The cover of the book prominently features the following quotation from Publisher's Weekly: "Each essay provides a hilarious but incisive springboard to some aspect of philosophy." The first part of this statement is false. None of the essays are funny, let alone hilarious. Many of the essays are, however, in addition to being a "springboard to some aspect of philosophy," interesting, relevant, and thought provoking. I especially enjoyed the essays "Homer and Aristotle" by Raja Halwani, "Lisa and American Anti-intellectualism" by Aeon J. Skoble, "Thus Spake Bart: On Nietzsche and the Virtues of Being Bad" by Mark T. Conard, "Springfield Hypocrisy" by Jason Holt, and also "Enjoying the So-called `Iced Cream': Mr. Burns, Satan, and Happiness" by Daniel Barwick. The 15th essay, "The Function of Fiction" The Heuristic Value of Homer" by Jennifer L. McMahon was interesting and well-written, but really has nothing to do with The Simpsons specifically. This essay should have been the first essay in the book, to set the tone for the rest of the book and also to show why the analytical essays included in the book are worth writing and reading.
This is the 2nd book I read in the Philosophy and Popular Culture series, after the recently released The Matrix and Philosophy. Compared to the essays collected in that book, the essays here are much less profound and much less relevant to the stated subject. A few of the essays in The Matrix and Philosophy really have nothing to do with The Matrix, and probably 4-8 of the 18 essays in The Simpsons and Philosophy would be just as good without any Simpsons references, which suggests that they're really not about The Simpsons at all. I wish that essays more specific to The Simpsons, similar to the first two essays included in the book (the ones mentioned earlier by Halwani and Skoble), would have flushed out the rest of the book, instead of essays not specifically about The Simpsons. McMahon's essay mentioned above and the final essay in the book, "What Bart Calls Thinking" by Kelly Dean Jolly are interesting essays, the former moreso, but are not really specifically relevant to The Simpsons any more than they are to other television programs (not even necessarily cartoons). Also, while The Matrix is a single work that surely everyone who wrote an essay in The Matrix and Philosophy watched, it seems unlikely that those writing essays in this collection have viewed all, most, and probably not even many of the over 200 episodes of The Simpsons. Indeed, the essays "Popular Parody: The Simpsons Meets the Crime Film" by Deborah Knight and "Hey-diddily-ho, Neighboreenos: Ned Flanders and Neighborly Love" by David Vessey each focused on only one episode of The Simpsons. This might have been okay if the episodes were representative of Simpsons episodes, but the general plot and theme of these two episodes are at least quite uncommon in The Simpsons and probably unique. Vessey could have, and should have in my opinion, wrote a more general essay on Flanders' character. Instead, his essay focuses on the silly idea of whether one needs to try to baptize others to save their eternal lives. The essay, I think, was probably about as good as could be being based on this lame idea, and I can only imagine how much better it would have been if it would have been based on bigger, more generalizable aspects of The Simpsons, such as a more complete study into the character of Ned Flanders.
The 4th essay, "Marge's Moral Motivation" by Gerald J. Erion and Joseph A. Zeccardi is particularly egregious in that the authors make blanket generalizations about the show based on events that occur only once or rarely, suggesting that while they are not regular viewers of the show, they are trying to pass themselves off as such. For instance, they write of Marge, "As the wife of an occasionally unemployed, incarcerated, and dimensionally-confused husband, Marge has relatively little to work with financially" (Page 49). These 3 ideas either occur rarely (unemployed or incarcerated) or only once (dimensional-confusion).
I gave this book 3 stars because while I really enjoyed some of the essays, such as the ones I listed above by Halwani, Skoble, and Conard, some of the other essays were mediocre or worse, were only relevant to The Simpsons in the most general of ways. If you've already read much philosophy the ideas in this book, both those tying The Simpsons to major philosophical ideas and those not really about The Simpsons, then this book probably won't give you many additional insights into either The Simpsons or philosophy. Also, some of the analysis presented in the essays really isn't grounded in higher-level philosophy but rather just common-sense observations and connections that could probably be made by just about any intelligent viewer of The Simpsons.