Book Review: An entertaining look at philosophy through cartoons

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"I Think, Therefore I Draw: Understanding Philosophy Through Cartoons" is the latest title by Thomas Cathcart of Redhook, N.Y., and Daniel Klein of Great Barrington and is an enlightening look at philosophy through the laughs we get from zinger cartoons.

This ingeniously conceived book takes the reader through 15 poignant little chapters on many of the great philosophical questions that have inspired some of the funniest cartoonists. Cathcart and Klein reveal and clarify philosophical thoughts by the world's most important thinkers from BCE to the present that are actually at the core of some of our favorite cartoonists' creations. Who knew that most cartoons are generally triggered by deeply puzzling philosophical problems and then publicized not just to make us laugh but to pull us in on these deep quagmires of thought?     

The ironies and paradoxes of the biggest philosophical questions as mastered by the world's great philosophers are cleverly dissected and discussed with accuracy and right to the point in entertaining style. The authors have taken examples of great cartoons by the best cartoonists, such as Paul Noth, Dick Ericson, Dave Carpenter, Tom Cheney, and dozens more, and interpreted how they have actually taken on philosophical puzzles, such as: What Is The Meaning of Life? What is the Nature of Time? What is Love, anyway?

This book demonstrates how naturally cartoons get at the crux of many a philosophical question and they tell us how with ease, fun and a ton of knowledge. It seems the nature of good cartoonists is to resolve some of the angst we may not even know we have about philosophical dilemmas by making us laugh. Philosophy and cartoons share our humanity in ways we may have overlooked, but that oversight is rectified perfectly in this delightful new book. It is a wonderful way to get at philosophy with ease and then to laugh about it with a big kind of relief! After all, it's all a kind of cosmic joke.

There are as many names in philosophy as cartoonists represented in the book and the reader gets both intellectual satisfaction, as well as big laughs. There is an appendix of sorts, too, at the end called Biosketches where the reader can read concise summaries of 71 philosophers mentioned in the various chapters as inspired by the cartoons. The magic is how truly entertaining and fun Cathcart and Klein present the philosophical thought and of course at the center of the discussions is the amusement of the cartoons. We will never look at a New Yorker cartoon in the same way. There are laughs in the deepest things.

Cathcart and Klein are the authors of several books on philosophical thought, including the New York Times bestselling, "Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar." Klein has written comedy for Lily Tomlin, Flip Wilson and his most recent book was "Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life They Change It." Cathcart is also author of the very popular "The Trolley Problem, or Would You Throw the Fat Guy Off The Bridge?," "an entertaining philosophical look at a tricky ethical conundrum."

Colin Harrington is the events manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. He welcomes reader comments at charrington686@gmail.com.


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