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Doctor Who and Philosophy (Popular Culture and Philosophy) Paperback – 6 Jan 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Open Court (6 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812696883
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812696882
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 211,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Opening this book is like opening the door to the TARDIS: we get to spend time with our favorite incarnations of the Doctor whether the First, the Fourth, the Eleventh, or Doctor-Donna, and ponder what it means to travel through time, grow a new personality, fall in love, sacrifice for a greater good, and experience the cosmos for all the wonder it is. Really, Doctor Who and Philosophy is even better than a Sonic Screwdriver." --JOSEF STEIFF, Professor of Film at Columbia College Chicago and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Independent Filmmaking "This dimensionally transcendental volume explains what the Doctor never gets around to until later: the basics of Gallifreyan philosophy and ethics, as translated through Earth's philosophers. A fun, informative volume for folks interested in an introduction to philosophy through the vortex of Doctor Who." --LYNNE M. THOMAS, co-editor of Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It "Lewis and Smithka have done all sapient species a brilliant service by introducing Doctor Who and Philosophy into the time continuum. Like the Doctor's human companions, we get to travel through a universe of Big Ideas with a caring, clever, and, yes, conflicted friend. Next to a real TARDIS swooping down and carrying us off, nothing could beat the experience of reading this book." --PATRICK D. HOPKINS, editor of Sex/Machine "Doctor Who and Philosophy makes you want to go right back to episodes like 'Robot' and 'The Brain of Morbius' so you can watch them again, now that you know what they're really about. No series in the entire history of television has lit up all the beacons of classic philosophy like Doctor Who, and this brilliant book is chock full of Time Lord enlightenment." --ROB ARP, Consulting Ontologist and author of Scenario Visualization: An Evolutionary Account of Creative Problem Solving "An intriguing collection of essays that examines Doctor Who from every philosophical angle imaginable. Do you want theories and contradictions of time travel? It's in there. Do you want a deep examination of the nature of identity, as understood through the Doctor and his regenerative ability? It's in there, too, and it is considered from a variety of philosophical approaches. And so is much, much more. Lewis and Smithka have assembled a fascinating anthology, one that all Who fans, media scholars, and armchair philosophers should want on their shelves." --CHRIS HANSEN, editor of Ruminations, Peregrinations, and Regenerations: A Critical Approach to Doctor Who

About the Author

Courtland Lewis is a lifelong Doctor Who fan and a doctoral candidate in philosophy at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Paula Smithka is the coeditor of Community, Diversity, and Difference: Implications for Peace. She is also an associate professor of philosophy at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alyson Dunlop on 28 May 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside gives you an incredible insight into the longest running BBC show. This is a hugely useful companion for any Whovian to have on their bookshelf. It'll possibly also teach you many things you haven't already discovered for yourself about The Doctor and his alien enemies. It's a really interesting read. No Who fan should be without it. I give it a top score!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Trismegistus on 17 Aug. 2014
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Excellent collection of philosophical reflections on or inspired by Dr Who stories/themes, though some articles repeat points made by others. Well-written overall and worth getting, especially if cheaper through third party.
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Bought for a present, and no feedback, so assume it was okay. I would have liked it if i was a fan. Oh well can't please everybody.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 14 reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
So close to perfection for Doctor Who fans... 3 Jan. 2011
By Chris Bunch - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let's start off by saying that I'm a relatively new Doctor Who fan - I've only seen the Ninth Doctors onwards. That being said, I'm in love with the show and when I saw this book, immediately wanted it for Christmas. It's a great book and definitely the best of the 'X and Philosophy' series, and would definitely recommend it to Doctor Who fans. Here's a short list of the pros and cons that I jotted down while reading this book:


* Almost all the chapters put forward an interesting premise and follow it through to satisfaction.
* Older Doctor Who material is pulled in and explained well to newcomers: there's definitely a lot of catching up that I have to do now thanks to this book, and now I know exactly what I want to check out.
* A few chapters really stand out as being great - the authors' chapters in particular are extremely well written, as well as "Chapter 22: Overcoming Evil, and Spite, and Resentment, and Revenge" and "Chapter 29: The Evil of the Daleks."


* The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) is on the cover of the book, but there's only one or two really short references to him throughout the entire book. As the book is published in December 2010 and the Fifth Series ends in June 2010, it seems like just long enough to either include him in or cut him from the cover. It's especially odd to leave him on the cover since the Fifth Series has a number of interesting time-travel-related questions in it that I was really looking forward to seeing here.
* While it may be forgivable that the Eleventh Doctor is missing in action here, it's strange that 99% of the discussion stops at the end of Series Four, at "Journey's End." This means we don't get to even see the end of the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) at "The End of Time" (with two minor exceptions) and once again, we're missing out on a ton of great material by not getting really any coverage of it or "The Waters of Mars".
* Although many of the chapters are distinct from each other, the most prevalent question by far is "is the Doctor still the same person before and after regenerations?" This would be fine, but since this shows up for at least six chapters of the book (four of which are in a row), this means you'll become very familiar with Locke's theory of memory continuity very quickly, and unfortunately, you'll become bored of it very quickly.

The pros really add up and make it worth the inexpensive selling price, but the cons stop it from being what I would call perfection. So now that you know what you're getting into, Doctor Who fans, pick up this book and get reading!
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
It really is bigger on the inside! 23 Nov. 2011
By Massimo Pigliucci - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
[A full review will appear soon in Philosophy Now magazine] I vaguely remember hearing about Doctor Who when I was growing up in Italy in the `70s, but never actually watched it. Then, when the BBC restarted the series in 2005 I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about. I've been hooked ever since, and I occasionally use Doctor Who episodes in my introductory classes in philosophy because it's a natural (intelligent, and entertaining!) entry point for discussions about personal identity, the metaphysics of time travel, and, of course, ethics, ethics, ethics. I was therefore delighted to see this recent addition to the "Popular Culture and Philosophy" series. At over 400 pages the book isn't exactly light reading, though it will pay off handsomely for anyone interested in science fiction and philosophy. Still, my only complain about the volume is precisely that the editors could have done a better job at trimming it down, particularly reducing the number of (largely redundant) essays in the first part, on personal identity, a theme that also recurs (again, redundantly) in some of the later essays. Apart from this little quibble, however, there is much to enjoy in this collection. Besides the obvious topics mentioned above, we are also treated to Doctor-informed discussions of aesthetics (why, exactly, are the Daleks beautiful?), human nature ("Human beings, you're amazing. Apart from that, you're completely mad!"), the relevance of monadology to the Whoniverse, and even a discussion of the Jesus-like (shouldn't it really be Socrates-like?) character of the Doctor. There is so much more food for thought in Doctor Who and Philosophy that readers are warmly encouraged to see for themselves just how much bigger this book is on the inside. And remember: "Time travel is like visiting Paris. You can't just read the guidebook, you've got to throw yourself in! Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers! ... Or is that just me?" ("The Long Game," 2007).
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Doctor Who and Philosophy (Popular Culture and Philosophy) 1 May 2011
By April D. - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have always enjoyed the Doctor Who series, but never knew how grounded it was in philosophy. I actually read this book as part of an anthropology course on Doctor Who at UCSD. Anthropologists like to study the series because it is the longest running science fiction series in history. It reveals a great deal not only about the philosophy, ethics, and outlooks of the day, but about the changes that have occurred in society, especially British society, over the decades since its 1963 debut. The book features different articles on philosophical subjects relating to Doctor Who and how they have changed or remained the same over time, and what this means about the culture that has birthed the series. It is a must read if you are a fan, or just want to study an excellent example of philosophy meeting pop culture. I highly recommend this book as both an intelligent, informative, and entertaining in depth look at Doctor Who and the philosophy that drives this series.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Philosophy Through the Doctor's Lens 29 Sept. 2012
By Timothy Haugh - Published on
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I have to admit a certain fondness for books that analyze significant ideas through the lens of a television show. Starting with Krauss' The Physics of Star Trek, I have dipped into these books from time to time, particularly when the lens is a good science fiction show. Now we have this volume on philosophy and Doctor Who and it is pretty enjoyable.

Like all books that are collections of short essays by different authors, this volume is a bit uneven, though less so than most. The reason is likely that it seems clear that all the authors here are actually fans of Doctor Who as well as being experts in their fields. Each essay references episodes of the show--some from the classic era and some from the modern era--in a way that indicates a certain level of fandom and understanding. The book also ends with a nice collection of quotes from the show and a listing of all the episodes starring the various Doctors. So it actually appeals to those of us who are fans instead of coming across as a cheap trick with which to discuss other things.

That being said, the focus here is real, serious philosophy. This is where things become a bit more uneven. What becomes obviously early on is that there's going to be a bit of repetition as the first chapters discuss identity in the face of things like regeneration. In doing so, our philosophers end up covering a lot of the same ground without really leading us to a conclusion. We get the same sort of repetition in places throughout the book. This can be a bit trying at times.

To the book's credit, however, by the end, you realize that, despite the repetition, you've covered a lot of philosophical topics. Even better, the topics are analyzed not only with the big names of history--Plato, Kant, Schopenhauer, etc.--but with ideas that are current in philosophical circles. I was particularly taken with the discussion of care ethics as well as the discussion of the concept of horror (though I found myself disagreeing with some of the conclusions reached by Saint & French in their essay on this latter topic).

All in all, despite some minor flaws, this is a book that should be read by any fans of Doctor Who. I would say "any fans of Doctor Who who have an interest in the big questions of philosophy" but who doesn't have some interest in the big questions? And, even if you claim not to, this book might change your mind.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Regenerated Philosophy 18 Nov. 2014
By Jonathan Cook - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Like the Tardis, the Doctor Who TV show is bigger on the inside.

Doctor Who's writers never seem to come to any definitive conclusions, but they do ask the important questions that have dogged philosophers for ages:

How can psychological identity be defined when the self changes over time?

Can violent creatures have a reasonable system of ethics?

How can we understand causation, when the roots of the events we see now remain masked?

Are beauty and morality necessarily linked?

This book is great material for young fans of Dr. Who - perhaps as a bit of between-season reading before going off to college. Placing philosophy in the context of cheeky science fiction removes the pretentious nonsense that clouds the writing of too many academic philosophers, which may be refreshing for older readers as well.
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