Currently Why didn't Obi-Wan try to end Vader's life to spare him from a horrible painful death by burning? [duplicate] has been marked as a duplicate of Why did Obi-Wan leave Vader on Mustafar?

Granted, I have edited the OP's question to make its distinction from the other question clearer, but even so I did it using text lifted directly from the OP's question itself, so no new information or ideas were introduced.

According to this commment,

one of the primary factors in determining if questions are duplicates is if the answer (or answers) to one address the other.

In this case, as OP mentions, the linked question does not answer the question asked. (That answer says 'OWK didn't kill Vader because he was his friend' when the Op's question is 'If Vader was his friend, why didn't OWK try to mercy-kill him to spare him being burned alive?')

Why is this considered a duplicate in this case? Are there any other factors for deciding duplicates I am missing?

3 Answers 3


To me, based on my experience on the site, there are a few reasons/situations where a question is marked as a duplicate. To me, I see these requirements being "either/or" requirements. If either of these are applicable, the "new" question is a possible duplicate.

To me, and your mileage may vary, the intentions of, and reasons for the question are 100% irrelevant. I don't care that you're just curious, or that your little daughter asked you a question, or even that you're doing homework; none of that makes a bit of difference as far as whether or not the question is valid or on-topic.

If none of the answers on the "original" question sufficiently answer the "new" question, then the "new" OP needs to explain why the questions are different and edit the "new" question to sufficiently differentiate itself from the "original".

I personally tend to try to boil questions down to what I feel is their real essence, or crux of the matter.

This makes a particular difference in situations like the Terminator vs Elephant question. To me, the fact that OP wanted to eventually judge whether or not the Terminator is able to push/pull/lift more than an elephant is irrelevant; to me, the crux of the question is "How much can a Terminator push/pull/lift?"

That's what's going on with the Vader/Obi-Wan questions, for me.

The question "Why did Obi-Wan leave Vader on Mustafar" boils down to "Why didn't Obi-Wan kill Vader or capture him?" The question has an answer. It has multiple answers. One of them is highly upvoted and has been accepted, but that is irrelevant here.

The question "Why didn't Obi-Wan try to end Vader's life to spare him from a horrible painful death by burning?" takes it from a slightly different angle, but boils down to "Why didn't Obi-Wan kill Vader out of mercy?"

I see no appreciable difference between asking why Obi-Wan did not kill/capture Vader, and asking why Obi-Wan didn't kill Vader out of mercy. Answering why Obi-Wan did not kill Vader is going to inherently include Obi-Wan let Vader suffer.

Even still, I initially refrained from voting to close. I wanted to allow the OP or anyone else to come back and try to explain why thought there was a difference. An hour or so after, despite continuing discussion, my opinion remained unchanged, so I went over the criteria/situation again.

  • The question has been asked before, albeit with a different intention or reason for the question.
  • The "original" question has an answer. Technically, the fact that there is an answer is all that is required. Someone has attempted to answer.
  • The "original" question has an answer which does address the "mercy killing" angle. It is not the accepted answer, but that does not matter.

I was willing to hear reasons why the questions are distinctively different, or why the existing non-accepted answer was not sufficient, but the "new" OP never did that to my satisfaction.

So, I voted to close.

See also:

  • 4
    This is an excellent answer. I would also like to point out that the OP of the one marked as duplicate seems to have stopped looking after reading the first answer, and missed this answer, which specifically addresses the "distinction" of why Obi Wan didn't "mercy kill" Anakin. IMO, that answer, while not great in the context of the original question, is sufficient for the duplicate, and illustrates why these two questions are duplicates.
    – Beofett
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 13:06
  • @Beofett - I agree totally. The answer you've flagged (scifi.stackexchange.com/a/47935/20774) provides a strong (and canonically valid) answer to the question asked.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 8:59
  • 1
    You are forgetting that whenever one posts a questions and someone answers, it doesn't immediately mean the OP has to be satisfied with the answer. Maybe I (because I am the OP of the "duplicate") am not satisfied with the answer on the "original" questions (the 3rd answer, the one you consider answers my question). Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 21:10
  • 1
    From my answer above: If none of the answers on the "original" question sufficiently answer the "new" question, then the "new" OP needs to explain why the questions are different and edit the "new" question to sufficiently differentiate itself from the "original".
    – phantom42
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 22:21
  • 1
    You did not explain why they were different in your opinion. You just kept repeating that it wasn't, and started slinging insults against anyone who disagreed. But my vote was just one of the five original close votes. Enough others disagreed with us to get it re-opened, if only temporarily. The fact that it got closed again is a clear indicator that while it may be dramatically different in your head, you're not explaining it well enough to a significant portion of the community.
    – phantom42
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 22:27
  • "To me, and your mileage may vary, the intentions of, and reasons for the question are 100% irrelevant." Here you seem to be confusingly lumping together "intentions" as personal motivation for asking something (a person asking because their daughter was curious) and "intentions" as what the person actually meant by the question (whether a person was asking why Obi-Wan didn't kill Anakin to prevent a future threat vs. asking why Obi-Wan didn't kill Anakin out of mercy)
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 4:10
  • As an analogy, if someone asks "what is the Doctor's real name", would you really claim that it's irrelevant whether their "intention" was to ask about the Emergency Medical Hologram on Star Trek: Voyager or the Doctor on Doctor Who? If you agree it that in this case we have to pay attention to the context surrounding "What is the Doctor's real name" to understand what is actually being asked, I don't understand why you object when others point to exactly the same sort of context-dependence in "Why didn't Obi-Wan kill Anakin".
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 4:19
  • 1
    Uh.. No. I'm talking about two things. 1) that reasons for why you're asking questions are irrelevant when deciding to close something. Just this week I saw someone claim that if a question was being asked in the spirit of a contest, it was off topic. No. Questions aren't off topic or closed due to why they're asked.
    – phantom42
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 10:53
  • 2
    2) To me, what you can, or want to derive from an answer is irrelevant. In the case of Terminator vs Elephant, the OPs intention was apparently to determine whether or not a Terminator or elephant is stronger, but the question really boiled down to "how strong is a Terminator*? In the case of Obi-Wan vs Vader, OP wanted to know why Obi-Wan didn't mercy kill Vader, but it boils down to the same question as why Obi-Wan left Vader on Mustafar.
    – phantom42
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 10:56
  • 2
    If you know why Obi-Wan left Vader alive on Mustafar, you also know (or should, if the answer is complete) why he didn't kill him out of mercy. What the OP wants to derive from the information is irrelevant - the fact that the data they're looking for has already been asked for is.
    – phantom42
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 10:58

If you believe that a question has been closed as a duplicate when in fact it just addresses a similar issue, but differs distinctly, the best thing to do is explain why you think they differ, in the question itself.

We would all like to think that close votes are only cast after spending several minutes evaluating the similarities of both questions and then, with a heavy heart, declaring doom on the duplicate. But the fact is that if you see a question titled "Why did Obi-Wan not kill Vader", and another question loosely titled "Why did Obi-wan not kill Vader", chances are you'll get some close votes.

What you should do, if you're aware of the original question, is preface your new one with something like:

This question (Why did Obi-Wan leave Vader on Mustafar?) tackles the question from one angle, but I wish to ask about something a bit different.

Thus communicating clearly to the readers that this is not a duplicate, but a follow-up.

It's true that a dedicated reader would see differences that mean they're not duplicates, but in most cases, the onus is on the asker, just like the writer in any text, to communicate clearly. Don't wait for someone to realize it's not a duplicate when you can tell them, explicitly, why it isn't a duplicate.

As to why the question is still closed as a duplicate - you've edited it to say it isn't a duplicate (though again, I would recommend saying "this isn't a duplicate because X-Y-Z", rather than leaving the conclusion as an exercise to the reader), but that was 3 hours ago. To be reopened, a question goes into the reopen queue and waits for reviewers to approve it, but at this point it's still late night or early morning in the USA and most Europe, so it might take a while.

  • I'm not the OP of that question and my only edit is to the title and to move the OP's edited clarifications on top from the bottom of the question. Afaik the 'it's not a duplicate of this and this is why I think so' info had been added by the OP, some of it via edits before the question was closed, however their explanations were contested even in the comments. Which is why I'm wondering if there's some other rule I am unaware of in play here? Anyway, thanks for the info
    – Shisa
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 4:45
  • 1
    Oh, sorry, I didn't notice it wasn't your question. The main rule is "things get closed because people closed them. Things get reopened because people reopened them". Few things are automatic. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 4:50
  • 2
    I voted to close on it because the question being asked is simply a reiteration of the former question. I did suggest that if he was interested in exploring the wider issue of Jedi killing for mercy, that would be an excellent (and non-duplicated) subject for a new question.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 7:19

It's one of the primary reasons but it's not the only reason.

That said, there is a Stack Exchange Blog post that goes into this matter, and it's worthwhile extracting some relevant points from it:

  1. Having one “perfect” form of a question that contains every possible answer to every slight variation of that question is a myth at best and actively harmful at worst.

  2. Having dozens and dozens of variations of the same question is clearly bad.

  3. What we want is on the order of 4 or 5 similar-but-not-quite-the-same duplicates to cover all possible search terms and common permutations of the question. It is also OK for these duplicates to have their own answers so people who find them don’t have to click yet again to get to a good answer.

My opinion here is that your question falls into a slightly grey area between categories 2 and 3 (with the obvious caveat that we don't have "dozens and dozens of variations" of this particular question): it doesn't feel significantly different enough to be unambiguously a "3" (it really is just the same question but with a reason attached), but yet it's also not quite a "2" either.

My suggestion to you is to reword it to focus more on the mercy-killing aspect; perhaps asking if mercy-killing is compatible with the Jedi Way and then quoting this specific case as an example.

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