Peanuts and Philosophy
Peanuts and Philosophy
Ever since 1950, Americans and people all over the world have been enlightened by the insights of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty, and the rest of the Peanuts gang, not forgetting Snoopy, alias the Red Baron. With the death of creator Charles M. Schulz in 2000, the revealed canon was complete.
Peanuts has long been recognized as a source of wisdom as well as entertainment; millions of people refer to it as an inspirational guide to life’s most serious decisions. The themes of Peanuts are the themes of Greek tragedy and Shakespearean drama. The 1965 book The Gospel According to Peanuts applied the gang’s insights to the Christian faith (in the form of liberal Protestantism) and surprised everyone by selling over ten million copies. (Schulz the former Sunday-school teacher would later say he had arrived at something like secular humanism.)
In Peanuts and Philosophy, twenty philosophers, from a diverse range of perspectives, look at different aspects of the Peanuts canon.
How can the thoughts of children, who have yet to become grown-up, help us to become more grown up ourselves? Do we get good results from believing in something like the Great Pumpkin, even though we’re disappointed every time? What can Linus’s reactions to the leukemia of his friend Janice tell us about the stages of grief? Why don’t we settle what’s right and what’s wrong by the simple method of asking Lucy? Is true happiness attainable without a warm puppy? Do some people’s kites have a natural affinity for trees? Is Sally an anarchist, a nihilist, or just a contrarian? Does Linus’s reliance on his blanket help him or hurt him? Is Charlie Brown’s philosophy of life pathetic or inspirational?
Other topics include: Linus as the lonely true believer in the Great Pumpkin; how the way children think carries general lessons about transcending our limitations; the Utopian quest as illustrated by Charlie’s devotion to the Little Red-Haired Girl; Snoopy’s Red Baron and history as selective memory; the Head Beagle as Big Brother. And, as we would expect, Lucy’s repeated cruel removal of Charlie’s football has several philosophical applications, including the nature of free will and determinism, Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence, and the way scientists draw conclusions from observations.