Philosophy and popular culture

William Irwin, series editor of the Philosophy and Pop Culture books, has recently published a defence of the books that seek to discuss philosophical issues in an accessible way though an examination of works of popular culture. The series spans a number of different popular culture categories such as TV shows, movies and music. Titles include: The Matrix and Philosophy, Star Wars and Philosophy and The Wizard of Oz and Philosophy. Irwin argues that his series shows how philosophy can be made relevant to ordinary life. In addition the series offers an accessible introduction to philosophical ideas that may not otherwise find their way to a mainstream audience. Irwin claims that philosophy should be popularised and qualified individuals should be responsible for this popularisation rather than amateurs.

Irwin claims that certain films, such as Star Wars and Twilight, can provide various examples to illustrate philosophical theories. The popularity of major films can make them good subject matter with which to raise a number of philosophical issues. For these reasons it doesn’t matter whether the target work of pop culture is serious or not but instead how many people are interested in considering the work in relation to philosophical topics. The books aim to find something philosophically valuable to say about the works which can add to the appreciation of these works. The series is intended to supplement the philosophical texts and not replace it. Irwin is clear that the approach taken is certainly not one of studying popular culture as philosophy but instead to use it to illustrate a philosophical point. In response to criticisms of quality Irwin claims that there are a far greater number of submissions for each volume than can be published which necessitates a selection process.

In light of these arguments Irwin calls for tolerance (if not support) by academic departments for staff who contribute to this series. In his estimation the series provides a valuable contribution by promoting philosophy to a larger audience and by aiding in the teaching of philosophical ideas.

Related articles:
Recent Work on Cinema as Philosophy
Paisley Livingston , Lingnan University
(Vol. 3, June 2008)
Philosophy Compass

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