Sunday, October 31, 2010

Texas Supreme Court Cites Mr. Spock

In what surely must be a legal first, the Texas Supreme Court has cited an alien off-worlder in a recent judgment, a fictional alien at that. In Robinson v. Crown Cork and Seal, the Texas court cited Star Trek's Mr. Spock, from the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. You will recall that, in one of the finest scenes in the film, Mr. Spock dies heroically saving the Enterprise and her crew. Just before dying, he says to Kirk, "Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical..." And he reminds Kirk that "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or the one."

In the following movie, The Search for Spock, Kirk turns this dictum on its head by telling Spock that the reason they came for him was because the needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many.

SFWA quotes the Texas Court:
"Appropriately weighty principles guide our course. First, we recognize that police power draws from the credo that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Second, while this maxim rings utilitarian and Dickensian (not to mention Vulcan21), it is cabined by something contrarian and Texan: distrust of intrusive government and a belief that police power is justified only by urgency, not expediency."

Footnote 21 reads:
See STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (Paramount Pictures 1982). The film references several works of classic literature, none more prominently than A Tale of Two Cities. Spock gives Admiral Kirk an antique copy as a birthday present, and the film itself is bookended with the book’s opening and closing passages. Most memorable, of course, is Spock’s famous line from his moment of sacrifice: “Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh . . .” to which Kirk replies, “the needs of the few.”
Some have pointed to earlier quotations for this thought, including Aristotle, and the Gospel of John 11:49-50 in the Bible (which quotes Caiaphas, the High Priest, expressing a similar thought). But really, I think Spock said it the most succinctly.

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