From Zeno to Nietzsche, a lighthearted, illustrated romp through philosophical thought.
Cathcart (The Trolley Problem, or Would You Throw the Fat Guy Off the Bridge?: A Philosophical Conundrum, 2013, etc.) and Klein (Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change It: Wisdom of the Great Philosophers on How to Live, 2015, etc.) once studied philosophy together at Harvard and later teamed up to riff on the subject in Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates (2009). Their latest collaboration takes a cheerful, irreverent look at perennial philosophical questions—e.g., the meaning of life, morality and ethics, theories of knowledge, determinism and free will—as expressed by cartoons. Cartoonists, they agree, “are keen observers of the state of our society, its quirks and ironies,” including metaphysical conundrums. In 18 chapters, each headed by a cartoon from the likes of Leo Cullum, Bradford Veley, Aaron Bacall, and George Booth, the authors touch on the ideas of more than 70 philosophers and theorists, including Jacques Derrida, Edmund Husserl, Maimonides, Karl Marx, and René Descartes, “the first modern epistemologist,” who asserted that every perception of the world could be doubted except his certainty of himself as thinker. His famous proclamation “I think, therefore I am” informs the book’s title. Besides the philosophers, the authors quote frequently from Woody Allen, another deep thinker, who rings in on the philosophy of time (“Time is God’s way of keeping everything from happening at once”) and the problem of identity (“My one regret in life is that I am not someone else”). An appendix of terse “biosketches” are heavier on anecdote and quirky detail than philosophical explication. Kant, for example, “found social relationships sorely lacking,” and Heidegger’s “obscurity leaves plenty of room for improvisation in bull sessions.” Although Cathcart and Klein admit that they “stretch a connection here and there” between some cartoons and philosophical issues, they do succeed in making philosophy accessible and fun.
Entertaining and slyly illuminating.