Book Review: The Ultimate Harry Potter & Philosophy

The Ultimate Harry Potter & Philosophy: Hogwarts For Muggles, Edited by Gregory Bassham

As philosophers are always trying to justify and legitimize their efforts at deep thought, it should come as little surprise that Harry Potter (along with House, The Simpsons, Batman, The Hobbit & The Lord Of The Rings, and Alice In Wonderland, along with a host of other cultural artifacts) has been mined by philosophers hungry for contemporary relevance. What is a surprise, perhaps, is that there are actually some essays here that live up to the aims of the authors in providing worthwhile food for thought, which may be a greater surprise for at least some of those who pick up this book.

The essays of this work are divided into five sections: identity questions, love, freedom and politics, a section of miscellaneous essays, and one on death and the afterlife. Most of the essays show that the philosophers who are writing the articles have at least read Harry Potter (and many of them include amusing inside jokes in the contributors’ section at the end), making at least some aspects of this work appear like upscale versions of fanboy or fangirl essays. Indeed, as is often the case with such works, we learn a great deal more about the political and philospohical baises of the philosophers themselves than we learn about Harry Potter from these pages, but that is inevitable with this sort of project, I suppose. We hear a lot about Plato and Aristotle, about the two waves of feminism and arguments over the soul and destiny, but as the authors are humanists and not biblically-inclined individuals, what we learn here is human-centered rather than God-centered, and should be taken with a grain of salt accordingly.

The most thoughtful of the essays are honest about their perspectives and biases, and some of the essays (including one dealing with patriotism) were quite excellent. Overall, though, it is a mixed bag of essays, with several of the essays contradicting others, and occasionally some of them even contradicting themselves (the essay on radical feminism in Harry Potter is perhaps the worst offender in this regard). For those who are interested in seeing the deeper meanings of children’s literature, as I am prone to do on occasion, there is much to offer here in this book, provided that one is willing to suffer through a lot of armchair philosophizing of mixed quality. This is not a book that can be wholeheartedly enjoyed, but the book is worthwhile on at least a modest level to show how contemporary philosophers attempt to latch on to any sort of popular cultural behaviors as a way of showing their own relevance to society at a time where philosophy does not exactly have a high degree of prestige and cachet.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Book Review: The Ultimate Harry Potter & Philosophy

  1. Sonya says:

    Very interesting! I have a book titled “Pooh and the Philosophers” which I have yet to read beyond the intro, but the basic purpose of the book is to explain how all of historical philosophy leads up to Winnie the Pooh. I didn’t realize it was such a common theme to mix philosophy with fictional characters.

  2. Pingback: Book Review: 52 Little Lessons From Les Misèrables | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: God, The Devil & Harry Potter | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Book Review: Readings On J.K. Rowling | Edge Induced Cohesion

  5. Pingback: You Can’t Find What Isn’t There | Edge Induced Cohesion

  6. Pingback: Book Review: Quidditch Through The Ages | Edge Induced Cohesion

  7. Pingback: Book Review: The Sorcerer’s Companion | Edge Induced Cohesion

  8. Pingback: Book Review: Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them | Edge Induced Cohesion

  9. Pingback: Book Review: Harry Potter And The Cursed Child: Parts One And Two | Edge Induced Cohesion

  10. Pingback: Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them | Edge Induced Cohesion

  11. Pingback: Book Review: A Little Book For New Philosophers | Edge Induced Cohesion

  12. Pingback: The Curious Case Of Albright vs. Potter | Edge Induced Cohesion

  13. Pingback: Book Review: James Bond And Philosophy | Edge Induced Cohesion

  14. Pingback: Book Review: The Matrix And Philosophy: Welcome To The Desert Of The Real | Edge Induced Cohesion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s