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Mad Men and Philosophy: Nothing Is as It Seems Paperback – June 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Is Don Draper a good man?

What do Peggy, Betty, and Joan teach us about gender equality?

What are the ethics of advertising—or is that a contradiction in terms?

Is Roger Sterling an existential hero?

We're better people than we were in the sixties, right?

With its swirling cigarette smoke, martini lunches, skinny ties, and tight pencil skirts, Mad Men is unquestionably one of the most stylish, sexy, and irresistible shows on television. But the series becomes even more absorbing once you dig deeper into its portrayal of the changing social and political mores of 1960s America and explore the philosophical complexities of its key characters and themes. From Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to John Kenneth Galbraith, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand, Mad Men and Philosophy brings the thinking of some of history's most powerful minds to bear on the world of Don Draper and the Sterling Cooper ad agency. You'll gain insights into a host of compelling Mad Men questions and issues, including happiness, freedom, authenticity, feminism, Don Draper's identity, and more—and have lots to talk about the next time you find yourself around the water cooler.

About the Author

ROD CARVETH is an assistant professor in the department of Communications Media at Fitchburg State College.

JAMES B. SOUTH is chair of the philosophy department at Marquette University. He edited Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy and James Bond and Philosophy.

WILLIAM IRWIN is a professor of philosophy at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books as coeditor of the bestselling The Simpsons and Philosophy and has overseen recent titles including Batman and Philosophy, House and Philosophy, and Twilight and Philosophy.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470603011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470603017
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Pining for Philosophy on August 10, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My 20-something daughter suggested I watch "Mad Men" on [...]: Like a 13-hour movie, she said. So well done. Originally, she thought I would love the depth, excellent production values and of course, the fashion. It was so much more. You see, I majored in Philosophy at a major State university from 1968 - 1972 and went on from there to law school and a wonderful career that spanned poverty and technology law from the late 70s to early 90s. This book is a marvelous survey of the existentialist presentation that permeates "Mad Men". I'm only halfway through (reading on the Kindle; absolute pleasure), and savoring every chapter. Memories of Heidegger, Camus, Sartre, Nietzsche, de Beauvoir, and company flourish through this book. If you didn't major in philosophy, it will all come alive for you in the context of this excellent TV series. And a secret be told, we've never had a TV --- I watch subscribing to iTunes and then purchasing the DVDs for the fascinating commentaries. Enjoy!
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Douglas K. Pinner on September 5, 2010
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Like another reviewer I was introduced to Madmen by my daughter and immediately became hooked.I don't normally watch series with the exception of the Sopranos in which I see the same exceptional qualities of outstanding ensemble casting and realistic portrayal of quotidian life in the milieu of larger societal cultural issues.Hence,I got the book and was not disappointed.Written as a series of articles dealing with both the philosophical and social aspects of the age ,this is one fun read. The philosophical backdrop ranges from classical Greek to the existentialists with due note to Kant,Nietzche, and others,all arranged around major themes of knowledge and freedom,meaning,ethics and happiness,and social dynamics.Larger philosophic issues devolve intriguingly around the characters such as "The Existential Void of Roger Sterling","Is Don Draper a Good Man".The latter is indicative of the general tone of evenhanded non judgemental analysis and one I found particularly thoughtful.While written primarily from an Aristotelian and Platonic framework,his conclusion ,to me ,was refreshingly existential and in an eastern context,very Taoistic.On a personal note,as a newly minted M.B.A. ,I entered the business world on the shank end of this era and readily relate and identify.While on the one hand distant,change a few details and major cultural shifts and you have the offices and characters of latter day NY big bizz,be it adguys(or gals now) or Wall Street. So...Is this a "better" time ,are we "happier"? Hmmm...Before rushing to judgement I propose an interesting 'thought experiment". Produce a current version of Madmen and televise it to the characters on the show back in the 60's.What would a "Madmen and Philosophy" of 2010 read like in a similar analysis in the 60's?..Read more ›
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33 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Chris Gladis on January 1, 2011
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If you had asked me a year ago which television show you should absolutely make time to watch, I would have immediately told you to start watching Mad Men. Deep, complicated, and made with great attention to detail, it is a show that rewards viewers. The characters reveal themselves over time, minor plot elements emerge as major turning points, and they give us 21st-century viewers a chance to look at the '60s in a whole new light. The show had had three outstanding seasons, and up until that point, I would have recommended it unreservedly.

Until they dropped my brother from the cast.

I understand that I did not really default to my rational soul in this instance. The third season was one giant setup for the surprise ending in which Sterling Cooper is bought out (again) and Don and Lane hatch a plan to break away with all the staff and clients they could carry. In this situation, they needed their strongest people, and when it came down to choosing writers, there was no question that Peggy Olsen was a better writer than Paul Kinsey. It had been shown again and again during the season, so that when Kinsey was left twisting in the wind at the end, it made sense - from a writing perspective.

That didn't mean I had to like it.

So when season four rolled around, I started to download the episodes, but I resisted watching them. I just sulked. Was I being childish? Immature? Petty? We may never know the answers to those questions, but I can tell you this - the reason I finally gave in and started watching it again was this book.

Part of the Pop Culture and Philosophy genre of books, this volume takes a deep, intellectual look at the series, examining its characters, its ethics and its messages, to see what kind of lessons we can learn from it.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Swystun on March 6, 2012
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This is the first effort I read from "The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series". It is a very engaging and entertaining premise with the editors also covering Alice in Wonderland, Twilight, The Daily Show and other subjects in the series. Mad Men would seem to be a natural for philosophical, if not, psychological analysis. I am confident that even if I did not work for an advertising and communications company, I would still watch Mad Men because of the childhood nostalgia for the era and it's oft-recognized authenticity (costumes, sets, historic references).

Where people's views differ about the show is in the plot lines covering infidelities, sexism, racism, and other human foibles that fuel the drama. The book examines a number of these subjects from its various contributors. The intent, I gather, is to add variety of thought but unfortunately there is so much repetition and duplication in the analysis that after the first third of the book it became the law of diminishing returns. I did enjoy the parts dealing with justification and how often we fool ourselves into believing what we are doing is right (as defined by our own moral code).

And it was great to rediscover standpoint theory or standpoint epistemology which I subscribe to because it is predicated on actual experiences. Also Socrates' "passions prevailing over scruples" is a key theme of Mad Men and is linked to the debate of how different being motivated by self-interest is from actually acting on that self-interest. Truly compelling is Plato's belief that "our emotional responses to fictional drama tend to shape how we respond to events in real life". This notion is deserving of a book dedicated to how aspects of society are now shaped by 'reality television'.
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