Friday, September 01, 2006

Philosophy and the Grateful Dead

It's official. Forthcoming in Open Court Press' wonderful series "Popular Culture and Philosophy" is a volume entitled The Grateful Dead and Philosophy, edited by yours truly. It will be in stores in the spring, but to give you an advanced taste of the book to come, I will be post small bits by the authors in the book designed to ask some of the questions they consider.

But before any of the teasers come out, a few words on why I started the project. I first started thinking about it when Gary Hardcastle and George Reisch put out a fantastic volume in the series, Monty Python and Philosophy and I realized that if I could bookend it with a set of philosophical meditations about the Grateful Dead, the two books would go a long way towards justifying my high school years. Thinking about it, I realized that there were many like me, some of whom were professional philosophers, and that a book like this would be a lot of fun and a chance to bring out some interesting people to play.

And it has. We've got twenty discussions of topics that relate to philosophical themes raised in the Dead's music, meditations on the Deadheads, touring, taping and the parking lot scene, and articles that consider the place of the counter-culture movement of the 60's in the larger context of American and intellectual history.

As many people know from 2 am dorm room discussions, there oh so are many philosophical questions that arise when you consider the Grateful Dead as a phenomenon. The Dead's free flow, free form approach to concerts came from an attempt to avoid problem of other minds -- the thought was that through psychedelic drugs and a joint creative endeavor might allow people's to get in touch with what Jung called the collective unconscious. Naive in retrospect, sure, but just one example of the ways that the band and the movement are deeply tied to interesting questions in intellectual history. The band's taping policy and the recent questions regarding raise fascinating issues around intellectual property. Is it a rejection or an embrace of capitalism to quit your job and sell veggie burritos and tie dyed t-shirts to pay for the gas, food, and tickets needed to tour with the band? Is there anything to be grateful about in being dead? When the nephew left his uncle's dead ass there by the side of the road, was it just desserts? The sailor who went into the lion's den to get the fan, was he wise?

I could not be more excited with the range of topics and philosophical perspectives. Analytic logicheads, black turtle-necked continental types, Buddhists, Taoists, and American pragmatists are all coming to the party. It should be a lot of fun. Stay tuned for some good quality bootleg philosophical discussions (first generation, I promise), as soon as I get my hands on them...

So, I ask you, is there really nothin' left to do but smile, smile, smile?