Monday, March 13, 2006

Book note: Pooh and the Philosophers, by John Tyerman Williams

Pooh and the Philosophers: In Which It Is Shown That All of Western Philosophy Is Merely a Preamble to Winie-the-Pooh
Pooh and the Philosophers: In Which It Is Shown That All of Western Philosophy Is Merely a Preamble to Winnie-the-Pooh

What a way to learn a little bit about various famous philosophers, and also enjoy some of the best bits from Winnie-the-Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner.

From the publisher (via Barnes & Noble):

In this splendidly preposterous volume, John Tyerman Williams sets out to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the whole of Western philosophy - from the ancient Greeks to the existentialists of this century - may be found in the works of A. A. Milne. Williams shows how Pooh - referred to here as "the Great Bear" - explains and illuminates the most profound ideas of the great thinkers, from Aristotle and Plato to Sartre and Camus.

The book has illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard, straight out of the Pooh books.

I am trying to think how to describe this book. I'm not sure this is quite right, but think the sort of scholarship where the scholar takes himself way too seriously, draws things out to their logical conclusion, and then keeps on mentally hopping and skipping beyond what any sensible person would do. In this case, though, it's done with a wink and some wit.

I'm about halfway through the book. I've had to take several stops along the way to give my mind a rest, and also to catch my breath from laughing so hard. It's great fun, but it's also a little relentless (in a better sort of British comedy kind of way).

I'm of two minds about recommending this book. I suspect that many, if not most, A.A. Milne fans would enjoy this book, but I'm also certain that some will be rather strenuously put off by it. From another angle, I know some folks in education who would love the lampooning of the worst sorts of dissertations and the comeuppance given their most pompous colleagues, and others, including of course the more pompous sorts, who will find the gentle and not-so-gentle jabs quite uncalled for and possibly unforgivable. I can think of some C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton fans who love this sort of intellectual high jinks mixed with real learning possibilities, but on the other hand...

Update: Sigh. The book proved too relentless for me after all, and I gave it up before I was done. If it were my own copy, I might have put it on the shelf and taken it off from time to time for small doses, but it was a friend's copy, on loan, and so I either had to keep at it at a goodly pace or give it up...

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