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The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer (Popular Culture and Philosophy) Paperback – February 28, 2001

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Product Details

  • Series: Popular Culture and Philosophy (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Open Court; Underlined edition (February 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812694333
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812694338
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

No doubt Aristotle just rolled over in his grave. An essay called "Homer and Aristotle" would appear to be a treatise on two ancient Greek thinkers; in this case, it's a depiction of Homer Simpson's Aristotelian virtues. Raja Halwani's "Homeric" essay is amusing, though, and moreover, it actually ends up being enlightening, especially for those just learning Aristotle's ethics. Bart may be a Nietzschean without knowing it; Mr. Burns is a cipher for unhappiness (except when he eats "so-called iced-cream"); and Ned Flanders raises questions about neighborly love. The Simpsons and Philosophy has a lot to say about The Simpsons, and even more to say about philosophy.

The book collects 18 essays into an unpretentious, tongue-in-cheek, and surprisingly intelligent look at philosophy through the lens of Matt Groening's vaunted animated series. The editors are quick to point out that they don't think The Simpsons "is the equivalent of history's best works of literature ... but it nevertheless is just deep enough, and certainly funny enough, to warrant serious attention." The writers of the book are mostly professional philosophers, and they are appropriately erudite. But what is truly astonishing, even for a confessed Simpsons addict, is their breadth of Simpsons knowledge, spanning all 12 seasons of the show's history. The Simpsons and Philosophy is obviously not intended to be a turning point in modern thought, but it is an excellent introduction to some core elements of philosophy. --Eric de Place

From Publishers Weekly

In Irwin's earlier anthology, Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book About Everything and Nothing (1999), a team of philosophy professors offered an introduction to Plato, Kierkegaard and other major thinkers via the characters and plots of the TV sitcom. Now Irwin and company have regrouped to focus on Matt Groening's popular, long-running animated series, The Simpsons. Noting that Groening studied philosophy in college, they hasten to add that this is not an attempt to explore meanings intended by Groening and the show's artists and writers. "Rather, we're highlighting the philosophical significance of The Simpsons as we see it," declares the editorial trio. Each essay provides a hilarious but incisive springboard to some aspect of philosophy. Can we learn something about the nature of happiness from the unhappy, miserly Mr. Burns? What are Springfield's sexual politics? What makes Bart Simpson a Heideggerian thinker? Could Bart be the Nietzschean ideal? These are the kind of "meaty philosophical issues" TV viewers can expect to find covered by the 21 contributors to this entertaining book, with interpretations drawn from the works of Sartre, Kant, Karl Marx, Virginia Woolf, Roland Barthes and others. Appendixes include a time line of the major philosophers referred to and a chronological guide of the episode titles and original air dates spanning 11 seasons of The Simpsons. (Apr.)Forecast: Seinfeld and Philosophy prompted Entertainment Weekly's review comment, "Wish we'd had this in college." Fans of The Simpsons are certain to find this book to be the perfect rebuttal for those who dismiss the show as a no-brainer.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Dawn M. on December 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a small gem. It does not try to say that the Simpsons is a grand philosophical guide but does pull some deep ideas out of the wonderful primetime animation. The book helped me appreciate the Simpsons more, and shows the hidden genius in many of the episodes. More importantly, it inspired me to read more philosophy books! I also highly recommend everyone read another wonderful little book of wisdom called "Open Your Mind, Open Your Life" by Taro Gold. Excellent.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By John Starr on March 21, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Almost everyone is a Simpsons fan of one degree or another - everything from complete devotion to the occasional viewer. This book is truly for those who have watched the Simpsons and wondered about the archetypal structure of the family, the Power Plant and the town of Springfield. If that idea interests you, you should have this book. If you think that sounds like a bunch of hooey, then don't buy this book. If you are a rabid fan who must have every piece of Simpsonsphilia, buy several copies.
It is a fun read for those who are interested in such things as both philosophy and The Simpsons, but I stress BOTH. You don't need a philosophy degree to read it, but you should have some interest in/and grounding in philosophy. Similarly, you should have a solid grasp of the Simpsons show, and the characters. I think this would be a bit dry for the casual Simpsons fan and bit lightweight for the ultra philosophical. But just right for a lot of us, and fun to read to boot!
Some of the chapters include:
Homer and Aristotle
Lisa and American Anti-intellectualism
Thus Spake Bart: On Nietzche and the Vitues of Being Bad
Enjoying the So-Called "Iced Cream": Mr. Burns, Satan, and Happiness
I had a very good time reading this book, and I do wish I had owned it while I was in college. It might have helped me digest Roland Barthes a little easier. Enjoy!
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By D. Koepsell on July 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
Bill Irwin's first collection, _Seinfeld and Philosophy_ was a well put-together set of musings about philosophy regarding the best sit-com ever. This latest compilation ruminates over the best animated series ever. I have been an avid fan of "The Simpsons" since its inception, and a practicing philosopher for the past 4 years. I found this book to be thought-provoking and entertaining.
You're not going to find significant philosophical breakthroughs in this book, and you won't find deep insights by watching "The Simpsons," but as a companion to the show, this book will shed new light on the characters and situations found throughout the series.
Mostly, I would recommend this book to anyone taking a first-year philosophy course who wants to see how philosophy can make fun things more profound, and profound things more fun. Yes, there is fun to be had in serious academia -- it should not all be dry and boring. Irwin has collected a number of papers that make for philosophical fun for all.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By K. Fromal on September 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ever think of Bart Simpson as a Heideggerian thinker? Ever wonder which Simpsons cast member is the most moral? Ever ponder what to make of the religious characters in Springfield? After reading The Simpsons and Philosophy, these ideas will certainly spring to mind the next time you catch a new episode or rerun of The Simpsons!
Many Americans regard the popularity of the long-running hit animated series, The Simpsons, as evidence of the demise of American values and intellectualism. This collection of philosophical essays about Springfield proves that not only is this view incorrect, but perhaps narrow-minded as well. The Simpsons is not a cartoon for children, but rather a satire of society in general. The authors choose topics that arise from various episodes of the series, and use these stories to elucidate important philosophical concepts for the reader.
My favorite essay concerns Lisa Simpson, and the contrasts between her portrayals of an intellectual but still a little girl. The essay helped me understand better the concept of intellectualism in American society, and also Lisa's role on the show.
Overall, this book is a humorous, off-kilter look at what is perhaps the funniest (and maybe even most intellectual!) show on television today.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jason on November 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
The cover of the book prominently features the following quotation from Publisher's Weekly: "Each essay provides a hilarious but incisive springboard to some aspect of philosophy." The first part of this statement is false. None of the essays are funny, let alone hilarious. Many of the essays are, however, in addition to being a "springboard to some aspect of philosophy," interesting, relevant, and thought provoking. I especially enjoyed the essays "Homer and Aristotle" by Raja Halwani, "Lisa and American Anti-intellectualism" by Aeon J. Skoble, "Thus Spake Bart: On Nietzsche and the Virtues of Being Bad" by Mark T. Conard, "Springfield Hypocrisy" by Jason Holt, and also "Enjoying the So-called `Iced Cream': Mr. Burns, Satan, and Happiness" by Daniel Barwick. The 15th essay, "The Function of Fiction" The Heuristic Value of Homer" by Jennifer L. McMahon was interesting and well-written, but really has nothing to do with The Simpsons specifically. This essay should have been the first essay in the book, to set the tone for the rest of the book and also to show why the analytical essays included in the book are worth writing and reading.
This is the 2nd book I read in the Philosophy and Popular Culture series, after the recently released The Matrix and Philosophy. Compared to the essays collected in that book, the essays here are much less profound and much less relevant to the stated subject. A few of the essays in The Matrix and Philosophy really have nothing to do with The Matrix, and probably 4-8 of the 18 essays in The Simpsons and Philosophy would be just as good without any Simpsons references, which suggests that they're really not about The Simpsons at all.
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