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Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curious and Curiouser (Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series) Excerpt from Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curious and Curiouser (Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series)

by William Irwin with Richard Brian Davis



Introduction: You're Late for a Very Important Date

"You take the blue pill," Morpheus says to Neo in The Matrix, "and the story ends . . . . You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes." It's a tempting offer, isn't it? For at one time or another in our lives, we've all wanted to escape -- from a dull and tedious job, an impossible relationship, from a world in which we often have so little control over what happens to us. Perhaps it's for reasons such as these that our culture has become positively obsessed with the idea of transcending the confines of this world for the cool fresh air of another. Whether it's by a red pill, a secret wardrobe, a looking glass, or a rabbit-hole, it doesn't really matter. We'll take it.

Of course, we don't just want to know how deep the rabbit-hole goes. That's a given; after all, it's a portal to another world -- "four thousand miles down, I think." We also want to know how to make sense of what we discover when we suddenly land "thump! thump!" in Wonderland and pass through the looking glass. And Alice's Wonderland is an oh! so curious place filled with both dangers and delights. Here we encounter blue caterpillars who smoke hookahs, babies who turn into pigs, cats whose grins remain after their heads have faded away, and a Mad Hatter who speaks to Time. There is a White Queen who lives backward and remembers forward, and there are trials in which the sentence is handed down first with the evidence and verdict given out only afterward. And you'd better be on your best behavior while there. As the Red Queen sees it, beheading is a punishment that fits every crime!

We've spoken of Wonderland's dangers, but what of its delights? Why should anyone want to travel to such a world? As Cheshire Puss tells Alice, you must be mad "or you wouldn't have come here." Is Wonderland simply a land of sheer nonsense, or is there a method to Lewis Carroll's madness? Well, as the Duchess wisely observes, "Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it." And the moral of the book you now hold in your hands is that there are deep philosophical riches to be had in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, answers to life's ultimate questions, if only you have the proper guide.

You don't have to be blue, a caterpillar, or under the effects of the hookah to ask a deep question like "Who in the world am I?" As Alice says, "That's the great puzzle!" Indeed it is. How can I know whether this or that job is right for me, if I don't know who me is? Indeed, how can I know what I can become in the future? (Hardly any of us, I dare say, is satisfied with who we are at present.) And to know the answers to these questions, I must know who I have been. I must remember. But that's often my problem: I forget. What to do? What to do? The Alice-addicted philosophers in this book will clear the air of the hookah smoke and forward you the decryption codes for unlocking your personal identity. And you'll be glad they did.

As you read on, you'll be amazed to discover why nice girls don't make history (and Alice is better than any Disney princess); what the Red Queen can teach us about nuclear strategy; whether we should do more with mushrooms than just eat them (and what sort of "trip" to expect if we do); and how Alice, procrastination, and the Spice Girls are all mysteriously connected. "What a curious feeling!" You can put it all together for the first time. So "Read Me." Venture to taste this book, and if "finding it very nice," we recommend that you "very soon finish it off."

The above is an excerpt from the book Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series) edited by Richard Brian Davis with series editor William Irwin. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2010 Richard Brian Davis with series editor William Irwin, editors of Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series)