a Discovery in Comics
Originally appeared in Dutch with the title Filosofie in Beeld, in 2010 at Uitgeverij Meinema.
The book starts with the chapter What Is Thinking? The comic artist explores how she herself started thinking about thinking as a child. How does Thinking work? What is Consciousness? Is that what sets humans apart from animals, or is there more to the issue?
The first two chapters are about these questions, and Margreet introduces herself and her husband Yiri (who did the coloring on the book) as two comic characters who lead the reader through the book.
From the third chapter on, a number of important philosophers are treated chronologically, each with a biography and a summary of their doctrines. Starting with the Ancient Greeks Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, we come to Augustine and Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages, and end up in the seventeenth century with Erasmus, Descartes and Spinoza.
In between chapters Margreet and Yiri explore issues such as What is a Socratic Discourse?, What does it mean to Know Yourself?, What is Reality? and What is Free Will?
Instead of introducing more modern philosophers, Margreet devotes the end of the book to exploring what philosophy means in the lives of people she knows. Everyone lives according to some philosophy or other, even if it’s just a simple motto like “seize the day” or “life’s a beach”. Philosophy is not some stuffy academical subject, it’s actually quite personal!
That’s why not only ‘proper’ philosophers like Nietzsche and George Steiner are given some thought at the end of the book, but also stand-up comedian George Carlin and quotes from Harry Potter. This brings the subject closer to the reader, and eventually the question is put to the reader him/herself: “What do YOU think?”.
This book is highly accessible for people of all ages, starting from about 12-14 years old. It can be a great reference for people familiar with the subject, and provides an excellent starting point for teaching philosophy to teenagers and college students.
About the author
|Margreet de Heer (1972, The Netherlands) comes from a family of theologians and studied theology herself at the University of Amsterdam. On graduating in 1999 however, she decided she’d much rather be a comic artist. She got a job at comic store Lambiek, where she wrote a book about Dutch comics together with comics expert Kees Kousemaker. In 2005, she became a full-time comic artist, her work appearing in a number of magazines and newspapers, such as Yes, Zij aan Zij, Viva Mama, Flo’, Jippo, Farfelu , NRC.Next and Trouw.|
In 2007 she started making monthly philosophical comic reports for newspaper Trouw. This attracted the attention of a publisher, who asked her to make a proper comic book on philosophy. This was Filosofie in Beeld, which appeared in 2010. It was being published in the U.S. with the title Philosphy – a Discovery in Comics by NBM Publishing.
Margreet is married to artist Yiri T. Kohl, who does the coloring on her comics. In 2011, a second comic book was published, this time about religion. In October 2012 a third appeared, about science, making the trilogy complete.
– “…sweet and amusing…”
“It’s a smart and giving book that should be required reading for anyone — a sweet and amusing manual of how to navigate human beings and use your own brain while doing it. You don’t have to live life on automatic pilot and de Heer’s cartoons can show you the way!”
– John Seven in the North Adams Transcript
– “…everything here just works.”
“…this book combines simple and elegant visuals with a linear explanation of the topic to create a work that pumps energy and intrigue into the topic. Whether it’s biographical information about the great philosophers or a comprehensible explanation of their works that conveys what they were about in modern language, everything here just works. I was completely impressed by how good this book is, and it is most definitely a keeper.”
– Marc Mason in the Comics Waiting Room
– “A Taste of Essentials”
“Colorful, clever, and bouncy cartoons provide an educated philosophy scholar-cartoonist with the method for engaging and informing casual readers about the why and how of Western philosophy’s foundations and development.”
– Francisca Goldsmith for the School Library Journal
– “Rating: 4.5 out of 5”
“This is a perfect intro to the complex and weighty topic of philosophy — Margreet de Heer delivers a surprisingly fun and really intriguing look into an area in life that many of us consider occasionally but end up taking for granted.”
– Jason Sacks in the Comics Bulletin
– “…encapsulates the major ideas of Western thought into a simple and honest narrative.”
“Reducing all of Western thought into an easy to understand narrative is a daunting task. Using the deft touch of an artist’s pen and a clear passion for what she is writing about, Ms. de Heer manages to do the near impossible.”
– Mark Squirek in the New York Journal of Books
– “…fun, exuberant exploration of the human condition.”
“Charming, rewarding, and unpretentious, Philosophy, A Discovery in Comics is a refreshing change of pace from summer blockbuster fever. There may be hard questions contained within its pages but fear not, you’ll have great fun uncovering the answers.”
– Jason Wilkins on Broken Frontier
– “…draws philosophy out of the abstract, academic ether and connects it to real people and their lives.”
“Avoiding a systematic, scholarly overview, de Heer makes philosophical questions lively, quirky, and enduring through her informal approach and lighthearted color drawings. Her appealing introduction will engage those curious about this “philosophy stuff,” teens and up.”
– The Library Journal
– “…easily digestible chunks.”
“Margreet, with help from her husband/colorist Yiri, does exactly what I’d hoped she’d do. I got an overview of philosophy with difficult concepts explained in a variety of ways. I got an introduction to the basics that left me with a desire to learn more.”
– Snow Wildsmith for Unshelved.com
– “This is a truly sharp and witty book…”
“…which splendidly reduces centuries of contentious pondering, violent discussion and high-altitude academic acrimony to an enthralling, utterly accessible experience any smart kid or keen elder would be happy to experience. Clear, concise, appropriately challenging and informatively funny Philosophy – A Discovery in Comics is a wonder of unpretentious, exuberant graphic craft and a timeless book we can all enjoy.”
– Win Wiacek on comicsreview.co.uk
– “…surprisingly enjoyable…”
“De Heer – a Dutch cartoonist who makes for a jolly little guide throughout – keeps it light without skimping the big stuff. We had lots of fun here.”
– Comic Heroes Magazine
“De Heer knows her stuff and possesses a charming style.”
– Publisher’s Weekly