Book Review: James Bond And Philosophy

James Bond And Philosophy:  Questions Are Forever, edited by James B. South and Jacob M. Held

As someone who has read a few books in this series of pop culture and philosophy crossovers [1], I went into it with the proper set of expectations.  This book, and the other books in the series, are generally written by slumming philosophers who are trying to get something published and perhaps help pay the bills while using pop culture as an empty vessel in which to display their own particular philosophical views.  I go into these books finding many of the pop culture elements themselves somewhat problematic in one way or another and the philosophies even more so, but I also read them in order to see how it is that people seek to put an accessible facade over their often complicated philosophical views and demonstrate that anything that can be analyzed can also be used as a trojan horse for one’s worldviews.  The philosophers in this book have worldviews that are no better or worse than contemporary philosophers as a general lot, and that is not a terribly high standard.  Questions are forever, perhaps, but the answers won’t be found here.

The contents of this book are as self-contradictory and sprawling as one would expect for a book of this nature, but at somewhat over 200 pages, it’s not a terribly long book to read at least.  Many of the titles of the articles show some clever puns on quotes from the James Bond series either in print or from the movies.  The book begins with a section on Bond, exstitentialism, and death that includes three essays that wrestle with the meaningful life and the omnipresent threat of death.  The second section looks at the man behind the number 007 with four essays on such issues as phenomenology, Nietzsche, and a view of Bond as a comic and chivalric hero.  The third section of the book contains three essays that wrestle with the relationship between James bond and issues of law and politics.  The fourth section contains three essays that look at the connection between knowledge and technology in the James Bond series, and the fifth section closes the book with two essays that examine issues of multi-culturalism, misogyny, and a kinder gentler James Bond in more recent portrayals.  The supplementary material of the book provides some information that shows that this book only covers up to Casino Real and nothing past that in terms of films, making it somewhat obsolete.

Obviously, this book is aimed at people who are both philosophically inclined and who are fans of James Bond.  I tend to have ambivalent feelings about both James Bond and philosophy and the implications of both, although I did find some aspects of these essays to be worthwhile.  For example, I was deeply intrigued by the ongoing popularity of James Bond and his retributive violence and the implications this has for views of criminals as lacking some sort of human rights as a result of their criminality.  Other essays point out that James Bond directs his violence not so much against people from other states in a narrowly Cold War fashion but against outsiders who have sought to use criminality as a protest against the injustices they see in James Bond’s England other states.  Even though this is a deeply uneven collection of essays, there is still a great deal worthy of reflection here, which means that the book is at least somewhat enjoyable despite its flaws.  If only all books on philosophy could be this thought-provoking and this aware of the ephemerality of what they were dealing with.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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3 Responses to Book Review: James Bond And Philosophy

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Our Man In Havana | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: The Simpsons’ Beloved Springfield | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Philosophy In The Hellenistic & Roman Worlds | Edge Induced Cohesion

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