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#1
Old 08-31-2013, 10:10 AM
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Origin of "Needs of the Many...."

The phrase, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" is famously attributed to Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn. But that movie is also chock full of references to Dickens, in particular to A Tale Of Two Cities.

I've always wondered if the "needs of the many" phrase also comes from Dickens, or if it was original to the ST2 script. Having read a little bit of Dickens in high school, I know that I could never survive a hard target search through his writing without eating a bullet. I'm hoping someone else around here is enough of a Dickensophile to tell me if Dickens wrote that phrase, or if the Trek writers invented it out of thin air. Or if maybe it is even older than either of them?

Bonus question: "Revenge is a dish best served cold" - does this predate Trek, or is it another original?
#2
Old 08-31-2013, 10:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim R. Mortiss View Post
Bonus question: "Revenge is a dish best served cold" - does this predate Trek, or is it another original?
From Wiki:
Quote:
The popular expression "revenge is a dish best served cold" suggests that revenge is more satisfying as a considered response enacted when unexpected or long feared, inverting traditional civilized revulsion toward 'cold-blooded' violence. In early literature it is used, usually, to persuade another to forestall vengeance long enough for wisdom to reassert itself. This sense is lost in recent presentations.[citation needed]

The idea's origin is obscure. The French diplomat Talleyrand (1754–1838) has been credited with the saying La vengeance est un mets que l'on doit manger froid. [Revenge is a dish that should be eaten cold.]. It has been in the English language since at least 1846, via a translation from the French novel Mathilde by Joseph Marie Eugène Sue: la vengeance se mange très-bien froide [sic], there italicized as if quoting a proverbial saying, and translated revenge is very good eaten cold. It has been wrongly credited to the novel Les liaisons dangereuses (1782).

Its path to modern popularity may begin with the 1949 film Kind Hearts and Coronets which had revenge is a dish which people of taste prefer to eat cold. The familiar wording appears in The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969) and is quoted as if from an "old Klingon Proverb" in the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and in the title sequence of the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill: Vol 1 (2003).
#3
Old 08-31-2013, 10:37 AM
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"It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong." -- Jeremy Bentham

That is the closest I could find. It may well have been first constructed in that form by the script writer of ST-TWOK.

Writing credits for that movie are
Gene Roddenberry (television series Star Trek)

Harve Bennett (story) and
Jack B. Sowards (story) and
Samuel A. Peeples (story) uncredited

Jack B. Sowards (screenplay) and
Nicholas Meyer

So, probably one of those gentlemen.
#4
Old 08-31-2013, 10:44 AM
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As far as I can tell, that particular phrase is original to Star Trek, however the concept is basically the same as utilitarianism. Jeremy Bentham, one of the primary utilitarian philosophers said, "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong".
#5
Old 08-31-2013, 01:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gagundathar View Post
"It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong." -- Jeremy Bentham
Quote:
Originally Posted by Strinka View Post
...Jeremy Bentham, one of the primary utilitarian philosophers said, "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong".
Ah, the trial between good and happiness.

Cage fight! With bat'leths!

Last edited by Knorf; 08-31-2013 at 01:44 PM.
#6
Old 08-31-2013, 02:48 PM
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I don't know where it originated but I first came across it in a mid-80's British comic strip where it was one of the favourite lines of the heroic but somewhat ambiguous alien character Doomlord aka Vek:

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_4X7TRO_MD4...on+poster4.bmp

That made me laugh!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomlord

Damn thats a long article...

Oppps, this a better pic for the thread:

http://freakytrigger.co.uk/pictures/doomlord.jpg

Last edited by Atomic Alex; 08-31-2013 at 02:50 PM.
#7
Old 09-01-2013, 01:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
Ah, the trial between good and happiness.
It has to be "happiness." To define "good" as "the greatest good . . ." is illogical.
#8
Old 09-01-2013, 09:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim R. Mortiss View Post
The phrase, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" is famously attributed to Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn. But that movie is also chock full of references to Dickens, in particular to A Tale Of Two Cities.
Not a big Melville crowd here, huh? He's not an easy read...

I don't remember a lot of Dickens outside of Kirk's eulogy for Spock. But Kahn certainly laid the Moby Dick quotes pretty thick (" I'll chase him round the Moons of Nibia, and round the Antares Maelstrom, and round Perdition's flames...", "from hells heart I stab at thee..").


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim R. Mortiss View Post

Bonus question: "Revenge is a dish best served cold" - does this predate Trek, or is it another original?

It's from an old Klingon proverb.

Last edited by msmith537; 09-01-2013 at 09:48 AM.
#9
Old 09-01-2013, 12:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by panache45 View Post
It has to be "happiness." To define "good" as "the greatest good . . ." is illogical.
I think you misread the quote.
#10
Old 09-01-2013, 01:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gagundathar View Post
"It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong." -- Jeremy Bentham
Quote:
Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
I think you misread the quote.
You can't use the word "good" when defining the meaning of "good," or any similar term like "right."
#11
Old 09-01-2013, 02:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gagundathar View Post
"It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong." -- Jeremy Bentham
Quote:
Originally Posted by panache45 View Post
You can't use the word "good" when defining the meaning of "good," or any similar term like "right."
Let's parse this out a bit, just to give you a hand.

"It is the greatest good to the greatest number which is right" contrasted with something like, "Greatest good to the least number is wrong."

Nothing wrong with the use of the of the word "good" in the original sentence as Gagundathar quoted it.
#12
Old 09-01-2013, 05:55 PM
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I know the phrase "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" was used in a TOS episode, but it's bugging me that I can't narrow down which one. Might have been Journey to Babel or The Empath, which now that I think about it represent the range of episodes that were very good to ones that were just god-awful.
#13
Old 09-03-2013, 09:20 PM
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This quote from a documentary on the growth of the conservation movement in the US caught my ear tonight. I thought it applied nicely to this thread.

Two schools of thought had developed on maintenance of the nation's parks: completely hands off, or to allow limited harvesting in order to provide "the greatest good for the greatest number of people".

Quote:
(D)id the Senate speak for the people, or for a few business interests? Muir addressed the problem in an article for Harper's Weekly, his most explicitly political writing to date. "Much is said on the questions of this kind about 'the greatest good for the greatest number,' he wrote, nodding toward Pinchot, "but the greatest number is too often found to be number one."
#14
Old 09-07-2013, 09:02 PM
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It has been in the English language since at least 1846, via a translation from the French novel Mathilde by Joseph Marie Eugène Sue: la vengeance se mange très-bien froide [sic], there italicized as if quoting a proverbial saying, and translated revenge is very good eaten cold.

Actually, in my humble opinion, a better translation would be: ''Revenge can be perfectly well eaten cold.''

(And there's no hyphen between très and bien)

Last edited by omni-not; 09-07-2013 at 09:04 PM.
#15
Old 07-09-2017, 11:32 AM
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RE: "Needs of the Many...."

Probably started here.

Matthew 18:12
New International Version (NIV)
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?
#16
Old 07-09-2017, 11:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philigan View Post
Probably started here.

Matthew 18:12
New International Version (NIV)
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?
That's the opposite. He's leaving the whole flock (possibly endangering them) to go look for the one idiot sheep.

ETA: Look at that. A whole post with sheep without referring to Hal.

ETA: Oops.

Last edited by running coach; 07-09-2017 at 11:44 AM.
#17
Old 07-09-2017, 11:51 AM
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I have no idea where it came from. I am certain that it wont pass muster with the majority today, because it smacks of socialism.
#18
Old 07-09-2017, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by panache45 View Post
It has to be "happiness." To define "good" as "the greatest good . . ." is illogical.
It might work if the idea was to identify good policies. "A good political decision is one which results in the most individual good for the most people." "Public good" and "individual good" might be implied without being stated.

I once tried to read Aristotle, and kept getting bogged down in the density of his prose. The good is that which is right. The right is that which is necessary. The necessary is that which is good. etc. (Not exact quotes.) Nothing he said ever seemed to be practical. At least Bentham is saying something (somewhat) practical here. "Share the weal."
#19
Old 07-10-2017, 03:11 AM
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Heads up people, it's a four year old thread, and the necromancer was dead wrong in their post.
#20
Old 07-10-2017, 01:09 PM
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You may have heard that phrase before as it or something like it has been used by every tyrant to justify crushing individual rights. It's an abhorrent phrase.

Bryan Ekers: I just finished watching the first season a while ago, and if anything Spock takes the opposite view several times. For example, in ''Space Seed' Spock is horrified at the utilitarian arguments for Khan's dictatorship on Earth, even if it did bring an end to war, because it came at the cost of individual freedom. He also explicitly said in another episode that the rights of the individual should not be sacrified to the collective, or words to that effect.

Another of the many reasons wht TOS was the best Star Trek.
#21
Old 07-10-2017, 02:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Stone View Post
You may have heard that phrase before as it or something like it has been used by every tyrant to justify crushing individual rights. It's an abhorrent phrase.

Bryan Ekers: I just finished watching the first season a while ago, and if anything Spock takes the opposite view several times. For example, in ''Space Seed' Spock is horrified at the utilitarian arguments for Khan's dictatorship on Earth, even if it did bring an end to war, because it came at the cost of individual freedom. He also explicitly said in another episode that the rights of the individual should not be sacrified to the collective, or words to that effect.

Another of the many reasons wht TOS was the best Star Trek.
It's kind of hard to picture the TNG crew having a disagreement, however minor and somewhat jovial, over something political. More likely, the "correct" side would be obvious and the characters all on it. Maybe Worf would say something, but probably not.
#22
Old 07-10-2017, 03:01 PM
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Yep. Not only would it be true, but all right-thinking people in the society would agree. It was a progressive utopia.
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