  This is part of the nature side of the nature/nurture debate over human behavior.  Based upon experience (nurture), we also develop psychological schemata regarding ourselves, others, and how we interpret events and make sense out of life and our world.  We are also profoundly impacted by our social milieu, the family we grew up in, the culture from our neighborhood to our country, and the zeitgeist of the time in which we were born and developed.    Together these make the nurture side of our development as individuals.

Finally, there is a spiritual aspect to our humanity.  Whether or not you are religious or believe in God, you may have noticed there are some individual differences that transcend our biology and experience.  Identical twins have the same biology and (early on) nearly identical life experience.  However, they are still unique individuals from infancy.  The Christian answer to this is that human beings are actually an embodied soul.[1]  This seems to account for these differences that transcend our biology and experience.

Where does that leave us with Finn?  Could he have been this comparatively noble given his experience?  Heck, I don’t know.  He is a good character.  I enjoyed the movie.

[1] Let’s skip the theological hairsplitting of soul and spirit.