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Book Review: 'The Twilight Zone and Philosophy'

Tamara Wilhite is an engineer, scifi author and fan and periodically reviews books.

Introduction

The entire “And Philosophy” book series analyzes areas of modern culture to see what we can learn from them and draw from them. In that same vein, "The Twilight Zone and Philosophy" mines the original Twilight Zone series for wisdom and examples of complex philosophical concepts. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this modern philosophy book?

The Cover of "The Twilight Zone" and Philosophy

The Cover of "The Twilight Zone" and Philosophy

The Strengths of “The Twilight Zone and Philosophy”

This philosophy essay collection isn’t as dated or biased as “Scott Adams and Philosophy”, another book in this series I reviewed. It is broadly accessible. You can learn something from it whether you’re a science fiction fan, horror fan, psychology major or interested in philosophy.

A few essays are useful to groups that otherwise wouldn’t consider picking up the book. Chapter 15, for example, is an analysis of the psychology behind a twist ending and nostalgia. That chapter would be a good reference for many would-be writers. Chapter 16 dissects the anatomy of a good twist ending, as well.

Chapter 3, “The Shortsightedness of Henry Bemis”, discusses the multiple layers in that one episode. Many writers would benefit from reading the explanation of how multiple lines and events in that classic episode contribute to the obvious ironic horrifying ending and the meta-level, as well.

Chapter 8 is called “What Are You Hearing?” If you’re in sound editing, sound effects or sound engineering, this essay devotes time on the techniques and tactics for creating a sense of unease or fear.

Chapter 17 is an invaluable lesson on the Holocaust while explaining how recent history to the original series impacted multiple episodes of the show.

If you like science fiction, “The Twilight Zone and Philosophy” covers many philosophical issues that are staples of this genre. What really counts as time travel? It was interesting to see how many of the Twilight Zone episodes written in the late 1950s and early 1960s were quite prescient. More than a dozen episodes of the original Twilight Zone series focused on androids, artificial intelligence and cyborgs. There are about a dozen essays in this book that use these episodes to discuss the philosophy of identity, love, and relationships. Chapter 14 shakes it up by talking about the science of alternate realities.

Chapter 19 touches on the topic of conformity and loss of identity using the episode “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”.

For philosophy students, this book does deliver. Chapter 10, “When the Sky Opened”, explains David Hume’s skepticism in the belief of continued existence while discussing what does and doesn’t make you, you. Chapter 4 discusses the philosophy of the face. Chapter 11 is on the philosophy of testimony and tells the truth on lying. What are the ethics of telling the truth though you may be labeled crazy?

The Cons of “The Twilight Zone and Philosophy”

Given that multiple essays analyzed the character of Alicia the companion robot in “The Lonely”, there wasn’t a single ethical discussion on sex bots. This is despite the implication that the main character used her as such or the rise of sexbots in modern society or the serious discussion we as a society should have about the topic.

Essay 2 uses philosophy to decide what and where the Twilight Zone is, mostly settling on a visual example of surrealism. Chapter 12 attempts to do the same thing, though it uses a different methodology. Chapter 13 does the same thing, but it concludes the Twilight Zone is an example of a “non-place”. By that point, the topic is repetitive.

Summary

I give “The Twilight Zone and Philosophy” five stars. There is truly something for everyone in this collection of philosophy essays, whether you’re a sci-fi fan, writer or philosophy student.

© 2018 Tamara Wilhite

Comments

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on February 08, 2019:

Hi, Tamara,

I give your review of this book a million stars because you covered the pluses and minuses of the text so thoroughly. I frequently watch the old reruns of that show, and there is always something in them to help me think about my existence or create a new fictional piece. You are right, writers can learn a lot from using the "twist" or surprise ending.

I will probably look for this book to read, Tamara, based on your stellar review.

Great work.

Much respect and admiration,

Tim