UI grad student looks at 'Arrested Development' philosophy

BY ERIC MOORE | OCTOBER 10, 2011 7:20 AM

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The dysfunctional characters on the cult television show "Arrested Development" can teach people about philosophy.

This is the concept behind University of Iowa graduate student Kris Phillips' book, 'Arrested Development' and Philosophy: They've made a Huge Mistake, which is set to hit bookshelves this December as part of a series relating philosophy to pop culture.

Executive Producer Mitch Hurwitz announced earlier this month that a new season and movie adaptation of "Arrested Development" would begin next year.

Phillips said the publisher had planned to release the book before Sunday's announcement was made.

"It's been done for quite sometime … It was just lucky timing on our part," Phillips said. "It's sort of serendipitous that it worked out this way. We sent it to print, and then they announced the movie."

Phillips, who initiated the idea and co-edited the book, said he pitched the project to the publisher several times before the idea was accepted. He said the book was going to be released at the same time as the movie, adding when the movie "looked like it wasn't going to happen," they decided they "might as well just put it out and see what happens."

Phillips said the book comprises 17 chapters written by different students and professors of philosophy from all over the world.

UI philosophy graduate student Brett Coppenger, for example, submitted one of the chapters, which focuses on the concept of the "Gettier Problem."

Coppenger related this concept to the show. For example, at one point in the series, a character named Buster Bluth believes his uncle to be his father because his uncle says, "I'm not your uncle, I'm your father." This makes Buster form a "true belief" that the person he thought was his uncle is actually his father.

However, the show later reveals the person who said this to Buster was in fact his father disguised as his uncle. Coppenger said just because the belief Buster held was true does not cause his belief to be considered "knowledge."

"The idea was supposed to be illustrations that are examples in which somebody seems to have a justified true belief … it's not something that we call knowledge," Coppenger said.

Co-editor of the book Jeremy Wisnewski said he wanted the project to include "all the important elements of the show" while still providing an accessible path to philosophy.

Wisnewski said a large purpose of the book is to get people to ask "questions about whether or not what we believe is justified."

"Encouraging those kinds of questions can have sort of a ripple effect across all levels of society," Wisnewski said. "It's not only fun but important."

Phillips said the ideas of philosophy relating to the show have an everyday impact.

"It's actually more of an issue of seeing how important and how relevant philosophy is to the things that you enjoy on a daily basis," he said. "There are philosophical issues everywhere … they're constantly around you."

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