August 22, 2013

BOOK REVIEW & DISCUSSION | Harry Potter en de School der Wijzen by Jørgen Gaare & Øystein Sjaastad



Title: Harry Potter: en filosofisk trollman (original), Harry Potter ende School der Wijzen (NL)
Authors: Jørgen Gaare &  Øystein Sjaastad
Genre: non-fiction
Published: A.W. Bruna in 2006

(NL) Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus
Deze wijsheid siert het wapenschild van Hogwarts. Het is nuttig om te weten dat je nooit een slapende draak moet kietelen, maar soms is het de enige oplossing. Als de boeken van Harry Potter één ding duidelijk maken dan is het dat je soms iets vervelends moet doen om te bereiken wat je wilt.
Het verhaal van Harry Potter stelt vragen over macht en gerechtigheid, waarheid en leugens, over de betekenis van tekens, over de dood, vriendschap en natuurlijk over goed en kwaad. Filosofische vragen waarop geen eenduidige antwoorden te geven zijn. Als een ware alchemist heeft J.K. Rowling dit filosofisch elixer gebruikt in haar literaire brouwsel. In dit boek nemen de auteurs de verschillende ingrediënten van dit brouwsel – of beter gezegd de diverse thema's – stuk voor stuk onder de loep en leggen ze verbanden met vergelijkbare thema's uit de filosofie, mythologie,godsdienst en literatuur. Aan de hand van de boeken van Harry Potter zul je op toegankelijke wijze kennismaken met de grote filosofen uit de geschiedenis en de grote vragen waarop zij een antwoord probeerden te vinden.


Let me start off by pointing out that this book is originally Norwegian, written by two Norwegian authors/philosopher/editor and for a reason I don’t know there is only a Dutch translation available right now. Because of this, there aren’t many reviews available on the internet and therefore I am writing/typing one today. In English, that is, so everyone around the world can understand it.

This book tells you all about the links there are between the Harry Potter books and many philosophical visions and beliefs. I’m sure there was a lot of research going on prior to writing this book because there are a lot of theories mentioned in this book. 


Reading this book, I didn’t feel like I was learning anything. More like I was reminded of certain things. For example: the fact that laughing when you’re terrified can feel liberating and relaxing. The link with Harry Potter is boggarts – they can be ‘defeated’ by laughing at it. We all know this already, it’s like this book tells us a lot very obvious things. Another thing that is kinda ‘obvious’ is which philosopher is used for each ‘case’. If you have only a little knowledge of philosophy etcetera, you can figure these things out on your own. I have seen a lot about philosophy in the past 2 to 3 years in high school and many of the philosophers mentioned in this book, I knew already and I was also familiar with their points of view and/or theories.


On the other hand this book sometimes explains scenes using really and I mean REALLY far-fetched theories. For example: ‘is power the same as right’, describing the scene between Harry and professor Quirrell. This book basically compares this to a theory of Plato: does power have the right to take what is rightfully his or is power that isn’t justified by good, bad? If you think about it thoroughly, you could understand the link but why do the authors look so far, why do they dig so deep into something that is so simple for most of us? Who thinks about that sort of thing when they are reading this scene?

There are also some ethical questions in this book such as ‘is existance required to have a meaning’? I don’t necessarily see a link with that and the Harry Potter books but okay.

I’m having a hard time describing what I feel about this book. I made it look like it’s totally ridiculous when it’s not. When I read the book I sometimes felt like I was reading old news and other times I was confused by some theories. In the end you can link every single thing in this book series with one or two philosophical belief(s) and that’s probably what the authors of this book tried to do but in some cases they had better give it a rest. I don’t think J.K. Rowling thought about those things when she wrote the series. I mean yes, some things have a meaning – of course – but other things probably don’t have a second or underlying meaning at all.


If you are interested in philosophy and you have read the Harry Potter series than this is a great way of getting into it. Because you will understand the theories better when given an example out of the books. I think this would get one or two people into philosophy because it’s sometimes explained very clearly and in an easy way and sometimes you really have to sit back and think about it. The downside to this is that there isn't an English edition available (yet?).

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