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Pop Goes Philosophy

a monthly column

As featured on PopMatters

Welcome to Pop Goes Philosophy, a monthly column featuring essays by Open Court authors, presented by our friends at the PopMatters website. Here philosophers find deep meaning in the depths, and at least a tiny ray of reflection in the shallows, of all that is pop culture.

  • Marxism: The Music Theory That Never Goes Out of Style March 2, 2011, by George Reisch

    How fitting that a post-punk band from the late '70s, fascinated by the Marxist metaphysics of modernity, would re-emerge to remind us that nothing new has happened in rock in decades. Of course Thom Yorke might disagree...

  • Birthered in the U.S.A. January 10, 2011, by George Reisch

    Every time Anderson Cooper cornered Leo Berman on his refusal to accept the abundant evidence about Obama’s Hawaiian birth, Berman changed the subject—right back to his original, hopeless claim.

  • Pulp Non-Fiction: Where Tarantino Meets Aristotle November 3, 2010, by George Reisch

    Truth is as strange as fiction. Compare God in America with Angels in America and you can hardly tell the difference -- which is what Pulp Fiction has been saying all along.

  • Philosophical Tactics in International Soccer September 8, 2010, by George Reisch

    What exactly are Marx, Hegel, Aristotle and Socrates doing after Confucius blows the ref’s whistle? They’re not just thinking about soccer. They’re playing... sort of.

  • Fooled by Skepticism July 14, 2010, by George Reisch

    Skepticism has been fueling pop culture for decades. Just ask John Lennon or Pete Townshend. Lately it’s just been fooling pop culture about science.

  • The Pope of Satire May 3, 2010, by George Reisch

    Judging from the worried silence that met Stephen Colbert’s satirical comments about George W. Bush, it seems he stepped over the line from his trademark truthiness that entertains to plain-old truth (or perhaps taboo) that his audience did not want to hear. As comedy routines go, this one died fast.

  • Übermensch and Übermonk February 24, 2010, by George Reisch

    Adrian Monk is slave to his obsessions, but he's the master of his self. He's possibly even the master of the future of humanity.

  • Pop Culture's IQ: The Downward Spiral January 21, 2010, by George Reisch

    How can you explain the difference between Julia Child and Rachael Ray without acknowledging the elephant in pop culture's living room? We're getting dumber.

  • Nobel Prizes and Nobel Promises November 10, 2009, by George Reisch

    President Obama probably rattled and hummed in disbelief when he got his Nobel Prize. Ask Bono.

  • Captain Obama and the Final Frontier September 15, 2009, by George Reisch

    Obama's four-year mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new kinds of political confusion; to boldly go where no rational health-care reformer has gone before.

  • Hail to the Thief, Again? July 22, 2009, by George Reisch and Brandon W. Forbes

    Thom Yorke’s thoughts about political power are in good company. Great theorists of power and justice agree: “you do it to yourself.”

  • Obama is The Boss May 13, 2009, by George Reisch and Russell Anderson

    What Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen share is an understanding that real life happens on the ground, regardless of the hot ideological winds blowing through Crawford or Washington D.C. or talk radio.

  • Don't Touch that Dial March 10, 2009, by George Reisch and Phillip S. Seng

    If Congress had its way, Dorothy would have clicked her ruby slippers together and chanted, "There's no place like home theater. There's no place like home theater."

  • Where the Frak is All My Money? Jan. 27, 2009, by George Reisch and Richard Hanley

    Battlestar Galactica is like Wall Street—it’s hard to tell Cylons from humans, especially when it comes to galaxy-size Ponzi schemes.

  • Our Zombies, Ourselves Oct. 27, 2008, by George Reisch

    Zombies, politicians, and consumers alike seek immediate gratification. But can they be happy?

  • I'm Not There, and Neither Are You Sept. 9, 2008, by George Reisch, Peter Vernezze and Paul Lulewicz

    The Bob Dylan film I'm Not There shows that the main puzzle behind pop music's most enigmatic personality resides right here, within us all.

  • George W. and J. Peterman, Philosophically Speaking July 16, 2008, by George Reisch and Norah Martin

    It takes guts to look squarely at the paradox of subjectivity, as former White House press secretary Scott McClellan can attest.

  • Cultural Meanings in America Make Benefit Glorious Bank Accounts of Creationists May 7, 2008, by George Reisch

    Is Ben Stein taking a page from Michael Moore? No, from Borat is more like it.

  • Rock Hits Wall March 3, 2008, by George Reisch and Brandon Forbes

    Does a conservative obsession with its past threaten the originality and imagination of today's rock music? Pink Floyd's The Wall casts a long shadow on the genre.

  • Lead Us Not Into Speculation, Nor Excessive Computation January 15, 2008, by George Reisch and Nick Bostrom

    A prominent philosopher argues that you, me, and everyone you know may be an artificial computer-simulation of a person.

  • Don't Keep Your Philosophy Under Your (Mr.) Hat Nov. 14, 2007, by George Reisch and Randall Auxier

    The point of philosophy going pop is not to exalt the ivory tower and herd people inside; it's to give philosophers a chance to leave.

  • My Philosophy, My Vertigo Sept. 5, 2007, by George Reisch, Noël Carroll and Dan Flory

    Are the workings of the human mind and heart forever beyond the reach of science to understand? Two philosophers find the question—and opposed answers—in Hitchcock's Vertigo.

  • Freedom's Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Choose July 10, 2007, by George Reisch and Matthew Turner

    Stoics say freedom is an illusion. That's why they have no choice but to think deeply about the Grateful Dead.

  • High-Minded Bullshit May 8, 2007, by George Reisch and Gary L. Hardcastle

    Philosophy itself is often regarded as part and parcel with the bullshit of popular culture. But it is philosophers who been trying to determine exactly what bullshit is and how it works its magic.

  • The Meaning (wink, wink) of Life April 9, 2007, by George Reisch and Edward Slowik

    The territory of Pop Goes Philosophy is this sudden convergence of philosophy and pop culture. We'll dip into these books and I'll introduce some of the best, weirdest, or most puzzling ideas they have to offer, such as Ed Slowik's conclusion that the study of every Monty Python DVD, will actually increase your chances of doing better in Philosophy 101.

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