Philosophy & Terry Pratchett

If you like Terry Pratchett then you will probably get a lot out of this book. If you also like philosophy then it’s an absolute shoo-in.

I have read a few of Terry Pratchett’ novels and enjoyed them all immensely. The humour, the characters, the gentle yet insightful parody. He deals with some fairly weighty subjects, but since they’re transferred to a fantasy setting the topics become less fraught and easier to discuss. Philosophy & Terry Pratchett brings these topics out and shows the philosophical underpinnings of the stories and plots.

The book is actually a collection of papers written by various philosophers. Each paper is on a specific topic (critical thinking, paternalism, existentialism, etc.), illustrated with reference to one or more of Pratchett’s books. Mostly they refer to the Discworld novels, but the Johnny books also get a mention. The papers are written for the general reader so are generally pretty easy to read.

This is a great book. I enjoyed pretty much all of the papers. The first one is Jacob Held’s A Golem Is Not Born, But Rather Becomes, A Woman: Gender On The Disc. It’s a perfect example of a clear-eyed discussion of a potentially controversial topic – it is interesting to dig down into Pratchett’s treatment of gender, but the discussion is general enough to apply to the real world too, without the tiresome left vs right politics of so much media discussion these days.

But if it’s politics you’re after, Kevin Guilfoy’s excellent Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy on the Discworld is just what you need. It turns out that Pratchett has a lot in common with Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek, if the Discworld is anything to go by.

There are many other highlights – Ben Saunders’ article on Equality is another great discussion of a current hot topic. Death, a favourite Discworld character, also features in a lot of the articles. Even aside from the Discworld angle, these papers are thought-provoking and fun to read. But maybe the main thing I took away from this book is that I really need to read a lot more Pratchett.

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