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The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer

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 Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer

by William Irwin (Editor), Mark T. Conard (Editor), Aeon J. Skoble (Editor)
Paperback: 303 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.70 x 9.00 x 6.02
Publisher: Open Court Publishing Company; (April 9, 2001)
ISBN: 0812694333

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Editorial Reviews
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.

From Booklist
Does Homer Simpson embody the Socratic ideal of virtue? Sadly, no, but in one of 18 essays on the long-running cartoon series, Raja Halwani investigates, from a Socratic perspective, why we all find Homer so humorous and charming. From "Thus Spake Bart," an essay comparing Bart, the bad boy of Springfield, and Nietzsche, philosophy's ultimate bad boy, to explication of the aesthetic philosophy of the allusions the show is famous for making, the book is consistently successful. Even the impenetrable Immanuel Kant becomes outright hilarious in a rollicking analysis of the virtue of duty in Springfield. The Simpsons has received serious attention in the past, most notably David Foster Wallace's analysis of Simpsonian meta-irony in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (1997). Like Wallace's book, these pieces make erudite concepts accessible by viewing things through the lens of a great cartoon series. Perhaps The Simpsons' creators will be inspired by this book to include a philosophy professor with a weakness for brilliantly funny TV shows in Springfield's ever-growing population of eccentrics. John Green
Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved

Professor David Carrier, Carnegie Mellon University
"The authors in this volume really immerse themselves in The Simpsons, and the result is this absolutely unique book. Go for it!"

Professor Per Broman, Butler University, Indianapolis
"Not only is The Simpsons and Philosophy highly educational, it enhances the viewing and re-viewing of the Simpsons episodes..."

Tom Morris, author of If Aristotle Ran General Motors
"What a great book! The chapters are by turns fun, profound, and instructive. You'll be surprised at what wisdon lurks in these pages."

Mark I. Pinsky, author of The Gospel According to The Simpsons
"The Simpsons and Philosophy is a great place to begin any program in Simpsons studies. A serious look at a funny subject."

About the Author
William Irwin is professor of philosophy at King's College, Pennsylvania. Mark Conard is a freelance writer in Philadelphia. Aeon Skoble is professor of philosophy at West Point and editor of the journal Reason Papers.

Book Description
The Simpsons is one of the most literary and intelligent comedies on television today-fertile ground for questions such as: Does Nietzsche justify Bart's bad behavior? Is hypocrisy always unethical? What is Lisa's conception of the Good? From the editor of the widely-praised Seinfeld and Philosophy, The Simpsons and Philosophy is an insightful and humorous look at the philosophical tenets of America's favorite animated family that will delight Simpsons fans and philosophy aficionados alike.

Twenty-one philosophers and academics discuss and debate the absurd, hyper-ironic, strangely familiar world that is Springfield, the town without a state. In exploring the thought of key philosophers including Aristotle, Marx, Camus, Sartre, Heidegger, and Kant through episode plots and the characters' antics, the contributors tackle issues like irony and the meaning of life, American anti-intellectualism, and existential rebellion. The volume also includes an episode guide and a chronology of philosophers which lists the names and dates of the major thinkers in the history of philosophy, accompanied by a representative quote from each.


Customer Reviews
It's refreshing to see philosophers put to good work!, September 23, 2002
Reviewer: Daniel L. Graf from Paoli, PA USA

I have been a Simpsons fan from the get-go. I watched the very first episode, the Christmas Special, in the lounge of my freshman dorm, and I have been an enthusiast ever since. The D'oh of Homer, edited by Irwin et al., is an organic product of the attraction the show has to the brainy among us.

The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh of Homer is compilation of Simpsonian essays written by working philosophers (as far as I can tell, "working philosopher" is an oxymoron) on various subjects. The text is divided among four sections: The Characters, Themes, Ethics and The Simpsons and Philosophers. I would propose a secondary classification scheme as well: (1) those essays that use familiar Simpsons personalities and situations as examples within a discussion of philosophical ideas and (2) those that try to extrapolate philosophical meaning from the show itself.

The chapters that I found most enjoyable where those of the former type, the ones that (re)introduced various ethical philosophies or values of critical commentary using the Simpsons to support their positions. Those essays about Nietzsche, American anti-intellectualism, allusion (a topic especially relevant to the Simpsons), and television's sexual politics were among my favorites.

There were some real stinkers, too. A few of the authors of these collected essays seemed to think that a TV show should present a consistent philosophy, which the Simpsons clearly does not.

Overall, I would recommend The Simpsons and Philosophy. For people who have never even thought about philosophy, this book would, in many respects, be a worthwhile introduction. However, as de Tocqueville predicted, some in our democracy will not appreciate such high browed pursuits, even when directed to a cartoon.

Insightful, September 4, 2001
Reviewer: kristinof from Pennsylvania

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.

sheer genius!, April 30, 2003
Reviewer: Kevin Artinian from Whittier CA

Yes, it takes a great mind to dream of such things as the categorical imperative, the examined life, the superman (not Clark Kent), and the virtuous mean. But it takes a different kind of genius to take those great ideas and find them in contemporary entertainment. Now, don't pick this book up expecting the next big thing in philosophy, but instead pick it up to see how real the pre-existing ideas are as we see them incorporated in our favorite characters. The Simpsons has always been meaningful, which is a rare, though certainly not unseen, quality in today's culture. But the great thing is that this book touches on many aspects of that meaning that we might not have noticed. Although some essays are a bit dry, most of them really hit the spot. Homer and Marge are examined for Aristotelian virtue; Bart is revealed to be the antithesis of the Nietzschean ideal in an essay that at first tries to prove the opposite; and the population of Springfield is looked at from a Kantian and from a Marxist point of view, among others. If you're a Simpsons fan, this book will heighten your enjoyment. If you're one of those people who don't "get" philosophy and want to know more, this book is an ideal introduction. Enjoy!

MMMM--Philosophy, April 1, 2003
Reviewer: Kevin S. Fontenot from New Orleans, LA United States

If you ever wonder exactly what all those deep thinkers are really saying, but don't want to plow through their self congratulatory language, and you like the Simpsons, this is the book for you. In applying philosophical schools of thought to various Simpson characters and plots, the authors help explain those basic schools in terms readily understandable to fans of the show. And they underscore what we fans have always known, The Simpsons might just be the most important TV show of our generation.

Makes it easy for the non-genius to understand, February 9, 2003
Reviewer: Darrell Fawley, III from West Point, NY United States

I got this book for Christmas and I read the first five essays in two days, it was a very good read. The book has a way of relating the concepts of philosophy to the life in Springfield and by making that association it is easier to understand what is going on. By discussing Aristotle using Homer as an example and moral values by using Marge and Flanders, I was able to pick up the concepts a lot better. So now, when I sit in my college philosophy course I can think back to what I read and I realize that I already have a good grasp of the concepts because of the book. There are some slow parts toward the end, but it is an overall interesting book for anyone who is interested in both The Simpsons and Philosophy as the title suggests.

First 3/4 of the book is good., January 28, 2003
Reviewer: bones68charger from Chadron, Nebraska United States

For the most part this is a very entertaining book. The first 3/4 of the book is very good the last fouth is boring and should be in a text book not a book like this one. Its worth the money but don't expect the best book you have ever read.

D'oh, January 27, 2003
Reviewer: James Bartoloma from Wynnewood, PA United States

If you're a philosphy head and watch the Simpsons or if you watch the Simpsons and want to make some sense out of philosophy, this is a good book. It is a compilation of essays so some are more lively than others, but on the whole I enjoyed it because it gave all sorts of little tid bits to think about via Simpson character disection, but also, reading about episodes in a way where they are all put together in order to abstract philosophical points of view (impressive considering how many episodes there are and the wide-range of Simpson adventures)makes for an enjoyable trip down philosophy lane with much entertainment value enhancing the experience. For those who are Simpsons or philosophical purists and were not won over: "Don't have a cow!"


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