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Review: Harry Potter and Philosophy - If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts

by Felicia Rickmann, Wizard News London Correspondent

OK, we all love Harry and the magical world, whether it's as young fans discovering the books for the first time, or seasoned readers on our who-knows-how-many-th read through. Harry for the more grown up fan is examined and reflected upon in this fun but still serious book.

The introduction 'Start of Term Notices' reassures us that the editors and authors are true Potter fans and the writing covers a range of Hogwarts and Harry related subjects. It shows how these matter to us in the modern muggle world and identifies what we do and how we behave very much with the wizarding world. This is, believe it or not, philosophy as it matters to you, me and HP.

The series of 16 articles is divided into the Hogwarts school houses with each subject loosely linked, for examle, Slytherin - 'Is Ambition a Virtue?', Ravenclaw - 'Finding Platform 9 3/4'. It starts with Gryffindor and 'The Courageous Harry Potter', asking what it is that gives Harry courage and the recipe for his successful stand against evil. As you read, you will understand a lot more about Harry and how he copes, and how we can use the same influences to work a little magic in our own lives.

'Dursley Duplicity' shows how damaging self-deception is, and its effect on Vernon and Petunia when they deny that 'something wicked' their way comes. 'Heaven, Hell and Harry Potter' addresses the hows and whys of what lies beyond the veil, a complex and a difficult subject, while 'Kreacher's Lament' investigates prejudice and how there is no wriggling out of the fact that in a moral world, house elves will need to be liberated eventually. Read this article by Steven W Patterson and have the misinformed cobwebs blown away! I wonder what JKR would make of it.

This book is thoughtful but presents its serious points with a light touch. This is no breathless run through sleuthdom or fanfiction. It gives the readers plenty of time to ponder on the conclusions drawn, relating philosophical points to characters and situations in the books. Why is there no need for feminists in the wizarding world? Why does Slytherin deserve its place as a Hogwarts House and why is the Mirror of Erised really dangerous?

This book is for grown-ups who love Harry Potter and want to see the relevance of JKR's books and characters to the modern and sometimes tough world we live it. These writers show that the HP canon, and its allied muggle philosophy, is interesting and relevant, that we can relate to it and use the same philosophy that applies to Hogwarts and the wizarding world in our own lives, without ever losing sight of the fact that we are first and foremost Harry Potter fans.

Harry Potter and Philosophy - If Aristotle ran Hogwarts
Edited by David baggett and Shawn E. Klein
ISBN 0-8126-9455-4 OPEN COURT - Distributed by Publishers Group West
$17.95/£12.50 (£Sterling)
Click here for more information ©

Published February 19, 2005

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