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The Palgrave Handbook of Popular Culture as Philosophy



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This chapter explores the comedy of George Carlin (1937–2008) as a powerful statement about the value of truth over ignorance. Carlin challenged his audience to confront the truth, regularly using clever rhetorical strategies to force viewers to grapple with inconvenient realities about the world in which they lived. This chapter examines historical and contemporary philosophical arguments for the importance of the pursuing truth over comforting fictions. I begin with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which argues it is preferable to know reality as it truly is over appearances of the truth, even when it’s painful or difficult. I then discuss Nozick’s argument that humans would not want to plug into a pleasurable experience machine. Last, I examine contemporary arguments that there are distinctly moral reasons for pursuing the truth. I show how there are examples of all three arguments in Carlin’s comedic work, and suggest we can consider Carlin’s work a critical commentary that reveals multiple reasons for valuing truth over enticing fictions.

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Book title: The Palgrave Handbook of Popular Culture as Philosophy

Book doi:

Editors: David Kyle Johnson, Dean A. Kowalski, Chris Lay, Kimberly S. Engels

Print ISBN: 978-3-319-97134-6

Online ISBN: 978-3-319-97134-6