Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Philip K. Dick and Philosophy: Do Androids Have Kindred Spirits?

Philip K. Dick and Philosophy: Do Androids Have Kindred Spirits?Philip K. Dick and Philosophy: Do Androids Have Kindred Spirits? by D.E. Wittkower
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First of all, I have to make a public admission and state that I love Philip K. Dick and have every book he ever published, at least every book publicly available, meaning over 40 or thereabouts. Some aren't the best, while others are completely brilliant and mind blowing. Others are wildly above average, but virtually all make you think about a lot of things, like reality and what is it exactly, and what is our reality, and is it indeed reality. I love David Weber's military sci fi novels and think he's the best military sci fi writer of all time, but I think Dick is the best overall sci fi writer of all time and perhaps one of the best 20th century writers completely, sadly overlooked by most, but also one of the best American philosophers of the 20th century as well, also sadly overlooked, especially when compared to the French and other European philosophers of the same century.

I have another (sad) admission to make. I was going to write a small review, but in reading over the book's official marketing blurb on Goodreads and other sites, I've come to believe I can't really do better than what the author's publishing/marketing team did for this book, so I'm going to quote a few short paragraphs, as I doubt I can improve on them. Forgive me. Credit to the book's author and publisher:

"Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick is the giant imagination behind so much recent popular culture—, both movies directly based on his writings, such as Blade Runner (based on the novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"), Total Recall, Minority Report, and The Adjustment Bureau, plus cult favorites such as A Scanner Darkly, Imposter, Next, Screamers, and Paycheck, and works revealing his powerful influence, such as The Matrix and Inception. [Additionally, The Man In The High Castle, Amazon's highest watched series of all time, from what I understand, is based on Dick's award winning novel by the same name.] With the ... publication in 2011 of volume 1 of Exegesis, his journal of spiritual visions and paranoic investigations, Dick [has] fast become a major influence in the world of popular spirituality and occult thinking.

In Philip K. Dick and Philosophy: Who Adjusts the Adjustment Bureau?, twenty Dick fans and professional thinkers confront the fascinating and frightening ideas raised by Dick’s mind-blowing fantasies. Is there an alien world behind the everyday reality we experience? If androids can pass as human, should they be given the same consideration as humans? Do psychotics have insights into a mystical reality? Would knowledge of the future free us or enslave us? This volume ... also includes Dick's short story "Adjustment Team," on which The Adjustment Bureau is based.

Philip K. Dick and Philosophy explores the ideas of Philip K. Dick in the same way that he did: with an earnest desire to understand the truth of the world, but without falsely equating earnestness with a dry seriousness. Dick’s work was replete with whimsical and absurdist presentations of the greatest challenges to reason and to humanity—, paradox, futility, paranoia, and failure, —and even at his darkest times he was able to keep some perspective and humor, as for example in choosing to name himself ‘Horselover Fat in VALIS at the same time as he relates his personal religious epiphanies, crises, and delusions. With the same earnest whimsy, we approach Philip K. Dick as a philosopher, like ourselves—, one who wrote almost entirely in thought-experiments and semi-fictional world-building, but who engaged with many of the greatest questions of philosophy throughout the Euro-American tradition."

So, there you have it. The first few paragraphs of the book's description and a good description of what the book is about. It's truly an excellent book with mostly very good chapters/essays that, like Dick's work, leave one thinking about what is and what could be. Unfortunately, not every essay is consistently strong. Thus, the four star review rather than five. Still, a must have book for any Dick fan, and strongly, strongly recommended for any fan of pop culture, sci fi, 20th century philosophy, existentialism (to a degree), and other interested parties. I don't believe and certainly hope you won't be disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found the book quite stimulating.

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