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Black Sabbath and Philosophy: Mastering Reality

Sunday, November 11, 2012 8:08 am EST
"Listening to a heavy metal album or attending a heavy metal concert or thrashing in a mosh pit or playing in a heavy metal band is participating in a modern, electronic Dionysian festival."

Want to Get in Touch with a Better Reality? Listen to Black Sabbath.

Edited by William Irwin Ear-splittingly loud, for some, musically-challenging and with lyrics that speak of apocalypse, death and destruction, listening to Black Sabbath is not for everyone. In fact, some would tell you that the band worship Satan, their songs promote violence and even try to convince teenagers to commit suicide. But is that really true, or could it be that those who find tuning into the masters of heavy metal rewarding and intoxicating know something about themselves and life that those of us who find it a terrifying experience are missing out on? In his new book, William Irwin (die-hard Sabbath fan and philosopher), and his team of fellow contributors travel deep into the heart of the band's music and lyrics to reveal that there's plenty more to the dark masters of reality than a whole lot of noise...

"Listening to a heavy metal album or attending a heavy metal concert or thrashing in a mosh pit or playing in a heavy metal band is participating in a modern, electronic Dionysian festival."

Drawing on the works of philosophers including Plato, Aristotle (who, in Chapter 7, joins the band!), Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, each chapter discusses and debates the range of thought-provoking topics and themes that tell us more about who Black Sabbath is (can it be Black Sabbath without Ozzy?), why they created the sound they did and what lies hidden in the music and lyrics of their songs. Whether it's an analysis of war, pollution, poverty, drug abuse or dealing with the problems of modernity, what emerges is that each song, like philosophy itself, is a quest to discover truth and a means of facing up to reality. So, not so sinister after all...

As legions of Sabbath fans await news of a much-anticipated new album and reunion tour, there's no better time to discover a deeper appreciation and understanding of Ozzy, Tony, Geezer, Bill and Ronnie. Reading Black Sabbath and Philosophy will help you do just that and, at the same time, may just introduce you to your own mind.

Black Sabbath and Philosophy
November 2012 • 280pp
978-1-1183-9759-6 • Electronic and Online Editions Available
$17.95; CAN $21.95; €14.40; £11.99

William Irwin is available for interview by phone. If you would like to arrange to speak to him or would like a review copy or sample chapters from Black Sabbath and Philosophy, please contact: Michelle Martella Tel: +1 (781) 833-8577/

About the Editors

William Irwin is Professor of Philosophy at King's College, Pennsylvania. He originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books as co-editor of the bestselling The Simpsons and Philosophy and has overseen recent titles includingHouse and PhilosophyBatman and Philosophy and Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy.


Introduction: "What Is This That Stands Before Me?"

Acknowledgements : They Sold Their Souls for Rock 'n' Roll

Part I - Necessary Evil
1 - Beyond Good and Evil: Facing Your Demons With Black Sabbath and Existentialism - William Irwin
2 - Masters of a Better Possible Reality: Conquering Evil With Love - Liz Stillwaggon Swan
3 - "Is It the End, My Friend?" Black Sabbath's Apocalypse of Horror - Brian Froese

Part II - Playing Devil's Advocate
4 - Black Sabbath and the Sound of Evil - Joel McIver
5 - The Worst of All Possible Worlds: Schopenhauer Meets Sabbath - James Heathers
6 - Tony Iommi's Hand of Doom: From Plastic Fingertips to Creative Freedom - Ken Pepper

Part III - The Dark Art of Metal
7 - The Art of Black Sabbath: Aristotle Joins the Band - Greg Littmann
8 - Black Sabbath and the Problem of Defining Metal - Søren R. Frimodt-Møller
9 - Saint Vitus Dance: The Art of Doom - Manuel Bremer and Daniel Cohnitz
10 - God, Drugs, and Ghosts: Finding Dionysus and Apollo in Black Sabbath and the Birth of Heavy Metal - Dennis Knepp

Part IV - Is It Still Sabbath Without Ozzy?
11 - It's Not Sabbath Unless Ozzy's the Singer (But It's Fine If you Disagree) - James Bondarchuk
12 - Fightin' Words: Sabbath Doesn't Need the Ozzman - Wesley D. Cray
13 - The Name Remains the Same - But Should It? - Mark D. White

Part V - Symptoms of the Universe
14 - Wicked World: The Politics of the Supernatural in Black Sabbath - Erich Christiansen
15 - "Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen": Is Ozzy Going Insane? - Kevin McCain
16 - "As the War Machine Keeps Turning": Just War Theory, Pacifism, and the War on Terror - Jacob M. Held
17 - Stop Stereotyping Sabbath: Sex, Subjugation, and Stupidity - Robert Arp

Contributors: Children of the Grave
Index: The Writ

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