The new cartoon and graphic narrative Heretics!: The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy, offers a smooth beginning to some of the wisest thinkers of early modern thoughts.

One of my first significant encounters with philosophy was the little book Marx for Beginners. Unlike most introductory books on Marxism, this one was a cartoon! Not only that, but it was also both fun and easy to read. However, some might object saying it is a too easy read, but for me it was exactly the simple and entertaining approach that led me to Marx. When I think about it now – simple and fun reading can indeed become the needed shortcut towards more challenging thinkers for many. One must begin somewhere, and it is in particular the lack of books like Marx for Beginners, that might prevent new readers to modern philosophical thoughts.

An easy read

One might say that Steven and Ben Nadler‘s Heretics! fits well into the aforementioned format. The cartoon book presents great modern thinkers and scientists: Bacon, Newton, Galileo, Leibniz, Pascal and Spinoza. The authors move conscientiously – even if (naturally) somewhat schematically – through the thoughts of the various thinkers. In similarity to the cartoon Maus (Art Spiegelman, 1987 and 1992), serious and difficult themes are well portrayed in this cartoon.

 

«Heretics! reminds me of how important it is to acknowledge beginnings»

I especially enjoyed how the high-quality and complex topics are handled in such a light manner throughout this format: The whole reading experience becomes very amusing, and I am not worried one bit as to how schematically these scientists and philosophers thoughts are dealt with. The book is intended as a teaser and a beginning, which hopefully can lead the reader to more advanced introductory works or preferably the original texts themselves.

The prince of philosophy

Nonetheless, some thinkers are more thoroughly examined than others. Especially Spinoza is analysed in great detail, which was very welcomed in my case, as this is a philosopher whose current status has not diminished since the Baroque. He is probably also the philosopher who has inspired most modern thinkers, considering characters such as Gilles Deleuze, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt. To no surprise, nothing new about Spinoza or any others is added in the book – nonetheless, we now have a pleasant and funny lens to watch them from (it may be worth mentioning that Steven Nadler has written the critically acclaimed Spinoza: A Life). This lens may lead to some striking point of views that have not been presented before, although it is hard to figure out exactly what is being added (this will vary from reader to reader).

«The book is intended as a teaser and a beginning.»

The cartoon series give us nonetheless a new perspective on the factual argumentation by these philosophical thinkers, as well as a motion and ease they didn’t have initially.

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