The Hunger Games and Philosophy: A Critique of Pure Treason Paperback – Feb 28 2012
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From the Back Cover
Can entertainment be dangerous?
Do ordinary moral rules apply in the arena?
Can philosophy help Katniss decide between Gale and Peeta?
Could muttations someday become a reality?
Can the world of the Hunger Games shine a light into the dark corners of our own world? Katniss Everdeen is "the girl who was on fire," but she is also the girl who makes us think, dream, question authority, and rebel. The postapocalyptic world of Panem's twelve districts is a divided society on the brink of war and struggling to survive, while the Capitol lives in the lap of luxury and pure contentment. At every turn in the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and their many allies wrestle with harrowing choices and ethical dilemmas that push them to the brink. This thoughtful guide draws on the work of Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Charles Darwin, and other engaging philosophical thinkers to take you deeper into the story. It gives you new insights into the Hunger Games series and its key characters, plot lines, and themes, including war, authenticity, social class, personal identity, altruism, gender, art, fashion, and moral choice.
To learn more about the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series, visit www.andphilosophy.com
About the Author
George A. Dunn is a lecturer at the University of Indianapolis and the Ningbo Institute of Technology, Zhejiang University, China. He edited True Blood and Philosophy and contributed to Twilight and Philosophy, Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy, and Mad Men and Philosophy.
Nicolas Michaud is an instructor of philosophy at the University of North Florida and has contributed to Twilight and Philosophy, Final Fantasy and Philosophy, 30 Rock and Philosophy, and Green Lantern and Philosophy.
William Irwin is a professor of philosophy at King's College. He originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books as coeditor of the bestselling The Simpsons and Philosophy and has overseen recent titles, including House and Philosophy, Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy, and Mad Men and Philosophy.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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
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.
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."
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.