Philosophy on TV


Have you noticed all the philosophy that’s been happening on television lately?

First off, there’s The Good Place, a sitcom on NBC. It is set in something like heaven—a version of the afterlife, admittance to which is based on a kind of utilitarian calculation—and stars Kristin Bell as someone who doesn’t quite belong there, and William Jackson Harper as a professor of moral philosophy teaching her to be good. It contains a lot of philosophy references, and it’s fun to spot the philosophy books lying around and the philosophers’ names mentioned. Here’s a clip from the first episode:

Then there’s Westworld, the HBO drama set in a world in which artificial human-like beings have been created and are used for entertainment purposes in an ultra-realistic theme park designed in the style of an old Western movie. This is an exceptionally well done show that raises interesting questions about reality, consciousness, and ethics. Here’s a trailer, though be warned: it does contain some spoilers (especially for those who have seen a few episodes. Dammit.):

Additionally, the excellent Black Mirror is returning. This show aims to depict the problems of technological and cultural changes that seem to be just around the corner from the present. Each episode is self-contained, and the show is now in its third season. The previous seasons are well worth checking out. As for the new season, it’s hard to tell (see this review from CUNY’s Samir Chopra). This old trailer for the show gives a sense of its theme and style, for those unfamiliar with it:

Are there other relatively new shows of philosophical interest?

UPDATE: And then there are these two philosophy majors, who engage in a bit of philosophical discussion about the good of knowledge:

 

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Brian Weatherson
5 years ago

The latest episode of The Good Place had a not terrible one minute explanation of Scanlon’s form of contractualism. At first I thought it would just be using the history of moral philosophy as decoration, but it’s getting some really good capsule summaries of views into most episodes so far.Report

HFG
HFG
5 years ago

Don’t forget Rick & Morty.Report

Alan White
Alan White
4 years ago

Re the review of Black Mirror:

The third episode of season three–Shut Up and Dance–was one of the most disturbingly excellent segments of any anthology series I’ve ever seen. I’ll just say that it involves tech use that is entirely possible today–and exploits human nature just as we know it to be.Report

Harry
Harry
4 years ago

The second season of Mr. Robot was philosophical as well. One of the running themes in the second season is that of masks.

And, as regards Westworld — there is a lot of interesting philosophy going on in it. For instance, in episode 4 we get to watch androids do metaphysics. That is, they worry that there is a world behind their world (or a kind of world-in-itself).Report

Jerry dworkin
Jerry dworkin
4 years ago

The third season of The Fall–an excellent police procedural with Gillian Anderson–presents a very interesting issue about identity , trial and punishment. A sadistic, evil, serial killer, who had confessed to the crimes, is shot, and goes through a serious operation and recovery. He then claims that he has no memory of the last six years when the crimes were committed. He does not remember he had a child born during that period. He may be faking or he may actually have this loss of memory. Assuming he is not faking,
what are the implications of this for 1) his trial since he does not have the ability to defend himself by
producing evidence he was innocent and 2) for sentencing since he is not in some sense the person
who committed the crimes?Report