William Irwin (philosopher)

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William Irwin (born 1970) is Professor of Philosophy at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and is best known for originating the "philosophy and popular culture" book genre with Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book about Everything and Nothing in 1999 and The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer in 2001.

Early life[edit]

Irwin was born in 1970 and raised in Yonkers, New York. He attended Regis High School in Manhattan, an elite Jesuit institution, graduating in 1988. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from Fordham University in 1992 where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa cum Laude, having attended Fordham on a full Presidential Scholarship. He later received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York in 1996 at the age of 26. Irwin’s dissertation, “Harmonizing Hermeneutics: The Normative and Descriptive Approaches, Interpretation and Criticism,” was awarded the Perry Prize for Outstanding Dissertations in Philosophy. His dissertation director was Jorge J.E. Gracia. E.D. Hirsch, Jr. was his external evaluator.

Contributions to philosophy[edit]

Irwin’s first book, Intentionalist Interpretation: A Philosophical Explanation and Defense, was nominated for the American Philosophical Association Young Scholar’s Book Prize and was the subject of a special book session at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Hermeneutics and Postmodern Thought in May 2000. Irwin has published scholarly articles in leading journals such as Philosophy and Literature, Philosophy Today, Reason Papers, Journal of Value Inquiry, Tolstoy Studies Journal, and The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.

Irwin is best known for having originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books with Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book about Everything and Nothing in 1999 and then the very popular The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer in 2001. He was editor of these books and then series editor of the Popular Culture and Philosophy Series through Open Court Publishing Company, producing titles such as Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts, Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine, Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way, and many others.[1] Carlin Romano from The Chronicle of Higher Education called the Popular Culture and Philosophy Series “the most serious philosophy series on the market, if some link between academic seriousness and real life still exists.”[2] In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Stephen T. Asma called William Irwin the “chief architect” of the philosophy and popular culture movement.[3]

In 2006, Irwin left Open Court to become the General Editor of The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series through Wiley-Blackwell.[4] Reuters (now Thomson Reuters) reported that Irwin’s books have sold more than one million copies.[5] South Park and Philosophy: You Know, I Learned Something Today was the first in that series, published in 2006. Metallica and Philosophy: A Crash Course in Brain Surgery followed shortly thereafter; Scott Ian from Anthrax called it “a kick-ass read.”[6] The series also includes Black Sabbath and Philosophy: Mastering Reality published in 2012. Irwin is quoted in USA Today as claiming that "the books are about smart popular culture for smart fans.”[7]

Irwin first theorized the philosophy and pop culture genre in his article “Philosophy as/and/of Popular Culture” in Irwin and Gracia eds. Philosophy and the Interpretation of Popular Culture (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), pp. 41–63. In 2010 he explained the motivation for the series and defended it against critics in an article in The Philosophers’ Magazine titled “Fancy Taking a Pop?” http://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/55564/fancy-taking-pop.pdf Irwin defended the style of the books in “Writing for the Reader: A Defense of Philosophy and Popular Culture Books”: http://commons.pacificu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1490&context=eip

When Irwin was with Open Court, he edited The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real, which Anderson Cooper referred to as an "interesting collection of thoughts on the movie and its place in the world" in an interview with Irwin.[8] Irwin also discussed a follow-up book, More Matrix and Philosophy: Revolutions and Reloaded Decoded, in an interview with Keith Olbermann.[9]

Irwin has appeared as a guest on hundreds of radio and television shows. He has been interviewed by Time, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, USA Today, the BBC, CNN, NPR, and MSNBC, among others. In a 2010 interview with Time, Irwin said “Philosophy has had a bad rap for centuries. People mistakenly think it has nothing to do with their everyday lives, including enjoying media.”[10] Concerning readers’ reaction to the book series, Irwin told The Wall Street Journal, "I think an equal amount of people find it either too fluffy or too rigorous."[11]

In May 2012 Irwin was named Outstanding Alumnus by the Philosophy Department at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. He is the first person ever to receive this award.

A picture and description of one of Irwin’s tattoos appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education blog: http://chronicle.com/blogPost/And-Still-More-Scholarly-Ink/20545/

Along with David Kyle Johnson, Irwin writes the "Plato on Pop" blog for Psychology Today at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/plato-pop

Editorial activities[edit]

Series Editor, The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series (Wiley-Blackwell) Books in the Series:

  • Vol. 1 Robert Arp ed., South Park and Philosophy (2006);
  • Vol. 2 William Irwin ed., Metallica and Philosophy (2007) ;
  • Vol. 3 Jeremy Wisnewski ed., Family Guy and Philosophy (2007);
  • Vol. 4 Jason Holt ed., The Daily Show and Philosophy (2007);
  • Vol. 5 Sharon Kaye ed., Lost and Philosophy (2007);
  • Vol. 6 Davis, Weed, and Weed eds., 24 and Philosophy (2007);
  • Vol. 7 Jeremy Wisnewski ed., The Office and Philosophy (2007);
  • Vol. 8 Jason T. Eberl ed., Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy (2008);
  • Vol. 9 Mark White and Robert Arp eds. Batman and Philosophy (2008);
  • Vol. 10 Henry Jacoby ed., House M.D. and Philosophy (2008);
  • Vol. 11 Mark White ed., Watchmen and Philosophy (2009);
  • Vol. 12 Rebecca Housel and J. Jeremy Wisnewski eds., X-Men and Philosophy (2009);
  • Vol. 13 Richard Brown and Kevin s. Decker eds., Terminator and Philosophy (2009);
  • Vol. 14 David Kyle Johnson ed., Heroes and Philosophy (2009);
  • Vol. 14 Rebecca Housel and J. Jeremy Wisnewski eds., Twilight and Philosophy (2009);
  • Vol. 16 Jason P. Blahuta and Michel S. Beaulieu eds., Final Fantasy and Philosophy (2009);
  • Vol. 17 Richard Davis ed., Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy (2010);
  • Vol. 18 Mark White ed., Iron Man and Philosophy (2010);
  • Vol. 19 George Dunn and Rebecca Housel eds., True Blood and Philosophy (2010).
  • Vol. 20 Rod Carveth and James South eds., Mad Men and Philosophy (2010).
  • Vol. 21 J. Jeremy Wisnewski ed., 30 Rock and Philosophy (2010).
  • Vol. 22 Gregory Bassham ed., The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy (2010).
  • Vol. 23 Sharon Kaye ed., The Ultimate Lost and Philosophy (2010).
  • Vol. 24 Jane Dryden and Mark White eds., Green Lantern and Philosophy (2011).
  • Vol. 25 David Kyle Johnson ed., Inception and Philosophy (2011).
  • Vol. 26 Eric Bronson ed., The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Philosophy (2011).
  • Vol. 27 Kristopher Phillips and J. Jeremy Wisnewski eds., Arrested Development and Philosophy (2012).
  • Vol. 28 George Dunn and Nicolas Michaud, ed., Hunger Games and Philosophy (2012).
  • Vol. 29 Mark White ed., The Avengers and Philosophy (2012).
  • Vol. 30 Henry Jacoby ed., Game of Thrones and Philosophy (2012).
  • Vol. 31 Dean Kowalski ed., The Big Bang Theory and Philosophy (2012).
  • Vol. 32 Peter Fosl ed., The Big Lebowski and Philosophy (2012).
  • Vol. 33 J.J. Sanford ed., Spider-Man and Philosophy (2012).
  • Vol. 34 Gregory Bassham and Eric Bronson eds., The Hobbit and Philosophy (2012).
  • Vol. 35 William Irwin ed., Black Sabbath and Philosophy (2012)
  • Vol. 36 Mark White ed., Superman and Philosophy (forthcoming 2013).
  • Vol. 37 Kevin Decker ed., Ender’s Game and Philosophy (2013).
  • Vol. 38 George Dunn and Jason Eberl eds., Sons of Anarchy and Philosophy (2013).
  • Vol. 39 Galen A. Foresman ed., Supernatural and Philosophy (2013).
  • Vol. 40 Robert Arp and Kevin Decker eds., The Ultimate South Park and Philosophy (2013).
  • Vol. 41 Jason Holt ed., The Ultimate Daily Show and Philosophy (2013).
  • Vol. 42 George Dunn and James South eds., Veronica Mars and Philosophy (2014).
  • Vol. 43 Christopher Robichaud ed., Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy (2014).
  • Vol. 44 George Dunn ed., Avatar and Philosophy (2014).

Series Editor, Popular Culture and Philosophy (Open Court Publishing). Books in the series:

  • Vol. 1 William Irwin ed. Seinfeld and Philosophy (1999);
  • Vol. 2 Irwin, Conard, and Skoble eds. The Simpsons and Philosophy (2001);
  • Vol. 3 William Irwin ed. The Matrix and Philosophy (2002);
  • Vol. 4 James South ed., Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy (2003);
  • Vol. 5 Gregory Bassham and Eric Bronson eds., The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy (2003);
  • Vol. 6 Eric Bronson ed., Baseball and Philosophy (Winter 2004);
  • Vol. 7 Richard Greene and Peter Vernezze eds., The Sopranos and Philosophy (Spring 2004);
  • Vol. 8 Mark Conard and Aeon Skoble eds., Woody Allen and Philosophy (Fall 2004);
  • Vol. 9 David Baggett and Shawn Klein eds., Harry Potter and Philosophy (Fall 2004);
  • Vol. 10 Jorge J.E. Gracia ed., Mel Gibson’s Passion and Philosophy (Fall 2004).
  • Vol. 11 William Irwin ed., More Matrix and Philosophy (Winter 2005);
  • Vol. 12 Tom Morris and Matt Morris eds., Superheroes and Philosophy (Spring 2005);
  • Vol. 13 Jason Eberl and Kevin Decker eds., Star Wars and Philosophy (Spring 2005);
  • Vol. 14 Lisa Heldke, Kerri Mommer, and Cindy Pineo eds., The Atkins Diet and Philosophy (Fall 2005);
  • Vol. 15 Gregory Bassham and Jerry Walls eds., The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy (Fall 2005);
  • Vol. 16 Derrick Darby and Tommy Shelby eds., Hip-Hop and Philosophy (Fall 2005);
  • Vol. 17 Peter Venrnezze and Carl Porter eds., Bob Dylan and Philosophy (Winter 2006);
  • Vol. 18 Gary Hardcastle and George Reisch eds., Monty Python and Philosophy (Spring 2006);
  • Vol. 19 Carolyn Madia-Gray, Kerri Mommer, and Cynthia Pineo eds., Harley Davidson and Philosophy (Spring 2006);
  • Vol. 20 Eric Bronson ed., Poker and Philosophy (Spring 2006);
  • Vol. 21 Mark Wrathall ed., U2 and Philosophy (Spring 2006);
  • Vol. 22 Greene et al. ed., The Undead and Philosophy (Fall 2006);
  • Vol. 23 Held and South eds., James Bond and Philosophy (Fall 2006);
  • Vol. 24 Baur and Baur eds., The Beatles and Philosophy (Fall 2006);
  • Vol. 25 Drumin and Baggett eds., Alfred Hitchcock and Philosophy (Winter 2007).

Bibliography[edit]

Books authored[edit]

  • Intentionalist Interpretation: A Philosophical Explanation and Defense (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, December 1999). Nominated for the American Philosophical Association Young Scholar's Book Prize.
  • Critical Thinking: A Student's Introduction (with G. Bassham, H. Nardone, and J. Wallace), ( New York : McGraw-Hill, 2001; 2nd Edition 2004; 3rd Edition 2007).

Books edited[edit]

  • The Death and Resurrection of the Author? (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002).
  • Philosophy and the Interpretation of Pop Culture (co-edited with Jorge J.E. Gracia) (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007).
  • Black Sabbath and Philosophy: Mastering Reality (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2012).
  • Metallica and Philosophy: A Crash Course in Brain Surgery (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007). Translated into German, Hungarian, Italian, and Portuguese.
  • More Matrix and Philosophy: Revolutions and Reloaded Decoded (Chicago: Open Court, 2005).
  • The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real (Chicago: Open Court, 2002). New York Times bestseller. Translated into Japanese, Portuguese, Hungarian, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, and Turkish.
  • The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’oh! of Homer (with M. Conard and A. Skoble) (Chicago: Open Court, 2001). *#2 on Amazon.com’s list of Best Philosophy Books of 2001. New York Times backlist bestseller. Translated into Italian, Japanese, Korean, Turkish, German, Russian, Herbrew, and Portuguese.
  • Seinfeld and Philosophy: A Book about Everything and Nothing (Chicago: Open Court, 2000). Translated into Turkish, Hebrew, Serbian, Croatian, and Portuguese.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series website [1]
  • The Popular Culture and Philosophy Series website [2]
  • William T. Irwin's website [3]