Monday, July 16, 2012

The Philosophy of...

There will soon be a new regular feature to the CatholicSkywalker blog:  "The Philosophy of..."

As someone who is entrenched in the pop culture, I am well aware of the perils of being so moved by a movie or story that I can overlook some of the implications, particularly moral implication, of what I experience.

I remember being a kid standing on the coffee table singing and dancing along with the rest of the T-Birds to "Greased Lightning" as Grease played on the VCR (and yes I can still do the dance).  It wasn't until I got much older and understood the lyrics that I realized the jaw-droppingly innapropriatness of what I was doing.

Every piece of art, no matter how seemingly inconsequential has a point of view, and therefore a philosophy.  CS Lewis once said that art (particularly story) has a way of entering into our minds in a way that bypasses the analytical part of our brains and gives a direct experience of the the thing.  Music is particularly effective at this.

I am not talking about unearthing "hidden agendas," but coming to understand what the art is trying to say.  This is not meant to remove the enjoyment from something, like trying desperately to explain a joke, but to deepen it when possible.  Looking at the philosophy of a movie like Grease may lead us to turn more critical eye to its message.  But exploring the deeper elements of Lord of the Rings may only enhance our appreciation.

The philosophies of pop culture do influence us for good or ill.  I wrote about how Krull changed my perspective on love.  My favorite movie, Return of the Jedi, showed me something I did not expect as a child.  I used to think that the hero was the one who fights the bad guy.  But that is not the philosophy of heroism Return of the Jedi shows.  It is something much bigger.  And the truth of that shaped a lot of my childhood.

In each post we will explore the 4 sides of Philosophy.  To recap they are:

Metaphysics: The study of what exists.
Anthropology: The study of human nature.
Epistemology: The study of how we come to know things.
Ethics: The study of how we should act.

So we will be exploring things like the philosophy of:
The Matrix
Wizard of Oz
Harry Potter
Stephen King
Lady Gaga
Flash Gordon
The Notebook
William Shakespeare
The Big Bang Theory
Battlestar Galactica
The Dark Knight
Quentin Tarantino

I am happy to take requests as well.  Simply
-comment on one of the posts
-email me at
-send me a tweet @CatholicSkywalk

I should get the first post out within the week.


  1. Request for The Philosophy of... this movie:

    Unfortunately it is not not playing in any theaters near me otherwise or I would be there day one (which was actually last Friday).

    Come on CatholicSkywalker make it happen!

  2. CatholicSkywalker, I love your new idea on reviewing the philosophies of entertainment.

    Therefore, to put some flesh on the bones to the questions I have about the movie based on the above trailer, here is a list of what I would like to know about this movie. I realize it may not be playing near but if you do ever see it, would you address these questions.

    1) Quitting you’re paying job to volunteer fulltime for a political candidate (Big question here where should a person’s loyalties go first? Should they help their family first, in this case by being a responsible and consistent provider or should their first loyalties go to their society as a whole, in which case they should drop everything to get a person elected who could make all their lives better?)

    2) The never ending void of materialism (republican nephew using copious amounts of drugs and women to satisfy unending appetites)

    3) Is the movie about racial identity and pride within a community or does it display racist tendencies by having stereotypically characters dropping racial invectives (“mighty white of you”)

    4) Does pride for a political figure turns to into a cult of personality as the main character’s life seems completely centered on their choice of office holder.

    - Thanks,

    1. I wish I could answer those questions in depth, but not having seen the movie, I'm not sure what the themes are. It could be that his obsession will be viewed as good or bad. I don't know.

      But the trailer reminds me very much of Julie and Julia. In that movie, the main character became devoted and obsessed with Julia Child. But she preferred her imagined version of Julia Child to the real thing. For her, Julia Child was a symbol for the strength she was lacking. It seems like the main character in the Obama Effect sees in his imagined Obama the symbol of what is lacking in his life.

      But based on only what I saw in the trailer:
      1. Quitting your job to volunteer for Obama or McCain seems foolish
      2. The materialism seems to be found in the movie's villains (also interesting that the Republican didn't mention he was pro-life)
      3. The movie is about racial identity. Notice the shot of the slave next to Obama. It is meant to point to how far African Americans have come since the Civil War.
      4. If anyone did what he did about with the John McCain, would we think it strange. What if someone made a movie in July 2004 called the Bush Effect with such a hagiographic image of Bush?

  3. That connection to Julia and Julia is really excellent, where the object of attention is just a form symbolism that someone has personalized and projected onto another. I had not thought of that.

  4. (((In each post we will explore the 4 sides of Philosophy. To recap they are:

    Metaphysics: The study of what exists.
    Anthropology: The study of human nature.
    Epistemology: The study of how we come to know things.
    Ethics: The study of how we should act.)))

    Skywalker, your post and some comments reminded me of when I was given a job as a Queen's Printer here in Canada around 1965 and you've started me and/or should I say some of my brain cells to wonder about things that I thought concerning when I saw the movie
    Back then I thought that many of those students in the movie were kind of spoiled and were not as mean as some people thought they were and I'm having a LOT of fun trying to figure out why I thought that way back then?

    I also recall back then, we had all night movies during the week which started at midnight and a good looking chick whom one of my friend also liked made a pass at me and long story short, because she had been cruel to my best friend TOM (God Bless his soul) I shot her down and then went to work after leaving the theater and swore that I would never do that again. :(

    Anyway! Before I take off in another tangent, have you ever thought of taking and/or have you taken courses in "Psychology" in these fields?

    I hear ya! Victor! You're kind of like your own "Psychologist" NOW! Right?

    All "I" can say is that the brain does work in mysterious ways. :)

    God Bless


    1. Psychology comes from the two Greek root words "Psyche" = soul/mind and "logos" = (in this case) science. Most of this should be covered in the anthropology of a philosophy.
      In answer to your question, yes I have training in psychology, but I find its biggest problem is that it claims to explain more about the human person than it actually does.