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Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book about Everything and Nothing Paperback – August 20, 1999


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What If? by Randall Munroe
From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd, find hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask. Learn more

Product Details

  • Series: Popular Culture and Philosophy (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Open Court (August 20, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812694090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812694093
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Brilliant. . . nicely illustrates how the comic can illuminate the profound. -- Ray Perkins, author of Logic and Mr. Limbaugh

Here is the answer to the prayers of Seinfeld aficionados who love philosophy and philosophy aficionados who love Seinfeld. And, thanks to reruns, the Owl of Minerva is not too late. -- Nicholas Rescher, University of Pittsburgh

Seinfeld and Philosophy is a fascinating read. I just thought the show was funny. Who knew there was so much more involved? -- Kenny Kramer, the "real" Kramer

Wish we'd had this in college. -- Entertainment Weekly

About the Author

A New York journalist, who graduated from Stanford, Irwin was the brother of Wallace Irwin. He worked as World War I correspondent. His works include: Old Chinatown (1908), A Reporter in Armageddon --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

William Irwin is professor of Philosophy at King's college, Pennsylvania. Irwin's first book, Intentionalist Interpretation: A Philosophical Explanation and Defense (1999), was nominated for the American Philosophical Association Young Scholar's Book Prize. Irwin is best known for having originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books with Seinfeld and Philosophy (1999), The Simpsons and Philosophy (2001), and The Matrix and Philosophy (2002). He was editor of these books and then General Editor of the Popular Culture and Philosophy Series through Open Court Publishing. In 2006, Irwin left Open Court to become the General Editor of The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, which includes Metallica and Philosophy (2007)and Black Sabbath and Philosophy (2012), among other volumes. Irwin first theorized the philosophy and pop culture genre in his article "Philosophy as/and/of Popular Culture" in Irwin and Gracia eds. Philosophy and the Interpretation of Popular Culture (2006).

Customer Reviews

I look forward to Bill Irwin's next book.
"justin-at-amazon"
In this anthology, I came across about six solid essays that highlighted Seinfeld's best attributes through the use of philosophy.
M. JEFFREY MCMAHON
Rather than an overarching theme, the book is a collection of essays--some of which are redundant as the book progresses.
Robert F. Hynes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Adam Dukovich on August 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
Seinfeld and Philosophy is a book with an interesting premise: it examines various philosophical issues raised by the phenomenally popular sitcom Seinfeld. The conceit is to examine the show that examined the minutia, the trivia of everyday life and to analyze certain aspects of the show from a philosophical standpoint. Thus, those of us who like both subjects have William Irwin to thank for this book, which is essentially a collection of essays from contemporary philosophers about Seinfeld.
The book includes 14 essays, organized into four "acts", most of which are good. The first act centers mostly on the primary characters. There is one for each main character. Jerry is compared to Socrates and George to a "Virtueless man" of Aristotle. The weakest essay, perhaps, is the one examining if Elaine is a feminist. The strongest essay concerns Kramer and Soren Kierkegaard's Asthetic Stage of Life. Although I am not entirely familiar with the man's work, the essay lays out the central principles of Kierkegaard's theory and ties it all together perfectly. Act II contains specific analogies between Seinfeld and the work of Nietzsche, Sartre, Lao Tzu, and Wittgenstein. Act III has a fascinating essay on George's choice to do "the opposite", another on Peterman and reality in the media, and a weak essay on the "significance of the insignificant" which purports to know the secret of Seinfeld's humor but never tells it. The final act tackles the moral and ethical backgrounds of the four and also examines whether the law used to convict the four (the Good Samaritan Law) deserved to be on the books.
Any Seinfeld fan will appreciate this wonderful book, even if they have no philosophical background. The book allows fans to look at their show at a different angle.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 21, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book attests to the profundity of Seinfeld, how it is an appropriate vehicle for teaching a philosphical analysis explaining why the Seinfeld characters never grow up, find meaning, and discover wisdom, all the while holding a mirror to our own society and being loveable and endearing at the same time. You learn about Aristotle's Ethics and Virture and why George, lacking these things, can never achieve happiness. This essay about George's incurable unhappiness is the best of the bunch and worth the price of the whole book. In this anthology, I came across about six solid essays that highlighted Seinfeld's best attributes through the use of philosophy.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
It was my curiosity about the concept of such a book that initially led me to purchase this book. Being such a big fan of the show, I immediately saw a connection. Seinfeld is an excellent case study for philosophy. You could do a whole book on George alone. Like most case studies though, it is tough to find a 100% match to the underlying theories and models, but book does a great job in using the TV show to understand the wide range of philosophical topics discussed, and its a relatively easy read. My knowledge of philosophy is limitted to a couple of courses required in college many moons ago. Overall, I was delighted with the opprtunity the book provided me to refresh and re-discover philosophy.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Found Highways VINE VOICE on July 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Unlike George's tax-preparer girlfriend, Seinfeld and Philosophy is not pretentious. It's entertaining and enlightening (most enlightening when it concentrates on being entertaining). It contains fourteen essays by professional philosophers "about everything and nothing," at least as everything and nothing is experienced by Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer.

One of my favorite essays is William Irwin's on how Kramer illustrates one of Kierkegaard's three stages of human existence - - the pleasure-seeking or aesthetic stage (in no other way could Kramer be considered "aesthetic," kavorka or no kavorka). Irwin really does teach a lot about Kierkegaard's philosophy, but he does it by continually going back to examples from the show, so it's funny as well as informative.

Another really good chapter is Jorge J. E. Gracia's take on the difference between comedy and tragedy. I've never heard it put so simply - - comedy shows us the significance of the insignificant and tragedy the insignificance of the significant.

Gracia's essay made me think about the comedians I've liked the most, for instance the Three Stooges. ("I will show you the Stooges," Jerry tells the Romanian woman he expects to transport him to heights of gymnastic ecstasy by making him "the apparatus.") And like the Borscht Belt comics who often showed up on Seinfeld ("IN-tah-VEN-shun? Who's intervening?") they were old-fashioned tragedians at heart. And mostly Jewish, which explains their style of humor. Survival humor.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
Most academic treatments of popular culture either take their subject matter way too seriously or dumb down anything of substance they have to say. So I was skeptical about Seinfeld and Philosphy. Having read it, however, I was very pleasantly surprised. Not only do the contributors to this book really know their Seinfeld, but they manage not to take the show or themselves too seriously. In addition they manage to raise and discuss some interesting and important philosophical issues. They make an intriguing, though not totally convincing case that the show deals with ethical issues. The book's concluding essay sheds light on and brings new interest to the disappointing final episode by examinng the moral and legal issues involved in good samaritan laws. Other important philosophical issues discussed are the nature of feminism, (is Elaine a feminist?)the author doesn't think so, but I beg to differ. The nature of comedy in general and the secret of Seinfeld's humor, in particular and marxism vs. capitalism (taking its cue from J. Peterman). My favorite essay was Jason Holt's "The Costanza Maneuver: Is it Rational for George to do the Opposite?" Holt takes some of the fun out of George's new approach to life, but his arguments are tough to deny.
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