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The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer [Library Binding]

William Irwin , Mark T. Conard , Aeon J. Skoble
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 5 2008 143529548X 978-1435295483 Reprint
This unconventional and lighthearted introduction to the ideas of the major Western philosophers examines The Simpsons - TV's favorite animated family. The authors look beyond the jokes, the crudeness, the attacks on society - and see a clever display of irony, social criticism, and philosophical thought. The writers begin with an examination of the characters. Does Homer actually display Aristotle's virtues of character? In what way does Bart exemplify American pragmatism? The book also examines the ethics and themes of the show, and concludes with discussions of how the series reflects the work of Aristotle, Marx, Camus, Sartre, and other thinkers.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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No doubt Aristotle just rolled over in his grave on the release of The Simpsons and Philosophy. An essay called "Homer and Aristotle" would appear to be a treatise on two ancient Greek thinkers; in this case, it is 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 neighbourly love. The book has a lot to say about the Simpsons and even more to say about philosophy.

The Simpsons and Philosophy 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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dont be fooled by the title May 18 2004
I bought this book expecting a light hearted read. Being an avid fan of the Simpsons, I was keen to study the characters from a tongue in cheek, philosophical perspective...
However, what you actually get with this book is a series of philosophical essays that reference the Simpsons' characters occasionally in order to relate the subject matter to the average reader, and to stop their mind from wandering.
In summary, if you want to learn a little about philosophy without weighing in at the deep end, then this is the book for you. If you are picking up this book because you are a fan of the series or want to learn more about the Simpsons, dig a little deeper.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A generally good, if uneven, collection May 4 2004
"The Simpsons and Philosophy" is a collection of essays written by different authors that vary in quality and style. The thrust is the introduction of aspects of philosophy through an analysis of the characters and stories in "The Simpsons." In this regard the book is mostly interesting and informative. A big chunk of it (Part II and much of Part IV) wasn't philosophy at all, but rather "literary" criticism that I didn't much care for -- the worst essay in the collection being the Marxist hissy-fit. Moreover, despite disclaimers throughout the text, there was an assumption of intent on the part of the script writers that, by listening to the voice-overs on the DVDs, one finds isn't really there.
For all the above, I would have rated this book 3 stars. However, the essay "The Function of Fiction" was outstanding and worth the price of the book alone. This essay spent a lot of time away from the Simpsons in particular, but ultimately gave the best argument why the show is so great.
For readers looking for a light read about their favorite show, this book isn't the place to go. But for people who love the Simpsons on all its levels, this book has its place.
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4.0 out of 5 stars You not like this book? That's unpossible! Jan. 14 2004
Any true Simpsons fan will recognize that as tribute to Ralph Wiggum's "Me fail english? That's unpossible!" line. Reading The D'oh of Homer, you will recognize the subtle humor that has become a trademark of the series. The book is split into essays covering a goodly range of topics, each of which reference specific Simpsons episodes and characters to make their arguments.
Largely unpretentious and entertaining as philosophy can probably get is the deal here. An inadvertant plus to this book is that the reader can see philosophic models thousands of years old implented into modern day situations via the Simpsons episodes they know so well. Philosophies of government, religion, and humanity are displayed here, along with subjects that don't get much play elsewhere, such as American anti-intelletualism and the parody. If you are a regular watcher of the Simpsons, chances are you already have the subject material committed to heart; this book reveals the school of thought behind the more profound concepts of the show.
All in all, this book is definitely worth a look. Check it out.
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5.0 out of 5 stars sheer genius! April 30 2003
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!
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2.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointing Simpsons Cash-In Jan. 14 2003
I am a huge fan of the Simpsons, and had high hopes for this book. Unfortunately, it falls far short of my expectations. Slogging through the essays soon became a painful experience.
As an 11th grade AP English student, if I turned in essays of the caliber of the essays contained within this book, there is no way that I would pass the class. The writing of The Simpsons and Philosophy is extremely amateurish, with mistakes that every decent high school writer could avoid with ease.
In just one essay, by Deborah Knight, called Popular Parody: The Simpsons Meets the Crime Film, the author begins a paragraph with "You will remember how this episode goes." She then continues spends an entire 3 paragraphs summarizing the episode! Of course I remember how this episode goes, and I'm willing to bet that anyone that would spend [money] on a book about The Simpsons and philosophy has seen every episode. Simpsons fans are an obsessive bunch, and the authors, while no doubt intelligent, are obviously not true fans and do not understand the show. The summarization itself would not have been a huge problem, but there was not a single witty or clever idea interwoven into the bland retelling. From the same essay, the author writes "I probably don't have to spell out that this cereal exploits the name given to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassic.." You probably don't have to, but you did it anyway. ..Why? The essay contains amateurish mistakes such as starting sentences with "I think.." Obviously the author "thinks" this way or it wouldn't be an argument in her essay.. While seemingly simple mistakes, they begin adding up fast and detracting from the overall feel of the book. The essay by Mrs. Knight is just an example that I read soon before writing this review.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great gift
Bought as a gift for my husband who loves the Simpsons and learning about Philosophy! He was very happy to get it and enjoyed the book.
Published 5 months ago by Lisa
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book of the series
I am a fan of this series in general - particularly this volume, the one on the Matrix, and the one on the Lord of the Rings - and I avidly await the upcoming volume on philosophy... Read more
Published on Oct. 8 2008 by Jack Blatant
5.0 out of 5 stars In a breathy voice....excellent...!
I don't usually write reviews (OK never), but I read this book and it killed me. Some of it was just plain bad; I got the feeling that the editor didn't have the heart to tell his... Read more
Published on April 5 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars More Simpsons Please
This book was less about how philosophy relates to the Simpsons than it was how the Simpsons relate to philosophy. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars this book was entertaining maybe "best book ever"
If you love the simpsons and think you can handle a book at this reading level then buy it for Willie's sake. Read more
Published on Oct. 24 2003 by sean
2.0 out of 5 stars A little dry for my taste
If you are a student of philosophy and know what logical positivism is and who Immanuel Kant was, then you will enjoy this. If you are just a Simpsons buff, probably not.
Published on April 7 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars MMMM--Philosophy
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... Read more
Published on April 1 2003 by Kevin Fontenot
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes it easy for the non-genius to understand
I got this book for Christmas and I read the first five essays in two days, it was a very good read. Read more
Published on Feb. 9 2003 by Darrell Fawley, III
4.0 out of 5 stars First 3/4 of the book is good.
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. Read more
Published on Jan. 28 2003 by B. Bounous
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