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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag of philosophy for Potter fans by Potter fans
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...
Published on 18 Nov. 2010 by Lark

versus
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical ideas applied to the Harry Potter stories.
Philosophical and ethical issues are examined in the context of the Harry Potter stories. It's hard to argue that this isn't a cash in, albeit a genuinely interesting and thought provoking one. It provides a variety of well argued topics such as what constitutes the soul, here discussed in the context of the Dementors Kiss. My particular favourite discussion stems from...
Published on 12 Jan. 2011 by Hettie Lawrence


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag of philosophy for Potter fans by Potter fans, 18 Nov. 2010
By 
Lark (North Coast of Ireland) - See all my reviews
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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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical ideas applied to the Harry Potter stories., 12 Jan. 2011
By 
Hettie Lawrence (North Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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Philosophical and ethical issues are examined in the context of the Harry Potter stories. It's hard to argue that this isn't a cash in, albeit a genuinely interesting and thought provoking one. It provides a variety of well argued topics such as what constitutes the soul, here discussed in the context of the Dementors Kiss. My particular favourite discussion stems from the arbitrary question of `Is Dumbeldore Gay?'. Of course it matters not either way, but the bones of the discussion are whether an author retains ownership of characters after publication, and whether they have the right to amend details of a character once the book is in the public domain. Challenging and intriguing questions throughout the book, which will stay with you and have you pondering your own answers long after reading this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something deeper this way comes, 19 Nov. 2010
By 
I. P. Gearing (UK) - See all my reviews
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As Potter is the (licensed) context and philosophy is the content, the die hard Potter fan is not going to get much in the way of new information through this book, but this is about depth not breadth. The depth is the understanding that can be found through a discussion of the broad philosophical themes that weave their way through Rowling's seven volume series. Potter is the hors d'oeuvres, but thinkers and philosophers from the historian Lord Acton to the author Sarah Zettel provide the meat. The purpose is to educate.

The book is not as heavy going as it might sound from this, indeed for the casual reader of the Harry Potter books will get a wider perspective and that same reader gets a thought provoking introduction to philosophy. This might or might not sound like a bargain, the reader's opinion on this will probably dictate what they get out of this book - one in a series of twenty one at the time of writing, so as formula's go this is a pretty popular one. If that sounds like money for old rope then consider the famous exchange between John Ruskin's lawyer, Sir John Holker and the litigious artist James Whistler:

Holker: "The labour of two days is that for which you ask two hundred guineas?"
Whistler: "No, I ask it for the knowledge I have gained in the work of a lifetime."

As this goes, fair comment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting - but a little too fannish, 24 Nov. 2010
By 
P. M. Fernandez "exilefromgroggs" (London) - See all my reviews
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This is just the sort of book that would appeal to me. It discusses lots of different ideas - radical feminism within the series, J.K.Rowling's conception of the soul, whether the author has the right to assert facts about a text beyond the rights of other readers. The style is accessible, but the philosophical issues are substantial.

The text is a series of essays written by philosophy academics, who interact at quite a high level with all seven of the books (along with interviews with J.K.Rowling, the films, and Rowling's other books). The book is loosely gathered into sections, with the essays within each section broadly related.

I am, personally, intrigued at how seriously the Christian worldview is taken by these philosophers. The impression given by popular media is that Christianity is a spent force. It seems from this book that Christianity represents one of the few philosophical options which does in fact stand up pretty well to scrutiny.

My quibble is that it's a little too fannish. The people who wrote the papers are a little too quick to pick up examples from the text (it's FICTION!!! It's not real! This ranks alongside those magazines and newspapers who report on the events of soap operas as though they are actually happening). Also, whilst all fiction needs to be sufficiently coherent to allow one to suspend disbelief without the lack of a clutch for the paradigm shift causing a major problem, it is probably unreasonable to expect a work of fiction to have (for example) a completely coherent philosophical structure. Having said that, the fact that such questions can be addressed in the context of Rowling's work says much for how well structured the seven books are. Oh, and I was slightly surprised by the lack of reference to Jung or archetypes - ultimate hero? Wise old man?

Harry Potter, alongside an eclectic range of other creations/endeavours (U2, Narnia, Dido), is one of my favourite reference points for discussing religion/philosophy within popular culture. This book highlights some of the reasons for this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harry Potter book or philosophy book? A bit of both, uneven but a good read, 13 Nov. 2010
By 
Mr. T. Anderson "onlyconnect" - See all my reviews
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The premise behind this collection of essays is found in the foreword, that "the former classics major Joanne Rowling was not merely a masterful storyteller, but was also a talented weaver of profound perspectives on some of the things that matter most in our lives."

Fair point - but it is risky to examine a book which was intended as entertainment so seriously. Then again, it seems there is an ulterior motive:

"Like other volumes in the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series, it uses popular culture - in this case the Potter books and films - as a hook to teach and popularize the ideas of the great thinkers." says the introduction.

In other words, it is not so much that Rowling is a great thinker; more that popular interest in Potter can be exploited to draw us into the work of the real great thinkers: Plato, Descartes, Locke, Kant, Pascal, and others who all get mentions.

In this the book risks the opposite peril, of being patronising towards its subject.

In the end it is a bit of both. One of the essays in this collection is by Eric Saidel and looks at the identity of Sirius Black, a character who is a decent human being most of the time, but transforms at times into a fierce and dangerous dog called Padfoot. What happens to his body? In what sense is Sirius-man the same as Sirius-dog? Is the Sirius-Padfoot transformation consistent with other transformations in the book, or different?

The book does not really bear that level of analysis and the essay is inconclusive; but it does get you thinking about identity and what that means.

Whatever you are an ardent fan or a harsh critic of Rowling's writing, you will probably find something here that annoys you. On the other hand, it is a thought-provoking and (given its subject matter) a relatievely easy read.

It's not the ultimate book on Harry Potter and Philosophy, despite its silly title. But it's a good read for thoughtful Potter fans, as well as a useful discussion-starter for those teaching philosophy or sociology.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars my obssession, 8 Nov. 2010
By 
foxcylady - See all my reviews
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We spend too much time these days reading into the depth of books and discussing the evils of the characters what the writer intended etc instead of just having fun when reading the book. Even JK Rowling annoys me with some of the tosh she comes out with she insists so and so is this and they are that, frankly they are what I believe they are in my imagination, to be frank its a story an amazing ride that I and many others bought a ticket for and I for one have never looked back.

A good book is a good book for those who enjoyed it. I hold my hands upto being truly obssessed with the Harry Potter books. I love the characters, I love the stories, I cried when JK Rowling announced that seven novels and that would be her. I miss Harry, I miss the fact that there wont be any more, or will there I lament the end of Lord Voldermort and hope against hope that one day they will announce the comeback of Harry Potter.

I ordered this from vine more out of interest than anything. I read the novels over and over again even with a new book on the go I still have at least one of these being read along side it. I no sooner finish the seventh and I start the first again, I know a sad obssessed person thats me.

With my tickets attached to the fridge for the premier of the seventh film of the final book next week to hit the cinemas I thought this might be a fun read.

Its not bad, its not brilliant. I realised long ago that I just love the books because they are fun and I love the characters. I remember disecting books for english lit many many moons ago and wondering why would anyone not want to do this and maybe I saw the point then more than now.

If you have a spare ten pounds I recommend that you buy a JK Rowling novel if your looking for a fun interesting read. If your a student or person with an enquiring mind or just like the challenge of thinking outside the box then this is chocolate sauce for the mind or better still chewing gum. Its fun a little bit interesting and it gets you to look at things in a different way, and it really doesnt make me enjoy my books any less or any more. Some bits are tosh to my mind but thats what a book like this is about it makes you look at the bigger picture and hopefully grow a little or so they would have us believe.

You will know if its the book for you or not long before you order as its that type of book.

Reading the above you will probably be thinking bet she didnt enjoy. Well I did actually it was fun bits made me mad though some bits I felt didnt even begin to discuss what I would have enjoyed getting my teeth into. I would have to know a person really well to buy them this and I would happily pass my copy on to friends.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thinking a little harder about the series, 24 Oct. 2010
By 
H (London) - See all my reviews
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There seems to be a new vogue amongst non-fiction writers of taking pop culture phenomenons and using them to introduce readers to more academic pursuits - psychology, media studies, you name it.

Well, this tome aims to use Harry Potter to explore some of the bigger questions of philosophy - the nature of love, what is a soul etc. If at first that seems like it's taking a children's series far too seriously, you'll be surprised by how neatly the Potter canon and the various themes of the book interact with these questions. This book isn't heavyweight or slow going, it's very readable and open to the philosophical amateur. It does delve into traditional philsophy theory but it does so in a way that's easy to understand and always relevant.

It isn't the first of its type I've read, and others have disappointed by keeping only the vaguest of connections to the book/film/tv series it claims to be analysing. Thankfully, this book doesn't fall into that trap, and it's always comes back to Potter. As a HP fan who could quite happily spend hours dissecting and debating the books, I found this an interesting and accessible way to ponder more about the series.

However, I would suggest it's aimed at a more introductory level and that anybody who already has a lot of background in philopsophy would probably find this too lightweight - but then, since I suspect most people will pick this up for Harry and not for the philosophy, it's targeted right.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing too surprising, but really interesting deeper thoughts., 17 May 2011
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The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy is a collection of essays that explore a wide range of topics covered in the Harry Potter series. The heaviest focus is towards the final three Harry Potter books, which I expected really, as when I read them I felt like there was a lot of morality being woven into the story by that stage. However, the entire series is referenced, and it makes for involving reading for the committed Harry Potter fan.

I enjoyed being led to deeper thoughts about the stories, which I really hadn't thought about while whipping along through the narrative. At times I found that the philosophy got a little heavy, which it was bound to, but the references to familiar material made the new, harder, ideas easier to take on board and identify with.

One of the strongest messages through the Harry Potter series is that love conquers all, and in thee sacrifices made by Lily, Dumbledore and finally Harry, we are shown that. To then link that to well known pacifists like Ghandi was kind of obvious, but also great. Likewise the Jesus comparisons, which may not please everyone, but fans of the series should be able to deal with it.

I think that an imaginative and interested young person would get a lot out of this book - perhaps as extra reading for a student of Philosophy and Ethics?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harry Potter and Philosophy, 10 May 2012
By 
T. Counley (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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I was undecided whether or not to purchase this book as philosophy is a 'heavy' subject but my word am I glad that I did buy it, it is a gem amongst gems. As a dedicated fan of Harry Potter I thought I had read and understood the stories but how wrong I was! 'The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy' opened my eye's to the real story and my mind to the way to enjoy my future reading experience. I thoroughly recommend this book to readers in general and to HP fans in particular, you wont regret it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Probes a bit too far, 3 May 2011
By 
Carl Spencer "Carl" (UK) - See all my reviews
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I am a huge fan of JK Rowling's use of storytelling to explore philosophy, social conventions, prejudice and mythology but I do sometimes think people draw too much significance from the story and, most certainly, far beyond what the author must have intended when they actually wrote the source material.

This book is an example of that. Some of the chapters are insightful and thought provoking but others seem to spend page upon page, either discussing something and then coming to no conclusion whatsoever, or exploring an non-existent issue. For example, quite a few of the chapters on Dumbledore were really quite interesting and well written. The 'Sirius - man or dog' chapter was an example of complete redundancy - discussing whether Sirius is man or dog (or both), when in fact it seems obvious he is just a man who enjoys acting as a dog.

Overall, if you enjoy reading about philosophy and interesting debates concerning our favourite book series, then give this book a read. However, for most people, I cannot imagine this book being little more than a monotonous (and sometimes frustrating) read.
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