Star Trek Into Darkness Ethics

Satisfactory Essays
Star Trek: Into Darkness is a film with a multiplicity of moral themes and dilemmas, and it can be argued that each character adheres to a particular ethical theory. For Spock, the ethical theory adhered to is rule-based utilitarianism. Kirk seems to adhere to a care ethic. Khan, on the other hand, seems in many cases to be motivated by a combination of a misled form of retributivism, a form of psychological egoism, and a form of care ethics. In this paper, I will analyze the ramifications of these views within the context of each characters statements and actions, and will evaluate what evidence can be drawn in support of these arguments.

There is much evidence for the argument that Spock adheres to utilitarianism. For example, on planet Nibiru, an M-class planet with a primitive pre-warpdrive civilization, Spock is willing to die to save the Nibirans. It is not simply the fact that he is willing to sacrifice himself to save the species, but the particular justification he gives for this action: "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." Spock's reasoning is an example of a utilitarian ethic. If he dies, much less net utility is lost than if the entire species perishes. It is clearly the consequences that matter in this case - he is weighing the consequences of his actions, and attempting to choose the action that will lead to most overall net utility. In fact, Spock does not want to be saved, as he says such an action "would violate the Prime Directive", the directive to not interfere with the development of other species. It is clear that Spock adheres to the Prime Directive because of the adverse consequences it could have for the development of other species. It is not that the Prime Directive is good-in-itself,...

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... comply with orders then nobody would follow them.
The overall message of Star Trek: Into Darkness is that ethics is complex, with multiple possible interpretations and often no clearly delineated boundary between definitively right and wrong. Spock often reasons from a utilitarian perspective, and yet at the same time seems to hold to a Kantian-duty principle of never lying. Kirk saves Spock, violating the Prime Directive by reasoning from a care ethic, but later risks his life seemingly on utilitarian grounds. Khan deeply cares about his crew, but is often willing to do just about anything to achieve his own interests, with little to no regard for the welfare of others. This is the ultimate message of the film: that ethics is complex, different situations can often call for different ethical viewpoints, and that ethical decisions must be considered carefully.
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