Since 2000 Open Court publishers (and Blackwells in the UK republishing them) have been putting out a series entitled Philosophy and Popular Culture. The first one I saw (as I unwrapped it one Christmas) was The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’Oh of Homer – which I found, in the quality of its essays, rather mixed.
Since then this phenomena has really taken off (Click here for UK list, or here for USA one) – including volumes on South Park, The Office, Family Guy, Baseball, Running, Woody Allen, Bob Dylan and many more: with more coming all the time.
Is this a good thing? You might think this a stupid question – surely applying to philosophy that things people are actually interested in is a positive move – and exposing the fans of these cultural phenomena is a good way to interest people in philosophy and demonstrate that it is not a pointless waste of everyone’s time…
Yes – and Stephen T. Asma argues this in a piece entitled: Looking up from the Gutter: Philosophy & Popular Culture. Why would anyone disagree?
You can also read more, from the Pop Matters website, where there is a piece entitled: Pop Goes Philosophy – talking both about the Philosophy and South Park book, the Asma article, and the phenomena in general. The authors, I thin, make a good point when they say (after commenting on Asma’s piece:
So Asma is missing the big picture when he concludes that philosophy and popular culture are and will remain worlds apart. He is right, however, to be amused by the missionary (and presumptive, I would add) zeal of those who suppose that merely by sugar coating their lectures with references to pop culture, they make philosophy appealing or rewarding to the masses. The fact that most people know little about the history of the mind-body problem and other workhorse topics of professional philosophy does not mean, however, they yearn to know more.
Well – I have read a few (currently reading ‘Running and Philosophy: A Marathon for the Mind’) – and although I have enjoyed some essays I have an odd sense of dis-ease with the series at times: but am not sure why – is it snobbery on my part – I don’t think so… also, some essays in them are rather good – so why this sense of concern with the phenomena as a whole?
Will ponder and get back to you: responses welcome – do you think this is – overall a ‘good thing’?