In high school, I took a class called a Theory of Knowledge that attempted to make a mess of hyperactive teenagers sit in a room and think about how we know and perceive things. Needless to say, if they had done it via pop culture TV it might have been an easier sell.

“With the advent of our current national and military strategies, American has never been further from the Prime Directive. The American War Machine today operated more like the Borg than like Starfleet. Never before has thinking been so homogeneously regulated and enforced; officers have to retire before being able to disagree with their political or military masters. We have no Picards today.”

page 77

Star Trek and Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant is essentially a Philosophy 101 course in a Star Trek-based package. Basing the different sections on Starfleet Directives gives the editors a chance to write about a number of philosophers through the lens of all the Star Trek series from The Original Series to Enterprise.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

This walks a fine line between “reference” “nonfiction” and “??!” It’s Star Trek and takes at least a minimum of Star Trek knowledge to get through, but at the same time, it’s a decent reference to different philosophical outlooks as well.

Rating (4 stars)

In my mind, about the worst thing you can do to teach philosophy is make someone read one of two books, either Sophies’ Choice or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  If there’s one thing I can’t stand in a book, it’s a character clearly over-ruminating purely for the edification of the reader. In this, however, there’s a good balance between actual discussion of philosophical principals, clarifications of how they influence the Trek universe, and the occasional moment when a character addresses them directly in the show.

That being said, this is absolutely NOT an easy reading book. It’s a slog the whole way through, just based on the density of the material. I would have loved reading it in a classroom setting, or with a discussion group attached, both to talk about the ideas presented and how they integrated into the TV shows and movies themselves.  And lo and behold, Georgetown actually does this, promoting a Star Trek and Philosophy class in their lower level offerings.

The only thing that really bothered me about the writing of this book was that I frequently felt as if the Star Trek references had been sort of shoehorned in. They were great to get a chapter started and ended, but in the middle the Star Trek seemed sort of forgotten in favor of the actual philosophy.