“Spockrates” is a pun for the extreme among nerds. Â I discovered it by myself, though a Google searchÂ reveals that it is used as a screen name by someoneÂ (or someones) orÂ other.
I used the word in the title on a post for the 2013 Spocktober celebration atÂ TTC‘s sister site The Undiscovered Country Project. Â Now the same post appears inÂ Spockology: Essays on Spock and Leonard Nimoy from The Undiscovered Country Project and Friends. Â To celebrate the launching ofÂ Spockology, we’re running that blog post below.
For a few years, I have wanted to write a post forÂ UCPÂ on the episode â€śCatspawâ€ť from theÂ Original Series, but itâ€™s been hard to find time to write an essay that would handle the various relevant issues as delicately as they deserve. (Those issues are Spock, Halloween, the emotions, Socrates, and Christianity.)
IÂ stillÂ donâ€™t have time to write such an essay and handle these issues delicately! So instead Iâ€™m writing this post and cutting to the chase most indelicately. The advantage to my lack of time is that this post will be quick and to the point. Quick and to theÂ fourÂ points, to be more precise.
The background:Â â€ťCatspawâ€ť is a great (and rather campy) sci-fi Halloween episode. Thereâ€™s no horror; but thereÂ isÂ spookiness. TheÂ EnterpriseÂ crew encounters some aliens from beyond the galaxy. The aliens try to tap into their minds, but only reach theirÂ subconscious minds. There, they access various things humans have fearedâ€”witches, spooky castles, black cats; they create illusions of these things in order to test Kirk and the others.
First point: Spock does not fear because he knows there is nothing to fear.Â The spookiness just doesnâ€™t get to him. He knows being afraid of it is irrational.
Second point: Spock illustrates a thesis concerning the nature of the emotions: that emotions convey information about a situation.Â Fear, in particular, is not an empty emotion. It means something. To be afraid of something is to perceive it as a bad thing. It is precisely because he doesÂ notÂ think these things are bad that he does not fear.
Third point: This thesis is also Socratesâ€™ thesis about the emotions in Platoâ€™sÂ Apology.Â (This is a text that you should probablyÂ readÂ if you havenâ€™t read it already; in the meantime, I offer youÂ my cartoon versionÂ of theÂ Apology.)
I donâ€™t necessarily agree with everything in Socratesâ€™ definition of the emotions. I think Robert Robertsâ€™ bookÂ Emotions: An Essay in Aid of Moral PsychologyÂ develops this thesis in the right way.
Fourth point: If the emotions do indeed have content, this has relevance for the Christian life.Â Emotions are shaped by our understanding of the things that are important to us. Roberts has writtenÂ a good bookÂ on what understandings should be shaping the emotions of a Christian. Itâ€™s very insightful, but still quite readable. I recommend it.