Friday, March 26, 2010

Irwin, William. "Fancy Taking a Pop?" THE PHILOSOPHERS' MAGAZINE March 22, 2010.

Ten years have passed since the publication of Seinfeld and Philosophy. That book led to the Simpsons and Philosophy, which led to The Matrix and Philosophy, which has led to an ever-expanding list of books that take philosophy to the general public by discussing the subject in terms of pop culture. Despite the success of this mission, misperceptions and misdirected criticisms of the “and Philosophy” books persist. While I’ve dealt with nearly all of the criticisms before, they seem to warrant address again. (I can only speak for the books that I edited during my time with Open Court and the books in my current series with Blackwell.) Some philosophers are concerned that the “and Philosophy” books will hurt the public perception of philosophy, that the books misrepresent philosophy as trivial and frivolous. This fear is misplaced. Philosophy has had a public relations problem for a few centuries now, but it has nothing to do with philosophy being trivial or frivolous. Rather, people mistakenly think philosophy is some dry, dusty, irrelevant academic subject taught by bearded professors in tweed jackets with suede patches on the elbows. Books in my series aim to correct that misperception by showing people how philosophy is relevant. Philosophy can and should guide our lives. And there is no reason to think that the public perception of philosophy is changing to regard it as a frivolous discipline as a result of these books. Sometimes people think that philosophy is just plain bullshit, but that has nothing to do with “and Philosophy” books. In fact these books have convinced lots of people that philosophy is not bullshit by educating them about what philosophy actually is. The audience for these books is the general public. Sadly, most students go through four years of college without taking a single philosophy course, and the result is a philosophically illiterate society. The aim of these books, then, is to take philosophy to people who might not otherwise be exposed to philosophy. People think better and more critically about things they like and are interested in, whether it be sports, movies, rap music, whatever. The hope is that if we can get them to think philosophically about these things they will come to see the value of philosophy in itself. To paraphrase a British philosopher, we use a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. . . . Read the rest here:

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