December 7, 2005
Harry Potter and Philosophy…?

You know what? If you read today’s book review in its entirety, GOOD FOR YOU. I honestly hadn’t planned on it being so long, but that’s what happens when I attempt to write an article at 4 AM while half-asleep! And apologies for the very general comments and analogies used in the course of the review. Naturally, I prefer to use actual quotes from the books to illustrate my points, but seeing as how I had to return this one to the library and didn’t have it in my possession when I wrote it up I kinda had to improvise. Ah well — chalk up any flaws in the review to my obvious attempt to reflect the particular problems of the book itself. 😉

Speaking of long, what the hell is up with these menus on the Harry Potter DVDs? I’m sure there are people out there who love the animated menus and transitions after one makes selections, but I could do without waiting through a minute of film clips every time I want to return to the main menu! Glad I only paid $5.88 apiece for these things.

And we’ve also got another Crayon Haiku! Hurrah!

-posted by Wes | 7:43 am | Comments (4)
  • Naomi says:

    It is true, you could have had more substantial facts in your argument, but it was still a good one. Has to make me wonder just who the intended audience was for such a book.

  • Molly says:

    Instead of its primary title being “Harry Potter and Philosophy”, the book might better be called “Introduction to Philosophy (with Harry Potter)”

    ‘Bout sums it up.

    Sounds like yet another thing they can stick Harry’s name on to try to get sales. The book actually sounds interesting, but since, as you said, it makes half-assed arguments, I think I’ll pass.

    While the books do have their flaws (length being one) I do get a lot out of them. But I’ve never been a part of the whole fandom, nor do I care to be. What I get from them is what I get, I don’t need to be involved in discussions over it or be analyzing it to death. Philosophy is interesting on its own, I’ll give it that.

    Also, the second movie WAS pretty lame. Saw it in the theater, bought it, watched half of it once, never again, it got stolen, actually they all did… and I haven’t bothered to replace them. The movies just don’t do it for me. They’re just… semi-fun entertainment. I hear the fourth one’s the best of all of them but I haven’t seen it yet.

  • Chip says:

    I enjoyed Harry Potter and Philosophy quite a bit. The introduction of the book says that it’s introducing readers to some neat philosophical questions, not settling them, and by using Potter as the foundation for doing so. The book isn’t called The Philosophy OF Harry Potter, but Potter AND Philosophy, so I think it did just what it set out to do. It’s true the mandrakes would have made an interesting essay, but it seems to me that plenty of interesting topics ARE taken up: the slavery of the house elves; the Mirror or Erised; duplicity in the Dursleys; whether ambition’s a virtue. I doubt all this is old hat in standard philosophy courses. Rather than criticizing the book for what it doesn’t discuss, perhaps we should focus on what it does? Folks who are Potter fans seem to be best qualified to critique a book about Potter and philosophy, it seems to me, rather than self-confessed Harry haters. I learned lots of philosophy reading the book, and its all being couched in Harry made it all the more fun. I think it’s a great book! Sorry Wes, but the only thing half assed here was your review.

  • Wes says:

    Well, admittedly, this book had its work cut out for it with me as a reviewer, given that I a) don’t like Harry Potter and b) graduated with distinction in philosophy — so while I agree that perhaps a Potter fan would be less irritated by the Potter references, the philosophical aspects of the book are probably better evaluated by someone with some degree of familiarity with the subject. And it’s too bad that I’d returned the book by the time I got around to writing the article, because there are several notable instances of the “blah blah blah, therefore, clearly” phenomenon that I mentioned in the review that certainly would’ve helped to support my criticisms.

    However, to address your comment, while not all of the topics in the book are pretty standard intro philosophy questions, the vast majority of them are — which may not be all that bad, since I guess the book wasn’t written for people who are already familiar with philosophy. But therein lies the problem, as the book contains some pretty poor presentations of the issues (given the problem mentioned above) and in contrast to the comments you note in the introduction, is clearly written as if it neatly sums up these issues (which, of course, it does not). Moreover, while reading philosophy can be interesting in itself, the true value of philosophy comes from exploring issues and utilizing the experience to improve one’s critical thinking skills in general — which I do not think that this book encourages its readers to do at all.

    So if you swing by again, Chip, do tell me if, after reading the book, you sat down to discuss any of the topics therein with your friends or thought about the problem of evil as you sat in church or read the latest news concerning the situation in the Middle East. Or, in watching the media’s decidedly unfavorable depiction of minorities and the allegations of racism in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, did you connect the teachings of the article about the disenfranchisement of the house elves with these current events? I’m genuinely curious.

    Thanks for commenting!

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