A mind all logic is like a knife all blade: it makes the hand bleed that wields it.
— Rabindranath Tagore
A straw man used to show that emotion is better than logic.
It starts by having characters who think "logically" try to solve a problem. And they can't. Either they can't find any answer, or they're caught in some kind of standoff, or they're even stuck in a Logic Bomb-type loop. Once this is established, someone who uses good old human emotion comes up with a solution that the logical thinker can't. This provides An Aesop that emotion is superior and that the logical thinker shouldn't trust logic so much.
This is, of course, a Broken Aesop. Fiction often gets the concept of logic wrong in a number of ways.
The most common mistake is to assume that logic and emotion are somehow naturally opposed and that employing one means you can't have the other. Excluding emotion doesn't make your reasoning logical, however, and it certainly doesn't cause your answer to be automatically true. Likewise, an emotional response doesn't preclude logical thinking — although it may prevent you from thinking in the first place — and if an emotional plan is successful, that doesn't make logic somehow wrong.
For example, if you love someone, then it logically follows that you would place a higher priority on saving that person than random strangers you don't know. This is a logical consequence of an emotional sentiment. The false dichotomy inherent to this trope, however, would oversimplify by having saving the loved one as the "emotional" choice, with saving everyone else as the "logical."
Because the writers are more concerned with setting up their straw man than in handling logic correctly, they will often misuse and distort the concept to create contrived examples where what they're calling "logic" doesn't work. Common situations include:
The Straw Vulcan will only accept a guaranteed success. A plan that only has a chance of success is not "logical", even if the chance is the highest possible. This is actually a well-known error in logic, called the Perfect Solution Fallacy.
The story assumes a "logical" plan is one where every step makes the goal visibly closer, and accepting a short-term disadvantage for a long-term advantage is not "logical". There's nothing inherently illogical in accepting a short-term set-back if it makes the long-term success more likely.
The Straw Vulcan will be completely unable or unwilling to plan for unexpected and even illogical behavior from other parties.
Perhaps the most common flaw of the Straw Vulcan is their inability to draw upon any knowledge which comes from being an emotional being. They seem unable to factor emotions, or any associated information, into their analysis; they are not so much "logical" beings as beings without a functional understanding of the nature of emotional processes.
The Straw Vulcan assumes that self-sacrifice isn't "logical", even though there can easily be situations where self-sacrifice is "logical".
The story assumes that anything which doesn't fit a particular mathematical model of logic isn't "logical".
For instance, assuming that "logic" means "using syllogisms". Even speculation and testing hypotheses can then be called "illogical", despite being the foundation of modern science. Heck, even logicians don't use syllogisms all the time.
Or assuming that all logical choices must make one side better off on an individual basis, without considering cooperation; this is known as a Nash equilibrium, although you'll never find the actual term mentioned, mostly because the word "equilibrium" is far too logical-sounding for authors claiming its inferiority.
The Straw Vulcan, and by extension all logical thinkers, will be uncreative, or at least less so than emotional people. He will be unable to come up with an imaginative answer to an unusual problem, while the emotional protagonist, often despite having no real experience with this kind of situation, will be able to save the day. This is supposed to show that "logic" is inferior to "emotion" in that emotion can provide a third and more favorable option to the logician's bad and worse options.
A Straw Vulcan will have to consider everything about the problem in full detail even in time-critical situations, while the emotional person will make the snap decisions necessary in this sort of situation. This will demonstrate how the "logical" Straw Vulcan is useless under pressure and therefore inferior to the emotional protagonist. The obvious flaw is that it's patently illogical to ignore time constraints in this manner.
The technical term for this is "bounded rationality", as opposed to "classic rationality" which does assume that you have infinite time to gather information and consider.
There's also the case where the emotional person suggests a course that shouldn't work, period, but the Straw Vulcan's ideas all involve some aspect that the "non-logical" character find objectionable. So Straw Vulcan is outvoted, they go with the dumb emotional plan, and lo, it works... due to sheer dumb luck. This is then lauded as a victory for emotion, when in fact it's a victory for the Million to One Chance principle.
The Straw Vulcan will often commit the Fallacy Fallacy, dismissing a conclusion simply because it was based on invalid logic or on emotion. While the fact that an argument contains a fallacy is grounds for dismissing an argument, it does not prove that the conclusion is wrong.
The Straw Vulcan will proceed to disturb everyone with doomsaying that their currently plan "only has a 10% chance for us to succeed". Actually, when all other options are depleted, the plan that has a 10% chance of success is logically superior to other courses of action, which presumably have 0% chance of success. Bothering people with remarks about low chances of success in critical situations may degrade their morale and thus further diminish said chances, so it doesn't make logical sense to quote a low chance of success unless there's a better option that can be taken. Pessimism for pessimism's sake in a a time of need simply isn't logical, no need to be the sensitive guy of the cast to figure that out.
Rossiu in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann touches on this after the time-skip; when the citizens are rioting over the destruction caused by the Anti-Spirals, he tries to placate the populace by having Simon arrested and scheduled for execution, since Simon is technically responsible for the actions that led to the villain's attacking them (even though everyone else did just as much) and caused a lot of property damage by destroying an enemy in a populated area. He also wants to have the Gunmen and Lagann destroyed because they're outdated technology, and tries to save humanity by having them hide underground or evacuate on a spaceship. When this turns out to be futile, Simon saves the day by kicking reason to the curb and breaking through the impossible. Because that's what the show's about, baby!
It's played with, too. Rossiu is not criticized on-screen for his actions after the fact by anyone other than himself. In fact, everyone else pats him on the back for doing what he thought was best and making a painfully hard decision.
Oddly, the leader of Rossiu's old village was an aversion: since it was a small village they wanted to avoid overpopulation and any time there were more than fifty people there they would draw lots to exile the extra people. However, he isn't needlessly antagonized because of this, and the ending even suggests he was doing the right thing (it helped that he left Gimmy and Darry with Team Gurren instead of just throwing them out).
Takeru Takaishi was occasionally treated like this, mostly because he had to serve as the foil to the resident gogglehead. The idea that a temporary retreat could lead to a future victory seemed abhorrent to The Determinator.
It should be noted, however, that unlike most examples of this trope Takeru actually has rather poignantemotionaloutbursts of his own. Related mostly to seeing his Digimon die in the previous season.
Kyoya from Ouran High School Host Club averts this to a degree; his actions are based purely upon what he can gain, and he acts exactly as a truly logical person would. In one manga chapter, Haruhi hypothesizes that emotional gains might be part of these. Kyoya is intrigued.
Stein Heigar from Infinite Ryvius. He starts out as one of the most competent members of the Zwei, but as things get worse his inability to control the situation leads him to Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and eventually having a total breakdown.
Taiki may count as this in episode 177 of Sailor Moon Sailor Stars, unless this more counts as an example of Grumpy Bear. In this episode, Taiki looks down on Ami for believing that dreams and romance are needed in academics, and when the prospect of rain clouds the possibility of seeing a waited-for comet, he challenges her with "can your dreams and romance beat the rain?" This being Sailor Moon, the rain stops in time for the girls and Taiki to view the comet, and Taiki concedes that he can see the dreams and romance while viewing the comet.
In Darker than Black, Contractors are supposedly perfectly logical and steered by self-interest rather than emotion. Characters' actions rarely support this. Very few of them show any guilt about killing, but they can be quite emotional. Part of it may be the show failing at logic, but as the series goes on it's increasingly implied that it just isn't true in-world.
They are logical, for a given value of logical. They base their "logic" entirely off of what benefits themselves (and is most likely to keep them alive longest) the most, and every action they take in some way serves that(although sometimes you have to think about it for a while to see how their actions are self-preservation motivated). However it is stated that this mindset of emotionless, amoral, self-preservation based logic degrades over time and most contractors we see have been so for years, given the sociopathy plenty of time to begin to fade. The "new" contractors we do see(such as Tanya from season 2) fulfill the things said about them in-universe fairly well, becoming entirely emotionless and amoral and focused solely on self-preservation.
Oddly enough, averted in the comics with regard to Shockwave. Shockwave is a cold, calculating Decepticon warrior who embraces pure logic... but his definition of logic is, in fact correct - "the course of action with the highest possibility of victory." In the old Marvel Transformers comics, he once ceded leadership of the Decepticons to Megatron, convinced that Megatron's logic was superior.
In IDW's recent comics, the trope is played with when he's confronted with the raw, animal fury of the Dynobots (known in most other continuities as the Dinobots); his usual cold, calculating strategy was unable to stand up against their savage assault, and he decides to think like the enemy... and goes berserk simply to match their brutality pound-for-pound, allowing an emotion to become a factor in his logic. That emotion was rage, and it served Shockwave well, winning him the fight. An unforeseen weapon on the Dynobots' ship incapacitated him by causing a volcanic eruption once he'd switched off his anger program, but note that he gave in to emotion simply because it was logical to leave cold reasoning behind and embrace fury.
Prowl plays the trope in a more straight-forward way. He is logical to a fault. This is presented like something good, since he is one of the best Autobot tacticians... and like something bad, since Prowl is downright unable to stand illogical things or let himself deal with their existence. He is capable stay paralized in the heat of a battle as he tries making sense out of whatever has got him perplexed.
Autobot's first bout against the Decepticons in the Marvel comics is a good example of it. As the Decepticons were shooting at them and its squad was scrambling around, Prowl remained still as he tried to understand why the nearby cars (they were in a parking) were not running away.
The Guardians of the Universe have been made into Straw Vulcans more and more with each writer. They did always have a stoic and cold sense to them, but recent story arcs put great emphasis on their hatred of all emotion, even from those within their own Corps, all while they become less competent and trustworthy. In the Blackest Night Crisis Crossover one of the Guardians, when asked why his people chose to defend the cosmos, replied "I don't remember," in spite of their motivations having been well-established for some time.
An example that may or may not be an aversion: In the In Name Only movie I, Robot, part of the backstory of the protagonist is that earlier in his life, a robot was faced with a choice of saving him or a young girl. He had a 45% chance of survival, and she had a 11% percent chance of survival, so the robot chose to save him. His complaint is that the wrong kind of logic was applied; her life was worth more than his, so she should have been saved. This became the main reason for the protagonist's hatred of robots.
Additionally, V.I.K.I.'s motivations are entire rooted in logical thought. Sonny even comments that he can understand the logic behind the plan perfectly, "but it just seems too... heartless."
To be exact V.I.K.I.'s motivations are logical for her premise, it's her premise/goal that is wrong. She is looking to save lives at all costs, if that is her goal then she took quasi-logical action (one could argue there was a much better way to go about the coup that wouldn't set up an us-vs-them mentality that would encourage humans to fight to the death. The problem is that most humans don't want to have maximum life at all costs. We would rather accept small risk if it means enjoyment, and we couldn't be happy in a world dictated by robots. If she had started out with the premise of "I must preserve human happiness" instead of "I must preserve human life" things would have been far different.
Used in the 2009 Star Trek film (probably as an intentional Shout Out) when Spock seeks to regroup with the rest of the surviving fleet, yet the seemingly invincible Narada is headed to destroy Earth; Kirk takes the opposing emotional side, notes the Earth will be doomed while the fleet rallies and opts to face the Narada in a head on, likely suicidal confrontation. This time, however, Spock is captain, and outranks Kirk. Later Kirk shows that Spock is emotionally compromised and takes command. In both instances we are talking about the young Spock from the alternate timeline created by the Narada at the beginning of the film.
Interesting it also has an aversion with Spock farther, after all is not the most logical choose to marry the one you love?
Both subverted and played out straight in Star Trek VI. At one point Spock answers an appeal to logic from his protege Valeris by saying, "Logic, logic, logic. Logic is the beginning of wisdom, Valeris, not the end." During the remainder of the film, Spock is often telling outright lies or asking crewmembers to do so (acts that certainly go against what Vulcans traditionally consider logical) and describing the lies as "a miscommunication" and other euphemisms...anything but "a lie." But in the end, we find that for reasons she considers "logical," Valeris has conspired to assassinate Klingon Chancellor Gorkon and frame Kirk for his murder. When she says she doesn't recall the names of her fellow conspirators, Spock asks, "A lie?" She replies, "A choice."
I don't know that they use the word "logical," but the computer in WarGames is supposed to have mastered all sorts of game theory, without ever having realized that there could possibly be a game in which neither player could win (until, of course at the end, they introduce it to tic-tac-toe, and have it play against itself).
Hmm. The message isn't so much that you can't win a nuclear war but that the correct move is not to "play the game" at all. At least that seems to be the Aesop. In any case, WOPPER's "logic" is sound and subverts the notion that one can rationally plan a nuclear war, so this may count as a subversion of the trope.
Dr. Ellie Arroway in Contact is a SETI researcher who argues that Occam's Razor makes it more likely that humans invented the idea of God rather than God creating the world without a shred of proof pointing to his existence. During the hearing in which Ellie claimed she had a trip through the Stargate and encountered an alien (when all the witnesses and recorded data indicates the Stargate was a complete failure and nothing happened), Occam's Razor is flung back in her face: is it more likely that she hallucinated the journey or that the aliens sent her through the Stargate without leaving a shred of proof? Ellie concedes this but refuses to withdraw her position because her experience was too monumental for humanity's future to dismiss on logic alone. The kicker: the Christian philosopher whose personal religious awakening she (politely) dismissed as a psychological phenomenon is the first person to believe her: not because If Jesus Then Aliens but because they're both committed to the truth. She ultimately continues her SETI research in hopes of finding more signs of extra-terrestrial life, proving that (at least where aliens are concerned) faith and logic can coexist.
Of course that's based on a popular but flawed understanding of exactly what Occam's Razor is. It doesn't say that the simpler an explanation is the more likely it is to be true. Rather, it says that the simpler the explanation the easier it is to disprove. In other words, it's a model for efficiently testing competing theories. You start with the simplest and thus easiest to disprove and move up through increasingly complex theories until you find the correct one.
Actually, in its canonical form Occam's Razor simply advises "Do not multiply entities needlessly" - meaning, do not assume the existence of anything as an explanation for anything else, unless there is no possible explanation that does not require that assumption. For instance, if certain physics results could be explained by an undiscovered particle, you should only hypothesize that particle if there is no other way to explain those results. This is not technically the same thing as claiming that simpler explanations are always better, or even more likely to be true, or more or less easy to disprove. It simply posits that an ungrounded assumption - especially regarding the existence of a thing for which there is no other evidence - adds nothing to a theory if the theory can be made to work without that assumption. (In many cases, theories with fewer "entities" will in fact be easier to test, since there are fewer points to control for, but that is not the immediate implication of Occam's Razor.) In other words, "simplest" means "least extra assumptions," not "easiest to explain to a three year old."
Scarlett in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: ("Emotions are not based in science. And if you can't quantify or prove something exists, well, in my mind, it doesn't.")
Subsequently somewhat parodied by Ripcord, paraphrasing Scarlett's line while doing a (bad) Spock voice.
The Phantom Menace: A little far-fetched example of following the same misrepresentation is the portrayal of Jedi actions on Tatooine. Supposedly, they are driven by an omnious and supernatural Force in their making of obscure bet on dangerous pod racing and unknown boy - some kind of a convoluted gambit only a Jedi "in tune with the Force" will follow. Actually, when you consider how surprisingly dire their situation is - stuck on the faraway planet with no comm, no FTL drive, no money to repair it, Jedi Mind Trick - immune seller, moral code that prevents easy solutions aka blatant looting, and a fair sense of urgency... their strange bet becomes a very logical course of action of the abovementioned "10% is better then 0%" variety.
Throughout the entire Twilight series the protagonist (Bella Swan) openly admits that she is being stupid and irrational and flat out refuses to think logically because she believes that the fact that she's in love relieves her of that obligation and in the end all of her decisions are proven correct and she lives happily ever after.
That sounds stupid, yet if that is commen held state of mind among fictional characters, this would explain many cases of Idiot Ball among romantic comedies.
Frank Herbert's Duneplays with this a lot, especially considering that almost all the characters are highly intelligent and rational. Then there are the Mentats, whose job is to think logically.
The Mentat Piter makes several correct predictions of Duke Leto Atreides' actions, but wrongly predicts that his Bene Gesserit concubine Jessica will have a daughter rather than a son; his logic was actually correct (this was the Bene Gesserit plan), but he (and they) failed to take into consideration the possibility that Jessica would defy her orders out of love for her husband.
Duke Leto, on the other hand, tries to go up against BaronHarkonnen'sEvil Plan head on instead of swallowing his pride and going into exile, which, while perhaps cowardly, would ensure the safety of his family.
Paul's final plan against the Emperor and Space Guild is a hefty subversion of the first example in that it is risky and could have possibly resulted in the stagnation of their civilization; Paul himself calls out the Space Guild in that they chose the safe course and never took a chance at taking control of the spice like he did.
This is actually a very logical course of action if you are willing to accept the consequences, one of Paul's maxims is that "He who can destroy a thing, controls that thing." He is willing to destroy civilization as he knows it, and knows the Guild is not.
Herbert explains much of why Paul does what he does in a set of correspondence with the legendary John W. Campbell, where the two of them mutually note that Paul is a teenaged boy with vast knowledge, esoteric powers, and now enormous political and economic power, but he's not really wise. He can't be wise, not yet. He doesn't have enough life experience to be wise. His later actions prove this to be painfully true. His intentions are (mostly) good, but he makes a mess on a truly epic scale and it falls to his son Leto II to really clean things up.
Terry Pratchett's The Last Continent could provide a nice page quotes but it must be pointed out that the Discworld is a place where million to one chances crop up nine times out of ten, logic really can only take you so far in that world.
Actually, logic works perfectly in Discworld once you account for the trope-based physics there. Purposefully lowering your chances until you have only one in a million chance has actually been used as a successful battle plan in the books.
Or rather, it's been attempted by the Genre Savvy, who inevitably fail because they aren't statisticians, and therefore fail to make their chances exactly a million to one because they're working with rough estimates. They will then be saved by some other thing which is exactly a million to one.
Parodied in The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. Tiffany Aching, having gone to enormous trouble to get into fairyland to bring her brother home, finds him sitting in a pile of candy, wailing his head off, because he has arrived at the conclusion that he cannot eat any of it based on Buridan's Ass logic: he can grab any piece of candy he wants, and eat it, but any piece he chooses means he's not choosing another piece, and that's just not acceptable. Justified in that A) he's approximately three, and B) it's implied he's been fed so much candy the sugar rush has addled his little three-year-old brain already.
That, and he's in the Fairyland that tends to drive people insane if they spend too much time there.
Ponder Stibbons in Terry Pratchett's books that involve wizards is often assigned this role, and gets to express frustration because he lives in a world where thunderbolts really are signs of gods' annoyance instead of massive bursts of static electricity.
The books often lampshade this outlook as neither rational nor healthy by describing it as a "curse".
The Warhammer 40000 novel Soul Drinkers features a version in which an Adeptus Mechanicus Archmagos steals the holiest relic of the eponymous Space Marines, then expects them to do the logical thing and back down when threatened with a floating space artillery piece. Two things went wrong:
Space Marines don't work on logic. They run entirely on Honor Before Reason - let's not forget that these are people who were designed largely to fight and die in battle. These particular Space Marines descend from Rogal Dorn, who was noted for being headstrong. And they are pissed at the Adeptus Mechanicus for stealing a relic they've spent 1000 years trying to find after it was lost.
Subverted by Paul Redeker in World War Z. While his rather amoral plans to save parts of the white population of South Africa during a black uprising make him universally despised, these plans end up saving millions.
To be fair, he does have a breakdown after Mandela embraces him to endorse his plan.
Used in the second Little Fuzzy book in the character of Jan Christiaan Hoenveld. It's pointed out that this is why he doesn't make a very good scientist.
Joan of Arcadia defeated the best chess player in the school, despite not knowing how to play chess. Apparently, logic and order is unable to detect a potential checkmate from chaos that does unpredictable moves.
Somewhat justified, as newbies have been known to beat experts with years of experience in lots of things just through sheer dumb luck and unpredictability.
In "The Galileo Seven", we're shown Spock's first command, as the shuttle he is in charge of crashes on a desolate planet filled with savage aliens. Spock determines that a display of superior force will logically frighten away these aliens while the crew make repairs to the shuttle. Instead, as Dr. McCoy points out, the aliens have an emotional reaction and become angry and attack, something Spock did not anticipate. In the end, Spock's desperate act of igniting the fuel from the shuttle to create a beacon proves to be the correct action since it gets the attention of the Enterprise and allows for a rescue. When called on this "emotional" act, Spock replies that the only logical course of action in that instance was one of desperation.
The most irritating part of their razzing on him about it was that, even by the narrow definition of "logic" in said episode, that was in fact the most logical choice. The two options were drift and conserve fuel for as long as possible despite a remote chance of being seen and found ultimately and dying anyway, or ignite the fuel source, which might lead to a quicker death from lack of power but would far increase visibility and the chances of being found. The latter of the two choices is smugly called "emotional" despite still being perfectly logical.
The part with the aliens doesn't really make sense either. Everyone, including Spock himself, comes down hard on him when his plan doesn't work, but what did he do that was so wrong? He wanted the aliens to leave them alone and hoped to avoid unnecessary bloodshed in the process. The aliens were enraged rather than frightened, and quickly renewed their attack, but no one could have known that would happen. He made a mistake; it happens.
Happens straight in the second Pilot. Spock and Kirk play 3D chess. Spock is about to win, Kirk makes an "illogical move" and wins. So what is illogical about making the necessary move to win? Sacrificing pieces? Except that's a valid and basic tactic of chess to begin with!
There is a small amount of sense in this in that illogical moves do exist (like giving up your queen without taking any material or position advantage in doing so) and if a move appears to be illogical it probably is but it might instead be providing an advantage you don't see. This is why blunders in higher level chess are often followed up by the opponent trying to figure out what they don't see before continuing on. Thus, while it really doesn't apply in this case, Spock's comment would have been reasonable if he was meaning to say that the move looked illogical and he didn't foresee the win coming from it.
However, the trope is notably averted at the end of the second film, when Spock makes a Heroic Sacrifice on the basis that he alone can survive the radiation exposure long enough to make needed repairs to the warp core, under the premise that "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one." In the same film, Spock argues that Kirk accepting promotion is illogical ("a waste of material") because he makes a better starship captain than an admiral. In most scenarios, choosing to do what one loves over accepting a higher rank is presented as the "emotional" response.
Averted in Space Seed, where we see fairly clearly from early on the episode that Kirk, Scotty, and (worst of all) Marla McGivers are looking at Khan through various sorts of romanticized shades, reading things into him that were never really there and deceiving themselves about who and what he really is. Spock, on the other hand, clearly recognizes that Khan is, fundamentally, just a mass murderer and a power-hungry egotistical thug who escaped from the catastrophe he helped create and is now potentially dangerous.
Averted painfully in City On the Edge of Forever and Where No Man Has Gone Before. In the first Spock's cold, clear-eyed logic reveals to him what the choices before Kirk and himself in the time-trip into the 1930s are, and that Kirk's love for Edith Keeler is beside the point of those choices. He is not unsympathetic, as we see in his quiet words: "He knows, Doctor." after Kirk prevents McCoy from saving Edith. In WNMHGB, Spock analyzes the necessary implications of the changes in Kirk's then-best-friend Gary Mitchell, and the trend of where those changes are taking Mitchell, and knows that there is no way out, either Mitchell dies or catastrophe follows, and subsequent events prove him right, Kirk very nearly does wait too long out of sentiment, even after Mitchell himself affirms that Spock is right. In both cases, cold logic is revealing a painful truth that emotion and sentiment can cloud but not change.
Also subverted in "A Piece of the Action".
Spock: It would seem that logic does not apply here. McCoy: You admit that? Spock: To deny the obvious would be illogical.
Subverted and inverted in an episode of Deep Space Nine; Sarkona, a Vulcan, joins the Maquis because she agrees with their position and believes their rather crude and barbaric actions to achieve "peace" to be logical... but she's called out by Quark, locked in the brig with her after her plans are exposed, noting that, as the Federation had caught the Cardassians (the Maquis' enemies) red-handed supplying their people with weapons to fight against the Maquis, sitting down with them and hammering out an arrangement would bring the peace in better and "at a bargain price" compared to continuing the fight.
In another episode from Deep Space Nine, Captain Solok has been hassling Benjamin Sisko across the known galaxy for the past two decades, all in the name of proving that emotional, illogical humans (like Sisko) are inferior to emotionless, logical Vulcans (like himself). Somewhat subverted by the end of the episode, when the Deep Space Nine crew successfully goad Solok into losing his temper, and it's generally implied that Solok is by no means representative of Vulcans, and is really just kind of a jerk.
"Human? Did I leave my spots at home?" "All that Vulcan intelligence, and he doesn't even know what a hew-mon looks like."
In one episode of The Next Generation, Troi beats Data at chess. She then explains to him that chess isn't just a game of logic, but also intuition. As the Nitpicker's Guide puts it, "Try playing 'intuitive' chess against a computer and you'll lose in no time flat" (and then suggests that perhaps she had his Difficulty Level set to "below novice"). Shown for laughs in xkcd 232.
Great chess masters can play via intuition (and indeed, when playing speed chess, it's a necessity), however, intuition when playing a game such as chess is merely the players experience in playing the game allowing them to make strong plays without thinking too much. Ultimately, that intuition comes FROM logic, as the player has enough experience to recognize generally favorable moves and positions on sight.
The Troi example is particularly egregious because she really just reverses the correct terms. Her move was unintuitive, but was entirely logical because it immediately led to victory.
In early episodes of both The Original Series and The Next Generation, humans who have uploaded their minds into android bodies discover that they have lost some ineffable, illogical, human quality in the transfer. Despairing at this loss, they choose to terminate their existence — a strangely emotional reaction for beings which now supposedly have none.
Ironically, this is referenced and deconstructed by Data, of all people, in an episode of The Next Generation; a scientist wants to disassemble him and dump his memory into a computer so he could study him and learn how to create more like him, and Data refuses, fully believing in that same ineffable quality to memory and believing he, himself would lose it in the transfer, despite himself being an android. In an attempt to explain this, he compares it to how learning how to play poker from a book isn't the same as actually playing the game, in person, implying that the "ineffable quality" being lost is the personal importance and significance of those experiences, the context which makes the event special for that individual, which — when read out of that context as a mere descriptive text readout — cannot be fully understood or appreciated — an actually logical argument when you think about it.
Also, it isn't that Data thinks the ineffable quality cannot be duplicated, but he believes Bruce Maddox doesn't possess sufficient understanding of Data's construction to fully replicate it. Data encourages Maddox at the end of the episode to continue his research, and later episodes hint that he keeps in regular contact with Maddox.
The Animated Series episode "The Magicks of Megas-Tu" neatly subverts or perhaps averts this. In a parallel universe where magic works, McCoy scoffs at Spock's attempt to perform a magical ritual. His reply? "It must work, Doctor. It is logical — here."
At least the writers seemed to acknowledge that Tuvok was a tightass even by Vulcan standards. From the episode "Flashback":
Sulu: Mr. Tuvok, if you're going to remain on my ship, you're going to have learn how to appreciate a joke. And don't tell me Vulcans don't have a sense of humor, because I know better.
Played with, when Janeway replicates a cupcake for Tuvok on his birthday, complete with a single birthday candle. He initially refuses to play along with such a silly ritual, but when Janeway turns her back, he blows out the candle. He replies that it was a fire hazard, but it's implied that he did it to make Janeway happy, which is a perfectly logical decision, since while he saw no point in the ritual, he knew it would please his friend and captain, and so did it anyway.
Star Trek: Enterprise. Over the course of four years T'Pol undergoes a Mind Rape that brings up traumatic memories of losing her emotional control in a jazz nightclub, remembers repressed memories of a line-of-duty killing (that also led to a loss of emotional control), suffers from Pa'nar Syndrome that degrades her neural pathways (leading to loss of emotional control), becomes addicted to Trellium-D (which causes loss of emotional control), and is infected by a microbe that makes her undergo a premature pon farr (leading to loss of emotional control and clothing). It seems that the writers believed that the only way T'Pol's character could develop was to take away the characteristics that made her different from humans.
While T'Pol is probably the queen of all Straw Vulcans, she's also often proved completely right for all of the wrong reasons. For example, in an early episode, the crew discovers an uncharted Earth-Like planet. T'Pol mentions that standard Vulcan protocol for such an event is to scan the planet from orbit for a week before sending people down in person. Archer basically ignores her, because he wants to go down and explore in person, and immediately sends a team down not equipped with any kind of protective suits. The entire conflict of the episode (which almost results in deaths) comes from the fact that the air contains hallucinogens, which is something that would have been discovered if they spent time to scan the planet first.
That said, there was also an episode where the crew met an offshoot culture of Vulcans who ate meat and believed that emotion in moderation was not harmful in the slightest; as long as you had control over your emotions, there was no reason you couldn't allow yourself to feel and express that emotion. They were sort of an exploration of what would happen if you had Vulcans who weren't straw.
One of the plans for the fifth season (had there been one), was to reveal that T'Pol's father was a Romulan spy, which would go a long way towards explaining her Straw Vulcan tendencies in the earlier seasons.
Although widely used and occasionally subverted or lampshaded in Star Trek, as noted in the many examples above, the trope is notably averted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Redemption II". In an operation involving a large number of ships and not enough captains to go around, a number of senior officers, including Data, are given command of various ships. Data's first officer repeatedly questions Data's orders and the fitness of an android to command a ship, until Data (seemingly) angrily tells him, "Mr. Hobson! You will carry out my orders or I will relieve you of duty!" Data correctly realizes that the emotional response is the logical one, necessary in order to motivate Hobson.
Farscape takes delight in simultaneously subverting and playing this trope straight whenever a protagonist's crazy plan works despite the logical objections of others, but also leads to lasting consequences which always come back to bite them in the arse. Characters will continually point out this trend, but usually concede to the fact that they're screwed either way and really don't have a choice.
Played painfully straight in the episode "My Three Crichtons," in which the three Crichtons in question are the original, a primitive caveman-like creature, and an advanced version with a brain so big it has distended his skull. The advanced Crichton is explicitly stated at several points to run on pure logic, which in practice means that he's a gigantic, backstabbing Jerkass.
Doctor Who, "Destiny of the Daleks", has the Daleks and Movellans, two "perfectly logical" races, at war in a perpetual stalemate because neither of them, each knowing the other will anticipate and compensate for their logical strategies, can find the best time to attack. This is possible if there's a Cold War-type mutually assured destruction, but it's written as Straw Vulcan "logic", including the "logical" computers not accepting short term losses (losing some soldiers) and not accepting other than a guaranteed success (this troper calls it "Density of the Daleks" for this reason, though that shouldn't be taken to imply the Movellans are any better). The groups want Davros and the Doctor respectively to use illogic to help them win, and Davros eventually orders some Daleks to sacrifice themselves to destroy the Movellan ship. The story ends with An Aesop about making mistakes leading to winning.
This one is especially weird because the Daleks are shown elsewhere to be anything but a "perfectly logical" race, being very emotional indeed (albeit the usual emotion being "hate"). And they don't even have the excuse, such as it is, of falling into research failure; this story was written by Terry Nation, the Daleks' creator and the writer of over half the other Dalek stories to this point. For that matter, script editor Douglas Adams is usually very good about avoiding this trope too.
The prime directive of the Daleks is not Omnicidal destruction, it's the survival of the Dalek race, as seen in the Victory of the Daleks. They will do anything to complete their mission of destroying all other life as long as they themselves dont get completely wiped out. That seems to me like being very logical.
The real weird is when the Doctor demonstrates the problem of perfect logic by getting two Movellans to take part in Rock-Paper-Scissors and noting that they always draw? Why should they draw? The game is a game of pure chance, there is no logical reason to chose any option so purely logical beings should just produce random choices. (Unless their random number seeds were all set to the same value).
His reasoning here is that the Movellans are not too rigidly logic but rather ridiculously short-sighted. After the first rock versus rock loss, if one assumes that the opponent will try the counter to rock (paper), then the logical response is to counter that with scissors - and they both do. Then they both think the opponent will try rock to break scissors and both play paper, and so on and so forth. The Doctor thinks one step ahead and plays the counter of that counter-counter round after round. A perfectly logical being would have deduced that such short-sighted automatic responses fail! The Movellans are not purely logic, they just suck at playing I Know You Know I Know.
It's also possible that the Doctor cheated... episodes in both the old series and the new imply that he's mildly precognitive, which makes games of chance a piece of cake for Time Lords. Rose, when she has her moment of awesome, says that she can see "Everything that was, everything that is, everything that ever could be." And the Doctor replies that that's what he sees, all the time. It may drive him mad, but it makes him a natural for Rock/Paper/Scissors.
The more recent episode, Evolution of the Daleks, works the logic/emotion debate more realistically, as Sec's newly acquired ability to feel emotions other than hate makes him far more "logical". This is a genuine Heel Face Turn (considering his Heroic Sacrifice), but there was pragmatism here, as the recurring flaw of the Daleks, especially in the post-time-war era, is their tendency to let genocidal xenophobia trump their logic. Sec reasoned, quite logically, that the best way to ensure the survival of your race was not to carry the Villain Ball everywhere.
The Cybermen in particular suffer from this trope; they've removed all of their emotions and are supposed to function completely by logic, as according to them, emotion is weakness; the fact that they don't have any emotions often completely scuttles them, because their logic is thus totally flawed.
It's cruelly subverted, however, in a Doctor Who comic strip, in which an army of invading Cybermen are confronted by a military leader who tells tham that, for all their claims of logical superiority, the emotional strength of the humans they are facing will defeat them. The Cyberleader's response is to douse everyone present with a hallucinogenic agent that sends all of the humans into complete emotional breakdown. Completely crushed and driven half-insane, the humans present beg to be converted into Cybermen; against such a weapon, emotion really is a weakness.
Also, in most of their 80s appearances, it was heavily implied that they hadn't been entirely successful with the removal of emotion. While this was never used to its full extent, it was recurring enough to not just feel like bad writing, and some of their defeats can, partially, be attributed to emotional Cyber Leaders. Excellent, indeed. In Earthshock in particular, the Cyber Leader takes a curiously gloating pleasure in Tegan's pain at the possibility of her planet's entire destruction for a supposedly 'emotionless' being.
The New Model Cybermen don't seem to have worked all the emotional kinks out either, judging from Yvonne Hartman's Heroic Sacrifice.
The effect of this trope on the viewer was made visible with the "new" Cybermen in "Doomsday": when the Cybermen propose an alliance with the Daleks, they claim to bring "elegance" of design to the table, and manage a subtle dig about the lack of it in the Dalek physical form. As noted above, logic is about how to achieve goals, not about what those goals are, so there's nothing illogical about the Cybermen prizing "elegance", as they pursue it in a logical fashion. This did not stop a number of fans from shouting "That's not logical!" about the exchange. In fact, "Elegance is good. Cybermen are elegant. Therefore, making more Cybermen makes more elegance, and, by extension, more goodness" is actually a far more logical motive for their actions than the traditional Cyberman strategy of "Survival is good. Therefore let's send our entire race off on incredibly risky invasions of Earth following pretty much the same strategy that has failed and led us to near extinction several times already" used repeatedly through the classic series.
The 20th century British physicist Paul Dirac would doubtless have had some very stern words to say in response to the suggestion of logic and elegance being mutually exclusive.
Just after the Cybermen have boasted of elegance, we see the procedure they go through to fire their built-in weapons. The Dalek's simple point-and-exterminate is far more elegant — and effective.
Although as far as logic goes, both sides would be a lot better off spending less time shouting "Delete"/"Exterminate" and just shooting already.
Bones lives on the Odd Couple relationship between emotional and intuitive Booth and logical and rational Brennan: she's frequently shown as being wrong in the end, or being right for the wrong reasons.
It get's really jarring when you consider that Bones is very rarely rational or logical at all. In a recent episode Angela pointed out that one of Brennan's skills is, rather than being rational, rationalizing her actions.
Consider her as borderline Hollywood Autism who was severely emotionally damaged when her parents abandoned her. All of a sudden her retreat into pseudorationality makes sense. It's still annoying.
When Brennan lost her memory of the last couple days and was framed for murder; she argued in favor her own guilt as the most logical conclusion even though the police had no motive whatsoever and Booth pointed out she was not capable of murder.
This is even more noticeable in the last two seasons where Bones did “THE EXACT SAME THING”, her father did to her “FOR THE EXACT SAME REASON” then comes back and acts like she’s done nothing wrong. To the point of wondering why Booth is so upset. What’s more jarring is that before this happened there was yet another episode dedicated to her abandonment issues with her father.
Speaking of Bones, Zack's decision to work for a cannibalistic serial killer because "his logic is unassailable". Really? Even accepting all his premises, where exactly does eating people and making a skeleton from their remains fit in to this plan?
Which is why Bones managed to take Gormogon's logic apart in thirty seconds.
Except Brennan doesn't do much better herself. Zack's logic is that secret societies are bad and that removing them is good as the life lost is a small sacrifice compared to the overall good. All Brennan does is point out that him risking the plan to save Hodges was not in keeping with the general idea of sacrificing a few to save many. That is not an attack on the logic itself but on Zack's application of it and his own sentimentality, and yet he folds like a cheap suit and renounces the entire thing.
Stargate SG-1; the hyper-logical Asgard, on the verge of defeat in their war against the Replicators, come to Earth seeking ideas from a more primitive, more savage race. Immediately averted by Jack saying "You're actually saying you need someone dumber than you are?" Carter, as it turns out, is indeed dumb enough to win that battle. The fact that the Asgard, practically alone among Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, are able to acknowledge they are not perfect and, more importantly, humanity and Earth in particular actually have something to contribute is one reason they are such great guys.
Of course, the Asgard's main reason for coming is that they are so advanced they have trouble coming up with low-tech solutions (for example, launching pieces of metal at a high speed using a small explosive to deal with targets that have shielding against energy weapons) or solutions to problem their technology can't solve. Which makes sense, as similar things happen IRL. People living in the 21st century would often not think (or even be aware) of several tricks and trades used centuries prior - and not think of using such tricks when they might again be useful (see the Real Life section of Rock Beats Laser for example). The Asgard's previous tactic of throwing more-and-more advanced technological weapons and spaceships against the Replicators was disastrous in particular because the Replicators would assimilate their tech and grow more powerful each time.
Averted in an episode of Stargate Atlantis; there's a Ticking Time Bomb scenario, and one of a daunting number of identical circuits will save the day. Since there's no penalty for guessing, The Smart Guy is methodically trying each one, but there won't be time for all of them, so a more empathic, intuitive type tells him to start trying them at random. Smart Guy, quite sensibly, points out that that would mean a chance of trying some of them twice, thus wasting precious seconds.
Played straight in the first meeting with the Genii. While infiltrating a Wraith Hiveship, Teyla discovers some human prisoners. She becomes emotionally moved and stays behind (with one of the Genii) to free them... except that the success of the mission crucially depends on the Wraith not realizing that it ever took place. After pointing this out to Teyla and being subsequently ignored, the Genii, as the Straw Vulcan of the day, "logically" shoots down the prisoner with his unsilenced firearm. This, of course, instantly alerts the Wraith; the Genii is shot and paralyzed just after, and Teyla leaves him to die, despite the fact that he's an old friend of hers and the show typically operates on a No One Gets Left Behind premise. But hey, that's the price you pay for being logical and trying to avoid the deaths of many of your people.
It's hard to say whether the Genii are meant to be jerkasses or Jerkass Straw Vulcans. While they may be said to be overly pragmatic (they do believe in the importance of the Genii people and society over individuals, to rather harsh, but somewhat justified means and ends), they aren't paragons of wisdom, nor are ever said to be logical.
Parodied by The Colbert Report, where Stephen Colbert's character often sets up the "liberal elite" as a Straw Vulcan. In case you've been living under a rock and don't know this already, we aren't supposed to agree with Colbert's character; the character himself is the real Stephen's Strawman Political. The fallacy of using a straw vulcan highlights both his own lack of logic and the brilliance of the supposed straw vulcan. Which means that by lampshading it, he's both averted and inverted the trope!
Nick Stokes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation can make his co-workers look like Straw Vulcans as he is generally more concerned than his co-workers with establishing rapport with the victim's family and keeping the human dynamics of a case in mind. He's not a better CSI per se because of this but he's more suited to the parts of the job the police academy doesn't train you for; giving reassurance to the victim's family and reaching out to reluctant witnesses.
The Professor from Gilligan's Island although it's more "imagination is better than logic." Honestly, after all the stuff that goes on on that island you'd think the Professor would EVENTUALLY realize that science isn't going to work there.
Then again, you would think he would come to the logical solution to keep Gilligan far from any experiment or device he is building. By force, if necessary.
One episode of MASH featured a logistics expert who was treated as little more than a cold and calculating monster because he projected casualties before a battle in order to make preparations for receiving them. By the end of the episode, of course, Hawkeye had taught him the "error" of his ways. Also overlaps, as these things often do, with Straw Man Has A Point.
In the Modern Family episode "Lifetime Supply", Jay and Manny go the horse track with Manny's father, Javier (Benjamin Bratt). Jay chooses his horses based on the information in the Daily Racing Form. Javier bets on a horse because "I looked him in the eyes, and he told me this would be his day". Guess who wins? To add insult to injury, Jay chooses a horse this way and it wins ... only to be disqualified.
Michelle Glados of Dino Attack RPG considers herself to be the perfect scientist because she does not dilute her "logic" with "weaknesses" such as emotion, allowing Rex to deliver a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about how Glados's lack of emotion is a weakness in itself.
Michelle Glados: "I do not feel disturbed at all. I do not feel remorse, I do not feel pity, I do not feel compassion. I feel... nothing. I am the perfect scientist, you see, because I have the clearest mind of all, for my judgment and my actions are never hindered by weaknesses such as emotion."
To be fair, most characters in the lore think they are straight up nuts and their methods of fixing stuff are not so much logical as they are religious doctrines. The rite of pressing the "on" rune is a common one. It involves much prayer and chanting.
A variation of this can happen to Alchemicals in Exalted — as they grow into cities, install Exemplar charms, or go long periods without human interaction, they accumulate Clarity. The sourcebook for Alchemicals goes out of its way to point out that this means they focus on efficiency and do not become needlessly cruel.
On the other hand, most can become aware of this and are usually willing to at least listen to their more emotional advisers.
Averted with First Lieutenant Lin from Advance Wars: Dark Conflict (AKA "Days of Ruin", outside of Europe), a highly logical tactician who nevertheless concedes command of the army to Ed (Will in Days of Ruin), on the grounds that he is better respected by the troops and civilians and will therefore be a more effective leader. At one point, she even commends Ed for giving an emotional speech to motivate the troops.
There's also the scene where she had Greyfield/Sigismundo at her mercy, and he tries to save himself by pointing out that she'd be doing the same thing he did. She agrees... and shoots him anyway.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy: Onion Knight gets this, spelled out in that story's ending narration: "He thought that avoiding mistakes and making decisions based on logic - instead of emotion - was the only way to reach the truth. But the boy has learned ... that he can tap into immeasurable strength when he searches deep inside his heart."
Before gaining emotions, Gale of Digital Devil Saga is one of these. One plan has him suggest destroying an abandoned Ocean Liner to kill a Chronic Backstabber, even though it's implied in the second game that the ship has some emotional significance to the Mysterious Waif. He also doesn't understand things such as Argilla's anguish after Jinana dies and why Lupa vows upon his honor.
Willis labeled the strip "Is this something already covered by TV Tropes? I haven't checked yet." in his update blog.
Sokka of Avatar The Last Airbender is often put in this position when the Gaang is trying to help people. However, it's subverted in "The Fortuneteller", where they have to convince the people that the volcano will erupt. Although a lot of times Sokka will act on instinct and emotion. Oftentimes he is actually very practical and logical in the non-straw sense.
Squidward is frequently put as a Straw Vulcan counterpart to Spongebob and Patrick.
More often, Squidward is logical and the cartoon reality says screw logic for Rule of Funny.
Averted in, of all places, The Replacements. One episode revolves around the problems of Riley displaying some "Straw Vulcan" behavior.... however, it's never labeled as "logical", and in the end, it's determined that it's not innately inferior to more impulsive behavior... but just that each is better-suited to certain problems and situations.
Dr. Perceptron in Futurama is utterly crippled as a psychoanalist by his adherence to "logic". For example, he ignored Fry's claims of humanity solely because he was in an institution for robots, thus meaning he was clearly a robot.
The original Prowl from Transformers was described as being logical to the point of shutting down when faced with an unexpectedly crazy situation. In the cartoon, this wasn't really touched on and he was portrayed more as a just-the-facts-ma'am style military policeman.