#CFP The Good Place and Philosophy

Yes! So exciting to see this call for abstracts on the Popular Culture and Philosophy blog!

Contributors are welcome to submit abstracts on any topic of philosophical interest that pertains to The Good Place. The focus of this collection is, specifically, philosophical topics in The Good Place, but papers that connect to other work by series creator Mike Schur or the actors are also welcome, so long as the points made can be explicitly tied back to The Good Place.
Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  •  The practice of philosophy: What happens when you turn thought experiments into real experiments? Do the characters live up to the standards of the philosophers they discuss? What is the role and value of philosophy in the public sphere?
  • Ethical theories: How does the show use different ethical theories (Virtue ethics, Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, Contractualism, Moral Particularism, etc.)? Do the characters really embody the ideals that they discuss? What is the audience to do with these mini-ethics lessons? Can ethics be taught by reading ethicists? Do we really need to be mortal to have a concept of morality?
  • Existentialism and meaning: how does the show engage the idea of an authentic self? What is the role of other people in the quest for an authentic self? How does the show depict the thought of Sartre, Camus, and Kierkegaard?
  • Gender in the Good Place: How does the show depict women doing philosophy? How is the audience encouraged to think about women and women’s agency? Does Janet have a gender? Does Michael?
  • Death and the afterlife: What is the meaning of death and dying? How does the vision of the afterlife in The Good Place relate to other televised afterlifes? Can it possibly make sense to run an afterlife on a points system? Is a non-religious afterlife really non-religious?

Proposals are not limited to these topics and we welcome submissions on other topics that connect the show to religion, philosophy, and contemporary culture.

Please feel free to forward this to anyone writing within a religious or philosophic discipline who might be interested in contributing.

Read more details, including the relevant deadlines, on the Popular Culture and Philosophy blog.

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  • John MacDonald

    The article asked: “What is the meaning of death and dying?”

    I remember when I went for surgery one time and got put under anesthesia. One moment I was drifting off to sleep, and the next I woke up in the recovery room. There was no experience of the passage of time, dreaming, etc. I think that is what death is like: simple annihilation where the experience of the passage of time stops. Just as insects, spiders, chickens, fungi, plants, etc encounter no afterlife when they die, so too is there no reason to think humans experience an afterlife when they die. I don’t believe humans have a soul that lives on after they die. For instance, some people who experience traumatic brain injury (TBI) are left alive in a “vegetable state,” with most of the elements we would normally attribute to a soul/self/personality destroyed. Once the brain is gone, that’s it – at least, that’s where the evidence points.

    Phenomenologically, we know how important that belief in an afterlife can be because we know how much a depressive view of the afterlife can weigh on people. For instance, classicist Jacob Burckhardt once said the Greeks were more unhappy than most people realize. A young Nietzsche attained an auditor’s transcript off this lecture and treasured it as his most prized possession. Regarding the ancient Greek view of the afterlife, Homer writes, “Life-giving earth has buried them” and details how Achilles, a great hero of the Iliad, would rather “live working as a wage-labourer for hire by some other man, one who had no land and not much in the way of livelihood, than lord it over all the wasted dead” (Homer, 11.380, 624-28). I also once had a friend who was convinced she was going to be tortured in Hell for all eternity because she had an abortion, and this basically left her unable to function in the various areas of her life.