what's the rationale for Vulcan emotional suppression?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by sonak, Mar 5, 2013.

  1. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The original idea of the need for the Vulcan training in emotional control was that without it, the strength of their emotions would overcome them, and that they were naturally violent and passionate. But I was thinking that we have seen Vulcans who do not live according to the stoic philosophy of their culture- Sybok for one of course, and there's an ENT episode where we see a group of them(is that "fusion?" I can't remember the name).

    Whatever criticisms of Sybok you want to make, it seems obvious that his issues were with his religious fanaticism and ego, not his temperament. He didn't become violent as a result of his rejection of Vulcan philosophy, rather the opposite. He was depicted as quasi-pacifist.

    And then we have the Romulans, who are essentially Vulcans biologically and genetically speaking. And yet that civilization doesn't constantly erupt into civil wars and violence. They're not exactly models of egalitarian small-d democrats of course, but their societal model doesn't seem to have much to do with not following emotional suppression.

    So why do Vulcans REALLY hold to the need for emotional control? It seems to be more of a philosophical preference along with the desire for logic rather than a "we must do it to keep from surrendering to violence" reason.
     
  2. SchwEnt

    SchwEnt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It does seem that the emotional suppression movement was a life-or-death drastic response to the conclusion that Vulcan passions and violence would ultimately destroy them.

    I don't think every pre-Surak Vulcan was a raving berserker, but I guess enough Vulcans were dangerous enough to incite such an extreme rejection of emotions.

    Joke's on Surak, though, as seemingly survival with emotions was possible--the Romulans proved that.

    And then, yes, we have Vulcans like Sybok and those ENT fellows, who live with emotions and are not raving madmen or violently destructive.

    Millenia later, I think it is possible that logical, emotionally-suppressed Vulcan is a philosophy, a long-held cultural tradition deeply ingrained and widely accepted, not necessarily a biological imperative (although yeah, Pon Farr).
     
  3. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think inherently Vulcan emotions are far more destructive than Human emotions.

    The Romulans developed their own sense of emotional control by developing an apparently oppressive society that discourages the populace from getting too out of hand.

    Different solutions to the same problem?
     
  4. SchwEnt

    SchwEnt Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Oh wow. That's a really interesting idea I never considered.

    Vulcan solution, suppress the individual.
    Romulan solution, suppress the society.

    Kinda obvious I guess but it didn't occur to me in those terms. I like it a lot.
     
  5. QCzar

    QCzar Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    From what I've seen on screen, I definitely have to echo C.E. Evans point about there being biological aspects to their violent streak, in spite of the Romulan's presentation.

    To reconcile the two, I have always been of the belief that imperialism is a distinct idiosyncrasy of the Romulans as a people, relating primarily to their chosen way of life and of organizing their society. But there is nothing on-screen stating that this confers any behavioral condition upon them individually. They could very well have embraced some form of emotional control (albeit obviously less strident), and it would be the rational course of action if indeed their race (Vulcans writ large) is beset with abnormally erratic emotions.

    Rather than reject emotional control, we've only ever seen that the Romulans reject logic specifically, and especially where it regards how they govern their society and their lives. However, the two states of existence (emotional suppression and violent imperialism) are not mutually exclusive. The coexistence of these approaches can, IMO, entirely explain the way the Romulans we've seen have been depicted.

    The Vulcans seem to have chosen to integrate the pursuit of logic and rejection of unreasonable use of violence, with its attendant emotional suppression, into the way they run things on their planet. Their way of life is highly dependent on its strict adherence. Career, family, government and moments of crisis are all engaged through the purity of reason. It's systemic and a rather drastic leap from merely suppressing emotions.

    They are the central tenets of Surak's teachings and it was probably this that drove the Romulans' ancestors to seek another path.
     
  6. jayrath

    jayrath Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It was of course introduced as a gimmick that they then had to figure out a rationale for. In the broader context, Vulcan "logic" represents complete rationality, while McCoy represents passion. Kirk is in the middle, balancing the two. That's the delight of characterizations in TOS, and it was never reproduced in subsequent series.
     
  7. QCzar

    QCzar Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This aspect of Vulcans has never been consistently portrayed in any of the series or films. Generally, Vulcans are as emotionally-suppressed as the plot needs them to be. I actually like this nuanced depiction, even if it wasn't necessarily the intended result. Makes them seem like a real people, with a requisite spectrum of calm to crazy (and seemingly ubiquitous snark), rather than one-note caricatures that most Trek races seem to be.
     
  8. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think Vulcan society is one of the most interesting ones Trek ever came up with.
     
  9. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Yep.

    IIRC, Vulcans at their most warlike period were far worse than human society ever was. At the worst time, there was never more than 10% of the Vulcan population which was NOT at war.
     
  10. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The Vulcans as a group are basically pathological serial killers, the Romulans aren't.

    That's why the Romulans were cast out.

    :)
     
  11. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    huh? where is this from?
     
  12. QCzar

    QCzar Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Twilight
     
  13. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    There was a Myriad Universes story called "Tears of Eridanus" that had an interesting take on this:

    It took place in a universe where Surak never existed. So of course there are no such thing as Romulans. Vulcans still have their emotions as always, but they've been like that for so long that they are little more than bloodthirsty savages because they are always in a rage. The main plot is the discovery of the katra of S'task, who in the main novel continuity is one of Surak's former students who later led the exodus to Romulus. It's implied that the only reason the Romulans have any kind of control over their Vulcan emotions is because of S'task - without him, Vulcan emotions are just too powerful to handle.
     
  14. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    the Ent episode? or the series with Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart?
     
  15. CaptainDave1701

    CaptainDave1701 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I Agree,
    From what I have read over the years with their telepathic as well as mental capabilities along with animal passions they nearly wiped themselves out. There was a time when they would have made the Klingons look like pussycats.They then embraced logic and non emotion.
     
  16. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    yes, but you don't need to embrace emotional suppression to embrace peace. Pacifism isn't necessarily correlated with greater emotional control. They could have had an MLK or Gandhi-like figure who preached peace but didn't teach emotional suppression.
     
  17. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That MLK or Gandhi-like figure was basically Surak. It was Surak who promoted peace by living a life based on logic rather than emotional impulses. The suppression of the otherwise extremely volatile (if not frequent erratic or even dangerous) Vulcan emotions was the key ingredient in that philsophy, IMO.
     
  18. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    to clarify, I understand that Vulcan society was being torn apart by war at one point. I realize that they needed a philosophy to promote peace. What I'm asking is why emotional suppression was needed. Originally it was because Vulcans were so naturally violent when their emotions weren't strictly controlled, but Trek later showed us that wasn't the case with some Vulcans.
     
  19. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There's always exceptions to anything--not all Vulcans are the same just like how not all Humans are the same--but I do think Surak's philosophy of logical deduction over emotional impulses was beneficial to Vulcan civilization in general, though.

    For all intents and purposes, Vulcans may have self-annihilated themselves millennia ago if they hadn't learned to rein in those emotions. They may have let the Klingons look like angels in comparison, IMO.
     
  20. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    That's my take on it, too. The violent-emotions problem must be legit, or the Vulcans look like idiots for creating a repressive society for no reason.

    The Romulans have the same problem but control it by turning their aggression outwards. They have some egalitarian structures in their own society, a Senate for example, but behave with paranoia and aggression towards outsiders, which implies that they have to do this.

    But even after all this time, the Romulans are still such cyphers that their "true nature" has not been explored. If this theory is correct, lasting peace with Romulans is actually impossible, and they're in the same category as the Borg - only temporary detente is possible - rather than the Klingons, who could become Fed allies as long as both sides understand each other.

    I don't recall ENT ever contradicting this theory since I held it when I was watching it and would have noticed a contradiction. I do recall that T'Pol's confession to Trip about violent Vulcan emotions was the first time I remember this being addressed so directly on-screen. I probably picked the idea up from books previously (also TOS strongly implies it).
     

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