Thursday, January 24, 2008

Philosophy and popular culture: what's been done, what can be done

Below I have lists titles from the Popular Culture and Philosophy series published by Open Court and Blackwell. The series began at Open Court under Bill Irwin. Irwin moved to Blackwell in 2006 and started a series there, while George Reisch continued the original series at Open Court.

Studying the lists brings up some observations

  • No one has tried Britney Spears and Philosophy yet although its bound to be a seller. Molly tells me that "Britney Spears" has been the most popular search on Yahoo for something like seven years running.
  • The biggest forces in popular culture are actually too sensitive and complex for this sort of work. No one has yet tried Pornography and Philosophy, Evangelical Christianity and Philosophy, or Capitalism and Philosophy, although Mel Gibson's Passion and Philosophy comes close. Notice also that it is the only one to mention controversy in the title.
  • Open Court started really cranking these out under Reisch.
  • Most titles are still about movies and TV shows, with some about bands. Other parts of culture are underrepresented. We have two games (baseball and poker) a diet (Atkins) a brand name (Harley Davidson) and an attempt to cash in on the success of Harry Frankfurt's On Bullshit.

The Open Court Series Under Bill Irwin

  • Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book about Everything and Nothing (2000)
  • The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer (2001)
  • The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real (2002)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale (2003)
  • The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy: One Book to Rule Them All (2003)
  • Baseball and Philosophy: Thinking Outside the Batter's Box (2004)
  • The Sopranos and Philosophy: I Kill Therefore I Am (2004)
  • Woody Allen and Philosophy: You Mean My Whole Fallacy is Wrong? (2004)
  • Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts (2004)
  • Mel Gibson's Passion and Philosophy: The Cross, the Questions, the Controversy (2004)
  • More Matrix and Philosophy: Revolutions and Reloaded Decoded (2005)
  • Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine (2005)
  • Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way (2005)
  • The Atkins Diet and Philosophy: Chewing the Fat with Kant and Nietzsche (2005)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy: The Lion, the Witch, and the Worldview (2005)
  • Hip Hop and Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason (2005)
The Open Court Series Under George Reisch
  • Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Thinking) (2006)
  • Harley-Davidson and Philosophy: Full-Throttle Aristotle (2006)
  • Monty Python and Philosophy: Nudge Nudge, Think Think! (2006)
  • Poker and Philosophy: Pocket Rockets and Philosopher Kings (2006)
  • U2 and Philosophy: How to Decipher an Atomic Band (2006)
  • The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless (2006)
  • James Bond and Philosophy: Questions Are Forever (2006)
  • Bullshit and Philosophy: Guaranteed to Get Perfect Results Every Time (2006)
  • The Beatles and Philosophy: Nothing You Can Think That Can't Be Thunk (2006)
  • South Park and Philosophy: Bigger, Longer, and More Penetrating (2007)
  • Hitchcock and Philosophy: Dial M for Metaphysics (2007)
  • The Grateful Dead and Philosophy: Getting High Minded about Love and Haight (2007)
  • Quentin Tarantino and Philosophy: How to Philosophize with a Pair of Pliers and a Blowtorch (2007)
  • Pink Floyd and Philosophy: Careful with that Axiom, Eugene! (2007)
  • Johnny Cash and Philosophy (forthcoming 2008)
  • Bruce Springsteen and Philosophy (forthcoming 2008)
  • Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy (forthcoming 2008)
The Blackwell Series under Bill Irwin
  • The Office and Philosophy (2008)
  • Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy (feat. me!) (2008)
  • Lost and Philosophy (2007)
  • 24 and Philosophy (2007)
  • The Daily Show and Philosophy(2007)
  • Family Guy and Philosophy (2007)
  • Metallica and Philosophy (2007)
  • South Park and Philosophy(2006)


Robert Seddon said...

No one has yet tried Pornography and Philosophy

Timo Airaksinen's The Philosophy of the Marquis de Sade isn't really 'popular philosophy', but it isn't that abstruse either. So there is yet hope.

Rich said...

Very interesting. One thing I noticed while looking at the Buffy volume is that all the authors are academics. It seems that "popular philosophy" still means "philosophy done by experts for you to watch from the sidelines"...

Anonymous said...

You should note that Open Court Press has been approached by numerous people to do books like: Blues and Philosophy or Jazz and Philosophy.

Open Court has declined to publish these books because - in their estimation - the books' topics are too broad and wouldn't likely be attractive to a large number of people.

So, your suggestion that they haven't tried titles like Pornography and Philosophy might be unfounded. They could have been approached by someone to publish the book but declined. (I can't speak for Blackwell.)

The Britney book might spark some interest!

Narya said...

What? Unless Eric Alterman or Dave Marsh is doing the Springsteen book, then they should have contacted me, and they have not. And, hell, I actually have an undergraduate philosophy degree, most of a philosophy MA, and a political science/theory Ph.D., so I gots the creds. Plus? More than 25 Bruce concerts. Clearly they're not serious about this . . .