Two professional philosophers – and Discworld fans – have produced a volume of essays examining the author’s epistemological, moral and existential implications
Philosophers looking for fresh insights into metaphysics, epistemology and ethics can add another author to their reading list, as a study reveals the philosophical issues explored in the work of Terry Pratchett.
With more than 75m copies sold around the world, Pratchett is one of the UK’s best-loved writers. He published his first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic, in 1983. The 40th, Raising Steam, was released last year, with new work still coming thick and fast despite a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007. ButPhilosophy and Terry Pratchett, published on 3 December, is the first study to explore the philosophical implications of Pratchett’s imaginary world, which is perched on the back of a turtle.
Edited by philosophy professors and Pratchett fans James South and Jacob Held, the collection of essays examines questions including “Plato, the Witch, and the Cave: Granny Weatherwax and the Moral Problem of Paternalism”, “Equality and Difference: Just because the Disc Is Flat, Doesn’t Make It a Level Playing Field for All”, “Hogfather and the Existentialism of Søren Kierkegaard”, and “the Importance of Being in the Right Trouser Leg of Time”.
South, associate professor of philosophy at Marquette University, is adamant Pratchett’s novels “hold up to sustained philosophical reflection”.
“Pratchett is a very smart man, a gifted writer, and understands as well as any philosopher the power of storytelling and the problems humans face in making sense of their lives and the world they live in,” South said. “Or, as Death puts it so well: ‘DO NOT PUT ALL YOUR TRUST IN ROOT VEGETABLES. WHAT THINGS SEEM TO BE MAY NOT BE WHAT THEY ARE.’ This is a truth that Pratchett relatedly acknowledges and tries to get his readers to acknowledge as well.”