Ethics of Star Trek

Ethics of Star Trek

by Judith Barad, Ed Robertson
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Ethics of Star Trek by Judith Barad, Ed Robertson

For Trekkies everywhere, a fascinating look at the philosophy of Star Trek, from Kirk and Spock to Janeway and Seven of Nine

For four decades, Star Trek has been the obsession of millions of fans. But real Trekkies know that the show is more than just riveting entertainment. Its complex moral dilemmas present a view of the future that holds important truths for us in the present. Drawing on episodes from all four Star Trek generations, this unique book explores the ethics of the series in relation to the theories of the world's great philosophers. Questions about good and evil, right and wrong, power and corruption are discussed in language that,is both readable and compelling as the authors show, how the program has evolved over the years to address society's changing values. For this century and beyond, The Ethics of "Star Trek" is an intriguing look at a brilliantly imagined-world and what it can teach us about how to live.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060933265
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/28/2001
Series: Harper Perennial Series
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 800,285
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

Judith Barad, Ph.D., is chairperson and professor of philosophy at indiana State University, where she teaches ethics courses and acourse on the philosophy of Star Trek. She is the author of several scholarly articles as well as two books. A Chicago native, she shares her Terre Haute, Indiana, home with her husband, daughter, and grandson.

Ed Robertson writes extensively about popular culture. He has written three books on classic television and has appeared on more than sixty-five radio and television shows as an expert guest in this area. He lives in San Francisco.

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Ethics of Star Trek 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
PiggityPig More than 1 year ago
As I read this book, I logged onto Hulu and watched the episodes in question. This is not necessary, but it was a lot of fun, and I truly think that it enhanced the book. Barad does an excellent job if explaining complex philosophical schools and teachings, so that anyone could pick up this book and understand what she is saying. You dont have to be a fan of Star Trek or of philosophy to enjoy this book. Its important for people to realize just how much ancient philosophy has guided our culture, and still does. Knowledge of this facet of our history will enlighten you everytime you watch a show, read a book, or go to see a movie. Barad's book illustrates that perfectly. This book is fun for Trekkies and philosophy students a like, or if you just want to learn a little more about the basics of philosophy.
Illyrah More than 1 year ago
What an excellent piece of work! Not only is it fun for every Trekkie (Barad definitly knows her stuff there!), but I believe that she does a great job of defining and re-explaining the philosophy of others so that its understandable even to someone without a lot of background. She breaks down Aristotle, Kant, everyone to a level that people can understand without losing too much. Her chapters and her thesis are well defined. Its especially fun to read and then watch the episode that she is tlaking about! Oh goodness, imagine what she could do with the new movie?!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As someone who has watched a lot of Star Trek, I find myself constantly noticing that the 'normal' rules often don't quite apply in the various shows. Captain Kirk was always violating the Prime Directive. Starfleet Academy gave Kirk a commendation for breaking into the computer to change the programming of an 'impossible' assignment (looks like cheating to me). Spock was always sacrificing himself for the good of the many (or the one, in the case of Captain Pike). Captain Janeway often risked the whole ship to try to help one crew member. On Deep Space Nine, the Federation is involved in maintaining an alien religion. Other cultures get a lot of respect, but the ones that are like the Nazis are opposed. If you are like me, you often feel upside-down, inside-out, and topsy-turvey all at the same time in these stories. What is the right thing to do in the 24th century? Professor Barad teaches Ethics at Indiana State and has a course on the philosophy of Star Trek. That attracted me to the book right there. I never took a philosophy course when I was in college that sounded nearly that interesting. We studied Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Kierkegaard, and symbolic logic. Well, you'll be pleased to know that this volume has plenty of Star Trek, Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Kierkegaard. But you'll also be relieved to know that at least the symbolic logic is missing! The purpose of this book (its Prime Directive) is to 'stimulate greater awareness of the many ethical issues and concerns in daily life.' Using famous Star Trek episodes from all four series (The original series, Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Voyager) as the foundation, classic ethical issues are first examined in terms of the leading sources of ethical thought: such as cultural relativism, religion, Greek and Roman philosophies, the social contract, Kant's notion of duty, utilitarianism, and existentialism. If you are not familiar with all of these, Professor Barad provides just what you need to know. So its meaty, but not heavy. Then Professor Barad considers whether or not all four series are consistent with any of these ideas. Her conclusion seems right when she says that Star Trek has created a new synthesis of Aristotle's idea of the golden mean (too much or too little of any character quality is a vice while the balance in between is a virtue), Kant's idea of operating 'from duty,' and Kierkegaard's concept of individual freedom and responsibility. The classic Aristotelean virtues are all present: courage; temperance; friendliness; gentleness; cooperation; justice; open-mindedness; compassion; mindfulness; respect for others; honesty; and loyalty. She leaves us with the idea that perhaps we as a society can evolve in this direction and leaves us with a thought from Captain Pickard: 'Make it so.' What makes these thoughts interesting is that Professor Barad points out that 'noble as they are, none of the Star Trek characters are saints.' Gene Roddenberry himself seems to have set out to establish a new world that 'strives to be free of racist, sexist, and xenophobic attitudes.' In developing the challenging philosophy described here, obviously he succeeded mightily. It's also fun to revisit all of these old epsiodes and to squarely focus on their ethical content. That element was always there, but it was a bit submerged. After you finish reading and thinking about the book, I suggest that you take some issues of contemporary society such as the right way to deal with world hunger, establish peace, and protect the environment appropriately and consider what actions would be most consistent with the Star Trek philosophy as you now understand it. Live long and prosper! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution