Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy Review
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Is Alice in Wonderland simply a fantastic children’s tale? Is it a result of author Lewis Carroll’s madness or opium addiction? No, according to some academics, there’s a lot more. In fact, philosophy professors Richard Brian Davis and William Irwin claim that this story carries the codes to unlock one’s personal identity. In order to convince readers, they’ve compiled fourteen essays from philosophy instructors to English professors in Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser.

Each of the fourteen writers presents a philosophical topic or question, illustrating it through the Alice in Wonderland story. Why do we procrastinate? Why do tedious daily activities add up to a satisfying day? How is Alice a prime example of good inductive reasoning? What is the role of language and memory? What is time, and how can we measure the past and the future? Each writer also ties in the ideas of philosophers like Socrates, Plato, St. Augustine, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, and 20th century philosophers such as Donald Davidson.

Lewis Carroll was a mathematician and logician, and, in the essay “Serious Nonsense,” his work is looked at as a series of philosophical puzzles. The essay “Unruly Alice” demonstrates how Carroll was challenging the role of women in Victorian England. “How Deep Does the Rabbit-Hole Go?” questions what makes up a person’s reality and the role of drugs in seeking the true meaning of life. “Nuclear Strategists in Wonderland” discusses the nuclear paradox and the power of propaganda, as when the Queen of Hearts exaggerates the power of the enemy.

The essays in Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy were written for an educated audience, but there were no assumptions that the reader had ever studied philosophy. In fact, the authors have written their essays in such an entertaining and relatable manner that it’s difficult not to at least consider their points of view.

Now, I’m not a big Alice in Wonderland fan, and, through the years, I’ve become more inclined to take things at face value, as opposed to looking for a deeper meaning. This book may change that, though. I can’t even begin to pick a favorite essay; there are quite a few. Let’s just say that I enjoyed reflecting on each writer’s interpretations, and each piece forced me to mull over these seemingly simple questions of life. Since reading this book, I’ve found myself looking beyond the obvious—which, in some cases, may wind up getting me in trouble.

Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy is a part of the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. Its goal is to take philosophy out of the “ivory tower” of academia and show that it’s relevant to our lives. The writers have succeeded in accomplishing this—at least in this book.

The series began with South Park and Philosophy and continues to includes more movie and television titles (check out for a complete listing). There’s even a Metallica and Philosophy book. I’ll have to pick that one up. This series could definitely become addictive.

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