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All Trekkies (well, most people in general) are acquainted with the Vulcan phrase/salute 'live long and prosper'. Now Vulcans, following Surak, based their society on logic, hence it seems logical to conclude that such an integral phrase in their society as this would be logical (logic!).

However, there do exist logical arguments against having long life (especially) and prosperity. For example; a longer life means there is increased chance of developing debilitating illnesses (for example when Sarek developed Bendii Syndrome). In terms of prosperity (from a wealth perspective) one can easily become obsessed with monetary wealth and miss the more important meanings in life (although I do concede that this doesn't necessarily apply to a logical Vulcan, but to other species like humans who have a history full of money corrupting).

My question: is it explained in any canonical source why Vulcans consider it to be logical to live long and prosper (i.e. what arguments do they base this strong conviction on)?

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    This brings up a different question (not sure on where to ask it): The word 'prosper' - is it an adjective ("live long and in a prosper manner") which would imply wealth or an imperative ("live long and additionally: do flourish!") which would imply personal growth, development. The latter seems more logical to me, but I'm not sure if that's the right interpretation. – Einer Jul 1 '14 at 9:23
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    @N.Soong: “However there do exist logical arguments against having long life (especially) and prosperity”. Then cite them, sir! And thus establish the question’s premise! Or be doomed to downvotes and wailing despair. – Paul D. Waite Jul 1 '14 at 9:36
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    @Einer: “logical” doesn’t mean “takes into account every possible set of circumstances a person might encounter in the future”. “Live long and prosper” is a an expression of a wish or a hope for the other person, like “farewell” — not a command to be obeyed regardless of circumstance. It’s perfectly logical to hope for long life and prosperity for another person. – Paul D. Waite Jul 1 '14 at 9:51
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    @Einer: if you’ve got a canon example of a Vulcan saying “Live long and prosper” to Kurt Cobain or Jesus, those might be relevant examples, but note that: 1. Vulcans can’t see the f—ing future, let alone weigh up the utilitarian benefits of multiple possible futures based on whether a given individual lives or dies every time they want to say “Goodbye”; and 2. “prosper” doesn’t mean “gather material wealth”. If I understand what Jesus wanted, he wanted followers, and on that measure he’s prospered (i.e. been successful) to an immense degree. – Paul D. Waite Jul 1 '14 at 10:59
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    @Einer - do you think the power of the Sex Pistols' album has been destroyed by Johnny Rotten's age, or that no one can listen to early Rolling Stones albums without having it ruined by picturing an elderly Mick Jagger and Keith Richards? I think you are just jumping to conclusions, there's nothing inherent in anyone's talents and potential that requires that they die young to maximize their contribution to "the good of the many", though any given person may be unlucky and find themselves in a situation where they have to sacrifice their life for the greater good, like Spock in TWOK. – Hypnosifl Jul 1 '14 at 13:12
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Live long...

  • Power : Vulcan society appears to be a gerontocracy. The Vulcan High Council is usually described as being comprised of "elders". Logically, it follows that in order to attain genuine power of position would seem to require at least a certain level of agedness.

  • Family : Family accomplishment plays a strong part in Vulcan society. Spock's actions as a decorated Starfleet officer bring honour to his father which, in turn seems to contribute to the security of his position as Ambassador to Earth. By contrast, Sarek's position as Ambassador protects his children. Logically speaking, a long life would allow you to enjoy the benefits of a patriarchal relationship.

  • Emotional control : Vulcans cherish emotional control above all other traits. Young Vulcans seem especially susceptible to emotional outbursts whereas older Vulcans don't seem to suffer the same weakness. Living a long time would allow someone to become ever more controlled (barring illness). This is something that would be seen as highly desirable.

...and Prosper

The word "prosper" has a very specific meaning in this context;

  • To flourish - e.g. to attain wealth, position, honours and the like.

It seems highly logical to offer a hope that someone would achieve success during their lifetime, especially in a society where these things would shine with reflected light on their offspring and elders.

It also makes sense to wish good things on those with whom you are socially related as this would likely help your own position in society over the long term.


All things considered, offering this as a parting greeting is an especially logical thing to say. It indicates that you are parting on good terms and that they can expect your assistance in attaining those things that you have wished upon them.

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    @Hypnosifl - I wanted to avoid the trap of applying human values to an alien culture. I thought that a textual analysis would be more appropriate. – Valorum Jul 1 '14 at 19:33
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    @Richard - trying to affect other cultures is different from wanting them to adopt your exact template--most people make some distinction between aspects of their culture they think are good in a universal sense (human rights, say) and things that are more specific and shouldn't be pushed on others (eating with forks vs. chopsticks). I think there is textual support for Vulcans having a utilitarian-like philosophy ('the good of the many outweighs the good of the few'), and it's such an abstract moral framework that it's plausible they would arrive at it independently, like math or science. – Hypnosifl Jul 1 '14 at 23:42
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    @SachinShekhar Vulcans experience a mating season called 'Pon Farr' where they lose control of their emotions. – Often Right Jul 1 '14 at 23:46
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    @Richard Except they aren't avoiding emotions, they're controlling them. Said explicitly a few times, Vulcans do value what's aesthetically pleasing (which is a sort of low-level happiness) – Izkata Jul 2 '14 at 0:14
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    @Richard - utilitarians often say that maximizing "utility" is not solely about happiness--John Stuart Mill himself said "it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied." In the Vulcan case, they could be utilitarians who want every being to maximize "prospering" as each being themselves would define it, doing whatever it is they find most satisfying in life, which for a Vulcan would involve things like learning new information, helping others to prosper, etc. rather than feeling emotional happiness. – Hypnosifl Jul 2 '14 at 0:19
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Not only may we question why (or indeed, whether) it is logical to wish someone long life, prosperity, and peace (as in the reply "Peace and long life"), but may we not also question whether it is logical to WISH anything?

As to the first question, I'd argue that it is not logical to wish those things. Some above have suggested that the wish for long life and peace may express a hope that the recipient will achieve honored positions. However, a society built upon logic should not bestow leadership or honors upon those merely possessed of long life or prosperity; it should bestow them upon those whose logic is most sound, regardless of their age or success.

As to the second question, if the saying is indeed a wish, then I see no logic in it. A thing will either be or it will not be, in accordance with past circumstances and with one's efforts. If the saying is meant as a greeting or farewell, to express comity or lack of ill will, it would be more logical to say simply upon arriving, "I meet you in peace," and upon leaving, "I leave you in peace," or something similar which expresses the underlying state of mind. The Hebrew "Shalom" comes to mind.

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    It makes sense if you think of it as the opposite of a veiled threat. By saying that someone will live long and prosper, you're telling them that you'll help them to do so and that you expect their cooperation in return/ – Valorum Feb 27 '15 at 23:51
  • Why must wishes for the future be illogical? If by this you mean that "any possible desire for future outcomes" is illogical, then surely Vulcans would be philosophically bound to suppress all desire, and would shortly starve to death through not wanting to eat. If, on the other hand, you mean that "expressing a desire for an outcome you have no specific ability to influence" is illogical, I simply don't see why that is the case, because if having and fulfilling desires is not illogical then there is good reason to wish other beings well: It fulfils a social and emotional need. – user867 Sep 18 '15 at 4:44

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