Star Trek & Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant is a collection of essays edited by Jason T. Eberl and Kevin S. Decker. These essays use episodes and mo...moreStar Trek & Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant is a collection of essays edited by Jason T. Eberl and Kevin S. Decker. These essays use episodes and moments from Star Trek's various incarnations and feature films to explore philosophical issues ranging from the nature of communication between very disparate species to logical development of Vulcans to the ethical dilemmas found in Deep Space Nine. The essays use one of the icons of fictional space exploration to explore the philosophies of the human race.
The collection opens with an examination of one of my favorite Next Generation episodes, "Darmok." It discusses the essence of truly alien communication and commends the popular television show for addressing the difficulties in a very real way. Most science fiction novels and programs represent the universe as being full of very human-like creatures who all, magically, either speak English or have a language that translates very nicely into English when run through a universal translator. But philosophers have posited that a truly alien species would probably have points of reference so very different from ours that there may not be the common ground to allow such easy translation. "Darmok" reflects this idea while keeping it grounded in just familiar enough territory for the average viewer to understand.
Next up are two essays on the nature of Vulcans. One explaining the logic of Vulcan by giving a brief overview of the civilization of Vulcan and its dependence on the teachings and philosophy of Surak. The second compares Data's wish to be human to Spock's efforts to completely control his human side. It also discusses the relative merits of being able to control one's emotions versus the complete absence of them.
Other topics covered include revenge (courtesy of The Wrath of Khan) and whether it has a part in a meaningful life--and, ultimately, just what a meaningful life is; issues of morality and how it relates to the Q; the ethics of cloning and genetic manipulation (courtesy of Dr. Bashir and "The Masterpiece Society"; rational moral autonomy vs. full moral autonomy (Star Trek: Insurrection); the consequences and effects of collaboration (Nazi Germany via the Cardassians and Odo & the Bajorans); Business Ethics 101--can the Ferengi teach us anything?; human nature and individuality (vis-à-vis the Borg); the idea of recognition and importance of each individual (the entire philosophy of Star Trek); fantasy versus reality and the merits of the holodeck; the nature of time; the foundations of faith, and the nuts & bolts of life, death and immortality.
This is a very interesting, but very dense book. For someone who doesn't have a hefty philosophical background it gets a bit deep at times, but never so deep that I felt like I was drowning. Thoroughly enjoyable and well worth the time. My favorite essay? The one on "Darmok" and language. Four stars.
David L. Ulin has called his book The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. He might have called it Why Narrative Matters or The...moreDavid L. Ulin has called his book The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time. He might have called it Why Narrative Matters or The Lost Art of Thinking Deeply. These are both issues that he is very concerned with. He argues that because of the overwhelming amount of information that streams through our consciousness thanks to the internet we do not have the time or the attention to devote to truly immersing ourselves in the story--the narrative. Whether that be a story we are reading, being told, or even living. The constant race to keep up with the latest email, FaceBook post, or Tweet prevents us from savoring the moment...and even interferes with the ability to remember what we've done in a truly human way. As we devote more time to recording what we do in virtual space, we have no need (or time) to store those events in memory.
Ulin's argument is that reading...real reading..takes time. It takes concentration. When you hold a book in your hand, that's all you do--read the story. You can't change screens and check your email or the news or the weather. Deep reading makes you connect with the story and the characters. Your imagination becomes engaged and you try to picture what Victorian England or the American frontier or a battlefield of World War II might have looked and sounded and even smelled like. You examine motives based on what the narrator has told you. You make judgements about who's right and who's wrong. Who the good guys and the bad guys are. In the best reading experiences, it is the immersion that matters.
Ulin asks: Do books, does reading matter anymore? The answer: Yes, to those who still can get lost in a book. To those who can pick up a book and shut out the world and all its distractions for an hour or two or more. It matters to those who can read and find new ideas or new ways to consider old ones. It matters to those who can read and discover viewpoints different from their own. And even if that reading is digital--it matters if any type of immersion, any type of deep reading occurs.
Overall, Ulin asks and answers some important questions about reading and its place in the digital age. The book wasn't quite the celebration of books that I was expecting. But Ulin does have many important insights about the way we read and how the way we read may be changing. Three and a half stars.(less)
I nearly despaired of you in the writing of poetry It's not what I expected from one of the fathers of science fiction Not even free verse
Your rhythm and cadence threw me I just couldn't see Moby Dick as a giant spaceship or Noah in the galaxy Of course, I'm not a Melville fan Maybe that was it
But then-- along came "Christus Apollo" and you blew me away with the imagery and the beautiful language and "wow"--just wow
And "Joy Is the Grace We Say to God" Love that one too A poem about joy has to be good
I just wish your poems had been more even That they all had been as good But there are too many that leave me cold or scratching my head
Beautiful language is your trademark-- even in the oddest of the science fiction tales Beautiful rhythm should hallmark your poetry in every verse Not quite
A decent little outing. And a different look at one of the founding fathers of science fiction. In this collection, Bradbury gives us his spiritual side--his belief in mankind and our place in the universe. Nearly all in free verse with some essays mixed in. Solid work...with a hint of brilliance. Three stars.(less)