God is Undead

by Kieran Healy on October 14, 2003

The website of the American Philosophical Association is a quiet affair as a rule, but its section on Calls for Papers turns up the odd gem:

bq. Philosophy and The Onion. Now soliciting proposals for projected philosophical anthology on any aspect of The Onion, America’s leading satirical newspaper.

This is followed by,

bq. The Undead and Philosophy … Abstracts are sought for a collection of philosophical essays on the theme of the undead.

A link to further information helpfully explains that “We define ‘the undead’ as that class of corporeal beings who at some point were living creatures, have died, and have come back such that they are not presently ‘at rest.’ This would include supernatural beings such as zombies, vampires, mummies, and other reanimated corpses.”

The two projects might be combined: Once the Undead and Philosophy is published, someone from The Onion can whip up something pretty quickly.

To be fair, it’s clear there’s plenty of philosophical mileage in the undead. There are tricky definitional problems — Do vampires count as “reanimated corpses”, for example? — which raise the question of whether “the undead” admit of a reductive analysis. My friend Dave Chalmers is a noted authority on zombies, though the zombies he has in mind are rather different from common or garden Hollywood Zombies. Philosophical zombies are roughly defined by the fact that they, unlike Dave, can’t have anything in mind, ever.

Apart from metaphysics and philosophy of mind, the organizers are also interested in bioethics, “cultural theory and globalization studies”, and existentialism. Some of these practically write themselves. Bioethics, for instance. The basic line is that it’s OK to turn someone into a Zombie, as long as you get them to sign an informed consent form beforehand. I can see the press coverage now: “The new Zombie technology will force us to ‘rethink our attitudes towards life and death,’ Dr Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania said today. ‘Socially acceptable levels of body odor are going to be up for debate, too,’ he continued. Meanwhile, University of Chicago Bioethicist Leon Kass said that Zombies — especially cloned Zombies — are ‘repugnant to human dignity’ for reasons which are at once intuitively obvious to all and difficult to articulate clearly.”

So get writing. The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2003. In the first place this should of course be an undeadline, and anyone from the Southwestern United States could tell you the date should be set at November 2nd. On the other hand, the call for papers comes from Weber State University, which though not a noted center of eldritch activity is located in Ogden, Utah, where it’s probably pretty dead most of the time.



Carlos Non-Zweibel 10.14.03 at 2:02 am

Noted and communicated.


eszter 10.14.03 at 3:27 am

Does this mean that some can deduct the purchase of a Ouija board from their research accounts?


Norbizness 10.14.03 at 3:49 am

Isn’t humor like a frog being dissected… you learn something, but it dies in the process? The second call for papers sounds better, because Bruce Campbell’s going to get mentioned hella-frequently.


dsquared 10.14.03 at 7:19 am

Did we ever find out what abstract sex and viral trading were?


James Russell 10.14.03 at 9:54 am

For some reason the reference to “the novels of… Bruce Campbell” made me think there was something not entirely serious about the proposal. Unless one of the following is true: 1) the author mistook Bruce Campbell for Ramsey Campbell or 2) Bruce Campbell has, unbeknownst to me, gone from fighting zombies to writing books about them.


pathos 10.14.03 at 12:56 pm

Onion Headline:

“Movie Studio Sues Jewish Qabalistic Group Over Use of Term ‘Golem'”


Richard Greene 10.14.03 at 3:22 pm

The undead volume looks quite promising. I know I’m going to encourage every competent philosopher I know to submit a proposal. All of you should do the same.

In all seriousness, thanks for the good publicity.


JD 10.14.03 at 3:33 pm

Seems it is time for “Buffy Studies” to claim their rightful place in the ivory tower.


dsquared 10.14.03 at 5:04 pm

In all fairness, I feel it necessary to point out that this is a call for papers for another one in that series that has “Philosophical Issues in The Matrix” and “The Philosophy of Star Trek”, and those books were quite good. Although if someone does “The Philosophy of Harry Potter”, I’m getting out the baseball bat.


Harry Tuttle 10.14.03 at 5:43 pm

Might be combined? Jesus was a corporeal being (we’ll give ’em the benefit of the doubt here), died and was dead for several days, and rose to rule the universe from beyond the grave (indeed!). Fits the definition to a tee.

Any Corn King derived ressurected God would fit the definition. Jesus, Mithra, Attis, Osirus, Dionyssus… the list goes on.


Harry Potter 10.14.03 at 6:16 pm

daquared: Open Court are planning a book on Harry Potter and philosophy. A web search will hit some of the articles. Or check out this:



Alan 10.14.03 at 7:18 pm

On the other hand, the call for papers comes from Weber State University, which though not a noted center of eldritch activity is located in Ogden, Utah, where it’s probably pretty dead most of the time.

Hey now, as I’m likely to be the single reader here who was not only born but raised in Ogden, Utah, I have to … well, damn, I have to pretty much agree. However, while there may be not much of a night-life in Ogden (though there’s a great brewpub, really), there’s climbing, skiing, and even mountain biking that Kieran would enjoy.


Ross 10.14.03 at 8:29 pm

Talk about serendipity! I was just cruising around the APA web site (looking for a citation to something I had published in one of the newsletters) and had run across the Philosophy and The Onion call. I then stopped by my blog, and noticed someone had clicked over to my blog from this very post.

*cue the spooky music — and write a paper about it!*

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