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Avatar and Philosophy: Learning to See

George A. Dunn (Editor), William Irwin (Series Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-470-94031-0 September 2014 Wiley-Blackwell 272 Pages


James Cameron’s critically acclaimed movie Avatar was nominated for nine Academy Awards and received countless accolades for its breath-taking visuals and use of 3D technology. But beyond its cinematic splendour, can Avatar also offer us insights into business ethics, empathy, disability, and the relationship between mind and body? Can getting to know the Na’vi, an alien species, enlarge our vision and help us to “see” both our world and ourselves in new ways?

Avatar and Philosophy is a revealing journey through the world of Pandora and the huge range of  philosophical themes raised by James Cameron’s groundbreaking film

  • Explores philosophical issues such as religion, morality, aesthetics, empathy, identity, the relationship of mind and body, environmental and business ethics, technology, and just war theory
  • Examines a wide range of topics from the blockbuster movie, including attitudes toward nature, our responsibilities to nonhuman species, colonialism, disability, and communitarian ethics
  • Written by an esteemed group of philosophers who are avid fans of Avatar themselves
  • Explains philosophical concepts in an enjoyable and accessible manner that will appeal to all levels of readers
  • With a new trilogy of sequels now announced, this is the ideal entry point for understanding the world of Pandora for fans and newcomers alike

Acknowledgments: I See These People viii

Introduction: Time to Wake Up 1
George A. Dunn

Part I Seeing Eywa: “I’m With Her, Jake. She’s Real!” 5

1 The Silence of Our Mother: Eywa as the Voice of Feminine Care Ethics 7
George A. Dunn and Nicolas Michaud

2 “Eywa Will Provide”: Pantheism, Christianity, and the Value of Nature 19
Jason T. Eberl

3 The Tantra of Avatar 36
Asra Q. Nomani

Part II Seeing the Na’vi: “You Will Teach Him Our Ways” 49

4 Learning to See the Na’vi 51
Stephanie Adair

5 It Doesn’t Take an Avatar: How to Empathize with a Blue-Skinned Alien 62
Andrew Terjesen

6 “I See You” through a Glass Darkly: Avatar and the Limits of Empathy 74
Massimiliano Cappuccio

Part III Seeing Nature: “Try to See the Forest through Her Eyes” 87

7 Seeing the Na’vi Way: Respecting Life and Mind in All Organisms 89
Kyle Burchett

8 They’re Not Just Goddamn Trees: Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature and the Avatar of Spirit 104
James Lawler

9 “Everything Is Backwards Now”: Avatar, Anthropocentrism, and Relational Reason 115
Jeremy David Bendik-Keymer

Part IV Seeing Our Bodies: “They’ve Got Great Muscle Tone” 125

10 The Identity of Avatars and Na’vi Wisdom 127
Kevin S. Decker

11 “I Got This”: Disability, Stigma, and Jake Sully’s Rejected Body 139
Ryan Smock

12 “See the World We Come From”: Spiritual versus Technological Transcendence in Avatar 151
Dan Dinello

Part V Seeing Our Political Communities: “Sky People Cannot See” 165

13 “We Will Fight Terror with Terror”: Avatar and Just War Theory 167
Joseph J. Foy

14 The Community and the Individual in Avatar 180
Dale Murray

15 Avatar and Colonialism 190
Nathan Eckstrand

Part VI Seeing Our Ethical Responsibilities: “Sometimes Your Entire Life Boils Down to One Insane Move” 201

16 “All That Cheddar”: Lessons in Business Ethics from the RDA Corporation 203
Matthew Brophy

17 “We Have an Indigenous Population of Humanoids Called the Na’vi”: Native American Philosophy in Avatar 215
Dennis Knepp

18 I See Animals: The Na’vi and Respect for Other Creatures 226
Wayne Yuen

Part VII Seeing the Movie: “You Are Not Gonna Believe Where I Am” 239

19 The Digital Cabinet of Curiosities: Avatar and the Phenomenology of 3D Worlds 241
Robert Furze and Pat Brereton

Notes on Contributors: Our Avatar Drivers 252

Index: My Last Video Log 258