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Black Sabbath and Philosophy: Mastering Reality

William Irwin (Editor)
ISBN: 978-1-118-39759-6
224 pages
October 2012
Black Sabbath and Philosophy: Mastering Reality (1118397592) cover image
A philosophical look at heavy metal's dark masters of reality, Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath is one of the world's most influential and enduring rock bands. Dubbed "the Beatles of heavy metal" by Rolling Stone, they helped to define a genre with classic songs like "Paranoid", "Iron Man", and "War Pigs", songs whose lyrics reveal hidden depth and philosophical insight. Their songs confront existential despair, social instability, political corruption, the horrors of war, and the nature of evil. This book explores the wide range of profound ideas in the band's music and lyrics to help you understand Black Sabbath as never before.

  • Discusses and debates essential Black Sabbath topics and themes, such as the problem of evil, "War Pigs" and the nature of just war theory, whether or not Sabbath is still Sabbath without Ozzy, and whether "evil is in the ear of the beholder"
  • Gives you new perspectives on Black Sabbath's music and lyrics
  • Provides a deeper appreciation and understanding of Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, and Ronnie James Dio
  • Brings some of history's heaviest thinkers to bear on the band's music, from Aristotle and Nietzsche to Schopenhauer and Marx

So . . . can you help me, occupy my brain? Yes! Start reading Black Sabbath and Philosophy.

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Introduction: “What Is This That Stands Before Me?” x

Acknowledgments: They Sold Their Souls for Rock ‘n’ Roll xii

Part I Necessary Evil 1

1 Beyond Good and Evil: Facing Your Demons With Black Sabbath and Existentialism 3
William Irwin

2 Masters of a Better Possible Reality: Conquering Evil With Love 12
Liz Stillwaggon Swan

3 “Is It the End, My Friend?” Black Sabbath ’ s Apocalypse of Horror 20
Brian Froese

Part II Playing Devil ’ s Advocate 31

4 Black Sabbath and the Sound of Evil 33
Joel McIver

5 The Worst of All Possible Worlds: Schopenhauer Meets Sabbath 41
James Heathers

6 Tony Iommi ’ s Hand of Doom: From Plastic Fingertips to Creative Freedom 51
Ken Pepper

Part III The Dark Art of Metal 61

7 The Art of Black Sabbath: Aristotle Joins the Band 63
Greg Littmann

8 Black Sabbath and the Problem of Defining Metal 76
Søren R. Frimodt-Møller

9 Saint Vitus Dance: The Art of Doom 87
Manuel Bremer and Daniel Cohnitz

10 Gods, Drugs, and Ghosts: Finding Dionysus and Apollo in Black Sabbath and the Birth of Heavy Metal 96
Dennis Knepp

Part IV Is It Still Sabbath Without Ozzy? 111

11 It ’ s Not Sabbath Unless Ozzy ’ s the Singer (But It ’ s Fine If You Disagree) 113
James Bondarchuk

12 Fightin’ Words: Sabbath Doesn ’ t Need the Ozzman 126
Wesley D. Cray

13 The Name Remains the Same—But Should It? 140
Mark D. White

Part V Symptoms of The Universe 149

14 Wicked World: The Politics of the Supernatural in Black Sabbath 151
Erich Christiansen

15 “Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen”: Is Ozzy Going Insane? 163
Kevin McCain

16 “As the War Machine Keeps Turning”: Just War Theory, Pacifism, and the War on Terror 171
Jacob M. Held

17 Stop Stereotyping Sabbath: Sex, Subjugation, and Stupidity 182
Robert Arp

Contributors: Children of the Grave 190

Index: The Writ 195

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William Irwin is professor of philosophy at King’s College in Pennsylvania. Irwin originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books with Seinfeld and Philosophy in 1999. Irwin has also co-edited The Simpsons and Philosophy and edited The Matrix and Philosophy and Metallica and Philosophy. He is currently the General Editor of The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series.

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“This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, shedding a lot of light on the members, music, and society with regards to everything from religion to family.”  (Sacramento Book Review, 1 June 2013)

“This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, shedding a lot of light on the members, music, and society with regards to everything from religion to family.”  (City Book Review, 1 March 2013)

“Black Sabbath & Philosophy is a wholly absorbing read large . . . A long-overdue work, and a rewarding one both for fans and those curious about the philosophical gravity behind all those murky riffs.”  (PopMatters, 11 January 2013)

“Much like Black Sabbath themselves, this wide-ranging, amusing book entertains and makes your brain ache in equal measure.”  (Record Collector, 1 December 2012)

“A book to dip into, that will get you thinking and almost certainly have you going back and listening to your old Black Sabbath albums in a different light. Highly recommended.”  (Get Ready to Rock, 20  November 2012)

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November 11, 2012
Want to Get in Touch with a Better Reality? Listen to Black Sabbath.

Edited by William Irwin Ear-splittingly loud, for some, musically-challenging and with lyrics that speak of apocalypse, death and destruction, listening to Black Sabbath is not for everyone. In fact, some would tell you that the band worship Satan, their songs promote violence and even try to convince teenagers to commit suicide. But is that really true, or could it be that those who find tuning into the masters of heavy metal rewarding and intoxicating know something about themselves and life that those of us who find it a terrifying experience are missing out on? In his new book, William Irwin (die-hard Sabbath fan and philosopher), and his team of fellow contributors travel deep into the heart of the band's music and lyrics to reveal that there's plenty more to the dark masters of reality than a whole lot of noise...

"Listening to a heavy metal album or attending a heavy metal concert or thrashing in a mosh pit or playing in a heavy metal band is participating in a modern, electronic Dionysian festival."

Drawing on the works of philosophers including Plato, Aristotle (who, in Chapter 7, joins the band!), Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, each chapter discusses and debates the range of thought-provoking topics and themes that tell us more about who Black Sabbath is (can it be Black Sabbath without Ozzy?), why they created the sound they did and what lies hidden in the music and lyrics of their songs. Whether it's an analysis of war, pollution, poverty, drug abuse or dealing with the problems of modernity, what emerges is that each song, like philosophy itself, is a quest to discover truth and a means of facing up to reality. So, not so sinister after all...

As legions of Sabbath fans await news of a much-anticipated new album and reunion tour, there's no better time to discover a deeper appreciation and understanding of Ozzy, Tony, Geezer, Bill and Ronnie. Reading Black Sabbath and Philosophy will help you do just that and, at the same time, may just introduce you to your own mind.


Black Sabbath and Philosophy
November 2012 • 280pp
978-1-1183-9759-6 • Electronic and Online Editions Available
$17.95; CAN $21.95; €14.40; £11.99

William Irwin is available for interview by phone. If you would like to arrange to speak to him or would like a review copy or sample chapters from Black Sabbath and Philosophy, please contact: Michelle Martella Tel: +1 (781) 833-8577/email: mmartella@wiley.com

About the Editors
William Irwin is Professor of Philosophy at King's College, Pennsylvania. He originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books as co-editor of the bestselling The Simpsons and Philosophy and has overseen recent titles including House and Philosophy, Batman and Philosophy and Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy.

CONTENTS

Introduction: "What Is This That Stands Before Me?"

Acknowledgements : They Sold Their Souls for Rock 'n' Roll

Part I - Necessary Evil
1 - Beyond Good and Evil: Facing Your Demons With Black Sabbath and Existentialism - William Irwin
2 - Masters of a Better Possible Reality: Conquering Evil With Love - Liz Stillwaggon Swan
3 - "Is It the End, My Friend?" Black Sabbath's Apocalypse of Horror - Brian Froese

Part II - Playing Devil's Advocate
4 - Black Sabbath and the Sound of Evil - Joel McIver
5 - The Worst of All Possible Worlds: Schopenhauer Meets Sabbath - James Heathers
6 - Tony Iommi's Hand of Doom: From Plastic Fingertips to Creative Freedom - Ken Pepper

Part III - The Dark Art of Metal
7 - The Art of Black Sabbath: Aristotle Joins the Band - Greg Littmann
8 - Black Sabbath and the Problem of Defining Metal - Søren R. Frimodt-Møller
9 - Saint Vitus Dance: The Art of Doom - Manuel Bremer and Daniel Cohnitz
10 - God, Drugs, and Ghosts: Finding Dionysus and Apollo in Black Sabbath and the Birth of Heavy Metal - Dennis Knepp

Part IV - Is It Still Sabbath Without Ozzy?
11 - It's Not Sabbath Unless Ozzy's the Singer (But It's Fine If you Disagree) - James Bondarchuk
12 - Fightin' Words: Sabbath Doesn't Need the Ozzman - Wesley D. Cray
13 - The Name Remains the Same - But Should It? - Mark D. White

Part V - Symptoms of the Universe
14 - Wicked World: The Politics of the Supernatural in Black Sabbath - Erich Christiansen
15 - "Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen": Is Ozzy Going Insane? - Kevin McCain
16 - "As the War Machine Keeps Turning": Just War Theory, Pacifism, and the War on Terror - Jacob M. Held
17 - Stop Stereotyping Sabbath: Sex, Subjugation, and Stupidity - Robert Arp

Contributors: Children of the Grave
Index: The Writ

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