The Absolute Perfect Birthday Present for Me: Seinfeld and Philosophy

For those of you who got me nothing on June 9th.

This is absolutely perfect. From a review:

Seinfeld and Philosophy is a book with an interesting premise: it examines various philosophical issues raised by the phenomenally popular sitcom Seinfeld. The conceit is to examine the show that examined the minutia, the trivia of everyday life and to analyze certain aspects of the show from a philosophical standpoint. Thus, those of us who like both subjects have William Irwin to thank for this book, which is essentially a collection of essays from contemporary philosophers about Seinfeld.

The book includes 14 essays, organized into four “acts”, most of which are good. The first act centers mostly on the primary characters. There is one for each main character. Jerry is compared to Socrates and George to a “Virtueless man” of Aristotle. The weakest essay, perhaps, is the one examining if Elaine is a feminist. The strongest essay concerns Kramer and Soren Kierkegaard’s Asthetic Stage of Life. Although I am not entirely familiar with the man’s work, the essay lays out the central principles of Kierkegaard’s theory and ties it all together perfectly. Act II contains specific analogies between Seinfeld and the work of Nietzsche, Sartre, Lao Tzu, and Wittgenstein. Act III has a fascinating essay on George’s choice to do “the opposite”, another on Peterman and reality in the media, and a weak essay on the “significance of the insignificant” which purports to know the secret of Seinfeld’s humor but never tells it. The final act tackles the moral and ethical backgrounds of the four and also examines whether the law used to convict the four (the Good Samaritan Law) deserved to be on the books.

Any Seinfeld fan will appreciate this wonderful book, even if they have no philosophical background. The book allows fans to look at their show at a different angle. Similarly, fans of philosophy will not be disappointed. Most of the major philosophical figures of history are covered here, including Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Lao Tzu and a smattering of Eastern philosophy, Nietzsche, Sartre, Wittgenstein, Kant and others. This is basically an appetizer plate for those who like Seinfeld have an interest in philosophy and but don’t know where to start. This is worth buying for the more bookish variety of Seinfeld fans.

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