Warp Factor Trek

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In TOS, Spock is a study in contradictions. His defining quality as a Vulcan is his logical thinking. Logic is a science that deals with the principles and criteria of validity of inference and demonstration. This has nothing to do with Spock’s second characteristic: his suppression of all emotion. It’s explicitly stated in the series, however, that his being logical depends on purging all emotion. Does this make sense? Not really, but on the other hand, it makes for an internally conflicted character that is a joy to watch and incredibly fun to emulate.

Spock‘s logic is tempered with rationality, which is not emotion. He is also extremely literal in all of his interactions with the other crew members, making for some humorous exchanges. The humor escapes him, making it all the better for us.

Spock talks about being a hybrid

In “The Enemy Within”, Spock declares that he has “a human half, you see, as well as an alien half.” These halves are constantly at war with each other, and he survives the conflict because his intelligence wins out over both. This battle results in a third entity, Spock himself, which is a successful combination of his warring sides. He’s a genius in his own right. There’s ample evidence of his vast knowledge of the sciences, including hard, soft, and social. A truly well-rounded individual, he also has a commanding knowledge of music and art.

Spock’s “logic” and repression (by his own admission) of emotions is a tool, to a point. We see this reflected much later in Data of TNG. Data is an emotionless android who longs to be more human. To achieve this, he infers that it’s necessary to be able to experience and understand human emotions. In the TNG Season 4 episode “Brothers”, we discover that Dr. Soong made an emotion chip for him. Data has no emotions, unlike Spock, who suppresses them, but the effect is much the same. Later, Data tries the chip, with less than stellar (pardon the pun) results. In the movie Generations, the emotion chip causes him to disturbingly experience fear and hysteria. We see in the later film First Contact that he is able to deactivate the emotion chip, so he can perform “better,” i.e. fearlessly… emotionless. It’s curious that Lore seems able to emote without an emotion chip and that B-4 can seemingly express sadness, affection, and wonder… but I digress.

Dying, Spock talks to his friend Kirk

The most evoked lines from Spock often have to do with emotions. “I have been and always shall be your friend,” from The Wrath of Kahn, is said with a dying smile and is exquisitely emotional, but it’s also logical and factual, given his relationship with Kirk. “We disposed of emotion, doctor. Where there’s no emotion, there’s no motive for violence,” Spock confidently says in “Dagger of the Mind”. But is this really so?

In “Amok Time”, Spock becomes irrationally emotional. He kills his captain and best friend, Kirk, while in the throes of a deeply emotive and deranged state. This action purges those emotions from him. He can then coldly, and logically, tell Stonn that he will soon find that “having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.” To want something may be logical, but in this particular case, the blue-eyed, strapping Stonn wants a female Vulcan, T’Pring. We don’t have an explanation for why he wants her, just that he does. There seems to be no logic involved. When taking his leave, Spock tells T’Pau that he will neither live long nor prosper, due to having killed his friend and captain. He could not live a long life, possibly due to a court martial and perhaps even an execution for killing a superior officer, so there would be fear there. Then, he could not prosper, his career would be in shambles, and he’d be sad and distraught, all because he killed his friend. Complex emotions, but understandable ones, are associated in each case. Again, no logic is involved. He obviously shows very deep emotions, of relief and happiness, when he sees Kirk alive after all… which is absolutely logical and proper, when you think about it.

Kirk and the ecstatically happy Spock

In “Balance of Terror”, Spock makes it clear that Vulcans have deep emotions and, if given free reign, these may manifest in disastrous ways. He further indicates that Romulans seem to be a long-lost branch with shared ancestry. Given what Spock knows and (ironically) feels about Vulcan’s “savage, even by Earth standards” past, he says that they must fight the Romulans to prevent showing weakness. This recommendation manifests as a passionate and emotional appeal, presented logically.

Yes, Spock possesses a complex personality who is always at war with himself. He’s not alone in this. His half-brother, Sybok, the firstborn son of Sarek and a pure Vulcan, is a revolutionary, one of the V’tosh ka’tur, a seeker of experience and knowledge forbidden by Vulcan beliefs and based on emotion rather than logic. Sybok is also at war with himself, because he rejects the teachings of Surak, who, according to Spock, was “the greatest of all who ever lived on our planet.” Sybok embraces emotions and the pain they bring. I’m not sure all emotions bring pain, but it’s a great argument.

Spock with an eyebrow raised

Spock’s raised eyebrow usually denotes his “logical disapproval” or forced tolerance of human “emotional outbursts” of laughter and anger, many times elicited by the hyperemotional McCoy. Spock, then, has deep emotions, repressed most of the time, but vivid when glimpsed. They are also evident in his musical abilities and his handling of command situations.

Spock — a brilliant scientific mind with a heart of gold — shows that Roddenberry, like Asimov, Herbert, Heinlein, and so many other sci-fi authors, treasured intelligence and emotions. That’s one of the reasons Star Trek still resonates with us today.

2 thoughts on “Remember Spock: Emotion vs. Logic

  1. First question does make some sense to me because I take the mathematical view of logic. Second question, I agree with Spock- he doesn’t say there’s no violence; he says there’s no “motive” for violence.

    I also dig the point about taking a life in exchange for murder. Makes no “logical” sense to me. It’s a purely emotional response, and an irrational one at that. The premises adressing those previous questions would have to be accepted to put an end to this. The Federation seems to have an inconsistent policy on capital punishment.

  2. “Having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting.”


    Oh how I have contemplated and experience this one in my own life 🙂

    Well done TJ!!!

    Welcome aboard…

    —Pranakasha Matt

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