Cover image for The Simpsons and philosophy : the d'oh! of Homer
The Simpsons and philosophy : the d'oh! of Homer
Irwin, William, 1970-
Publication Information:
Chicago : Open Court, [2001]

Physical Description:
ix, 303 pages ; 23 cm.
Homer and Aristotle / Lisa and American anti-intellectualism / Why Maggie matters: sounds of silence, East and West / Marge's moral motivation / Thus spake Bart: on Nietzsche and the virtues of being bad / Simpsons and allusion: "worst essay ever" / Popular parody: The Simpsons meets the crime film / Simpsons, hyper-irony, and the meaning of life / Simpsonian sexual politics / I didn't do it: ethics and The Simpsons. moral world of the Simpson family: a Kantian perspective / Simpsons: atomistic politics and the nuclear family / Springfield hypocrisy / Enjoying the so-called "iced cream": Mr. Burns, satan, and happiness / Hey-diddily-ho, neighboreenos: Ned Flanders and neighborly love / function of fiction: the heuristic value of Homer / Simpsons and the philosophers. A (Karl, not Groucho) Marxist in Springfield / "And the rest writes itself": Roland Barthes watches The Simpsons / What Bart calls thinking
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
B68 .S55 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This unconventional and lighthearted introduction to the ideas of the major Western philosophers examines The Simpsons -- TV's favorite animated family. The authors look beyond the jokes, the crudeness, the attacks on society -- and see a clever display of irony, social criticism, and philosophical thought. The writers begin with an examination of the characters. Does Homer actually display Aristotle's virtues of character? In what way does Bart exemplify American pragmatism? The book also examines the ethics and themes of the show, and concludes with discussions of how the series reflects the work of Aristotle, Marx, Camus, Sartre, and other thinkers.

Author Notes

William Irwin is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at King's College, Pennsylvania
Dr. Conard has published scholarly articles on Kant, Nietzsche, and Quentin Tarantino
Dr. Skoble teaches philosophy at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Does Homer Simpson embody the Socratic ideal of virtue? Sadly, no, but in one of 18 essays on the long-running cartoon series, Raja Halwani investigates, from a Socratic perspective, why we all find Homer so humorous and charming. From "Thus Spake Bart," an essay comparing Bart, the bad boy of Springfield, and Nietzsche, philosophy's ultimate bad boy, to explication of the aesthetic philosophy of the allusions the show is famous for making, the book is consistently successful. Even the impenetrable Immanuel Kant becomes outright hilarious in a rollicking analysis of the virtue of duty in Springfield. The Simpsons has received serious attention in the past, most notably David Foster Wallace's analysis of Simpsonian meta-irony in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (1997). Like Wallace's book, these pieces make erudite concepts accessible by viewing things through the lens of a great cartoon series. Perhaps The Simpsons' creators will be inspired by this book to include a philosophy professor with a weakness for brilliantly funny TV shows in Springfield's ever-growing population of eccentrics. --John Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

In Irwin's earlier anthology, Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book About Everything and Nothing (1999), a team of philosophy professors offered an introduction to Plato, Kierkegaard and other major thinkers via the characters and plots of the TV sitcom. Now Irwin and company have regrouped to focus on Matt Groening's popular, long-running animated series, The Simpsons. Noting that Groening studied philosophy in college, they hasten to add that this is not an attempt to explore meanings intended by Groening and the show's artists and writers. "Rather, we're highlighting the philosophical significance of The Simpsons as we see it," declares the editorial trio. Each essay provides a hilarious but incisive springboard to some aspect of philosophy. Can we learn something about the nature of happiness from the unhappy, miserly Mr. Burns? What are Springfield's sexual politics? What makes Bart Simpson a Heideggerian thinker? Could Bart be the Nietzschean ideal? These are the kind of "meaty philosophical issues" TV viewers can expect to find covered by the 21 contributors to this entertaining book, with interpretations drawn from the works of Sartre, Kant, Karl Marx, Virginia Woolf, Roland Barthes and others. Appendixes include a time line of the major philosophers referred to and a chronological guide of the episode titles and original air dates spanning 11 seasons of The Simpsons. (Apr.) Forecast: Seinfeld and Philosophy prompted Entertainment Weekly's review comment, "Wish we'd had this in college." Fans of The Simpsons are certain to find this book to be the perfect rebuttal for those who dismiss the show as a no-brainer. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Like its predecessor, Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book about Everything and Nothing, this book collects the philosophical and literary musings of a handful of academics about a popular television series, in this case The Simpsons. The intended audiences are general readers who enjoy The Simpsons and who may be open to some philosophical edification, and academic philosophers who enjoy the series and who also may be open to some entertainment, amusement, and enlightenment. Many of the essays apply ethical theories to the actions of the characters throughout the episodes: Marge and Homer are evaluated through the lens of Aristotelian virtue theory, Bart is compared to the Nietzschean Ubermensch, Flanders's neighborliness is examined through Christianity and Kantianism, and an explanation is offered to account for Mr. Burns's unhappiness. A feminist analysis shows that most episodes are about males; missing, however, is a corresponding analysis of the series' treatment of race and ethnicity. Is this book essential to an academic library? Not really. But since most undergraduates spend a lot of time watching television and very little time studying philosophy, perhaps attempting to kindle interest in the subject while demonstrating how ethical theories can be applied to television characters is not such a bad idea. All readership levels; Simpsons fans especially. M. Meola The College of New Jersey

Table of Contents

Raja HalwaniAeon J. SkobleEric BronsonGerald J. Erion and Joseph A. ZeccardiMark T. ConardWilliam Irwin and J.R. LombardoDeborah KnightCarl MathesonDale E. Snow and James J. SnowJames LawlerPaul A. CantorJason HoltDaniel BarwickDavid VesseyJennifer L. McMahonJames M. WallaceDavid L. G. ArnoldKelly Dean Jolley
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction: Meditations on Springfield?p. 1
Part I The Charactersp. 5
1. Homer and Aristotlep. 7
2. Lisa and American Anti-intellectualismp. 25
3. Why Maggie Matters: Sounds of Silence, East and Westp. 34
4. Marge's Moral Motivationp. 46
5. Thus Spake Bart: On Nietzsche and the Virtues of Being Badp. 59
Part II Simpsonian Themesp. 79
6. The Simpsons and Allusion: "Worst Essay Ever"p. 81
7. Popular Parody: The Simpsons Meets the Crime Filmp. 93
8. The Simpsons, Hyper-Irony, and the Meaning of Lifep. 108
9. Simpsonian Sexual Politicsp. 126
Part III I Didn't Do It: Ethics and The Simpsonsp. 145
10. The Moral World of the Simpson Family: A Kantian Perspectivep. 147
11. The Simpsons: Atomistic Politics and the Nuclear Familyp. 160
12. Springfield Hypocrisyp. 179
13. Enjoying the so-called "Iced Cream": Mr. Burns, Satan, and Happinessp. 191
14. Hey-diddily-ho, Neighboreenos: Ned Flanders and Neighborly Lovep. 202
15. The Function of Fiction: The Heuristic Value of Homerp. 215
Part IV The Simpsons and the Philosophersp. 233
16. A (Karl, not Groucho) Marxist in Springfieldp. 235
17. "And the Rest Writes Itself": Roland Barthes Watches The Simpsonsp. 252
18. What Bart Calls Thinkingp. 269
Episode Listp. 283
Based on Ideas Byp. 290
Featuring the Voices Ofp. 296
Indexp. 301