A recent headline caught my eye. It proposed that Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a currently popular TV show) has deep philosophical implications along the lines of profound role-reversal, social deconstruction, or some such buzzwords.

Sorry, but don't ask me any more; I couldn't bear to read further, just as I can't (often) find the will to plow through reportage about the fashion (clothing) styles worn by politicians ... or corporate takeovers and mega-mergers ... or marriages and divorces and relationships of media "stars" ... or the woes of the X "industry" (where X equals gambling, entertainment, major-league sports, and similar non-industrial fluff). When I do read that sort of thing it's with an aura of guilt at my voyerism and time-wasting behavior.

But getting back to the point: the philo-Buffy article's title raises another issue, perhaps a legitimate one. If having an (arguably) clever twist away from the ordinary is enough to qualify a television series as "philosophical", then what is philosophy?

Socrates made a living (and a death) out of turning questions back at his questioners --- befuddling them by challenging their conventional beliefs. His ancient (and modern) heirs have done much the same.

Is philosophy in essence a series of clever twists? Hairpin turns in the road of common sense? Warped tracks that can derail a normal train of thought? Kinks in a hose that carries the stream of consciousness smoothly along?

(see also Underappreciated Ideas (6 Jul 1999), ThinkAgain (29 Aug 2002), ... )

TopicPhilosophy - 2002-10-02

Many philosophers adhered in practice, if not in theory, to various "clever twists", including various thought experiments to highlight the issues....

But never mind that, Buffy as entertainment does succeed quite well in subtly raising some more profound thoughts and questions about morality, the nature of "good" vs "evil", the "right thing to do", free will, and other staples of serious philosophy. It could quite likely be the only brush with such matters that a large segment of the viewers will ever have in such a way as to make them actually ponder the questions.

It's a format assuredly not for everyone. YMMV. -- Bo Leuf

(correlates: ReversalOfFortune, BeTheChange, AchieveNewBalance, ...)