Robert Arp, PhD


Philosophy & Pop Culture

In 2010, I was Plenary Speaker for Eastern Washington University's Student Philosophy Conference: "Pop Culture and Philosophy." What a great time!

In 2013, I was slated to be Plenary Speaker for Georgia Southern University's Undergraduate Philosophy Conference: "Pop Culture and Philosophy." However, I had a stomach virus and spent that time in the hospital recovering.

The Philosophy and Popular Culture genre was started by Bill Irwin, and I agree with him that:

  • The genre is one important and successful way to bring philosophy to non-philosophers, and vice versa. The genre even works for high-school-aged students.

  • The genre is an effective teaching tool (what student hasn't seen several episodes of South Park, for example?).

  • The writing in this genre isn't meant to be published in The Journal of Philosophy, The Philosophical Review, or Mind (three of the best, scholarly journals in philosophy).

  • Read, too, what I say at the bottom of this page.

As Editor

  • South Park and Philosophy, Wiley-Blackwell, 2006. Here. Wikipedia Site
  • The Ultimate South Park and Philosophy, W-B, with Decker, 2013. Here.
  • Batman and Philosophy, W-B, with Mark White, 2008. Here.
  • Philosophy of Ang Lee, UPK, with McRae and Adam Barkman, 2013. Here.
  • The Philosophy of J.J. Abrams, UPK, with Patricia Brace, 2014. Here.
  • Breaking Bad and Philosophy, Open Court, with David Koepsell, 2013. Here.
  • Tattoos and Philosophy: I Ink, Therefore I Am, W-B, 2013. Here.
  • Psych and Philosophy, OC, 2013. Here.
  • The Good Wife and Philosophy, OC, with Kim Baltzer-Jaray, 2013. Here.
  • The Devil and Philosophy, OC, 2014. Here.
  • Homeland and Philosophy, OC, 2014. Here.
  • Justified and Philosophy, OC, 2014. Here.
  • It’s Always Sunny and Philosophy, OC, with Roger Hunt. 2015. Here.
  • Downton Abbey and Philosophy, OC, with Adam Barkman, 2015. Here.
  • Game of Thrones and Philosophy, OC, with Eric Silverman, 2016. Here.
  • The X-Files and Philosophy: THE TRUTH IS IN HERE, OC, 2017. Here.
  • Hamilton and Philosophy, OC, with Aaron Rabinowitz, 2017. Here.
  • The Americans and Philosophy, OC, with Kevin Guilfoy, 2017. Here.
  • Philosophy & Breaking Bad, Palgrave Macmillan, w/ Decker/Koepsell, 2017.
  • WikiLeaking: The Ethics of Secrecy and Exposure, OC, 2018. Here.
  • Scott Adams and Philosophy, OC, with D. Yim & G. Foresman, 2018. Here.
  • - A review from HubPages is found here.
  • Perry Mason and Philosophy, OC, with Heather Rivera, in preparation.

As Contributor

With Wiley-Blackwell Publishers

  • “The Chewbacca Defense: A South Park Logic Lesson,” in South Park and Philosophy, (2006) 40-53. Reprinted in: Introducing Philosophy Through Pop Culture: From Socrates to South Park, Hume to House, William Irwin and David Kyle Johnson (eds.), 2010, 14-24.
  • “Moral Standoffs: Objectification in Lost,” with P. Brace, Lost and Philosophy: 2008, 26-38.
  • “The Ethics of Objectification and the Search for Redemption in Lost,” with Patricia Brace, Ultimate Lost and Philosophy: 2010, 241-252.
  • “For L’Amour: Love and Friendship in The Office,” with Jamie Carlin Watson, The Office and Philosophy: 2008, 221-233.
  • “And They Have a Plan: Cylons as Persons,” with Tracy Mahaffey, Battlestar Gallactica and Philosophy: 2008, 55-63.
  • 24 and the Ethics of Objectification,” with John Carpenter, 24 and Philosophy: 2008, 181-194.
  • “Tracy Jordan and True, Justified Beliefs,” 30 Rock and Philosophy: 2008, 186-194.
  • “Stop Stereotyping Sabbath,” Black Sabbath and Philosophy: 2012, 182-189.
  • “Believer, Deceiver: Perception and Reality in Metallica,” Metallica and Philosophy: 2007, 163-172.
  • “Thinkin’ is Freakin’ Sweet: Family Guy and Fallacies,” Family Guy and Philosophy: 2007, 139-148.
  • “Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis: The Ambiguously Gay Duo," Watchmen and Philosophy: 2009, 185-196.
  • “Whiskey, Whisky, Wild Living, and the Hedonistic Paradox,” Whiskey and Philosophy: 2009, 109-122.
  • “Objectification of Conscious Life Forms in Final Fantasy,” with Sarah Fisk, Final Fantasy and Philosophy: 2009, 72-86.
  • “Coming Out of the Coffin and Coming Out of the Closet,” with Patricia Brace, True Blood and Philosophy: 2009, 93-108.
  • “Knowledge, Perception, and Reality: Jello Mistaken for Stones,” Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: 2009, 125-136.
  • “An Atheist and a Theist Discuss a Cross Tattoo and the Existence of God," Tattoos and Philosophy: I Ink, Therefore I Am: 2012, 242-260.

With Open Court Publishers

  • “All My Loving: Paul McCartney’s Philosophy of Love,” The Beatles and Philosophy: 2006, 37-46.
  • “Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t: Vampires and the Hedonistic Paradox,” The Undead and Philosophy: 2006, 143-154.
  • “Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t: Vampires and the Hedonistic Paradox,” Reprinted in: Zombies, Vampires, and Philosophy: 2009, 143-154.
  • “That Fatal Kiss: Bond, Ethics, and the Objectification of Women,” with Kevin Decker, James Bond and Philosophy: 2006, 201-214.
  • “If Droids Could Think… Droids as Slaves and Persons,” Star Wars and Philosophy: 2005, 120-131.
  • “Mind Your Ps and Qs: Power, Pleasure, and the Q Continuum,” Star Trek and Philosophy: 2008, 59-68.
  • “The Many Ways to Skin a Cat,” What Philosophy Can Tell You about Your Cat: 2008, 157-170.
  • Legend and Logic: Critical Thinking in the Real and Gaming Worlds,” with Dennis Millarker, The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy: 2008, 29-43.
  • “Morally Responsible Machines,” Transformers and Philosophy: 2009, 127-138.
  • “Robots in Love?” with Jamie Carlin Watson, Transformers and Philosophy: 2009, 139-152.
  • “V is for Villain,” Supervillains and Philosophy: 2009, 43-52.
  • “I Give Them What They Want—Either an Orphan or an Abortion: The Cider House Rules and the Issue of Abortion,” in Bioethics at the Movies, Sandra Shapshay (ed.), Johns Hopkins, 2009, 15-31.
  • “People for the Ethical Treatment of Zombies (PETZ) as a Real Possibility,” with Jeff Hinzmann, The Walking Dead and Philosophy: 2012.
  • “The Five Ps of My Love Life,” What Philosophy Can Tell You About Your Lover: 2012.
  • “F You, You F-ing F,” The Onion and Philosophy: 2012.
  • Jeopardy! Contestants are Monkeys,” Jeopardy! and Philosophy: 2012.
  • “Peter's Peter Problem,” with Skyler King, The Good Wife and Philosophy: 2013.
  • “Lying and Withholding the Truth in Homeland,” Homeland and Philosophy: 2014.
  • “If the Devil Didn't Exist, It would be Necessary to Invent Him,” The Devil and Philosophy: 2014.
  • “If a Tree Fort Falls in a Forest...” Adventure Time and Philosophy: 2014.
  • “Cloverfield and Terrorism,” with Patricia Brace, The Philosophy of J.J. Abrams: University Press of Kentucky, 2014.
  • “Dracula's Dilemma,” Dracula and Philosophy: 2015.
  • “Guns Don't Kill Colors - Colors Kill Colors,” Red Rising and Philosophy: 2016.
  • "John Waters, Gaytheism, and Gay Theism,” John Waters and Philosophy:
  • "Schumer's Selfishness," Amy Schumer and Philosophy, 2018.

A Word to the Supercilious...

There's an assumption made by some folks that, since someone works on philosophy and pop culture (PPC) materials (the whole "_ and Philosophy" genre, such as The Simpsons and Philosophy, The Matrix and Philosophy, South Park and Philosophy), then they are lousy scholars.

This is fallacious thinking, and the conclusion is false. There are tons of world-famous scholars, in every field, who bring their ideas "to the masses" so to speak. Plus, there are tons of world-famous scholars who have written chapters in PPC books!

I can write in the morning that "a particular quantified statement ‘∃xFx’ is true just in case there is an object in the domain of quantification that, when assigned as the value of the variable ‘x’, satisfies the open formula ‘Fx’, making obvious that the truth of a quantified statement is ontologically relevant, and, in fact, ideally suited to make ontological commitment explicit, since we need entities to assign as the values of the variables," then go to lunch, and afterward write that "the creators of South Park, for the most part, are aware of many basic logical principles. They purposely violate them, though, to show the absurdities contained in certain beliefs, opinions, ideas, and arguments. In fact, much of South Park’s humor concerns logical violations and the absurdities, contradictions, and problems that result. In what follows, we’ll consider some basics of logic using examples from South Park episodes, and show some differences between correct and incorrect reasoning."

Hawking wrote numerous articles in Astrophysical Journal that a handful of people on the planet truly "get" but he also wrote A Brief History of Time.

The whole "it takes time away from your real scholarly work" is hogwash, too. PPC work is what I do in my spare time, for leisure! World-famous philosophers climb mountains, or visit other cultures, or even play video games or binge watch Game of Thrones in their spare time. We don't look at them and say, "Wow. You're just not good at what you do because you bike in the evenings or on weekends, when you should be using that time to be figuring out your own Frankfurt-style counterexample, you loser."

More can be said...