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The Hunger Games and Philosophy: A Critique of Pure Treason Paperback – Feb 28 2012


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Amazon.com: 12 reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Do you find yourself with THE HUNGER for philosophy? Then let the ESSAYS begin! Feb. 26 2012
By John V. Karavitis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The release of this latest entry in Wiley-Blackwell's "Philosophy and Popular Culture" series is timed to slightly precede (by about a month) the theatrical release of the movie based on Suzanne Collins' trilogy "The Hunger Games". Per an alleged movie review on IMDB, the movie is spectacular and does justice to the trilogy. In likewise fashion, so does this collection of essays. Wiley-Blackwell stays true to its formula of covering a wide number of philosophical themes with well-written and readable essays. The book exhibits the typical attention to detail and structure that I have come to expect of entries in this series. In the "Notes" section at the end of each essay, the reader will typically be directed to other essays within the collection that develop specific issues in greater detail. Having never read the Hunger Games trilogy, I was somewhat apprehensive about whether I would be able to follow the discussions well enough to appreciate the attention given to the philosophical themes. Rest assured, the essays are so well-written that this is not an issue. In fact, readers coming to this collection of essays with no foreknowledge of the trilogy will come away feeling as though they had read it, even lived through it. Those who have read the trilogy, and even those who will only see the movie, will enjoy this book immensely.

This collection of nineteen essays is divided into seven sections, with the following topics: (1) art, music, and metaphor; (2) morality; (3) science; (4) the ethics of caring and gender; (5) authenticity and identity; (6) warfare; and (7) political philosophy. Overall, the essays were well-written, even interesting, and definitely enlightening. The best of these essays either demonstrated parallels in the development of philosophical ideas with the character development of the protagonists through the course of the trilogy, or found sharp contrasts between the behaviors of the protagonists and antagonists and developed philosophical themes accordingly.

A few essays, however, did miss the mark.

(1)Andrew Shaffer's "The Joy of Watching Others Suffer: Schadenfreude and the Hunger Games" felt more like social commentary and a simple re-hash of the storyline. It felt a bit "all over the place".

(2)Jason T. Eberl's "No Mutt Is Good - Really? Creating Interspecies Chimeras" takes a look at the ethics of creating hybrids and chimeras. Unfortunately, it was mere social commentary on the potential dangers of this science, and did not explore and develop any philosophical themes. Given the pervasive use of such creatures by the Capitol, it's unfortunate that this theme was not done justice.

(3)Louis Melancon's "Starting Fires Can Get You Burned: The Just-War Tradition and the Rebellion against the Capitol" looked at when a war could be considered a "just" war. An excellent essay, but it read like a textbook entry, and no philosophers. Hugo Grotius, Hugo Grotius! Paging Hugo Grotius!

(4)Andrew Zimmerman Jones' "The Tribute's Dilemma: The Hunger Games and Game Theory" was an excellent essay, but it too read more like a textbook entry. The online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy mentions Plato and Hobbes in their entry on "game theory" (hint hint). In addition, I feel that this essay should have been in Part (3) and not Part (6).

Don't get me wrong. The themes that these essays identified were relevant. It's just that I feel that more could have been done to do the chosen themes justice.

A few essays were very good.

(1)Brian McDonald's "The Final Word on Entertainment: Mimetic and Monstrous Art in the Hunger Games" looked at the use of art as an instrument of social and political control. Mr. McDonald invoked Aristotle's "Poetics" and Phillip Rieff's ideas on art as "de-creation", and contrasted the use of art by those in the Districts and those in the Capitol. It is an enlightening essay.

(2)Jill Olthouse's "I Will Be Your Mockingjay: The Power and Paradox of Metaphor in the Hunger Games Trilogy" applied hermeneutics (the study of the interpretation of texts) and demonstrated how the use of metaphor in the trilogy conveys paradox and complexity. A very interesting essay, albeit one that did not invoke a single philosopher. (And she got away with it!)

(3)Lindsey Issow Averill's "Sometimes the World Is Hungry for People Who Care: Katniss and the Feminist Care Ethic" was truly spectacular. Ms. Averill looked at the development of ethical thought from equating "moral reasoning with impartial or objective thinking" (Kantian impartiality) to feminist care ethics (Carol Gilligan).

(4)Joseph F. Foy's "Safe to Do What: Morality and the War of All Against All in the Arena" was another excellent essay. Mr. Foy looks at morality and war, and goes from Hobbes (survival at all costs) to Kant (morality imposes obligations on us). Again, what makes this an excellent essay is how the author parallels the development of philosophical ideas with how a protagonist (in this case Katniss) develops through the course of the trilogy. In her views on one's conduct in warfare, Katniss goes from a Hobbesian outlook to a Kantian outlook.

This is a fine collection of essays. Hunger satisfied. Five stars. John V. Karavitis
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Beyond the Games: Let the Analysis Begin! April 8 2012
By C. S. Hammond - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
During the course of my research for a paper on the Hunger Games, I found this book had a timely release. The essays it contains are well-written, clear, and utilize a philosophical approach to the novels. This book builds upon and deepens a foundation of research that was started with the anthology known as THE GIRL WHO WAS ON FIRE: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games Trilogy. By collecting essays from a number of academes, this collection is able to delve deeper into much more than was covered in The Girl Who Was On Fire. Still, both books have their merits, but for academic research, The Hunger Games and Philosophy may have a greater academic reception. I particularly found myself drawn to essays contending the morality of the world of Hunger Games, the characters, and even the moral "rightness" of the nature of war. Questions of identity and even gender are explored -- both areas that I am largely concerned with for the purposes of my paper. Overall, a really great collection of essays that draws heavily upon many philosophers and theorists including Kant, Darwin, Einstein, Butler, and Hobbes (to name a few).
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Expands the Series Aug. 12 2012
By Brandon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The best quality of the pop culture and philosophy series is its ability to expand on the source material in a compelling way that makes every subsequent viewing more interesting and intellectually satisfying. This particular edition with the Hunger Games ranks among my favorite among my small collection (Watchmen, Final Fantasy, Matrix, Inception) and every essay is of high quality and is accessible, not overly and overtly, in some cases, enigmatic. I recommend this entertaining and enlightening book, but buy it used! Help conserve the planet you live on!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Excellent companion to shocking themes in Hunger Games June 4 2012
By Ellen C. Dailey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As someone who first rejected the premise upon which 'Hunger Games' was written, I appreciated the extra philosophical comparisons and contrasts of 'The Hunger Games & Philosophy' to help me focus on what young readers are up against as far as viewing reality television is concerned. I am one of the over-50 crowd and don't have much time for TV. The extreme disparity between the people of the Capitol and the people of the Districts was unsettling in the film version, but clearly necessary for the heroine to grow and develop into a compassionate individual and make a difference/create change when the odds did not seem in her favor. I walked out of the movie unnerved; however, after reading the trilogy and using the 'Critique of Pure Treason' to reconnect with how a younger audience may view televised social situations, as well as the possibility of having to defend themselves against an enemy (for whatever reason), I had a clearer understanding of why Ms. Collins wrote her books. Her ability to use the subject of media manipulation of an audience/population was exceptional. After all, reality TV aside, aren't relentless commercials used to maneuver us into how we see ourselves, which products to purchase, to encourage us to behave in a certain manner? This has been going on forever, but it was made extraordinarily extreme in 'Hunger Games'. Although I do not see the possibility of a 'Hunger Games' in our near future, I can see the development of freedom of expression through alterations and enhancements of our individual bodies gaining traction. There is a huge gap between what is considered high fashion and the opposing desire to look, feel and "be" natural. Consider the prep teams who were convinced that physical enhancements were meant to be beautiful and their wholehearted, yet misguided desire to alter Katniss physically.
Although society will always have its President Snow's, Seneca Crane's and future soldiers like Gale Hawthorn, it will also have an abundance of Katniss Everdeen's and Peeta Mellark's to push back against those who hunger for power, war, and subjugation of another population less powerful (or different in any way). I am convinced that our society will remain compassionate, intelligent, insightful and inclusive based on actions brought about by our hope, generosity and love of our fellow man, regardless of the love of competition that has always been popular in our society and that has been made even stronger with the advent of reality TV. I think that Katniss and Peeta may go down in literary history as excellent character studies and 'Hunger Games' may even become recommended reading in our schools like 'Lord of the Flies', '1984', and 'Brave New World' were for us in the 60's and 70's. Perhaps 'Hunger Games' is a much needed update on the possibility of a dystopian society in our future. Perhaps it is necessary for each generation to be reminded that it is important to remain compassionate, skilled, intelligent, aware and empowered in order to resist a society that develops a twisted and insatiable desire for brutal competition. To live in fear of being pitted against another human being for no other reason than entertainment is a frightening premise to use in young adult literature; however, the impact of 'Hunger Games' seems alarmingly important.
E.C.D.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Real World Issues Oct. 9 2012
By Alan D. Cranford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Susan Collins' The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxed Set was entertainment, but the author expressed hope that her readers would think about the issues raised in her books. The 19 chapters in "The Hunger Games--A Critique of Pure Treason" is the thoughts raised by the issues in Collins' trilogy.
Here I will only examine one of the essays, Chapter 15, "Starting Fires Can Get You Burned; The Just-War Tradition and the Rebellion against the Capitol." Louis Melancon defined two viewpoints (Pacifism and Political Realism) and discussed the Just-War Tradition. He began by warning that Katniss and company won't measure up: "...we need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that the just-war tradition may not give an unqualified endorsement of every aspect of their conduct."
Nobody's perfect!
Melancon states that Comparative Justice and Competent Authority are potential problems for the rebels. On the other hand, the jus post bellum was lacking in the Treaty of Treason. Had that treaty simply been limited to murdering 24 children per year, two tributes from each district, then the principle of Proportionality would question whether the hundreds of thousands who would perish in the Rebellion was an excessive cost for saving less than two thousand children over 75 years of the Treaty of Treason. But the Capitol didn't merely exact that gruesome price from the twelve districts. Life in the Districts was short and brutal. Starvation killed thousands of children per year--and other people as well. Medical care? A joke. Industrial safety? How about the military occupation by the Peacekeepers? Readers of Susan Collins' "The Hunger Games" trilogy can come up with their own laundry list. By failing to impose a `just peace' the Capitol sowed the seeds of rebellion. Of course, President Snow can simply blame Coin and the `eradicated' District 13!
"A Critique of Pure Treason" can facilitate one of Susan Collins' goals--that the events in "The Hunger Games" stimulate thinking about the real-world issues raised in those three books. Of course, the primary goal was entertainment.


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