Point vs. Counterpoint

PCP – (Point) Yoda is Smarter Than Spock

Smarter Yoda is than Spock.

This argument is inspired by a Waterloo paper by Igor Grossman, Harrison Oakes’, and Henri Santos titled “Wise Reasoning Benefits from Emodiversity, Irrespective of Emotional Diversity” which argues that wise reasoning is benefited by a healthy sense of emotions in life. They back this argument up with observational, diary, and experimental studies. In their discussion, they conclude Yoda’s emotional balance makes him wiser. However, does that make him smarter?

When considering these two popular science fiction characters, one can see a lot of similarities. Spock and Yoda both have strong logical thinking, problem-solving skills, and moral compass.

What sets Yoda apart from Spock is his wisdom. Yoda is wiser due to his age and experience. Yoda was just under 900 years old in the original trilogy, while Spock was 35 years old in the original TV series. This 865-year difference gives Yoda a strong advantage in terms of experience. He is able to utilize experience more than Spock to solve problems simply because he has it. As a result, he understands himself and the world better and can make wiser decisions.

However, wisdom is not intelligence. Wisdom is the making of good decisions using knowledge of one’s self, experience, and ethical sensitivity.

Although, I am neither making the argument that Yoda is more intelligent or wiser than Spock. I am arguing that Yoda is smarter than Spock. For this argument, I am drawing on Howard Gardner’s Theory of emotional intelligence.

Yoda’s wisdom and experience give him a stronger interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence. He is able to cope with emotions because he embraces them. He expresses his emotions including joy, sorrow, and regret. In contrast, Spock is unable to function with emotions. He suppresses emotions to favour logic. Consequently, when Spock feels emotions, he is unable to act appropriately. Consider Spock in “The Naked Time”, episode four of the first season of the Star Trek television series. He is unable to protect his own crew from an infection spreading on the ship. His inability to contain his emotions after Nurse Chapel confesses her love for him results in Captain Kirk becoming infected. Logical reasoning is useless if it breaks down with emotion.

Spock has a slight disadvantage when it comes to emotions. His Vulcan ancestry makes his emotions very intense. That is why Vulcans repress their emotions. Otherwise, they’d be unable to function. Spock, with his human side, even lacks some skill in emotional repression. Thus, he is unable to regulate his emotions because they are so intense and unable to repress his emotions because he is human. However, just because Spock’s ancestry is to blame doesn’t make the aforementioned evidence false. It’s just simply not Spock’s fault that he can’t be as smart as Yoda.

Yoda, however, is able to use his emotional experiences to his benefit. He uses his strong intrapersonal intelligence to interpret his own emotions. For instance, he explains to Ezra Bridger, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars that it is a struggle to recognize fear and not turn it into anger. This is important because as we all know: “fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”  Yoda’s ability to recognize the downward spiral of being consumed by emotions while avoiding it shows a strong intrapersonal intelligence. Where does this come from? He had 900 years of experiences with emotions and wisdom to develop this skill.

As for his interpersonal intelligence, Yoda is able to deal with the conflict and frustration of his students. He is able to transfer his own emotional knowledge to them and watch their strong emotions through training without breaking down. It has made him a remarkable teacher. Again, this ability to deal with students comes from his wisdom and experience.

One may argue that Yoda’s famous odd phrasing makes him unintelligent. If Yoda isn’t able to put together a proper sentence, how can he be considered smart? Actually, linguists argue that Yoda is speaking proper English. Shakespeare wrote “[f]or them the gracious Duncan have I murdered” in Macbeth and “Little Drummer Boy” contains the lyric: “[c]ome they told me, the newborn king to see”. So why do people not criticize odd phrasing in these forms? It’s art. Yoda’s form of speech can still be understood, it just uses a different style. That doesn’t make him unintelligent. Would anyone consider Shakespeare unintelligent because he mixes up his subjects and predicates?

It’s easy to think that being smart means logic. However, Yoda is a clear example in pop culture exhibiting how being smart requires more than logic and rationality. It requires a balance.

Leave a Reply