The Problem of the External World.
How can you know that the physical world you perceive around you is real and not an illusion, a dream, or a holodeck simulation? In this episode of Meta Treks, hosts Mike Morrison and Zachary Fruhling debate the philosophical problem of the external world through the lens of Star Trek. Mike and Zachary discuss whether it is possible for characters in Star Trek to know for sure that they are not stuck in a holodeck, in a telepathic projection, or in an illusion created by a member of the Q Continuum.
Mike and Zachary consider several possible responses to the the problem of the external world from the history of philosophy, including Rene Descartes's response to his own radical Cartesian skepticism, Hilary Putnam's linguistic response to the "Brain in a Vat" argument, the pragmatic response of rejecting the problem outright, and George Berkeley's theory of idealism as a middle ground between skepticism and empirical knowledge of the external world.
Finally, Mike and Zachary re-imagine these classic philosophical arguments in Star Trek terms, including what Descartes's Meditations might have been like if written by the soft glow of the holodeck grid instead of by candlelight, considering Q as the omnipotent "evil genius" in Descartes's "Cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore, I am") argument, and re-framing Berkeley's argument for idealism to rely on all-perceiving beings from Star Trek, such as the Q or the Bajoran prophets.
Welcome to Episode 10 (00:01:20)
Introduction to the Problem of the External World (00:02:58)
Examples of the Problem in Star Trek (00:12:42)
Cartesian Skepticism (00:27:45)
Hilary Putnam on "Brain in a Vat" (00:48:22)
George Berkeley and Idealism (00:50:56)
The Q Continuum and Skepticism (00:53:46)
Final Thoughts (01:05:59)
The Prime Directive and
In the first-season TNG episode "Symbiosis," Captain Picard cites the Prime Directive (Starfleet's noninterference policy, General Order #1) as justification for his solution to the conflict between the narcotics-peddling Brekkans and the drug-addict Ornarans. Is the relationship between these two races a naturally evolved symbiotic relationship protected by the Prime Directive or a case of morally reprehensible exploitation calling for active intervention? In this episode of Meta Treks, hosts Zachary Fruhling and Mike Morrison analyze the in-universe philosophy behind the Prime Directive, including its justification and its applicability to the moral dilemma in "Symbiosis."
In addition to the discussion on the Prime Directive, Zachary and Mike discuss the drug Felicium (or "happiness pill") in light of the 1980s "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign, the use of Felicium as a consequentalist plot device in "Symbiosis," this episode's post-Capitalist economic message, and the significance of "Ornare" (Latin) and "Brekka" (Old Norse) as roots of the names of these two alien races.
This episode also reminds listeners of the Meta Treks iTunes review content, running though January 15, 2016. And for your post-show entertainment, Zachary sings his rousing Felicium-themed rendition of "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off."
Welcome to Episode 9 (00:01:14)
About the Review Contest (00:02:48)
Beginning the Conversation (00:05:03)
Summary of Symbiosis (00:05:59)
The Prime Directive (00:08:12)
Symbiosis or Exploitation? (00:45:31)
Post-Capitalist Economics (00:57:47)
Final Thoughts (01:10:17)
The Science/Religion Debate.
Star Trek is often interpreted to have a negative view of religion, in favor of a humanistic and atheistic vision of the future. In this episode of Meta Treks, hosts Mike Morrison and Zachary Fruhling challenge the typical interpretation of science and religion in Star Trek, considering both the rationality of religious belief and also potential issues with the rationality of scientific reasoning.
Topics in this episode include traditional philosophical arguments attempting to prove God's existence, the correspondence theory of truth vs. the coherence theory of truth, logical positivism and the meaningfulness of religious language, the tentativeness of scientific conclusions, Thomas Kuhn on paradigm shifts in science, and the problem of divine action. Mike and Zachary conclude the discussion by asking what we can learn about divine action and top-down causation by the movement of matter and antimatter particles inside the warp core of a starship.
This episode also introduces the Meta Treks review contest, running between December 15, 2015 and January 15, 2016.
Welcome to Episode 8 (00:01:06)
Overview of the Topic (00:01:25)
Meta Treks Review Contest (00:11:54)
Discussion Starts (00:14:50)
The Rationality of Religious Belief (00:18:08)
The Correspondence Theory of Truth (00:31:15)
The Irrationality of Science (00:38:10)
Final Thoughts (01:14:55)