Several years ago, the X and Philosophy pop culture series was really hitting it big. Barnes and Noble had a sale on several hardcover editions, including Harry Potter and Philosophy and The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy, both of which I love. So I snagged them both and promptly didn’t read either for years. Now that I’m going through my Marie Kondo phase, trying to eliminate as much extra kitsch and junk from my life as possible, I’m motivated to read ALL the books on my shelf. I have to say, while the X and Philosophy series are really hit-or-miss, the Harry Potter edition turned out to be a real hit for me.
It’s one thing to fangirl all over your favorite series, but quite another to talk about it in an intellectual and academic manner. This is what I’ve found to be the challenge—managing that balance. And the essays in Harry Potter and Philosophy manage that balance really, really well.
Because of the date of publication (2004), the collection covers the first five Harry Potter novels. These limitations aside, the essays engage in vigorous philosophical debate with the series about a variety of things—selfhood, postmodernism, ethics of humane treatment of elves, etc. The essays that kick off the collection are rather didactic, but the collection gathers speed as it builds, and the essay on religious belief and the series is really, really good. The essay calls for people of faith to build their intellectual reasoning through various reading materials, including fiction. In fact, THIS quote really struck home with me: “A reluctance to imagine, cloaked as skepticism, tends to produce more arrogant cynicism than genuine wisdom. The philosopher’s task is not merely to mow down superstitions. It’s also to irrigate intellectual deserts” (170). Absolutely, yes.
I highly recommend this book for Harry Potter fans and scholars alike. Back when I was in high school, the Conservative Evangelicals and Fundies were all up.in.a.bunch about the series, but these essays demonstrate the breadth and depth of learning and faith-building that can occur when young and old minds engage in the philosophical ideas behind this series.