Saturday, March 01, 2014

Book: Introducing Philosophy Through Pop Culture Edited by William Irwin and Kyle Johnson




This book presents a compendium of philosophical essays that use contemporary philosophy illustrate various concepts and schools of thinking. The approach is generally successful and engaging, although when cultural examples were used that I had little interest in (e.g. Harry Potter, Metallica), I did tend to drift off, which led to me skipping about a quarter of the book. Also, because of the essay compendium nature, several issues were covered repeatedly (e.g. deontological approach versus the utilitarian approach). My final gripe is that the book seems to land in an awkward no man’s land, positioning itself somewhere between a text book and an arm-chair read for the lay person.

All these issues aside, it is a very good book and contains a great array of essays with cultural references that hit my sweet spot (Batman, The Office, Southpark, Family Guy, House, Lost and 24 all feature). Sometimes the link between the cultural reference can be a bit loose and passing, but sometimes the message and context mesh perfectly. My favourite pieces included:

The Colbert Report and individual/cultural relativism
The Matrix, metaphysics and mind-body dualism
Terminator and people vs machines (what is a person?)
Southpark and why does God allow evil (Cartmanland)
The Office and the virtues of humour
Batman and the deontological approach vs the utilitarian approach (why doesn’t Batman Kill the Joker?)
Batman, determinism, free-will and Heidegger and concept of “being-in-time”
24 and the ethics of torture
House, the quest for meaning

If you are want to read this book and are not studying a philosophy course, I recommend starting with the essays that perk your interest versus reading the text in any particular order.

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Notes and quotes to follow as usual.

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