Philoso-D’oh 101: A Scottish university is offering a philosophy course inspired by ‘The Simpsons’


“No matter how good you are at something, there’s always about a million people better than you.”

Do you know who’s the sage behind this wise gem?

It’s Homer.

No, not the Greek poet who penned epics such as The Iliad and The Odyssey … We mean Homer J. Simpson, patriarch of the eponymous family in the longest-running animation series in the U.S., The Simpsons.

The University of Glasgow has condensed all of the wisdom that can be found throughout the series’ 27-year run into a one-day course, which will commence next year over several dates.

Titled “D’oh! The Simpsons Introduce Philosophy”, the course costs £30, and while it doesn’t carry any academic credits, according to the course information, students will get the chance to “explore some of philosophy’s most inspiring ideas as presented in Matt Groening’s monument to the absurdities of human existence”. 

A tutor at the university, John Donaldson, who created the course, told the Scotsman that using The Simpsons as the source material for a course was a legitimate means of stimulating interest in philosophy.

“Matt Groening, the man behind The Simpsons, was a student of philosophy, and that comes through in each episode.

“[The show] is a very sophisticated work of popular culture, with a broad scope and depth, and is full of philosophical themes,” he said.

While all the January dates are fully booked, the next date on offer is in March.

“Very pleasingly, the course has proved to be incredibly popular on social media. It has gone viral. We’ve never really had a response like this before,” added Donaldson.

Among the philosophical questions that students will be able to ponder is whether Aristotle would have regarded the often-foolish Homer as a “virtuous figure”.

“Homer definitely has some moral failings. He’s gluttonous, he struggles to tell the truth, and can be quite violent.

“However, there’s a lot to be said in his defence – he is a faithful husband, a family man who is open-hearted, and in his own way, good-natured,” explained Donaldson.

In 2006, British philosopher Julian Baggini wrote an essay published by the BBC, calling the show “the most insightful and philosophical cultural product of our time”, and its creator Matt Groening, as “the true heir of Plato, Aristotle, and Kant”.

This isn’t the first time that the university is offering a course that compares television shows to reality – it also has similar short courses drawing philosophical lessons from popular shows such as Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, and The Sopranos

Guess it goes to show that all our binge-watching isn’t for nothing.

Image via Fox Broadcasting Company

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