Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Logic Of Vulcan

This is my most recent post on Catallarchy: Catallarchy: The Logic Of Vulcan

I'm cross posting it because I am particularly fond of it. Click on the link if you want to see the pretty pictures that go along with it.

The Logic of Vulcan

As an avid fan and regular viewer of Star Trek (in its many iterations) I often find myself contemplating the reasoning underlying the different premises, cultures, and characters we are presented with in the Star Trek universe. I once gave a speech, for example, on why the Federation was socialist. My reasoning being the strange lack of currency and major business interests (that weren’t tied to the federation in some way) on Earth.

Recently I have been watching new episodes of Enterprise, the Star Trek prequel series that is now in its 4th season. This year the writers have apparently decided to better fill out the history, religion, and character of Vulcan society. The theme that arises again and again is that “logic” is not only at the core of Vulcan spirituality but defines on the deepest level what it means to be Vulcan (whether these are two distinct ideas or one in the same is a matter of opinion).

Right now on Enterprise, Vulcan society is rediscovering the teachings of their most revered spiritual leader, Surak. Yet in spite of having lost the knowledge of these teachings for many centuries They obviously did not lose their beliefs regarding the way Vulcan’s should and should not behave. Basically they believe that to be Vulcan is to be a stoic being that holds logic above all else, and that any display or experience of emotion is a weakness that will ultimately hinder them in the execution of their duties and obligations.

In the Star Trek universe, and indeed on Vulcan, logic and emotion are opposites. One is a strength, and the other a diametrically opposed weakness. The problem with this view however is revealed when examining the broader academic categories under which these two terms fall. Logic is philosophically an aspect of epistemology (the study of knowledge i.e. how we know what we know). Emotion falls within psychology (a science studying the cognitive and physiological causes of behavior).*

The point is that making the two opposites combines philosophy and psychology in a manner that they do not combine. Logic is a system designed to analyze identity. It gives us a means of checking to see if our premises are consistent with or contradictory to each other (it will not necessarily tell us if they are true), and for identifying conclusions that result from a set of premises etc. Emotion to be the opposite, and in the Vulcan view a necessary underminer of logic, it would have to be a process unto itself that always inhibited the recognition of contradictions, inconsistencies, and consistencies within one’s own reasoning. Yet even strong emotions do not necessarily inhibit the ability to use logic for those that know how to use it.

Personally I have known many individuals who could come up with extremely tight logical reasoning while experiencing an extreme emotional state. In these cases it was their premises and not their reasoning that ended up being off. Consider for example the logical implications of the premise that the entire world is “out to get you.”

The flaw in the Vulcan worldview is not however the depiction of emotion as a set of states that can inhibit one’s logic (as this is not inaccurate), but rather the presentation of logic (an epistemological system) as their psychological core. Logic simply cannot be one’s psyche. Strangely enough (or perhaps its not strange at all) there is a strong correlation between the logic/emotion dichotomy of Vulcan, and the objective/subjective dichotomy of objectivism.

While objectivism does not discount the value of emotions as a source of information, and as a meaningful part of human experience, it does define subjective to mean, in application, acting on emotion-inspired whims. Thus most emotion-inspired action would lack the necessary consideration of context to be objective. The necessary implication of this is that emotion can hinder objective reasoning.

In fact I think the Vulcan’s may be objectivists (though not necessarily in the Randian sense of the term) at heart. What they are ultimately trying to accomplish with their suppression of emotion, and strong adherence to logic is objectivity. They believe emotion hinders sound reasoning and judgment (in this context “sound” means to be both true and logically valid). In the Star Trek universe this typically works for them, and technically there is little reason that it shouldn’t.

Vulcans get into trouble, however, when they choose to disregard the emotions of more emotional (and perhaps less logical) beings than themselves. In a classic episode of Star Trek, the original series for example, Spock (the Vulcan science officer of the star ship Enterprise) finds himself leading his first away mission on an alien planet. On that planet they enconter giant, wooly, spear throwing aliens who manage to kill several of the crew members.

When the rest of the team returns to the shuttle craft the human crew decides that they wants to retrieve and bury the bodies of their fallen comrades. Spock however considers this to be an illogical and dangerous waste of time and resources. The result is a near mutiny. Effectively the episode is a morality play. It depicts Spock’s attempts to lead his crew without respect for the inherent emotional nature of humans as being naive and dangerous, and indeed it was. (In Spock’s defense, the humans in Star Trek the original series were far more hot-headed, reationary, and downright “emotional” than they are in later series.) But the problem in this episode was cultural not philosophical. It was the cultural mores and beliefs of the humans that inspired their emotional response and that ultimately came into conflict with Spock’s cultural mores and beliefs (which happened to specifically inhibit an emotional response in him).

This is typically how Vulcan/human conflicts, whether small or large, play out. They typically end up being cultural issues and not philosophical differences. In fact it is the relative valuation of risk of both humans and Vulcans that typically ends up creating the conflict. When risk seems disproportionate to the value or likelihood of a gain Vulcans consider a given action illogical. However Vulcans typically end up taking the biggest risks of all when they are convinced that the action it entails is supported by sound logical reasoning. Thus in spite of the many attempts within the Star Trek universe to depict it as such, humans are not superior to Vulcans due to their emotional nature, nor are Vulcans philosophically inferior to humans due to their categorical suppression of emotion. Likewise emotion is not a weakness, and a lack of it is not a strength - at least not in the Star Trek universe. Your own mileage may vary.


*"Emotion” also potentially falls within cognitive science -I say “potentially” because I do not believe there is a consensus on the matter.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Me linking to me... Cause I'm that good!!!

So I wasn't trying to turn SotR into a "bitch-fest" it just kind of randomly happened what with all the craziness in my life, and this big outlet that just said "rant Rainbough you know you want to... its even part of your header."

Add to that the fact that most of my "good posts" have ended up at catallarchy and thus SotR seems to have become my outlet for bitching about the world... But then what are most blogs. Anyhow without BilLee posting anymore its hard to find the positive and interesting things to put up especially when I'm trying to regularly post on two blogs.

Thus I have actually been posting quite a bit on Catallarchy lately and only sharing a weekly "here's what's wrong with the universe" post here... and I know that kind of sucks. So for now I'm going to link to all the great stuff I've been putting up at catallarchy.

Since American Idol has started again I have started putting up reviews/recaps of the episodes. Thus far I have put up 3 posts:

American Idol Revamped - a preseason post about the changes in this year's program and how those changes may impact the show for the better.

American Idol Season 4 - my recap of the first episode of the season, and my review of the contestants we were presented with.

American Idol St. Louis - A short review of the St. Louis episode which was unfortunatey very disappointing.

There will be more of these to come in the future. I'll be putting them up every week at catallarchy. I prefer to have them up the evening or the morning after they have aired.

This is because last year when I missed an episode (and I missed quite a few while I was moving) I had a hell of a time finding a recap of the show for the next two to three days following the broadcast. The website provides a recap but can take anywhere from 2 days to a week getting it up, and to be perfectly honest I think their recaps suck!

So usually to find out what happened on a show I would find myself on an obscure message board where people were bitching that x candidate got cut, y candidate sucks, and z candidate is obviously a prostitute.

So this year I'm doing it every week at Catallarchy. You can find me rambling on about how good certain people were, how good or bad the show was presented, how terrible or on the mark the judges critiques were, and why I think x guest judge is hot!

Oh yeah and the best part of all is that you can find me harrassing other fans that stumble across my posts via google and manage to say something really stupid.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

And the world keeps turning...

So I go into work today with every intention of turning in my two weeks notice, but discover that it is unneccesary because my boss had decided to lay off all of the night-shift operators. Of course it would be crying over spilt milk to mourn the loss of that particular job since I was leaving anyway and could not have reasonably expected to stay there for any long term anyhow given the many hazards of the environment. I'm still a little annoyed that I was working day in and day out with nickel, and nickel dust and was never informed that it was a carcinogen known to cause lung cancer if inhaled. I discovered this only about a month ago after working with the stuff for two months and happening across a package that contained a carcinogen warning.

To get to the point though, I still feel strangely as if I had "lost" my job. Mainly its because I was counting on the additional funds that would come from 3 weeks of working two jobs. It would have been an additional 5-6 hundred dollars which would have been nice after they had given me so few hours over the past month. So instead of moving into my new job and getting ready for school in a month with an at least comfortable financial position (if not rock solid) I'm starting my part time job and wondering how long I'm going to be able to afford to work there. I'm also wondering if I'll be able to afford massage school. Its a wonder how much of a difference $500 dollars can make for someone with as limited funds as myself.

So I spent most of my last shift contemplating whether or not I would have to give up my cats, put off going to school, getting an apartment, forget about getting a car anytime soon, and cut back the time and money spent at my church. It was all rather depressing.

Oh yeah and my wedding is likely going to have to wait for another year, and having kids will have to wait even longer. I guess there's no rush, but it was nice to be really planning those things.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Brain Freeze

There's a reason I haven't been blogging much lately. Its what I like to call "brain freeze." Thats basically just writers block for overly opinionated persons such as myself. Only its more of an "opinion-block." I think it comes from having too much going on in my life, or perhaps just my brain to formulate many thoughts on the world around me.

I actually read earlier today that Newt Gingrich was considering a bid for the white house in 2008 and all I could muster was "well isn't that nice." I actually have some particularly mixed feelings about Newt having spent the first 16 or so years of my life in his "district." Meanwhile my thoughts about the tsunami have been running every-which-way from "that sucks" to I wish I spoke hindi or some other useful language and could go over there and help out. Nothing precise, no specific opinion for the most part even about the most innane political stunts and craziness going on and here's why:

I applied to massage-school, I applied for a loan to go to the massage school, I got conditionally approved for said loan, I got accepted to said school, I now have to prove I have the income I said I did (which I do but its hard to prove cause I've only been working for 3 months) to actually get the money, I just got offered a job at home depot that is higher paying but offers less hours, BilLee wants me to take a sex-ed class at church that runs every sunday for 14 weeks, but home depot wants me to work sundays, I've been told by multiple people that they believe they could get me better jobs elsewhere that would give me sunday off, I'm leaving my current job because of the health issues I've been having, my current employer is having difficulty funding our paychecks, and I've been trying to figure out how feasible it is to plan a (very likely) large wedding and honeymoon for this fall. Meanwhile BilLee's income is still barely breaking even with the money he spends on gas and lunch, and he may have to find a new job in about a month because of the looming threat that they may close his office if they do not meet certain sales goals. Oh yeah and I still have 3 cats and am trying to find an apartment complex that will let us keep them without charging through the roof pet fees.

American Idol is about to start up again and I have the intention of posting day-after recaps after each episode... it remains to be seen if I can pull this feat off especially once I start school, and I have yet to discover how I am going to get to and fro said school that is only a few miles from downtown austin while I live way out in the suburbs. Then there's the issue of my checking account. Thanks to the holidays I my checkbook is looking rather bleak, and I didn't overspend either. Actually I got less than half the hours at work I usually do because they shut down for so many days during christmas and new years. On top of that the company I work for isn't getting many jobs currently and is regularly cancelling my shifts. And while its nice to not have to go into work, and then suffer another itchy, stingy rash all over my hands from the inadequate protection against the vapors of certain chemicals I work with, I really really need the income.

So I think we should open our borders to immigrants of all nations and extend a special welcome to tsunami victims and send gingrich to the south east orient for a couple years and then see what he thinks about presidential politics. Beyond that my brain has little room for crazies right now.