In this modern era the world has become concerned at the lack of moral education. Thanks to the rise in popularity of atheism, more and more people are turning their back on religion, and asking that their children be excused from religious education in the school environment. As such, there is a lack of morality and moral education, as nothing has risen to fill the void left by religion. The U.S. government states that crime levels have in fact risen, and school tests indicate an increase in selfish behavior in children, and a lack of empathy. Due to this people are learning right from wrong from the most unusual places, and one of these is T.V.
Julian Baggini, a great philosopher, is of the opinion that The Simpson patriarch Homer reveals more truths about the nature of humans throughout the series than any other TV personality. Although it is projected as a funny cartoon, the undertones of the storylines and character actions act as moral guidelines. In fact, he goes as far as to compare the observations portrayed as being on the same plane as those made by earlier philosophers Plato and Kant.
Although the premise of The Simpsons is an average working class American family, it is a caricature of typical personalities. Homer is especially stupid; Marge the domesticated housewife, Lisa and over achiever and “Geek” and Bart is badly-behaved Dennis the Menace style wild child. However, The Simpsons are regarded as one of the best cultural shows of today. The ideas reflected are not only philosophical but it portrays them for what they are. It is possible to use absurd phases of our lives to depict truth and insight more easily. What better way to explain these life situations than by making a comedy of real-life situations?
The Simpsons have also touched on religion in a very illuminating manner. The Simpsons does not have an atheist agenda nor does not believe in the supernatural. However, they touch on the many problems facing religious institutions, and touch on the issues of individual faith (characterized by Ned Flanders) to mass faith (as shown in Reverend Lovejoy). The shows emphasizes that morality is individual and unique from faith, although a firm belief in God can help guide your actions (as Ned does). However, power corrupts and not everyone will practice what they preach.
However, this is not the only reason that The Simpsons has been praised for its philosophical teachings. One of the reasons is that the main character Homer, acts so stupidly that no one would ever copy him, thereby learning valuable life lessons. Homer makes simple statements that people can identify with their own way of thinking when they live everyday lives. “The Simpsons” depict simplistic behavior which is not the same as being simple.
Since the cartoons are non-realistic, they are a great form to say something that is valuable and that makes sense. In addition, general issues that take place in our daily life are also dealt by philosophy along with such type of abstract nouns like justice, truth, identity, the bad and the good, meaning, mind, consciousness, etc. Cartoons successfully reveal abstract concepts the similar way it is done by philosophers. Although Homer is not real person, many Americans can recognize themselves in him.
While the world struggles to fill the gap left by religion, perhaps cartoon TV shows are not the best stop gap. But they are every entertaining and do provide a moral respite from most of the shows and entertainment forms today (think of all those violent video games). If the bad effects of computer games are widely accepted, then perhaps it’s not such a crazy idea to believe that a silly show can be a moral compass in today’s age.