The Good Place and Philosophy

deadline for submissions: 
September 4, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Meredith College

Abstracts are sought for a collection of philosophical essays related to the book and television series The Good Place. This volume will be published by Open Court Publishing (the publisher of The Simpsons and Philosophy, Pink Floyd and Philosophy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy, Bullshit and Philosophy, Mr. Robot and Philosophy, and The Americans and Philosophy, etc.) as part of their successful Popular Culture and Philosophy series. Chapters of the book are meant to be accessible and entertaining to a lay audience. Potential contributors may want to examine other volumes in the Open Court series.

The Good Place is centered around a woman, Eleanor Shellstrop, who finds herself in an afterlife (“The Good Place”) that one earns admission to through good behavior and having a positive impact on the world. Eleanor is only in the Good Place because of a clerical error but hopes to earn her place by becoming a better person. She is assisted by her “soul-mate,” a professor of ethics and moral philosophy, to try and become a less selfish and better version of herself. She is both helped and undermined by her relationship with Michael, the architect of The Good Place, Tahani, a philanthropist overshadowed in life by her sister, Jason, an amateur DJ from Pensacola, FL, and Janet, the artificial intelligence that assists the residents with their needs in the Good Place.

Contributors are welcome to submit abstracts on any topic of philosophical interest that pertains to The Good Place. The focus of this collection is, specifically, philosophical topics in The Good Place, but papers that connect to other work by series creator Mike Schur or the actors are also welcome, so long as the points made can be explicitly tied back to The Good Place.
Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  •  The practice of philosophy: What happens when you turn thought experiments into real experiments? Do the characters live up to the standards of the philosophers they discuss? What is the role and value of philosophy in the public sphere?
  • Ethical theories: How does the show use different ethical theories (Virtue ethics, Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, Contractualism, Moral Particularism, etc.)? Do the characters really embody the ideals that they discuss? What is the audience to do with these mini-ethics lessons? Can ethics be taught by reading ethicists? Do we really need to be mortal to have a concept of morality?
  • Existentialism and meaning: how does the show engage the idea of an authentic self? What is the role of other people in the quest for an authentic self? How does the show depict the thought of Sartre, Camus, and Kierkegaard?
  • Gender in the Good Place: How does the show depict women doing philosophy? How is the audience encouraged to think about women and women’s agency? Does Janet have a gender? Does Michael?
  • Death and the afterlife: What is the meaning of death and dying? How does the vision of the afterlife in The Good Place relate to other televised afterlifes? Can it possibly make sense to run an afterlife on a points system? Is a non-religious afterlife really non-religious?

Proposals are not limited to these topics and we welcome submissions on other topics that connect the show to religion, philosophy, and contemporary culture.

Please feel free to forward this to anyone writing within a religious or philosophic discipline who might be interested in contributing.

Contributor Guidelines:

Abstract of paper (100–750 words)
Resume/CV for each author/coauthor of the paper
Initial submission (if abstract is approved) should be roughly 4000 words and may be made by email (we prefer MS Word attachment)

  • Abstracts due September 4, 2018
  • First drafts due October 15, 2018
  • Final drafts due December 10, 2018

(We are looking to complete the entire ms by December 31, 2018, so early submissions are encouraged and welcomed!)

Please submit abstracts, as well as any questions, to the following:

You can also contact us directly:

Steven A. Benko
Associate Professor, Religious and Ethical Studies
Meredith College, Raleigh NC

Andrew Pavelich
Associate Professor of Philosophy
University of Houston-Downtown, Houston TX