For those who like their philosophy with a twist, Ö la The Tao of Pooh, an intriguing though sometimes too constricted elucidation of some of Star Trek's deeper meanings. Perhaps because it is such a pop-culture icon, Star Trek (the original TV show, the sequels, the movies) has attracted legions of interpretations about everything from its deeper meanings to the reality (or lack thereof) of its science. Now Hanley, a philosopher at Central Michigan University, boldly and entertainingly goes where no philosopher has gone before. Though the show frequently grapples in its playful, inconsistent way with issues such as the fixity of identity, the limits of personhood, and the nature of time, Hanley is primarily concerned with employing it to illustrate his own theories on these topics. Using the Android Data, for example, as well as holograms and exocomps that appear in various episodes, he argues that ``the fairest test to determine whether or not an individual qualifies for personhood does not depend on its ability to pass for a human being.'' However, as a disciple of the analytic school of philosophy, Hanley isn't particularly interested in the really big questions (Why are we all here? What does it all mean?), questions Star Trek also tends to shun. He believes, instead, in a more narrowly focused approach that is ``continuous with the natural sciences.'' This leads to a certain aridity, a relentless reliance on logic that seems finally not only limiting but ultimately unconvincing. Like many philosophers, he is better at attacking those he disagrees with (he's particularly good at pointing out the show's philosophical contradictions) than building wholly credible positions of his own. Still, his ideas are spirited and provocative. It's to Hanley's credit that he's been able to mine so much from what after all is just clever, light entertainment. Philosophy 101 was never this much fun.
Read full book review >