The official word: “A planet where apes evolved from men? There’s got to be an answer,” quips George Taylor, the character played by Charlton Heston in the 1968 sci-fi classic, “Planet of the Apes.” That is just one of many questions raised by “Planet of the Apes” — a film and franchise rife with philosophical issues spanning race, religion, time travel, animal rights, science and sanity.
John Huss, an associate professor of philosophy at The University of Akron who says he was “blown away” by the original “Planet of the Apes” more than 30 years ago, has edited and compiled a collection of essays in a new book, “Planet of the Apes and Philosophy: Great Apes Think Alike.”
Huss says he focused on enlisting “the best and most appropriate authors for every single topic in the book,” first-rate philosophers with genuine interest in the “Planet of the Apes” films.
While written by philosophers, the book is addressed to fans of the films, and has already caught the attention of those intimately connected with the franchise. The book has received advance praise from Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, screenwriters of 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and the upcoming “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (expected in 2014), who say, “This book is a must, not only for ‘Planet of the Apes’ fans, but for anyone interested in what it means to be a primate. Fascinating and thought-provoking.”
Dale Jamieson, author of “Ethics and the Environment” (2008), adds, “We can’t know what Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza or Hume would have made of the rising of the apes, but we do have ‘Planet of the Apes and Philosophy’ — not only a terrific read but highly relevant to urgent issues of our times.”
“It's fairly ambitious for books in the pop culture and philosophy genre,” Huss says. “It tackles a range of topics: the future of our planet, our ethical obligations to other species, animal intelligence and consciousness, the status of acting in an era of digitized characters, the paradoxes of time travel – it is equally oriented toward human and animal concerns. After all, humans are but one of the Great Apes.”
“Planet of the Apes and Philosophy: Great Apes Think Alike” will be available on Amazon.com and in bookstores May 28.
Huss, who has contributed to and edited previous books in the “Popular Culture and Philosophy” series — including “Monty Python and Philosophy: Nudge Nudge, Think Think” (2006), “Johnny Cash and Philosophy: The Burning Ring of Truth” (2008), and “The Rolling Stones and Philosophy: It’s Just a Thought Away” (2011) — says that combining pop culture and philosophy is a good way to initiate dialogue about the “big questions, like, ‘Who are we, and where are we headed?’”
His next plan?
“Neil Young and philosophy,” he said. “He’s got a lot of provocative material to use.”
Who knows, perhaps a “heart of gold” would fall somewhere on Aristotle’s list of virtues.