Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Thinking)

Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Thinking)

Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Thinking)

Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Thinking)


The legions of Bob Dylan fans know that Dylan is not just a great composer, writer, and performer, but a great thinker as well. In Bob Dylan and Philosophy, eighteen philosophers analyze Dylan's ethical positions, political commitments, views on gender and sexuality, and his complicated and controversial attitudes toward religion. All phases of Dylan's output are covered, from his early acoustic folk ballads and anthem-like protest songs to his controversial switch to electric guitar to his sometimes puzzling, often profound music of the 1970s and beyond. The book examines different aspects of Dylan's creative thought through a philosophical lens, including personal identity, negative and positive freedom, enlightenment and postmodernism in his social criticism, and the morality of bootlegging. An engaging introduction to deep philosophical truths, the book provides Dylan fans with an opportunity to learn about philosophy while impressing fans of philosophy with the deeper implications of his intellectual achievements.


Doug Anderson

Love always sleeps rough, on the ground, with no bed, lying in
doorways and by roads in the open air; sharing his mother's
nature, he always lives in a state of need. On the other hand,
taking after his father, he schemes to get hold of beautiful and
good things. He's brave, impetuous, and intense; a formidable
hunter, always weaving tricks; he desires knowledge and is
resourceful in getting it; a lifelong lover of wisdom; clever at
using magic, drugs and sophistry.

What happens when you put six men in a room and ask them what love means? No doubt a number of good punch lines might follow, but this was a question asked by Plato some twenty-five hundred years ago in his dialogue The Symposium. a symposium was a Greek drinking party in which the men lay on couches and, following a specific hierarchical order, took turns in singing contests or in discoursing on a subject chosen by the group. the talk was interspersed with music and drinking rituals. One can imagine this discussion with the gang from Cheers or any selection of off-beat intellectuals, say, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac, and Bertrand Russell.

Bob Dylan's Planet Waves, like The Symposium, constitutes a set of “discourses” on what love means, each song manifesting a different possibility. Not surprisingly, Plato's tales of the mean-

Plato, The Symposium (New York: Penguin, 1999), 203d. Hereafter cited par
enthetically in text.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.