Friday, August 19, 2016

The Philosophy of Tolkien

Mild Spoilers Ahead

The Philosophy of Tolkien is a short book written by Peter J. Kreeft.  It serves as a great overview of some of the major themes and ideas Tolkien deals with as well as a great introduction to some of the areas of philosophy.  The following is a table of contents:

  • Introduction
  • Metaphysics
    • How big is reality?
    • Is the supernatural real?
    • Are Platonic Ideas real?

  • Philosophical Theology
    • Does God exist?
    • Is life subject to divine providence?
    • Are we both fated and free?
    • Can we relate to God by "religion"?
  • Angelology
    • Are angels real?
    • Do we have guardian angels?
    • Could there be creatures between men and angels, such as Elves?
  • Cosmology
    • Is nature really beautiful?
    • Do things have personalities?
    • Is there real magic?
  • Anthropology
    • Is death good or bad?
    • Is romance more than thrilling sex?
    • Why do humans have identity crises?
    • What do we most deeply desire?
  • Epistemology
    • Is knowledge always good?
    • Is intuition a form of knowledge?
    • Is faith (trust) wisdom or ignorance?
    • What is truth?
  • Philosophy of History
    • Is history a story?
    • Is the past (tradition) a prison or a lighthouse?
    • Is history predictable?
    • Is there devolution as well as evolution?
    • Is human life a tragedy or a comedy?
  • Aesthetics
    • Why do we no longer love glory or splendor?
    • Is beauty always good?
  • Philosophy of Language
    • How can words be alive?
    • The metaphysics of words: Can words have real power?
    • Are there right and wrong words?
    • Is there an original, universal, natural language?
    • Why is music so powerful?
  • Political Philosophy
    • Is small beautiful?
    • Can war be noble?
  • Ethics: The War of Good and Evil
    • Is evil real?
    • How powerful is evil?
    • How weak is evil?
    • How does evil work?
  • Ethics: The "Hard Virtues"
    • Do principles or consequences make an act good?
    • Why must we be heroes?
    • Can one go on without hope?
    • Is authority oppressive and obedience demeaning?
    • Are promises sacred?
  • Ethics: The "Soft" Virtues
    • What is the power of friendship?
    • Is humility humiliating?
    • What should you give away?
    • Does mercy trump justice?
    • Is charity a waste?
  • Conclusion
    • Can any one man incarnate every truth and virtue?
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix: A Concordance
I love reading about philosophy and I love Tolkien, so I think it safe to say that this is one of my favorite books.  The writing is simple but meaningful; easy to understand, but you learn new things at every turn.  Kreeft comes at the story from a unique angle one which is very enlightening.

While there are a few mentions and allusions to The Silmarillion, for the most part Kreeft stays within The Lord of the Rings which means that anyone who has read even those books or just seen the movies can get a lot out of this book.  I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking to improve their knowledge of the true meaning of The Lord of the Rings or is looking to get into philosophy but needs an introduction involving something they understand.

“It is mercy, not justice or courage or even heroism, that alone can defeat evil.”

“The eye of the poet sees less clearly, but sees farther than the eye of the scientist.”

“Great stories give us the grace of a mystical experience, on the level of the imagination.”

“Philosophy says truth, literature shows truth.”

“Philosophy makes literature clear, literature makes philosophy real.”

Have you read The Philosophy of Tolkien?  Are there any parts that confused you?

Are you planning on reading The Philosophy of Tolkien?  Based on the table of contents, what seems the most intriguing to you?

Comment below :)

No comments:

Post a Comment