Pragmatism and Meaning: Assessing the Message of Star Trek: The Original Series

Anne Collins Smith, Owen M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The original Star Trek television series purported to depict a future in which such evils as sexism and racism do not exist, and intelligent beings from numerous planets live in a condition of peace and mutual benefit. As many scholars have observed, from a standpoint of contemporary theoretical analysis, Star Trek: The Original Series contains many elements that are inimical to the utopia it claims to depict and thus undermine its supposed message. A different perspective may be gained by drawing on the American pragmatist movement, in which the value of an idea is judged by its effectiveness, how it ‘cashes out’ in terms of its impact in real life. Thus, the meaning and value of Star Trek: TOS can be assessed by observing its effects on its audience. This perspective coordinates well with Taylor’s discussion of the necessary conditions for the realization of a protreptic moral order in the social imaginary, as well as a pragmatist understanding of audience engagement and education.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalFaculty Publications
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011

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