Mr. Spock is my favorite character from the original Star Trek. I am intrigued by the concept of Vulcans because they privilege logic over emotion. However, despite their claims to be completely unemotional, they aren’t. This descrepancy may simply be because Vulcans are really not as unemotional as they claim–and a convincing argument could be made for that–but I suspect that the real explanation for this is our anthropocentristic view of the world. As human beings, we seem always to priviledge our species above all others, creating everything in our own image; science fiction is evidence enough of that. Most alien species imagined are really just caricatures of human traits, often set at combative odds with each other. In Star Trek, for example, Vulcans and Klingons are foils for one another, one motivated by logic and distrusting feelings, the other motivated purely by emotion and distrusting rationality. And the humans, the heroes of the story, are positioned somewhere in between the two, embracing logic and emotion alternately, but they always seem to come up with the right action to save the day; even their most illogical, emotional decisions pay off in the end. However, even though the logic/emotion combination found in humans is the most valued position within the Star Trek universe, logic is nonetheless priviledged above emotion because Vulcans are Earth’s greatest allies while Klingons are Earth’s greatest enemy. Even when Klingons have joined the Federation in The Next Generation, they are still considered dangerous and unpredictable. On the other hand, Vulcans, though sometimes irritating and limited by logic, are still ultimately wise and, in many ways, superior to humans. I admire the Vulcans’ discipline and emotional control, but at the same time, their underestimation of the value of emotion is a flaw.
This priveliging of rationality and eschewing of emotion always reminds me of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels in the strange ultra-reasonable horse-race, the Houyhnhmns. Like the Vulcans, the Houyhnhmns represent an ultra-rational society whose foil is the simian-esque human Yahoos. Like in Star Trek, the human hero Gulliver chooses to learn from and align himself with the rational Houyhnhmns and ignore the similarities between himself and the Yahoos; however, Gulliver desires to be exactly like the Houyhnhmns. The similarites between Star Trek and Gulliver’s Travels are limited, but essentially, both offer some sort of parable about the value of logic and the dangers of emotion.
And it would seem that this is representative of our culture; we seem to believe that logic and emotion are antithetical and while we do value them both at different times, we prefer the relative predictability, and therefore safety, of logic. However, I would suggest the possibility that logic and emotion are not necessarily mutually exclusive. If, for example, my instincts prove to be correct time and time again, isn’t it logical to trust my feelings? Maybe you don’t buy that; trusting one’s gut is a gamble because there is no evidence to support what is felt. And yet, our culture is unable to conceive of anything apart from emotion, as it is everyone’s terministic screen. The representations of logical societies in the two examples above both exhibit emotion in their dislike of emotion. Even their embrasure of logic involves emotion; if we traced their motivation logically, we would find that they embraced logic because they wanted to get away from the complications of emotion, and desire is, of course, based in emotion. It may be a logical desire, but it is still desire. Logically, then, this suggests that emotion can be logical, or that logic can be derived from emotion. Or perhaps that emotion can be a type of logic in itself.
My point is that it is unnatural to suggest that there is a solid barrier between logic and emotion. Vulcans always fascinated me because I am tempted by the desire to leave emotion behind like they do. But it’s possible to be emotional without being controlled by emotion. Mr. Spock is my favorite because he is a logical being who can also appreciate the value of emotion. While he may often disagree with Captain Kirk’s logic, he can still understand emotion and accept it as a valid basis for action. What Vulcan’s view as a disadvantage is probably his greatest strength.