I was at the bookstore the other night and wandered over to the philosophy section. Or should I say, the "and philosophy" section. You see, it was dominated by books with titles like The Simpsons and Philosophy, Metallica and Philosophy, Monty Python and Philosophy, The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy (subtitle: "I Link Therefore I Am")—the list goes on and on, as do the witty subtitles.
These are all part of the Popular Culture and Philosophy series. Editor George Reisch writes:
Since its inception in 2000, Open Court's Popular Culture and Philosophy® series has brought high-quality philosophy to general readers. The volumes present essays by academic philosophers exploring the meanings, concepts, and puzzles within television shows, movies, music and other icons of popular culture.The first in the series was Seinfeld and Philosophy, edited by William Irwin:
How is Jerry like Socrates? Is it rational for George to "do the opposite?" Would Simone de Beauvoir say that Elaine is a feminist? Is Kramer stuck in Kierkegaard's aesthetic stage?How about Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy?
Who counts as human? Is killing an intelligent non-human murder or garbage disposal? Can we really know who we are until we know what we are?Or James Bond and Philosophy?
Is Bond a Nietzschean hero who graduates "beyond good and evil"? Does Bond paradoxically break the law in order, ultimately, to uphold it like any "stupid policeman"? What can Bond’s razor-sharp reasoning powers tell us about the scientific pursuit of truth? Does 007’s license to kill help us understand the ethics of counterterrorism? What motivates all those despicable Bond villains—could it be a Hegelian quest for recognition?Maybe Star Wars and Philosophy?
If the Force must have a Dark Side, how can the Dark Side be evil? Why and how did the tyrannical Empire emerge from the free Republic? Are droids persons, entitled to civil rights? Is Yoda a Stoic or a Zen master?And yet ...
My first reaction upon seeing this plethora of pop-culture on the philosophy shelves was disapproval. Try to find a book by C. S. Peirce and you're out of luck. But no problem if you're looking for The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless!
But the truth is I haven't read any of these books, so I can't comment on their quality. Still the reader reviews on Amazon.com are generally quite positive. For example, here's some of what reader Angela Allen has to say about Harry Potter and Philosophy:
As one who reads the Potter books mostly for the escapism, it was interesting to have professional philosophers help me delve into the deeper meanings contained in the books. [...] My favorite essays were "Feminism and Equal Opportunity: Herminone and the Women of Hogwarts", "Heaven, Hell and Harry Potter" "Magic, Muggles and Moral Imagination" and "The Prophecy-Driven Life: Foreknowledge and Freedom at Hogwarts". [...] This book is probably not for the expert philosopher as these concepts will be basics but for someone of my experience (almost none) studying philosophy, it was a great read.If anyone has read one of these books, I'd be interested in your evaluation. Are they well written? Do they trivialize philosophy or simply introduce it to ordinary people in terms they can relate to?
The truth is, I'm looking forward to reading one of these books! But which to choose? Perhaps Star Trek and Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant!