The Cartoon Introduction to Philosophy

Michael Patton and Kevin Cannon. Hill & Wang, $17.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-80903-362-1
Like many nonfiction graphic novels written by non-comic writers, philosophy professor Patton’s wordy text drives the narrative. But Cannon’s (The Stuff of Life) art transcends what could have been a second-place relationship to keep this textbook-like explanation of the key thinkers of history visually entertaining. Heraclitus takes the reader on a canoe trip down the River of Philosophy (complete with charming talking fish) as a way to introduce the exploration of six key areas—logic, perception, minds, free will, the existence of God, and ethics—and the famous thinkers who made key discoveries in each. Early on, it’s noted that women aren’t part of the “accepted canon,” which consists of well-known male philosophers who each get a brief, half-page biographical snapshot. Otherwise, the concept-based structure, which incorporates ideas from across eras, is welcoming and understandable to the casual reader, accompanied by Cannon’s sometimes-funny, sometimes-insightful visual metaphors. The sequence illustrating mind-body interaction, with a little Leibniz sitting on Descartes’s head and holding a ship’s wheel, is particularly amusing. Moreover, it helps the ideas stick with the reader, as do the glossary and bibliography for more in-depth reading. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/26/2015
Release date: 04/14/2015
Genre: Comics
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