The Ethics of Star Trek

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9780060933265: The Ethics of Star Trek

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.

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Review:

At first glance, this blend of philosophical ethics and Star Trek may look like an outlandish Trekkie fantasy. In fact, it is a fascinating use of popular culture to engender sophisticated discussions of ethical theory. Obviously, The Ethics of Star Trek will be most interesting and accessible to fans of the show. But one need not be a guru in the cabala of Star Trek to appreciate and understand the witty instruction in ethics found in this volume. Authors Judith Barad--who is a professor of philosophy at Indiana State University--and Ed Robertson have crafted a charming introduction to ethical theory. As the authors point out, "One reason why Star Trek has endured from one generation to the next is that most of the stories themselves are indeed moral fables." And moral fables, particularly popular ones, are an excellent springboard into the deeper waters of philosophical ethics.

The book covers much more ground than is typically traveled in Ethics 101 courses. In the first of five sections, Barad and Robertson deal with the importance of religion and culture, as well as logic, in ethical reasoning. They go on to successively tackle virtue ethics, hedonism, Stoicism, Christian ethics, social contract theory, duty ethics, utilitarianism, and existential ethics--all in reference to the moral dilemmas enlivened by Star Trek. And while the topics' treatments are somewhat cursory, they are written with a conversational prose that beckons the reader to further study. Perhaps Jean-Luc Picard puts it best in the book's epigraph, "There is no greater challenge than the study of philosophy."

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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