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.
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 is Literal-Minded. Note that the idea that an "intelligent" character wouldn't "get" the concept of metaphors, idioms or sarcasm isn't very logical.
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 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. Spock and Tuvok both did this regularly in the various Star Trek works. Although they didn't say it outright, whenever they mentioned having calculated low odds for the success of a given plan, it was obvious that they did not believe said plan should be attempted. This was typically responded to by one of the humans saying the equivalent of, "damn the torpedoes!" which was intended to prove that said human characters were inherently irrational.
The story assumes that anything which doesn't fit a particular mathematical model of logic isn't "logical". Related to the Perfect Solution Fallacy, again, because you can only find truly perfect 1=1 solutions and conceive of perfect circles in abstract mathematics.
Related to the Perfect Solution Fallacy: The Straw Vulcan will proceed to disturb everyone with doomsaying that their current plan "only has a 10% chance for us to succeed", and then the emotional protagonist proceeds to disprove him by saying "Never Tell Me the Odds" and succeeding. Actually, when all other options are depleted, the plan that has a 10% chance of success is logically superior to other courses of action that have less chance of success. (And presumably doing nothing means a 0% chance) 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 poor odds unless there's a better option that can be takennote Or the "logical" character has factored the other characters' personalities into the equation and are actually counting on the fact that telling them it's unlikely to work actually makes it MORE likely they'll try harder than usual and therefore succeed, just to prove the logical character wrong. Pessimism for pessimism's sake in a time of need simply isn't logical, no need to be the sensitive guy of the cast to figure that out.
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 cynical or 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 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, 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.
The Straw Vulcan assumes that self-sacrifice isn't "logical", even though there can easily be situations where self-sacrifice is "logical".
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.
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. (This is in fact studied in algorithmics: a step that visibly takes you closer to the goal may eventually run you into a dead end if you don't consider alternatives.).
Rossiu 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. That being said, 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 perfectly logical and steered by self-interest rather than emotion, but it's played with. 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 cruelly rational mindset 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 act exactly as the stereotype claims. Tania from season 2 goes from a giggling, bubbly girl to an emotionless, amoral sociopath overnight. She even breaks up with her boyfriend solely because she doesn't see the need for children (they're fifteen).
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 early 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. The 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.
The conclusion to the very first Dan Dare story was based on this trope. The logical Treens of North Venus had long ago destroyed their beasts of burden which they regarded as useless in a mechanical age. Then they ended up at war with the equally advanced Therons of the South, and each side rendered all the other's weapons useless. Stalemate. Then Dan realised that the Earth habit of enjoying things just for their own sake, such as archery, horse riding, canoeing and glider flying meant that Earth had exactly what was needed to break the deadlock. A volley of arrows followed by a thunderous cavalry charge won the decisive battle.
Tom Strong: Averted by Quetzalcoatl-9, a supercomputer created by parallel-universe Aztecs. He states straight-up that he is trusting Tom because it's the logical thing to do; they're in a textbook Prisoner's Dilemma, and trust, on average, yields slightly better results.
An example that may or may not be an aversion: 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; he viewed her life as being worth more than his, so, to him, she should have been saved. This became the main reason for the protagonist's hatred of robots. In the commentary, the director said that the robot who saved Smith did the right thing, and that Smith was bothered by that knowledge.
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." 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, but 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 humans want more than just personal survival. We would rather accept small risk if it means enjoyment or a meaning in life, and would be inadvertently encouraged to die for freedom when it's an And I Must Scream 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. Of course, life, unlike happiness, can be quantified.
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.
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."
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). 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.
There IS a flaw in the use of Tic Tac Toe as an example: as a "solved" game there actually is a correct move for every board state, and since the first move is what directs the flow of the game the message is more like "go first and hope your opponent makes a mistake".
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.
Scarlett in GI 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: Qui-Gon's actions on Tatooine. Supposedly, the mystical and mysterious Force leads him to bet everything on the performance of an unknown boy in a dangerous pod race — a convoluted gambit that only a fellow Jedi can understand. The truth is much simpler: the situation is so dire (marooned on a remote planet with no comm, no FTL drive, no money to repair it, no ability to use a Jedi Mind Trick on the one person who has a replacement drive, a moral code that won't let him steal it, and a high degree of urgency) that the strange bet is the best available option. Fridge Logic: Qui-Gon would rather pretend that he's being guided by the ineffable, infallible Force than admit to Queen Amidala that he's making a desperate gamble because he's run out of alternatives. He also neglects the obvious path of trading the disabled ship for a smaller working one.
Delacourt from Elysium, though she's a crafty enough operator that she has no problem invoking emotion to make a point. But the slightly-robotic way she does it (and everything else, for that matter) indicates that she probably doesn't actually feel it, but is simply just that bigoted.
The Mist: Norton and his group of skeptics who leave the store because they don't believe there are any monsters in the mist. Lets back up a step. If the skeptics are right about the mist being natural and stay in the store then the weather will blow over in a few hours to a day or someone will come by looking for the grocery store and update them on the situation. They are on their way after a short delay, at most a minor inconvenience. If the other groups are right about the mist and there are monsters outside the best bet for survival is not to go outside to be picked off by monsters. The risk analysis of the situation, however low the probability of lethal monsters, would point to staying in the well stocked grocery store and not wandering off. So of course they choose the 'rational choice' after concluding there are no monsters and immediately decide to leave. Norton tells David right before he leaves that if he's wrong the joke will be on him. Poor decision or not, he is at least willing to admit that much. In the novella, David thinks that Norton is, at some level, committing deliberate suicide.
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. In the end all of her decisions are proven correct and she lives happily ever after.
The series plays 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. However, the Duke is being logical by his own system of logic, as he's willing to take a risk of death against a prize of greatly increasing his family fortunes, as opposed to accepting a certainty of exile and mediocrity in return for a guarantee of life. Accepting a risk as counterbalanced against a higher future gain is not automatically illogical — the Duke's error was not in taking the gamble, but in not having accurate knowledge of just how risky a gamble he was taking.
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.
The Last Continent could provide a nice page quote, 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.
Parodied in The Wee Free Men. 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 if he chooses any one piece to eat, it would mean that he's letting other pieces of candy go uneaten, which is something he cannot bear to do. 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.
Tiffany herself is a subversion; she's accused of this by the Queen and by herself when she chooses to save the prince, who's nearby, rather than try to grab her brother and be caught in a tidal wave. It was the decision that made sense, but she imagines her parents won't give her any prizes for cleverness. The Queen tries giving her a Breaking Speech along these lines, about how she's so logical and "sensible" that she really doesn't feel anything. But Tiffany eventually decides it's okay that she wants to get things right and designating things as "mine" means she's going to protect them, and the Queen can stuff it.
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.
In Jingo, Carrot displays the perfect balance between logic and emotion. Declining to go and rescue Angua who is being held prosiner on a Klatchian ship, he points out his presence is needed elsewhere where he can accomplish more.
Personal's not the same as important, sir.
The Warhammer 40,000 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.
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.
In The Stormlight Archive King Taravingian is under a curse/blessing that causes his intelligence to fluctuate and he becomes less compassionate and moral the smarter he gets, with the result that every morning he takes an intelligence test of his own devising. His ability to change policy is dependent on the results of the test, and becomes restricted if he's too stupid or too smart. Fortunately, this precaution was put in place before he came up with that plan to make everyone below a certain level of intelligence kill themselves. He does note that the inverse relationship between intelligence and emotion isn't how it works for most people, it's part of his condition.
A Wolf In The Soul plays it straight with Professor Toledano, who Greg says "couldn't step out of his rational ideology" and therefore "could hardly even feel the pain in another person's heart". Greg wasn't able to bring himself to show his pain to Toledano at all, so this complaint feels hollow. The book subverts it later, though, with Hakham Dawid, who says many of the exact same "overly rational" things Toledano said earlier in the book, but imbues them with more meaning.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Kendra. Buffy eventually taught her that human emotion wasn’t necessarily a hindrance to being a Slayer.
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!
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 "The 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.
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 player's 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 the episode of The Measure of a Man; 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.
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.
The above (obviously a reference to Spock) might also be a specific nod to a scene in the original series episode "The Corbomite Maneuver", which Sulu himself witnessed (and was quite amused by):
Bailey: Raising my voice back there doesn't mean I was scared or couldn't do my job. It means I happen to have a human thing called an adrenaline gland.
Spock: It does sound most inconvenient, however. Have you considered having it removed? (Spock leaves.)
Bailey:(to Sulu, who is grinning) Very funny.
Sulu: You try to cross brains with Spock, he'll cut you to pieces every time.
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.
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 a loss of emotional control), becomes addicted to Trellium-D (which causes a loss of emotional control), and is infected by a microbe that makes her undergo a premature pon farr (leading to a 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 proven 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 that isn't 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, Part 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.
The series 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.
"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. 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 don't get completely wiped out. That seems to me like being very logical. The real weird bit 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 really so logical 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 logical, they just suck at playing I Know You Know I Know.
The later 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 prime turning point being that as Sec starts to let go of said genocidal xenophobia, he's able to ask the other Daleks the obvious question "If we're so superior, why are we the last survivors?" while turning to humanity and recognizing that for all their short comings, they always survive and continue.
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 subverted, however, in a Doctor Who comic strip, in which an army of invading Cybermen are confronted by a military leader who tells them 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.
In most of their '80's 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 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. 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.
The series 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.
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.
Perhaps the best evidence of this is when she first met Jared; everybody tried to get her to realize that he was bad news. Her response was that they had no evidence, but at the same time she believed a virtual stranger when he told him that Booth was a loser despite knowing him for years
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? Of course, the ADA then dismisses the entire logic argument by saying this happened "the same way it always happens. A strong personality meets a weak one and decides to take advantage."
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 one episode; 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. 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 Gilligans 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 conclusion to keep Gilligan far away from any experiment or device he is building. By force, if necessary.
One episode of M*A*S*H 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 Strawman 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.
White Christmas: Choi Chi Hun is the detached genius who admits to having trouble understanding emotions and empathy. However, the trope is consistently averted as he remains the smartest and most rational of the students. When the mysterious letters have the characters almost come to blows, Chi Hun figures out the sender sits him down and they have a private civil chat about why the sender did it. When they're held hostage, he calmly takes the situation in and tries collaborating with the others to find a way out. When he get's into a conflict with the more emotional character Park Moo Yul because Moo Yul gave the killer's unloaded gun to his girlfriend, Chi Hun is portrayed in the right, as Mo Yul has endangered all of them by leaving the gun and the ammunition in the same location where some one can turn them into a threat. Kang Mi Reu, one of the most emotional characters, was the one who took the bullets out in the first place so something like that wouldn't happen. This of course allows the killer and his accomplice to regain control of the school.
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."
Tech-Priests in Warhammer 40,000. Given how often they schism over what's "logical" and how often other characters call them on it it's more of a Running Gag than anything.
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.
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."
Everyone in the Junkyard in Digital Devil Saga starts as one, though with less straw than most. Some change almost immediately upon infection with the demon virus while others take a long time. Gale is the longest hold-out and actively resists the mental changes. Gale's plans are always direct and effective if occasionally callous - he proposes making and betraying an alliance almost right away, and offhandedly suggests massive destruction to take down the Chronic Backstabber. He also doesn't understand things such as Argilla's anguish after Jinana dies, nor why Lupa vows upon his honor, but he still respects the emotional factor in others' decisions and concedes after voicing his concerns.
Played truly bizarrely in one route of Zero Escape Virtue's Last Reward, where Phi, in discussing the Prisoner's Dilemma and Ambidex Game, continually refers to "Betray" as the "logical" and "rational" decision... despite going in depth on how it's sub-optimal for both the group and the individual, meaning that it's illogical and irrational by real-world rather than Straw Vulcan definitions of logic, unless for some reason you were applying logic with the goal of "Make the least advantageous decision." If you don't know what decision the other player will make, it is the most logical choice. If they chose to ally, then you're better off if you betray than if you ally. If they choose to betray, then you're still better off if you betray than if you ally (at least in the standard version—there's supposed to be a motivation to betray if you know your opponent will do the same, forming a Nash equilibrium at betray/betray).
This episode of Bob the Angry Flower exhibits typical straw logic. Meanwhile acting extremely emotional. "Stop trying to control me!" indeed.
Parodied in Fans!!, where one of the Big Bad's plots was to go back in time and insert more instances of this trope into fiction — thus making all of humanity stupider as a whole.
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. Over the course of the series though, he grows out of it. By the time of Legend Of Korra, when Sokka is a judge, his response to a crime-boss being accused of blood-bending without a full moon, is more or less, "Yes, it's supposed to be impossible, but I've seen a lot of weird, seemingly-impossible crap in my life, so let's discuss it."
Squidward of Spongebob Squarepants is frequently put as a Straw Vulcan counterpart to Spongebob and Patrick. Sometimes he's perfectly logical and the universe screws him over just 'cos.
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.
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.