Many of us have grown up watching the hit television cartoon, “The Simpson’s.” We all spend hours discussing the previous night’s episode with friends at school the next day. What most of us aren’t aware of is the massive amount of philosophical insight embodied within the show we have grown to love.
In their book, The Simpson’s and Philosophy, William Irwin, Mark T. Conrad and Aeon J. Skoble show us what lurks beneath the surface of this tremendous cartoon. At first they look at the characters and analyze them philosophically to see what they have to offer us.
Of course, the most popular character, Homer Simpson, comes first. Here we analyze the moral aspect of Homer Simpson, or better put, the lack thereof. Throughout the life of the show we see Homer gorge himself with any and all food and drink that come his way.
We also see Homer here as the habitual liar (and we wonder where Bart gets it from). He continually forgets his youngest daughter Maggie exists and usually disagrees with Marge. Through all these faults we see he may not be virtuous but he is definitly not malicious. When push comes to shove, we see value in him yet.
His wife Marge also has qualities worth mentioning. Unlike her neighbor, Flanders, who does the religious thing whether it’s right or wrong, Marge is religious yet lets her reason be her guide. Though she can be seen as the typical housewife, it is her ability of reason that helps her stand up for herself from time to time.
Then we have the kids to deal with, Bart being the most popular. We all can remember the crazy things he’s done like burning down the family Christmas tree and cutting off the head of Jebediah Springfield. He’s a good example of the phrase, “It’s good to be bad.” The author shows the connection between Bart and Nietzsche, seeing as Nietzsche is seen as philosophy’s bad boy while Bart is Springfield’s bad boy.
Lisa is another story; here we see what typically happens to the smart kid in town. She is a great example of a person with a strong intellect who we love to hate. The respect people give her for her intelligence goes hand in hand with resentment. She’s a strong woman just as her mother is.
Then, we have the forgotten daughter, Maggie. Poor Maggie gets kept out of mind continuously. In her we see that sometimes “silence is golden.”
After analyzing the main characters, secondary characters are mentioned along with their role in the Springfield society. Such characters as Flanders, Moe, Apu and Principal Skinner have affected our “water cooler talk” as well. From here we get a glimpse of the moral realm of the Simpson’s, various themes of the show and a complete list of every episode and its airdate.
Such philosophers are mentioned as Derrida, Aristotle, Ayn Rand, Confucius, Kant and more. This book is a fun and interesting way to pick up some main points of philosophy while doing it in a way that seems fun to you. After all, for a show that took the air in 1989 and is still airing new episodes every week, they must have captured something good with it.