The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series.

Title: The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture (series).
Editor/s: William, Irwin J. and Wisnewski, Jeremy.
Material type: Book.
Publisher/date: Blackwell.
Format: Paper back. (Between 220 -350 pages).
Area and topic: Popular philosophy. Key/important philosophical issues/topics/problems
Intended audience/ reading level: General reader/accessible.
Purchasing and information: 1) 2),  3)
Unique and/or salient feature/s: ‘The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture’ series introduces various philosophical issues, problems, themes and positions through popular films, television series, music and other related media.
Synopsis and/or additional information: The following information is sourced from the above links (see ‘Purchasing and information’).

  • ‘Our goal with the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series is to get philosophy out of the ivory tower … With each volume in this series we seek to teach philosophy using the themes, characters, and ideas from your favourite TV shows, comic books, movies, music, games, and more … Find out if Batman is better than Superman, if we’re all patients in Hurley’s psych ward, and if time travel is actually possible’.
  • Each book has a number of entries written by different authors. The titles are as follows:  24 (i.e. the TV series), 30 Rock, Alice in Wonderland, Batman, Battlestar Galactica, Family Guy, Final Fantasy, Heroes (TV series), House, Iron Man, Lost, Mad Men, Metallica, South Park, Terminator, The Daily Show, The Office, True Blood, Twilight, Watchmen, X-Men …  and Philosophy.
  • Example title, ‘Terminator and Philosophy’: ‘This book draws on some of history’s philosophical heavy hitters: Descartes, Kant, Karl Marx, and many more … [The book explores various] intriguing philosophical issues raised by the Terminator series, including the morality of terminating other people for the sake of peace, whether we can really use time travel to protect our future resistance leaders in the past, and if Arnold’s famous T-101 is a real person or not.’ (Back cover.)
  • Section headings for this title are: Part 1: ‘After humanity and Artificial intelligence’, Part 2: ‘Women and revolutionaries’. Part 3: ‘Changing what’s already happened’, Part 4: ‘The ethics of termination’, Part 5: ‘Beyond the neural net’.
  • Part 4: ‘The Ethics of termination’ has the following chapter titles: What’s so terrible about ‘Judgement day’? The war to end all wars; Killing your defence system; Self- termination: Suicide, Self sacrifice, and the Terminator; What’s so bad about Being terminated? Should John Connor save the world?
Strengths: The novel way in which this series introduces philosophy to the general reader has certain advantages over more standard introductions to philosophy. Notably, through the use of examples, and thought experiments drawn from popular media (movies, bands, games etc), typically dry and abstract philosophical themes and issues are explored in novel, colourful and entertaining ways. Importantly, the medium of popular entertainment allows the reader to consider ‘serious’ philosophical issues and problems with a certain emotional distance. This may help the reader/student to gain a certain conceptual clarity that may be lacking if the subject matter was more in line with the realities and complexities of life in the ‘real’ world. Furthermore, the content is predominantly youth oriented. For these reasosns, the series serves as a very ‘school friendly’ resource.
Limitations: Some may find the ‘popular entertainment’ approach to be an annoying distraction from the main philosophical issues. There is also a sense in which exploring philosophical issues and problems solely in reference to specific films, programmes, bands (and so forth) may tend to narrow the range of possibilities that maybe explored. Furthermore, one may wish to consider the (tired) debate between those who object to the popularising of philosophy in such a manner on the grounds that it trivialises and ‘dumbs down’ the subject – and those who regard such attitudes as elitist and out of touch. Finally, it is almost inevitable that many of the chosen movies, bands etc will not stand the test of time.

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