53 internautes sur 67 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
John V. Karavitis
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This latest entry in the Wiley-Blackwell "Philosophy and Popular Culture" series is geared to coincide with the start of Season 2 of HBO's "Game of Thrones", based on George R. R. Martin's series of fantasy books. ***Although there are a number of excellent essays, there are also a number of severe defects and failings that make this entry in the series lackluster and disappointing. *** These defects are (1) spoilers, (2) unexplored relevant themes, (3) weak essays and inconsistent segmentation, and (4) the recognition of three very peculiar yet persistent phenomena that appear to plague collections of essays of this type.
The "Editor's Note on Spoilers" advises "some readers" who are fans of the HBO series may not have read all five books upon which the series is based, and that they may wish to "delay reading" of six of the 20 chapters. First, most readers of this book most likely will only be fans of the HBO series, and not have read a single book, like myself. Asking them to "delay reading" almost one out of every three essays will most likely result in those essays never ever being read. For those readers that ignore this warning, the spoilers may be confusing at best, upsetting at worst. Second, I disagree with the Editor's Note that "[M]any of the philosophical quandaries can't be discussed without looking at events across the five books". Wrong. Everything covered in these essays is found in Season 1.
UNEXPLORED RELEVANT THEMES
I can think of two themes that should have been addressed in this book that were not. First off, where is the essay that deals with the morality of incest? The incestuous relationship of the Lannister fraternal twins is a persistent theme throughout Season 1, in fact, it is one of the major themes that drive much of the action. To not have directly addressed it, and in depth, is a grievous error. Would you like to know where this essay lies? Go to Wiley-Blackwell's "Arrested Development and Philosophy", Chp. 2, "Kissing Cousins" by Deborah R. Barnbaum.
A second theme that should have been addressed deals with the development of the social identities of two of the underdog characters: Arya Stark and Tyrion Lannister. Arya Stark is a young girl who rebels against the expected social identity for women, and Tyrion Lannister is a dwarf who shouldn't even be alive in the world of the Seven Kingdoms. How each fought against society's expectations for how they should behave and live was worthy of an essay exploring how social identity is formed. I'm thinking Heidegger, Sartre, and Foucault, and definitely some feminist philosophers too for Arya's case. Although Arya and Tyrion's plights were in a sense indirectly touched upon in a few essays, how they went about creating their own social identities contra society's expectations was not. (Although one may argue that the essay on game theory does this for Tyrion Lannister.)
WEAK ESSAYS AND INCONSISTENT SEGMENTATION
There are twenty essays divided equally among five parts. Each part tends toward a specific philosophical theme, but not every essay within each part adheres to this segmentation scheme. In general, the parts cover: (1) political philosophy, (2) morality, (3) metaphysics and epistemology, (4) morality (again), and (5) miscellaneous topics (fate and freedom, morality (again!), game theory, and insanity as a social construction). The essays started off strong; in fact, there are a number of very good to excellent essays herein, especially all of the essays in Parts 1 and 2. Even Don Fallis' essay on lying and deception was excellent, in addition to which I believe he broke his own record for most philosophers mentioned in an essay: fourteen! However, starting with Part 3, unsatisfying, bland, lukewarm, and weak essays appeared. A few essays seemed to be more social commentary than true to the mandate of books in this series.
Both of book editor Henry Jacoby's essays were poor. "Wargs, Wights, and Wolves That Are Dire: Mind and Metaphysics, Westeros Style" was unsatisfying, weak, and all over the place. In addition, his claim that "many animals have sophisticated languages" (p. 121) is incorrect. I hate to "appeal to authority", but animals have "call signs", only human beings possess true language. His second essay, "No One Dances the Water Dance", was an attempt to make "East meet West" as he tried to meld Aristotle with Zen, Taoism and martial arts. Mr. Jacoby's attempt at cross-cultural philosophical syncretism was a catastrophic failure. Oil and water do not mix, Mr. Jacoby, regardless of what your karate sensei may have told you. Wax on, but water stays off!
Katherine Tullman's essay on cultural relativism was very poor, no better than high school-level social commentary. Ms. Tullman also confused me when she claimed that there is no way to prove that one system of morality is superior to any other, yet, "In the end, we must reject moral relativism" (p. 204). Stacey Goguen's essay on the injustice of chivalry was also poor and more social commentary than philosophy. Ms. Goguen mentions the struggle against social norms, but would have served the reader better had she instead delved into the creation of social identity (unexplored relevant theme).
PECULIAR AND PERSISTENT PHENOMENA
I've had the opportunity to read quite a number of these "philosophy and pop culture" books, both from Wiley-Blackwell and their main competitor, Open Court. I've come across what I believe to be three relatively consistent and peculiar phenomena. First, it does seem, on rare occasions, that a handful of essays originate from professors at a single university. When this happens, it's understandable. But I question the wisdom of including multiple essays from contributors at the same university. Second, I find it more often the case than not that weak or poor essays tend to come in streaks, e.g., the essays in this collection that I found to be weak were chps. 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19. This is peculiar. To prove it, one would need a more objective definition of a weak essay, to have essays read and graded by multiple readers, and then have the data analyzed using non-parametric statistical analysis. That isn't going to happen. But I've observed this trend on many occasions. Finally, I have come to conclude that collections of essays of this type suffer from the "Curse of the Book's Editor". That is, essays contributed by the book's editor tend to be consistently bad. This phenomenon would only make sense if the editor didn't have the time and energy to both husband the collection of essays and write a good essay(s). I see this a lot.
And there you have it. Deduct one star for missing two very important relevant themes, and one star for the spoilers and the weak essays. Three stars. Not a "disaster", gentle reader, simply that some stars in the heavens may have "gone south for the winter". John V. Karavitis
15 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This book is okay, and perhaps that's saying too much. As a long time fan of political philosophy and the Song of Ice and Fire series, I had long speculated about the political, ethical, and psychological lessons of the series. I had half-jokingly dreamed of one day teaching a course called "Game of Thrones and Politics." I had also enjoyed another book in this series called the "Lord of the Rings and Philosophy." So, I eagerly bought this book when I saw it in a bookstore one day. Sadly, my impulse buy was a big mistake. The book suffers from two fatal mistakes, which basically negate its value. Firstly, I am not sure if the authors of the essays contained wherein read the series in its entirety, and if they did so, they read it in detail. Their essays are filled with cliches, platitudes, and generalizations about the series that could well apply to any number of characters from many other books. It is as if most of the essays are written to advocate the author's preexisting philosophy views, whatever those may be, with a couple of bones thrown to readers in the form of series references here and there.
Secondly, the book suffers from amateur and shallow essays that betray a lack of deep, nuanced, and even balanced philosophical thought on the part of its authors. In any case, for example, on page 214, we are met with the blanket statement, seemingly devoid of historical nuance that "medieval chivalry was homophobic, sexist, classist, ableist, and probably racist too." While there could possibly be an element of truth to something in that statement, the manner in which it is framed, without qualification, strikes me as rather amateur. And so on. This book is filled with many general philosophical statements. If there's one thing anyone can learn from the books, in fact, is the fact that rather than being black and white, there are many shades of grey in every human endeavor. Chivalry is neither all good nor all evil. Some knights are noble and other knights are sociopaths. There are noble people who are not knights. Chivalry can encourage a sexist view of women but can also teach men to show respect for women. Chivalry is many things, in many forms, and learning about these forms (of chivalry and other things such as kingship, etc. you name it) in plurality, in detail, is I think the lesson of the series: an exploration of the manifold nature of human beings and human institutions. If Isiah Berlin were to analyze this book, it would be a fox, not a hedgehog. Davos and not Melisandre.
Not all essays suffer from such problems. However, they suffer from another problem. Good philosophers discuss philosophical issues without resorting to quoting famous philosophers every other line or trying to fit everything in the books into some prefabricated philosophical template derived from Plato, or Hobbes. It is as if the authors are constantly trying to reassert their philosophical credentials. In any case, in fact, some of the best philosophy is derived from a reading and extrapolation of events that have already occurred and the lessons they teach, both in real life and in literature. This is why Herodotus, Machiavelli, Montesquieu, and Tocqueville are sometimes much more informative about human nature than others such as Rousseau or Augustus. In any case, unlike some other fantasy series, which have a stronger philosophical and religious basis such as Narnia or the Lord of the Rings, it is important to remember that the chief inspiration and lessons of this series are derived from history and realpolitik. An intellectual take on the series should approach it from those perspectives rather than an abstract philosophical one. The series should be viewed as a collection of stories interspersed with wisdom, sort of like Shakespeare is.
I would not recommend this book to anyone, unless you want to dabble in creating your own philosophical treatise on the series and want to know how not to go about doing it.