Philosophy & Pop Culture

In 2010, I was Plenary Speaker for Eastern Washington University’s Student Philosophy Conference: “Pop Culture and Philosophy.” What a great time!

In 2013, I was slated to be Plenary Speaker for Georgia Southern University’s Undergraduate Philosophy Conference: “Pop Culture and Philosophy.” However, I had a stomach virus and spent that time in the hospital recovering.

The Philosophy and Popular Culture genre was started by Bill Irwin, and I agree with him that:

  • The genre is one important and successful way to bring philosophy to non-philosophers, and vice versa. The genre even works for high-school-aged students.
  • The genre is an effective teaching tool (what student hasn’t seen several episodes of South Park, for example?).
  • The writing in this genre isn’t meant to be published in The Journal of Philosophy, The Philosophical Review, or Mind (three of the best, scholarly journals in philosophy).
  • You should read Bill’s defense of the genre: Fancy Taking a Pop? and Writing for the Reader: A Defense of PPC Books.
  • Also read Massimo Pigliucci and Leonard Finkelman’s piece titled The Value of Public Philosophy to Philosophers.
  • Read, too, what I say at the bottom of this page.

As Editor

  • South Park and Philosophy, Wiley-Blackwell, 2006. Here. Wikipedia Site.
  • The Ultimate South Park and Philosophy, W-B, with Decker, 2013. Here.
  • Batman and Philosophy, W-B, with Mark White, 2008. Here.
  • Philosophy of Ang Lee, UPK, with McRae and Adam Barkman, 2013. Here.
  • The Philosophy of J.J. Abrams, UPK, with Patricia Brace, 2014. Here.
  • Breaking Bad and Philosophy, Open Court, with David Koepsell, 2013. Here.
  • Tattoos and Philosophy: I Ink, Therefore I Am, W-B, 2013. Here.
  • Psych and Philosophy, OC, 2013. Here.
  • The Good Wife and Philosophy, OC, with Kim Baltzer-Jaray, 2013. Here.
  • The Devil and Philosophy, OC, 2014. Here.
  • Homeland and Philosophy, OC, 2014. Here.
  • Justified and Philosophy, OC, 2014. Here.
  • It’s Always Sunny and Philosophy, OC, with Roger Hunt. 2015. Here.
  • Downton Abbey and Philosophy, OC, with Adam Barkman, 2015. Here.
  • Game of Thrones and Philosophy, OC, with Eric Silverman, 2016. Here.
  • The X-Files and Philosophy: THE TRUTH IS IN HERE, OC, 2017. Here.
  • Hamilton and Philosophy, OC, with Aaron Rabinowitz, 2017. Here.
  • The Americans and Philosophy, OC, with Kevin Guilfoy, 2017. Here.
  • Philosophy & Breaking Bad, Palgrave Macmillan, w/ Decker/Koepsell, 2017.
  • Scott Adams and Philosophy, OC, with D. Yim & G. Foresman, 2018. Here.
  • A review from HubPages is found here.
  • WikiLeaking: The Ethics of Secrecy and Exposure, OC, 2019. Here.
  • Avengers Infinity Saga and Philosophy, OC, with Heather Rivera, 2020. Here.
  • Perry Mason and Philosophy, OC, with Heather Rivera, in preparation.

As Contributor

WB = Wiley-Blackwell Publishers

OC = Open Court Publishers

  • “If Droids Could Think…Droids as Slaves & Persons,” Star Wars and Philosophy, eds. Decker & Eberl (OC, 2005) 120-131.
  • “Paul McCartney’s Philosophy of Love,” The Beatles and Philosophy, eds. Baur & Baur (OC, 2006) 37-46.
  • “The Chewbacca Defense: A South Park Logic Lesson,” South Park and Philosophy, ed. Arp (WB, 2006) 40-53.
  • “Damned If You Do… Vampires & Hedonistic Paradox,” Undead and Philosophy, ed. Greene & Mohammad (OC, 2006) 143-154.
  • “That Fatal Kiss: Bond & the Objectification of Women,” w/ Decker, James Bond and Philosophy, ed. South (OC, 2006) 201-214.
  • “Perception and Reality in Metallica,” Metallica and Philosophy, ed. Irwin (WB, 2007) 163-172.
  • “Thinkin’ is Freakin’ Sweet,” Family Guy and Philosophy, ed. Wisnewski (WB, 2007) 139-148.
  • “Mind Your Ps and Qs: Power, Pleasure, and the Q Continuum,” Star Trek and Philosophy: Open Court (2008) 59-68.
  • “The Many Ways to Skin a Cat,” What Philosophy Can Tell You about Your Cat, ed. Hales (OC, 2008), 157-170.
  • “Legend and Logic,” w/ Millarker, Legend of Zelda and Philosophy, ed. Cuddy (OC, 2008) 29-43.
  • “For L’Amour: Love & Friendship in The Office,” w/ Watson, The Office and Philosophy, ed. Wisnewski (WB, 2008) 221-233.
  • “Moral Standoffs: Objectification on Lost,” w/ Brace, Lost and Philosophy, ed. Kaye (W-B, 2008) 26-38.
  • “And They Have a Plan: Cylons as Persons,” w/ Mahaffey, Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy, ed. Eberl (WB, 2008) 55-63.
  • “24 and the Ethics of Objectification,” w/ Carpenter, 24 and Philosophy, eds. Weed, Davis, Weed (W-B, 2008) 181-194.
  • “I’m Straight-Up Mentally Ill: Tracy Jordan & True, Justified Beliefs,” 30 Rock and Philosophy, ed. Wisnewski (WB, 2008) 186-194.
  • “Morally Responsible Machines,” Transformers and Philosophy, ed. Shook (OC, 2009) 127-138.
  • “Robots in Love?” w/ Watson, Transformers and Philosophy, ed. Shook (OC, 2009) 139-152.
  • “Hooded Justice & Capt Metropolis: The Ambiguously Gay Duo,” Watchmen and Philosophy, ed. Irwin (WB, 2009) 185-196.
  • “Whiskey, Wild Living, and the Hedonistic Paradox,” Whiskey and Philosophy, eds. Allhoff & Adams (W-B, 2009) 109-122.
  • “Objectification in Final Fantasy,” w/ Fisk, Final Fantasy and Philosophy, eds. Blahuta & Beaulieu (WB, 2009) 72-86.
  • “Coming Out of the Coffin and the Closet,” w/ Brace, True Blood and Philosophy, eds. Dunn & Housel (WB, 2009) 93-108.
  • “V is for Villain,” Supervillains and Philosophy, ed. Dyer (OC, 2009) 43-52.
  • “Knowledge, Perception, and Reality,” Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy, ed. Davis (WB, 2009) 125-136.
  • “I Give Them What They Want—An Orphan or Abortion” Bioethics at the Movies, ed. Shapshay (Johns Hopkins, 2009) 15-31.
  • “The Chewbacca Defense,” Introducing Philosophy Through Pop Culture, eds. Irwin & Johnson (WB, 2010) 14-24.
  • “Objectification & Search for Redemption in Lost,” w/ Brace, Ultimate Lost and Philosophy, ed. Kaye (WB, 2010) 241-252.
  • “F You, You F-ing F,” The Onion and Philosophy, ed. Kaye (OC, 2010) 135-147.
  • “I am, Therefore I think: An Introduction,” Tattoos—I Ink, Therefore I Am, ed. Arp (WB, 2012) xiv-xxvi.
  • “An Atheist & Theist Discuss a Cross Tattoo & God’s Existence,” Tattoos—I Ink, Therefore I Am, ed. Arp (WB, 2012) 242-260.
  • “The Five Ps of My Love Life,” What Philosophy Can Tell You About Your Lover, ed. Kaye (OC, 2012) 37-46.
  • “Stop Stereotyping Sabbath,” Black Sabbath and Philosophy, ed. Irwin (WB, 2012) 182-189.
  • “Jeopardy! Contestants Ain’t Smart… They’re More Like Monkeys” Jeopardy! and Philosophy, ed. Young (OC, 2012) 67-76.
  • “People for the Ethical Treatment of Zombies” w/ Hinzmann, Walking Dead and Philosophy, ed. Yuen (OC, 2013) 179-194.
  • “Peter’s Peter Problem,” w/ King, The Good Wife and Philosophy, eds. Baltzer-Jaray & Arp (OC, 2013) 103-112.
  • “What’s So Bad about Meth?” w/ Brace, Breaking Bad and Philosophy, ed. Koepsell & Arp (OC, 2013) 139-148.
  • “Cloverfield and Terrorism,” w/ Brace, Philosophy of J.J. Abrams, eds. Brace & Arp (University Press of Kentucky, 2014) 146-168.
  • “Dracula’s Dilemma,” Dracula and Philosophy, eds. Michaud & Pötzsch (OC, 2014) 47-57.
  • “If a Treefort Falls in the Forest…,” Adventure Time and Philosophy, ed. Michaud (OC, 2014) 143-144.
  • “If the Devil Did Not Exist, It Would Be Necessary to Invent Him,” The Devil and Philosophy, ed. Arp (OC, 2014) 129-146.
  • “Guns Don’t Kill Colors—Colors Kill Colors,” Red Rising and Philosophy, ed. Lewis & McCain (OC, 2016) 141-156.
  • “Schumer’s Selfishness,” Amy Schumer and Philosophy, eds. Elsby & Luzecky (OC, 2018) 35-43.
  • “George Carlin as Philosopher,” The Palgrave Handbook of Popular Culture as Philosophy, ed. D.K. Johnson, in preparation.
  • “Doctor Strange’s God-Like Ability,” Philosophical Themes in Avengers, ed. C. Horn & K. Decker, in preparation.

A Word to the Supercilious…

There’s an assumption made by some folks that, since someone works on philosophy and pop culture (PPC) materials (the whole “_ and Philosophy” genre, such as The Simpsons and Philosophy, The Matrix and Philosophy, South Park and Philosophy), then they are lousy scholars.

This is fallacious thinking, and the conclusion is false. There are tons of world-famous scholars, in every field, who bring their ideas “to the masses” so to speak. Plus, there are tons of world-famous scholars who have written chapters in PPC books!

I can write in the morning that “a particular quantified statement ‘∃xFx’ is true just in case there is an object in the domain of quantification that, when assigned as the value of the variable ‘x’, satisfies the open formula ‘Fx’, making obvious that the truth of a quantified statement is ontologically relevant, and, in fact, ideally suited to make ontological commitment explicit, since we need entities to assign as the values of the variables,” then go to lunch, and afterward write that “the creators of South Park, for the most part, are aware of many basic logical principles. They purposely violate them, though, to show the absurdities contained in certain beliefs, opinions, ideas, and arguments. In fact, much of South Park’s humor concerns logical violations and the absurdities, contradictions, and problems that result. In what follows, we’ll consider some basics of logic using examples from South Park episodes, and show some differences between correct and incorrect reasoning.”

Hawking wrote numerous articles in Astrophysical Journal that a handful of people on the planet truly “get” but he also wrote A Brief History of Time.

The whole “it takes time away from your real scholarly work” is hogwash, too. PPC work is what I do in my spare time, for leisure! World-famous philosophers climb mountains, or visit other cultures, or even play video games or binge watch Game of Thrones in their spare time. We don’t look at them and say, “Wow. You’re just not good at what you do because you bike in the evenings or on weekends, when you should be using that time to be figuring out your own Frankfurt-style counterexample, you loser.”

More can be said…