Philosophy Takes On BoJack Horseman

Dr. Quill R. Kukla.

Dr. Quill R. Kukla, Senior Research Scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics and Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown, is taking an unusual path to engaging students to introductory philosophical concepts in her course Intro to Philosophy via BoJack Horseman in summer 2020. 

The distance course will take place from June 1 to July 24, 2020. It will delve into philosophy through the framework of the innovative and popular animated Netflix show, using it as a platform to cover a wide range of philosophical questions typically examined in Introduction to Philosophy courses.   

“Not only is my course the only college class about BoJack Horseman that I know of,” said Dr. Kukla, “but most other philosophy classes that use TV or movies use the shows as a springboard for discussing more traditional articles and issues in the field. In contrast, we will use the show not as a springboard, but as the text itself.”

The course will include philosophical readings from authors such as Sartre, Nietszsche , and Camus; contemporary bioethicisits and feminist ethicists; philosophers of mind and psychiatry; and philosophers of free will and responsibility. It will also include readings on topics such as embodied identity, sexual orientation, disability theory, and gender and race identity. 

“So many of the students mentioned to me that they were really surprised by just how well BoJack Horseman worked as a basis for learning and discussing philosophy, and with how subtle and rich the philosophical issues involved were.”

The Netflix show ran for six seasons, with its final episodes airing January 31, 2020. “The final season was one of the very best and gave new meaning to the whole series, so there’s lots of new material to talk about this year,” said Dr. Kukla.