Top positive review
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Mixed bag of philosophy for Potter fans by Potter fans
on 18 November 2010
I've been interested in the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series for a while because I am interested in how "pop philosophy" could develop like other genres such as self-help, psychology, humour or lifestyle reads. As a philosophy and "pop philosophy" reader this book did not disappoint.
Thematically the book does deal with the Harry Potter books, films and media (in one essay on the topic of Dumbledore's sexuality the author addresses how characters and plot evolve or dont following final conclusions or publication).
However, there is no prior knowledge assumed or required of either Harry Potter or philosophy, I would suggest that anyone acquainted with Harry Potter through the press or pop culture would have sufficient knowledge to enjoy this book. For those approaching it with an interest in philosophy it may prove more of a mixed bag (hence my four star rather than five star rating), while there are some great essays here, there are others which are kind of light weight and feel like content from an internet/online forum. Similarly some of the endnotes at the finish of each chapter are expansive while others are simply references, at times that was disappointing.
The book has a great contents, index, notes on contributors and endnotes to accompany each chapter. The chapter breakdown is as follows:-
Foreword; Acknowlegements; Introduction;
Part One: The Horcrux of the Matter: Destiny, Identity and the Soul
1. The Soul in Harry Potter (Scott Sehon)
2. Sirius Black: Man or Dog? (Eric Saidel)
3. Destiny in the Wizarding World (Jeremy Pierce)
Part Two: The Most Powerful Magic of All
4. Choosing Love: The Redemption of Severus Snape (Catherine Jack Deavel and David Paul Deavel)
5. Love Potion No. 9 3/4 (Gregory Bassham)
6. Harry Potter, Radical Feminism, and the Power of Love (Anne Collins Smith)
Part Three: Potterwatch: Freedom and Politics
7. Patriotism, House Loyalty and the Obligations of Belonging (Andrew P. Mills)
8. Dumbledore's Politics (Beth Admiral and Regan Lance Reitsma)
9. Dumbledore, Plato and the Lust for Power (David Lay Williams and Alan J. Kellner)
Part Four: The Room of Requirement: A Potter Potpourri
10. Is Dumbledore Gay? Who's to say? (Tamar Szabo Gendler)
11. Choices vs. Abilities: Dumbledore on Self-Understanding (Gregory Bassham)
12. The Magic of Personal Transformation (S. Joel Garver)
13. Just in Your Head? J. K. Rowling on Seperating Reality from Illusion (John Granger with Gregory Bassham)
14. A Pensieve for Your Thoughts? Harry Potter and the Magic of Memory (Amy Kind)
15. A Hogwarts Education: The Good, the bad and the Ugly (Gregory Bassham)
Part Five: Beyond The Veil: Death, Hope and Meaning
16. The Real Secret of the Pheonix: Moral Regeneration through Death (Charles Taliaferro)
17. Beyond Godric's Hollow: Life After Death and the Search for Meaning (Jonathan L. Walls and Jerry L. Walls)
18. Why Harry and Socrates Decide to Die: Virtue and the Common Good (Michael W. Austin)
Contributors; The Marauder's Index.
There are some real gems for the fan, general reader or philosophy reader alike. In particular it was good to read some writing by Charles Taliaferro (I felt Part Five was the strongest and most interesting chapter of the book, dealing with issues of mortality) since his books are expensive. In the final chapter there is content about the roles of Voldemort and Harry as archetypical hero and villain, with citation from William James' conclusion that thoughts become actions, become habits, become character, become destiny. I liked this the best.
The chapter on Dumbledore's politics was interesting also, I was surprised that either Dumbledore or the series could be considered exemplars of political libertarianism and I agree with the conclusions of the author that this certainly is not the case.
The philosophy which is featured is mainly moral philosophy and ethics, the Potter series is framed in some ways as moral story telling (although I would maintain that the series is still not as good as some of those which it is compared with, such as Lord of The Rings or Star Wars).
Perhaps the citations of content from the Potter books or references to plotlines and final conclusions could be considered spoilers for anyone who has not read the books. However, I wouldnt think that there is enough content included to effect your enjoyment of the Potter books themselves. As I have stated it would interest anyone, the Potter fan, the philosophy reader or the general reader and I dont believe that the content or language makes it inaccessible. I dont know if a younger reader would appreciate it but a reader who has read the series and reflects and thinks about the moralising or philosophising in the dialogue would like it.