2020-04Discussion Papers, Comments, Book Reviews
To Serve Man? Rod Serling and Effective Destining


Popular culture is a vital part of the philosophy of culture. Immersion in the world of popular culture provides an immanent understanding, and after all, some of what is merely popular culture today will be the high culture of tomorrow. The genre of science fiction is one of the more important and durable forms of cultural and social (and even religious) criticism. Science fiction narratives guide our imaginations into the relation between the might-be and the might-have-been. The central idea of this paper is that possibilities have an existence that is intelligible to us, independent of and indifferent to actualities, and involving a distinction between “constellated possibilities” which form a pattern dependent upon one’s perspective in some actual standpoint, and “clustered” possibilities, which actually exist entangled and inseparable from one another, as possibilities. Science fiction writers intuitively know that if one introduces a variation into the present in order to trace a plausible alternative storyline from that standpoint, certain other variations will have to accompany the chosen variation in order to maintain the unity of the plot. I use Rod Serling, the creator of the legendary series The Twilight Zone, as an example in this paper. Hence, science fiction writers do work with clusters as well as constellations of possibilities (things that merely might happen and things that almost assuredly will eventually happen), and they experience the clusters with a stronger feeling of necessity. I call that feeling Wirkungsschicksal, of “effective destining.” I will develop this distinction and that stronger feeling of necessity into a method for the philosophy of culture.


popular culture, science fiction, classic television, possibility, future time, effective destining, Rod Serling

How to cite:

Auxier, Randall E. “To Serve Man? Rod Serling and Effective Destining.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 4, no. 4 (2020): 190-204. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2020.0047.


Randall E. Auxier
Department of Communication Studies, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Communications Building, Mail Code 6605, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA


Auxier, Randall E. “From Presentational Symbol to Dynamic Form: Ritual, Dance, and Image.” In Dance and Philosophy, eds. Rebecca Farinas, et al. London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming.

Auxier, Randall E. Logic: Thinking from Images to Digits. Ronkonkoma, NY: Rylan, 2020.

Auxier, Randall E. “Music, Time, and the Egress of Possibility,” in American Aesthetics: Theory and Practice, eds. W. B. Gulick and G. Slater, 177-210. Albany: SUNY Press, 2020.

Auxier, Randall E, and Gary L. Herstein. The Quantum of Explanation: Whitehead’s Radical Empiricism. London: Routledge, 2017. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315204925.

Dobbins, Thomas, and William Sheehan. “Solving the Martian Flares Mystery.” Published by astronomy.org. Accessed August 18, 2020. http://www.alpo-astronomy.org/mars/articles/MartianFlaresALPO.pdf.

Durkin, Patrick. “Post-kill Rituals: Matters of the Heart.” NRA: American Hunter, Sunday, August 14, 2016. Accessed August 20, 2020. https://www.americanhunter.org/articles/2016/8/14/post-kill-rituals-matters-of-the-heart/

Eco, Umberto. A Theory of Semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976.

Kant, Immanuel. Theory of the Heavens. In Shendy, Peter. Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials: Cosmopolitical Philosofictions. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013.

Kant, Immanuel. Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View. In Shendy, Peter. Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials: Cosmopolitical Philosofictions. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013.

Knight, Damon. “To Serve Man.” Galaxy Science Fiction (November 1950): 91–97.

Lanigan, Richard L. “STAR TREK: The Child and the Semiotic Phenomenology of Choosing a Family.” In Semiotics 1993, edited by John Deely and Robert Corrington, 223-30. Lanham, MD: Semiotic Society of America; University Press of America, 1995. https://doi.org/10.5840/cpsem199314.

Noonan, Chris, dir. Babe. Universal Pictures, 1995.

Peters, John Durham. Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226922638.001.0001.

Serling, Rod. “To Serve Man,” teleplay (March 1962). Accessed March 17, 2018. http://leethomson.myzen.co.uk/The_Twilight_Zone/The_Twilight_Zone_3x24_-_To_Serve_Man.pdf.

Serling, Rod. Chilling Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, adapted by Walter B. Gibson. New York: Grossett and Dunlap, 1963.

Star Trek: The Next Generation. Episode 1×13. “Datalore.” Teleplay by Robert Lewin and Gene Roddenberry.

Star Trek: The Next Generation. Episode 5×04. “Silicon Avatar.” Teleplay by Jeri Taylor.

Szendy, Peter. Kant in the Land of Extraterrestrials: Cosmopolitical Philosofictions. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt13x01d8.

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, 2nd edition. New York: Random House, 2010.

Villeneuve, Denis, dir. Arrival. Paramount Pictures (North America), 2016.

Wise, Robert. The Day the Earth Stood Still. 20th Century Fox, 1951.

Zicree, Marc Scott. The Twilight Zone Companion. Second Edition. New York: Bantam Books, 1989.

Open Access Statement:

This is an open access journal which means that all content is freely available without charge to the user or his/her institution. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author, as long as the author and original source are properly cited. This is in accordance with the BOAI definition of open access.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Submitting a text to Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture means that the author agrees with the general conditions of this license. The author does and will maintain copyrights and publishing rights for his/her article without any restrictions.