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Review: ‘Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts’

January 17, 2011

While not strictly a fantasy book, I decided to include this one in the blog because it takes as its basis one of the most popular fantasy series of all time: Harry Potter.  The book isn’t a story–it’s a collection of essays by various people exploring how events and relationships of the Harry Potter characters fit into and reflect ancient philosophy.

The book combines two of my favorite subjects: Harry Potter and Classics.  It was a birthday present from my sister, and it turns out to be a great present!  It’s a very interesting book, inviting the reader to take a further leap into a deeper understanding of the Harry Potter books.  Many of the essayists combine humor with serious discussion, and the book itself is rather lighthearted, which works in its favor.  Too often books of philosophy take themselves too seriously.

Some of the writers use more scholastic language, while others are more casual.  The scholastic language can create a problem for those who dislike reading the formal/scholastic tome and language, but know that not all of the essays are like that.  The third essay, “Voldemort’s Agents, Malfoy’s Cronies, and Hagrid’s Chums: Friendship in Harry Potter”, is a great example of one that uses less formal language and still gets the point across.

Some of the topics explored in the book are courage, honesty, friendship, femininity/feminism, ambition, morality, and some metaphysics.  I like the book because it puts some very complicated philosophical concepts into not only a modern framework but a fun framework, which makes them easier to understand.  It helps if you’ve read the Harry Potter books before you read this book–otherwise, you might not quite understand some of what they talk about.  The essayists do a great job of explaining the situations or scenes they used for the essays, but it still helps to have read the actual books.  Since this book was published before the final two books of the series came out, the essays only reference the first five Harry Potter books.

Overall, I liked reading the book.  I found it informative and interesting.  However, I know that not everyone will have the same level of interest in Harry Potter/the Classics, nor the same level of training I’ve had in classical philosophy.  This lack of training and/or interest could present a problem in how well the book is received by a reader.  The language of some of the essays, as pointed out earlier, is sometimes a little denser than I would like.  I don’t particularly want to feel like I’m back in school when I’m reading a book for pleasure.  That was pretty much the only drawback for me.  So, an interesting read that I might pick up again, but I don’t know if it’s something I’ll read over and over.  Thus, 3 stars.

Buy on Amazon * Editors’ websites: David Baggett, Shawn E. Kline * Goodreads

Book info: published 2004, 226 pages, ISBN 9781435114388

Copy is from personal library

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