he Metaphysics of Star Trek
The Metaphysics of Star Trek by Richard Hanley came out in 1997. It explores both Philosophy and Metaphysics so it covers both the wisdom and the principle of things after physics.
“That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.” ~Q to Jean Luc Picard in All Good Things.
The first chapter is about Logic Vs Emotion. Spock is a Vulcan. Emotions caused a war on his planet, so his people learned to suppress their emotions. This is where a discussion of Plato and Aristotle comes in. They say that the human condition is a struggle between reason and passion. In one episode Kirk gets split into 2 halves. Part of him is like an animal and acts only on emotion. The other half acts only logically with no emotions.
The second chapter is about what it means to be human. Is Data an Android or human? You can be human in the 1st sense which is physically, the 2nd sense which is psychologically and the 3rd sense which is morally. Star Trek explores the moral sense of humanity.
The next chapter explores New Life and New Civilizations. It discusses Artificial life, Intelligent Life and Personhood or what it means to be a Sentient Being. Hanley talks about the sanctity of life and the commandment thou shall not kill. Deana’s ability to detect emotions and Spock’s mind meld are mentioned. Are the ship’s life’s sensors something that could be a reality? What is intelligence? How could we possibility ever measure it.
Why is it nearly all the aliens look human and speak English? We assume that the computer probably translates for the crew. And perhaps they carry pocket translators when they are down on the alien planets. Darmok time. Imagine if language was all about symbols on the most basic level. Image would be everything.
The Chapter Insufficient Data talks about the computers within the Stark Trek Universe. In Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager they use Holodecks. Are the Holodeck Creations real or not? And are Androids human or not? Descartes had two tests for personhood. The language test and the action test.
And wouldn’t Data run out memory? He would need to have a cache for short term and download to his hard drive for long term. Does Data have a soul? Can a spirit inhabit anything besides a body of flesh and blood? Or are the body and soul mutually exclusive? According to Maddox, Data couldn’t be fully self-aware like Picard. He doesn’t have emotions because he doesn’t have an emotions chip, but he seems to have developed the lower emotions anyway.
In Temporal Distortions, Hanley discusses issues of time travel. There were 22 episodes in Next Gen of Time Travel. Plus three in movies and others shows. Anyway, we experience everything in the now. History gives us a reference base to predict future knowledge. God is supposed to see all time happening at once. Does the past die when no longer present? Or do all possibilities exist? Then there is the Grandfather Paradox. You might wipe out your own existence if you traveled back in time.
In the next chapter Hanley explores the idea of parallel universes or the multiverse. He talks about Yesterday’s Enterprise, Identities in Crisis, Casual Loops and Loopy Loops. In Time Squared Picard meets himself. Does knowing what will happen effect what happens? How would you effectively deliberate in the face of foreknowledge?
The end of The Next Gen sums it up. All Good Things Must Come To An End.