Cogit d’oh ergo sum – Scots philosophy students to study Simpsons


A TOP Scottish University will offer students the chance to learn philosophy by studying Homer – the star of the long running cartoon, The Simpsons.

The course, offered by Glasgow University, will teach philosophy through ideas from the American television series.

The course’s promotional material claims the cartoon represents the ideas of famous philosophers such as Kant, Marx and Aristotle in the “purest of philosophical forms”.

It claims the television programme is “one of the modern world’s greatest cultural artefacts” and is “full of philosophy”.

Ideas discussed on the course will include whether Homer, the father of the Simpson family, would be considered “virtuous” by Aristotle.

D’ohcartes: The Simpsons has been praised for its philosophical content

Also included will be a discussion of divine command theory, with reference to Homer’s moralising neighbour, Ned Flanders.

The course, entitled D’Oh! The Simpsons Introduce Philosophy, is open to members of the public and will be taught as one six hour seminar in January 2017.

It will be taught by Glasgow University lecturer John Donaldson, whose previous publications incude David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

The course information states: “The Simpsons is one of the modern world’s greatest cultural artefacts partly because it is so full of philosophy.

“Aristotle, Kant, Marx, Camus, and many other great thinkers’ ideas are represented in what is arguably the purest of philosophical forms: the comic cartoon.

“This day-school will explore some of philosophy’s most inspiring ideas as presented in Matt Groening’s monument to the absurdities of human existence.”

John Donaldson said: “Matt Groening, the man behind the Simpsons, was a student of philosophy, and that comes through in each episode.

“The Simpsons is a very sophisticated work of popular culture, with a broad scope and depth, and is full of philosophical themes.

“Very pleasingly, the course has proved to be incredibly popular on social media. It has gone viral. We’ve never really had a response like this before.”

Discussing Homer directly, he added: “Homer definitely has some moral failings. He’s gluttonous, he struggles to tell the truth and can be quite violent, however, there’s a lot to be said in his defence.

“He is a faithful husband, a family man who is open-hearted and, in his own way, good-natured.”

He also suggested that Montgomery Burns, the owner of Springfield Power Plant, and Homer’s employer, would be immeadiately identifiable to Marxist philosophers.

He added: “Mr Burns is a capitalist of extraordinary rapaciousness.”

A Facebook post by Glasgow University advertising the course has proved extremely popular, having been liked over 450 times, and shared by close to 100 people.

The Simpsons’ writers have been praised for their incredible foresight recently, after an episode aired 16 years ago appeared to suggest that Donald Trump would later become US President.

The course will not be the first time The Simpsons have been used to teach Philosophy.

Back in 2001, a book called The “Simpsons” and Philosophy: The D’oh! of Homer was published, consisting of essays by Philosophy experts discussing the link between the cartoon and the academic discipline.

Essays included “Marge’s Moral Motivation”, “Simpsonian Sexual Politics” and “The Moral World of the Simpson Family: A Kantian Perspective.”

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