Jan 142005

I’ve been meaning to write this post for months now, but just kept procrastinating for no good reason. Since the matter was favorably mentioned just recently on Objectivism Online, I thought I should stop putting it off for yet another day.

Next time you find yourself browsing the philosophy section of your local bookstore, check out a copy of Harry Potter and Philosophy. (Happily, you’re almost sure to find it.) If you peruse the index, you’ll quickly notice a familiar name. My essay “Dursley Duplicity: The Morality and Psychology of Self-Deception” is included in the volume. Here’s my unofficial abstract:

In light of the recent philosophical and psychological defenses of self-deception, this paper examines the basic harms of self-deception through the characters of Vernon and Petunia Dursley from the Harry Potter novels. Those characters show us that self-deception cannot insulate a person from confounding reminders of the denied facts, that it will often spread beyond the original denial into related areas of thought, and that it easily becomes a habitual method of avoiding all kinds of painful truths. In addition, examples from the novels illustrate the deep problems with the psychological concept of “positive illusions.”

It’s a good essay, I think, perhaps even my best work to date. So I’m pleased to have it published in a volume that is likely to be fairly widely read. In general, I do recommend the volume. As expected, I disagreed at least in part with many of the essays. Yet all were clear, and many were quite interesting. (I particularly enjoyed the essay on Slytherin and ambition, as it got me thinking about the relationship between various virtues and other character traits which are related to virtues but not virtues themselves.) Also, the subtitle (“If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts”) is very apt, as most of the essays were Aristotelian in flavor.

Of course, my friend and editor Shawn Klein deserves a great thank you for making it all possible. Not only did he approach me about contributing to the volume, but he also gave me helpful feedback along the way. More importantly, in so doing he introduced me to the ever-delightful Harry Potter novels. They were the best philosophy reading I’ve ever had to do! (And speaking of Harry, the sixth novel is due out this summer. Rejoice!)

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