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The Office and Philosophy: Scenes from the Unexamined Life

ISBN: 978-1-4443-5729-5
328 pages
August 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
The Office and Philosophy: Scenes from the Unexamined Life (1444357298) cover image


Just when you thought paper couldn’t be more exciting, this book comes your way! This book—jammed full of paper—unites philosophy with one of the best shows ever: The Office. Addressing both the current American incarnation and the original British version, The Office and Philosophy brings these two wonders of civilization together for a frolic through the mundane yet curiously edifying worlds of Scranton’s Dunder-Mifflin and Slough’s Wernham-Hogg.

Is Michael Scott in denial about death? Are Pam and Jim ever going to figure things out? Is David Brent an essentialist? Surprisingly, The Office can teach us about the mind, Aristotle, and humiliation. Even more surprisingly, paper companies can allow us to better understand business ethics. Don’t believe it? Open this book, and behold its beautiful paper…

Join the philosophical fray as we explore the abstract world of philosophy through concrete scenes of the unexamined life in The Office. You may discover that Gareth Keenan is secretly a brilliant logician, that Dwight Schrute is better off deceiving himself, that David Brent is an example of hyperreality, and that Michael Scott is hopelessly lost (but you probably already knew that!).

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Table of Contents


A note to our Suppliers in the US and the UK: Support Philosophy - it uses lots of paper….

A Note to Bitter Brits and Confused Americans….

The Dundies: Some Awards for Making this Book Possible.

Memo 1: Paper Thin Morality.

1. Screws and Nails: Paper Tigers and Moral Monsters in The Office (US): J. Jeremy Wisnewski (Hartwick College).

2. Flirting in The Office: What Can Jim and Pam’s Romantic Antics Teach Us about Moral Philosophy? (US): Mark D. White (College of Staten Island).

3. Can Michael Ever Learn?: Empathy and the Self-Other Gap (US): Andrew Terjesen (Rhodes College).

4. Leaving the Dice Alone: Pointlessness and Helplessness at Wernham-Hogg (UK): Wim Vandekerckhove (Ghent University) and Eva Tsahuridu (University of Greenwich Business School).

5. The Virtues of Humor: What The Office Can Teach Us About Aristotle’s Ethics (UK): Sean McAleer (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire).

Memo 2: Know Thyself!.

6. Pam and Jim on the Make: The Epistemology of Self-Deception (US): Stefanie Rocknak (Hartwick College).

7. What Dwight Doesn’t Know Can’t Hurt Him—Or Can It?.

Deception and Self-Deception in The Office (US): Randall M. Jensen (Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa).

8. Authenticity or Happiness? Michael Scott and the Ethics of Self-Deception (US): Peter Murphy (University of Indianapolis) and Jonathan Evans (University of Indianapolis).

9. Humiliation in The Office (and at Home) (US): John Elia (Wilson College).

Memo 3: Funny and not-so-funny Business.

10. Laughter between Distraction and Awakening: Marxist Themes in The Office (US): Michael Bray (at Southwestern University).

11. Being-in-The Office: Sartre, the Look, and the Viewer (US): Matthew Meyer (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire) and Greg Schneider (University of Minnesota).

12. A Boy that Swims Faster than a Shark: Jean Baudrillard Visits The Office (UK): Russell Manning (Yarra Valley Grammar, Melbourne).

Memo 4: Mind Your Business!.

13. Stakeholders vs. Stockholders in the American Office (US): Rory E. Kraft, Jr. (York College of Pennsylvania).

14. Attacking with the North: Affirmative Action and The Office (US): David Kyle Johnson (King’s College in Wilkes-Barre).

15. Darkies, Dwarves, and Benders: Political (In)Correctness in The Office (UK): Thomas Nys (Utrecht University).

16. The Hostile Office: Michael as a Sexual Harasser (US): Keith Dromm (Northwestern State University).

17. The Obscene Watermark: Corporate Responsibility at Dunder-Mifflin (US): David Kyle Johnson (King’s College in Wilkes-Barre).

Memo 5: Philosophy at the water-cooler….

18. For L’Amour: Love and Friendship in The Office (US): Robert Arp (University at Buffalo) and Jamie Watson (Florida State University).

19. Look at the Ears! The Problem of Natural Kinds (UK): Thomas Nys (Utrecht University).

20. Gareth Keenan Investigates Paraconsistent Logic: The Case of the Missing Tim and the Redundancy Paradox (UK): Morgan Luck (Charles Sturt University).

21. Being Your Self in The Office (US): Rick Mayock (West Los Angeles College).

22. Michael Scott is Going to Die (US): Meg Lonergan (Hartwick College) and J. Jeremy Wisnewski (Hartwick College).

Appendix A, From Our Office to Yours: The University of Scranton and The Office.

Appendix B, Question: What do you need to know about Dwight K. Schrute?.

Corporate Filing System (Index).

Employees (Notes on Contributors)

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Author Information

J. Jeremy Wisnewski is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Hartwick College. He is the author of Wittgenstein and Ethical Inquiry: A Defense of Ethics as Clarification (Continuum, 2007) and the editor of Family Guy and Philosophy (Blackwell, 2007).
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The Wiley Advantage

  • Engages the reader in philosophy using one of the funniest shows ever produced
  • Provides insightful and humorous essays by professional philosophers to teach us about life and each other
  • Demonstrates how laughing about human weakness can reveal important access to human understanding
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"An entertaining look at the ethical and philosophical lessons of 'The Office'." (Venue, November 2008)

"I didn't realise what a genius I was till I read this book. (I did know. And I haven't read this book)"
Ricky Gervais

"The Office and Philosophy provides a brilliant examination of life's unexamined, or "willfully ignored" dilemmas: love trysts, unremitting self-denial, H.R. nightmares, and humiliating personnel blunders. Thankfully, we have none of these problems in Scranton." –Chris Doherty, Mayor of Scranton

"I laughed and laughed and laughed...and then I realized I was reading a different book. And then I read this one. It's pretty good, too."
Oscar Nunez, Cast Member ("Oscar Martinez"), The Office

"My philosophy in life is to live more like Dwight Schrute. For instance, since the editor of this book asked me for this blurb, that makes me an assistant editor (and not just an assistant to the editor)."
Jim Bone, mornings, WBSX-97.9X Scranton

“Yet another example of how some popular television shows can make us stop, think and reflect, even as they make us laugh. Who would have thought a show about paper could carry so much weight?”
Ed Robertson, co-author, The Ethics of Star Trek

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