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Introducing Philosophy Through Pop Culture From Socrates to Star Wars and Beyond

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2022-04-11
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

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Supplemental Materials

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Can Wonder Woman help us understand feminist philosophy? How Does Wakandan technology transcend anti-Blackness? What can Star Trek teach us about the true nature of reality? 

Introducing Philosophy Through Pop Culture makes important philosophical concepts and the work of major philosophers relevant, fun, and exciting. Using engaging examples from film and television, this easy-to-read book covers everything from basic metaphysics and epistemology to abstract and complex philosophical ideas about ethics and the meaning of life. You don’t have to be a pop culture expert to benefit from this book—even a general awareness of cultural icons like Superman or Harry Potter will be more than enough for you to learn about a wide range of philosophical notions, thinkers, and movements. 

The expanded second edition offers timely coverage of important topics such as race, gender, personal identity, social justice, and environmental ethics. New essays explore the philosophical underpinnings of The Good Place, Game of Thrones, Black Panther, Star Wars, The Avengers, South Park, The Lego Movie, The Big Bang Theory, and more. This edition is supported by a new website with links to primary philosophical texts, information about all the popular culture discussed, and additional resources for teachers, students, and general readers alike. 

  • Features a selection of key essays from the bestselling Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series 
  • Draws on examples from popular media including The Matrix, Lost, Doctor Strange, The Hobbit, Westworld, and Star Trek 
  • Explains philosophical concepts such as relativism, skepticism, existentialist ethics, logic, social contract theory, utilitarianism, and mind-body dualism 
  • Discusses the ideas of Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Marx, Mill, Kierkegaard, and other important thinkers 

Introducing Philosophy Through Pop Culture is an excellent supplementary textbook for introductory philos for introductory philosophy courses and a valuable resource for general readers wanting to learn about philosophy and its connections with pop culture. 

Author Biography

WILLIAM IRWIN is a Professor of Philosophy at King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He originated the philosophy and pop culture genre of books with Seinfeld and Philosophy in 1999. He is General Editor of the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series and the author of The Meaning of Metallica: Ride the Lyrics.

DAVID KYLE JOHNSON is a Professor of Philosophy at King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is Editor of Inception and Philosophy and Black Mirror and Philosophy, and is Editor-in-Chief of The Palgrave Handbook of Popular Culture as Philosophy.

Table of Contents

Notes on Contributors xi

Acknowledgments xvii

Sources xix

Introduction 1

Part I: What is Philosophy? 3

Socrates and the Spirit of Philosophy

1 Flatulence and Philosophy: A Lot of Hot Air, or the Corruption of Youth? 5
William W. Young, III

Logic and Fallacies

2 The Chewbacca Defense: A South Park Logic Lesson 14
Robert Arp

Relativism and Truth

3 Wikiality, Truthiness, and Gut Thinking: Doing Philosophy Colbert Style 23
David Kyle Johnson

Part II: Epistemology 35

Introduction 35

The Ethics of Belief

4 You Know, I Learned Something Today: Stan Marsh and the Ethics of Belief 37
Henry Jacoby


5 Tumbling Down the Rabbit Hole: Knowledge, Reality, and the Pit of Skepticism 44
Matt Lawrence

Definition of Knowledge

6 Adama’s True Lie: Earth and the Problem of Knowledge 54
Eric J. Silverman

7 Wakandan Resources: The Epistemological Reality of Black Panther’s Fiction 62
Ruby Komic

Part III: Metaphysics 71

Introduction 71

The Nature of Reality

8 Life on a Holodeck: What Star Trek Can Teach Us About the True Nature of Reality 73
Dara Fogel

Mind and Body

9 Astral Bodies and Cartesian Souls: Mind–Body Dualism in Doctor Strange 82
Dean A. Kowalski

10 Mind and Body in Zion 90
Matt Lawrence

Personal Identity

11 Amnesia, Personal Identity, and the Many Lives of Wolverine 101
Jason Southworth

Freedom and Determinism

12 The Consolation of Bilbo: Providence and Free Will in Middle-Earth 107
Grant Sterling

13 Inception and Free Will: Are They Compatible? 115
John R. Fitzpatrick and David Kyle Johnson

Consciousness and Artificial Intelligence

14 Turing’s Dream and Searle’s Nightmare in Westworld 123
Lucia Carrillo González

15 What is it Like to Be a Host? 128
Bradley Richards

Time Travel

16 The Time Travel in Avengers: Endgame 136
David Kyle Johnson

Part IV: Philosophy of Religion 145

Introduction 145

The Problem of Evil

17 South Park, Cartmanland, and the Problem of Evil 147
David Kyle Johnson

The Existence of God

18 Hidden Mickeys and the Hiddenness of God 156
Robert K. Garcia and Timothy Pickavance


19 The Jedi Knights of Faith: Anakin, Luke, and Soren (Kierkegaard) 164
William A. Lindenmuth

Part V: Ethics 173

Introduction 173

Utilitarianism and Deontology

20 Why Doesn’t Batman Kill the Joker? 175
Mark D. White

21 Means, Ends, and the Critique of Pure Superheroes 183
J. Robert Loftis

Virtue Ethics

22 Can Eleanor Really Become a Better Person? (The Good Place) 191
Eric J. Silverman and Zachary Swanson


23 “You’re a Sucky, Sucky Friend”: Seeking Aristotelian Friendship in The Big Bang Theory 198
Dean A. Kowalski


24 “You Are Asking Me to Be Rational”: Stoic Philosophy and the Jedi Order 207
Matt Hummel

Part VI: Challenges to Traditional Ethics 215

Introduction 215

Nietzschean Critique

25 Rediscovering Nietzsche’s Űbermensch in Superman as a Heroic Ideal 217
Arno Bogaerts

Existentialist Ethics

26 Knowing Who You Are: Existence Precedes Essence in Moana 228
William J. Devlin

Feminist Critique

27 Becoming a (Wonder) Woman: Feminism, Nationalism, and the Ambiguity of Female Identity 236
J. Lenore Wright

28 The Silence of Our Mother: Eywa as the Voice of Feminine Care Ethics (Avatar) 245
George A. Dunn and Nicolas Michaud

Environmental Ethics

29 “Everything Is Backwards Now”: Avatar, Anthropocentrism, and Relational Reason 253
Jeremy David Bendik-Keymer

Part VII: Social and Political Philosophy 263

Introduction 263

Social Contract Theory

30 Maester Hobbes Goes to King’s Landing (Game of Thrones) 265
Greg Littmann

31 Lost’s State of Nature 273
Richard Davies


32 Federation Trekonomics: Marx, the Federation, and the Shift from Necessity to Freedom 284
Jeff Ewing


33 Superman and Justice 292
Christopher Robichaud


34 Cartman Shrugged: South Park and Libertarian Philosophy 299
Paul A. Cantor


35 Ninjas, Kobe Bryant, and Yellow Plastic: The LEGO Minifigure and Race 311
Roy T. Cook

36 When Tech Meets Tradition: How Wakandan Technology Transcends Anti-Blackness 321
Timothy E. Brown

Political Manipulation

37 Black Mirror and Political Manipulation: How Are We Tricked into Dehumanizing Others? 329
Bertha Alvarez Manninen

The #MeToo Movement

38 Black Mirror and #DeathTo: What Are the Consequences of Trial by Twitter? 338
Aline Maya

Part VIII: Eastern Views 349

Introduction 349

39 The Brick, the Plate, and the Uncarved Block: LEGO as an Expression of the Dao 351
Steve Bein

40 LEGO, Impermanence, and Buddhism 359
David Kahn

41 Zen and the Art of Imagineering: Disney’s Escapism Versus Buddhism’s Liberation 367
Steve Bein

Part IX: The Afterlife and Meaning 375

Introduction 375

An Afterlife Gives Meaning

42 Beyond Godric’s Hollow: Life After Death and the Search for Meaning (Harry Potter) 377
Jonathan L. Walls and Jerry L. Walls

An Afterlife Wouldn’t Give Meaning

43 Why it Wouldn’t be Rational to Believe You’re in The Good Place (and Why You Wouldn’t Want to Be Anyway) 384
David Kyle Johnson

Index 393

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