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Meta Treks: A Star Trek Philosophy Podcast

Meta Treks is a Trek.fm podcast dedicated to a deep examination of the philosophical ideas found in Star Trek. In each episode, Zachary Fruhling and Mike Morrison take you on a fascinating journey into the inner workings of Star Trek storytelling, deeper into subspace than you've ever traveled before.
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Meta Treks: A Star Trek Philosophy Podcast
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Now displaying: 2015
Dec 21, 2015

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. 

Chapters
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)

Hosts
Mike Morrison and Zachary Fruhling
 
Production
Dennis Castello (Editor and Producer) Norman C. Lao (Executive Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Charlynn Schmiedt (Executive Producer) Will Nguyen (Content Manager) Richard Marquez (Production Manager)

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Dec 14, 2015

The Prime Directive and "Symbiosis." 

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." 

Chapters
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)

Hosts
Zachary Fruhling and Mike Morrison
 
Production
Dennis Castello (Editor and Producer) Norman C. Lao (Executive Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Charlynn Schmiedt (Executive Producer) Will Nguyen (Content Manager) Richard Marquez (Production Manager)

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Dec 7, 2015

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.

Chapters
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)  


Hosts
Mike Morrison and Zachary Fruhling
 
Production
Dennis Castello (Editor and Producer) Norman C. Lao (Executive Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Charlynn Schmiedt (Executive Producer) Will Nguyen (Content Manager) Richard Marquez (Production Manager)

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Nov 30, 2015

Klingon Virtue Ethics. 

For Klingons, the key ethical question is whether one's heart is truly Klingon. In this episode of Meta Treks, hosts Zachary Fruhling and Mike Morrison examine "Klingon Virtue Ethics," with virtue ethics being a distinctive form of ethical theory emphasizing desirable character traits over individual actions. Zachary and Mike debate the nature of essential Klingon character traits such as loyalty, duty, and honor. But unlike humans, who tend to remain in the middle-ground on many aspects of human nature, Klingons take their essential virtues and character traits to extreme levels (not to mention those terrible Klingon table manners and an endless but life-affirming thirst for blood wine). 

In their discussion, Zachary and Mike cover the Aristotelian notion of eudaimonia ("happiness," or "living well") and consider what living well, or rather dying well, means for Klingons. In addition, Zachary and Mike apply the virtue-theory notion of an "ideal individual" to the Klingon messianic figure Kahless, the individual viewed by most Klingons as the ideal Klingon to be emulated and revered. Finally, Zachary and Mike contrast the highly idealized (and sometime naive) sense of Klingon virtues embraced by the character of Worf with the more realistic character traits of other less-honorable Klingons. 

Chapters
Welcome To Episode 7 (00:01:25)
Discussing SacTrek  (00:02:48)
Overview of Virtue Ethics (00:11:26)
Traditional Virtue Ethics Theories (00:14:48)
Virtue Ethics In Star Trek (00:16:52)
Discussion of Eudaimonia (00:24:39)
Final Thoughts (01:07:29)
Zach's Recommended Klingon Episodes (01:10:53)
Mike's Recommended Klingon Episodes (01:11:26)

Hosts
Zachary Fruhling and Mike Morrison
 
Production
Dennis Castello (Editor and Producer) Norman C. Lao (Executive Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Charlynn Schmiedt (Executive Producer) Will Nguyen (Content Manager) Richard Marquez (Production Manager)

Send us your feedback!
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Nov 23, 2015

Consequentialism vs. Deontological Ethics.

In the Deep Space Nine episode "In the Pale Moonlight," was Captain Sisko justified in using less-then-honorable means to bring the Romulans into the war with the Dominion in order to end the war and save lives? Or were Sisko's actions unjustified because they violated universally valid moral rules and principles? 

In this episode of Meta Treks, hosts Mike Morrison and Zachary Fruhling analyze "In the Pale Moonlight" from the contrasting ethical theories of consequentalist ethics (or utilitarianism) and deontological ethics (or rule-based ethics). Mike and Zachary consider the applicability of different forms of consequentialism, such as Jeremy Bentham's quantitative approach to utilitarianism, John Start Mill's more qualitative approach to utilitarianism, and rule utilitarianism as a middle-ground between ethics emphasizing consequences and ethics emphasizing rules.

This episode of Meta Treks covers the crucial concepts of deontological/Kantian ethics, such as Kant's Categorical Imperative, the notion that some actions are intrinsically right or wrong regardless of consequences, and treating others as ends in themselves and not merely as means to your own ends. Mike and Zachary wrap up the conversation with a discussion of whether the justification for the Prime Directive is chiefly consequentialist or whether the Prime Directive, as the Federation's highest law or rule, is grounded in the intrinsic worth of the natural development of other worlds and cultures.

Chapters
Welcome to Episode 6 (00:01:06)
Discussing the CBS Star Trek Announcement (00:02:22)
Introducing the Topic (00:15:10)
Consequentialism (00:16:40)
Example - In The Pale Moonlight (00:19:31)
Utilitarianism (00:32:09)
Deontological Ethics (00:44:00)
Kantian Ethics (00:44:40)
The Categorical Imperative (00:49:00)
The Prime Directive (01:05:38)
Rule Utilitarianism (01:10:05)
Virtue Based Ethics (01:17:46)
Final Thoughts (01:20:06)

Hosts
Mike Morrison and Zachary Fruhling

 

Production

Dennis Castello (Editor and Producer) Norman C. Lao (Executive Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Charlynn Schmiedt (Executive Producer) Will Nguyen (Content Manager) Richard Marquez (Production Manager)

 

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Nov 16, 2015

Personal Identity. 

As characters in Star Trek change over time (think TV Picard versus Movie Picard), what accounts for the persistence of those characters' personal identity? 

In this episode of Meta Treks, the continuation of a two-part discussion on the problem of identity in Star Trek, hosts Zachary Fruhling and Mike Morrison consider various responses to the problem of personal identity, including John Locke's views on memory and the continuity of consciousness, David Hume's bundle theory of the self, and Rene Descartes's views on mind-body dualism and personal identity. 

Zachary and Mike close out their discussion of personal identity by considering identity issues in alternate timelines, counterfactual scenarios, and the Mirror Universe. Can David Lewis's possible worlds interpretation of counterfactuals, along with Saul Kripke's account of personal names as rigid designators, explain the identity of Star Trek characters across alternate timelines? Is it possible to give any account of why Star Trek characters are somehow connected to their Mirror Universe counterparts? Join Zachary and Mike as they wrestle with these issues in personal identity and more, all told through examples taken directly from the Star Trek universe. 

Chapters
Welcome to Episode 5 (00:01:06)
Introducing the Topic (00:02:23)
Examples of Personal Identity in Star Trek (00:10:40)
Numerical Identity (00:12:56)
Continuity of Consciousness (00:17:57)
The Bundle Theory (00:26:50)
Dualism (00:34:09)
Alternate Universes (00:52:56)
Names as Rigid Designators (01:00:46)
Final Thoughts (01:11:21)

Hosts
Zachary Fruhling and Mike Morrison

 

Production

Dennis Castello (Editor and Producer) Norman C. Lao (Executive Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Charlynn Schmiedt (Executive Producer) Will Nguyen (Content Manager) Richard Marquez (Production Manager)

 
Nov 9, 2015

The Problem of Identity.

In this episode of Meta Treks, part one of a two-part discussion on the problem of identity in Star Trek, hosts Mike Morrison and Zachary Fruhling consider the metaphysical problem of identity over time as it applies to inanimate objects. As objects undergo changes over time, do they remain the same objects or do they become different objects? Mike and Zachary reinterpret the classic philosophical example of the Ship of Theseus, in which components of a ship are replaced one at a time, in Star Trek terms as the "Starship of Theseus," asking whether the Enterprise remains the same ship following repairs or a refit.

Mike and Zachary introduce the problem of identity with an overview of Leibniz's Law and the numerical identity of indiscernible objects, followed by a discussion of different possible responses to the problem of identity over time: the continuity-of-change response, four-dimensionalism and time slices, and Aristotle's four types of causes (material cause, formal cause, efficient cause, and final cause).

Chapters
Welcome to Meta Treks 4 (00:01:07)
Introduction to the Topic (00:02:10)
The Ship of Theseus (00:10:18)
The Starship of Theseus (00:13:35)
Resolving the Identity Problem (00:29:17)
Continuity of Changes (00:29:51)
Four Dimensionalism (00:37:18)
Aristotle's Answers (00:46:37)
Final Thoughts (01:00:43)


Hosts

Mike Morrison and Zachary Fruhling

 
Production
Dennis Castello (Editor and Producer) Norman C. Lao (Executive Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Charlynn Schmiedt (Executive Producer) Will Nguyen (Content Manager) Richard Marquez (Production Manager)

Send us your feedback!
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Nov 2, 2015
Philosopher Starship Crews.
 
Zachary and Mike compare notes on their ideal philosopher starship crews. Find out which philosophers from the history of philosophy that Zachary and Mike would choose to fill the various roles in a typical starship crew: conn officer, communications officer, operations officer, science officer, tactical officer, chief of security, chief engineer, first officer, and captain. Zachary and Mike also consider some honorable mentions for the roles of ship's counselor, transporter chief, bartender or chef, the ever-present admiral or "badmiral," diplomat or ambassador, and holodeck technician.
 
Philosophers covered in this episode of Meta Treks include (in alphabetical order) Aristotle, George Berkeley, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, David Brewster, Jacques Derrida, Albert Einstein, Epicurus, Michel Foucault, Gottlob Frege, Sigmund Freud, Galileo Galilei, Martin Heidegger, Hippocrates, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, William James, Immanuel Kant, C. S. Lewis, Karl Popper, John Rawls, Gene Roddenberry, Arthur Schopenhauer, Socrates, Sun Tzu, Dallas Willard, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
 
Chapters
Welcome (00:01:07)
Introducing the Topic (00:03:09)
Helm Officer (00:09:53)
Communications Officer (00:13:18)
Ops Officer (00:17:05)
Science Officer (00:19:41)
Tactical Officer (00:27:45)
Chief of Security (00:32:32)
Chief Engineer (00:38:36)
Chief Medical Officer (00:44:52)
First Officer (00:51:10)
Captain (01:00:04)
Honorable Mentions (01:06:33)
Final Thoughts (01:18:04)
 
Hosts
Zachary Fruhling and Mike Morrison
 
Production
Dennis Castello (Editor and Producer) Norman C. Lao (Executive Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Charlynn Schmiedt (Executive Producer) Will Nguyen (Content Manager) Richard Marquez (Production Manager)
 
Send us your feedback!
Twitter: @trekfm
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Become a Trek.fm Patron on Patreon and help us keep Star Trek talk coming every week. We have great perks for you at http://patreon.com/trekfm
Oct 26, 2015

Free Will and Compatibilism.

In this episode of Meta Treks, part two of a two-part discussion about free will vs. determinism in Star Trek, hosts Mike Morrison and Zachary Fruhling weigh different possible meanings of free will as responses to the threat of causal determinism in Star Trek.

Are Captain Kirk and Captain Archer radically free as existentialism holds? Is free will an indispensable concept as pragmatism holds? As Captain Kirk, Captain Sisko, and Captain Janeway learn to embrace their own unique destinies, do they become genuine examples of the compatibility of free will and determinism in Star Trek? And what exactly would Picard do with his free will if he were stuck in a blue shirt? Hosts Mike Morrison and Zachary Fruhling wrestle with these philosophical questions and more, through the lens of Star Trek.


Hosts

Mike Morrison and Zachary Fruhling
 
Production
Dennis Castello (Editor and Producer) Norman C. Lao (Executive Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Charlynn Schmiedt (Executive Producer) Will Nguyen (Content Manager) Richard Marquez (Production Manager)


Chapters
Welcome (00:01:07)
Discussion Begins (00:04:39)
Brief Recap of Part 1, Determinism (00:04:51)
Principle of Alternate Possibilities (00:08:04)
Existentialist View of Freewill (00:16:51)
Pragmatism (00:32:28)
Compatibilism (00:44:53)
Final Thoughts (01:04:06)

Send us your feedback!
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Become a Trek.fm Patron on Patreon and help us keep Star Trek talk coming every week. We have great perks for you at http://patreon.com/trekfm

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Oct 18, 2015

Free Will vs. Determinism.

Welcome to the premier episode of Trek.fm's new show about Star Trek and philosophy, Meta Treks: A Star Trek Philosophy Podcast. In this episode, part one of a two-part discussion, hosts Zachary Fruhling and Mike Morrison tackle the free will vs. determinism debate by examining different types of determinism within the Star Trek universe: biological determinism, physical determinism, social or cultural determinism, evolutionary determinism, historical determinism, psychological determinism, and theological determinism. After considering these different types of determinism and causal factors, what room is left for free will or personal agency in the Star Trek universe?

Chapters
Introducing the Show (00:00:00)
Definitions and Distinctions (00:09:43)
Why Care About Free Will? (00:10:31)
Hard Determinism (00:11:55)
Biological Determinism (00:17:05)
Physical Determinism (00:25:36)
Cultural Determinism (00:39:37)
Evolutionary Determinism (00:48:59)
Historical Determinism (00:52:12)
Psychological Determinism (00:01:01:31)
Theological Determinism (00:01:06:40)
Final Thoughts (00:01:12:44)

Hosts
Zachary Fruhling and Mike Morrison

Production
Dennis Castello (Editor and Producer) Norman C. Lao (Executive Producer) C Bryan Jones (Executive Producer) Matthew Rushing (Executive Producer) Charlynn Schmiedt (Executive Producer) Will Nguyen (Content Manager) Richard Marquez (Production Manager)

1