Interview: Philosophy and Pop Culture

We hope you’ll enjoy this brief interview withWilliam Irwin, series editor of the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. In this brief interview, Bill tells us about his passion for getting new people into philosophy, and how the series aims to do that by illuminating traditional philosophical problems with examples from pop culture. The books draw on sources as diverse as Harry Potter, Inception, Game of Thrones, and more.

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to edit The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series?

I’m a huge fan of pop culture in its many forms including movies, TV, and music. Talking about these things has always been a way for me to connect with students in the classroom at King’s College, and it just seemed natural to bring these connections into book form.

What’s the central concern of the series, and why is it important?

The aim is to bring philosophy to people who might not otherwise encounter it, by bringing ancient wisdom and probing inquiry to bear on current movies and TV. Many people already think deeply about their favourite elements of pop culture, so these books give people the philosophical tools and terminology to think more deeply.

And what is it that draws you to this broad area?

I’m passionate about getting people interested in philosophy, and this is one way to do that. “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” as a famous British philosopher once said.

What sort of reaction do you hope the books will get?

So far the reaction has been very positive. Not a week goes by that I don’t get an e-mail from someone telling me how these books have made an impact on their life. More and more, I hear from philosophy majors who first became interested in philosophy by reading one of these books.

What sort of audience did you have in mind for these books?

The books are aimed at smart fans of smart pop culture, the kind of people who really like to discuss and dissect their favourite movies, shows, songs, and video games. They are intended for regular people, not professors :).

Is there another book or series you wish you could claim credit for?

I wish I had written Denis Dutton’s The Art Instinct and Jesse Bering’s The Belief Instinct, two incredibly insightful and elegantly written books. I really like Blackwell’s Big Questions Series. I’ve used the Aesthetics and Metaphysics books very successfully in courses. I’d like to see new volumes on Political Philosophy and Eastern Philosophy in the Big Questions Series.

What’s your current project? What’s next?

The series continues with books in the works on Inception, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Game of Thrones, The Big Bang Theory, and others.

How can someone get in touch with you about an idea for a new volume in the series?

I’m always glad to hear from anyone who has an idea for a new book in the series, whether it’s a pop culture fan who would like to see a certain topic covered or a professor who has an idea for a book he or she would like to edit. Just e-mail me at williamirwin@kings.edu.


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Philosophy Through Film – Interview with the authors

Richard FumertonDiane JeskeWe recently sat down with Richard Fumerton and Diane Jeske (University of Iowa), the editors of Introducing Philosophy Through Film: Key Texts, Discussion, and Film Selections. In this brief interview, they tell us how the book is different from other introductory texts in its class, and about the great reaction the book is already getting in teaching situations.

 

Philosopher’s Eye: Why did you decide to write Introducing Philosophy Through Film?

We discovered over the past several years that we were very often talking about movies in our classes to illustrate more vividly some of the thought experiments that are such an important part of so much of analytic philosophy.  We noticed that students immediately seem to become more engaged as soon as they could relate the philosophical reading to something that they are already used to talking about in more informal contexts with their friends

What’s the central concern of the book, and why is it important?

The book contains readings that give students a really sound introduction to most of the main areas of contemporary philosophy.  It differs from standard introductory texts by pairing those readings with philosophically interesting Continue reading “Philosophy Through Film – Interview with the authors”

First International Blasphemy Day

Blake_The_BlasphemerSeptember 30, 2009, will mark, for many freethinkers, the first international Blasphemy Day. The new holiday–or unholyday–is being promoted by the Center for Free Inquiry (CFI). It will be inaugurated by an art exhibit in Washington DC, a soap-box style “speaker’s corner” in Toronto, and a Blasphemy-Fest! film-viewing in LA, all held at CFI centers.

The date September 30 was chosen to commemorate Continue reading “First International Blasphemy Day”

(Failing) To See or To Remember

HippocampusA few seconds after being shown an image, an amnesiac is asked to find a match for it within a group of new images. She fails to do it. What is wrong with her? Is it just her memory? Does she also have a perceptual problem? How should we distinguish a purely mnemonic from a deficit that is also perceptual?

“Simple,” you might say. “Do a new experiment. Present the amnesiac simultaneously with the sample and the group of images, and ask her to find the match. If she finds it, the deficit is mnemonic. If she doesn’t, it might also be perceptual.”

Unfortunately, things are not as simple as this. Continue reading “(Failing) To See or To Remember”

A “torture” debate

Gitmo_AerialAs a matter of editorial policy, several major media outlets, including The New York Times and NPR, do not use the word “torture” to describe treatment of prisoners in US custody.  This policy has drawn criticism from opponents of US interrogation methods. Continue reading “A “torture” debate”