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Action Philosophers! Paperback – November 11, 2009
New York Times–bestselling author Box Brown untangles the complex history and role games play in art, culture, and commerce. Learn more
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Top Customer Reviews
The pictures and writing are hilarious. You'll be impressed at just how well a mere comic book can illuminate complex ideas. Credit is to be given to writer Fred Van Lente and illustrator Ryan Dunlavey. And their series has been widely praised. One suspects they took a look at previous series like "For Beginners" or "Introducing" which use illustrations to communicate philosophy to students and said "we can do this way better". And also take it to the next level by making original stories with the philosophers as comical (anti-)heroes and do it in a hip, tongue-in-cheek and savvy fashion. Nobody could come up with more imaginative ways to bring philosophy to life and the eccentric characters that shaped "the great conversation of mankind" through this medium.
A couple examples: Picture a beady-eyed, walrus mustachioed Nietzsche reading his philosophy to two innocent young lads for their bed time story. The overjoyed expressions on their beaming, bright eyed little faces in eager anticipation of being read a story by Uncle Fritz. I also got a kick out of Karl Marx: "I kick a$$ for the proles!" He takes one perhaps not-so-lucky boy on a tour of the "splendiferous world of commodities" and demonstrates for us first hand real Communists mean business! Action philosopher indeed. (None of this academic lefty identity politics nonsense for Mr. Marx! is the message of this tale). Oh and Derrida as "The Deconstructor". You get the idea. This is all up there with the legendary Monty Python football match with German philosophers vs. the Greeks. The accurate depiction of Plato's (insane, totalitarian) "utopia" shows that these world historical ideas have often arguably been as crazy and dangerous as any diabolical plans concocted by Marvel Comics villains (tho in fairness to Plato his thought experiment was written for a recently defeated Athens about 2,500 yrs ago). Did you know Plato was a wrestler and he was nicknamed "plato" which means "broad", like as in broad-shouldered?
Indeed our Action Philosophers aren't always depicted as heroic in their epic intellectual achievements so much as fallible, eccentric oddballs. All the greats are given the treatment from the elemental Pre-Socratics to celebrities of the "postmodern", including some mild surprises like Ayn Rand and Joseph Campbell. The piece on Campbell was excellent (and he actually comes across as kinda normal). Freud has his say and we meet non-westerners too like Bodhidharma. But every one of them--and all the greats are treated here--were drawn fairly and not a word was put in a comic book bubble that didn't seem true to their character or inappropriate to their philosophy.
Highly recommended to people that like to laugh and have an interest in philosophy and to those that just like a good comic. But casual readers might very well have an interest in picking up a book by one of these crazy characters after seeing them in action here and who can argue with that?
Further Recs (Beginners): Anthony Appiah's "Thinking It Through" (BEST intro to contemporary philosophy I've ever encountered. There actually IS a reason to read Descartes, Hobbes, Plato, and all those other dead white dudes that relate to topics philosophers are talking about TODAY.)
Further Recs (Intermediate): Bryan Magee's "Confessions of a Philosopher" (You can justify squeezing in a book that's not for class because technically it IS a philosophy book)
Further Recs (Advanced): Scott Soames 2 Vol "Philosophical Analysis in the 20th Century" (If your academic training was anything similar to mine, you were trained in some sort of analytic philosophy. This gives a good bird's eye view of all the faults AND virtues in our mother tongue.)
If everyone had learned philosophy in that smart way I believe much more people wolud be interested on that subject that is so important for our life, to comprehend why we are as we are and why we are here.
I truly recommend this book.
An enjoyable time on reading.