A Dynamic Duo – the Nadlers Introduce a New Way to Look at Old Ideas

October 11, 2017
Steven Nadler (right), professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his son Ben Nadler (left), an illustrator living in Chicago, are pictured with Ben’s childhood drawing desk at Steven’s home in Madison on June 9, 2017. They have partnered on a graphic novel about 17th-century philosophy titled “Heretics!”. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

Take one UW-Madison philosophy professor, add an illustrator with a penchant for “comic art,” shake vigorously, and the result is Heretics! The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy.  Steven Nadler and his son, Ben Nadler, have teamed up to produce a graphic version of a text which succinctly and often hilariously explains the thought processes and adventures of 17th century philosophers.  True outside-of-the-box thinkers — Galileo, Descartes, Spinoza, Newton and others — were willing to challenge authority and question ordinary concepts.  It can be argued that Steve and Ben Nadler do the same thing with the traditional style of textbook.

Concentrated and streamlined, Heretics is like a dietary meal supplement.  A remarkable amount of information is delivered in one simple dose which is easy to digest.  With over 900 illustrations, complex ideas are tackled and communicated in a fresh new way, and the Nadlers are hoping to reach audiences that have previously been lost to them.  Much like the thinkers who urged their peers to consider alternative theories, those of us who have long viewed philosophy to be dusty and boring may have a shift in perspective.  The brilliant, eccentric, often courageous philosophers of the 1600s deserve our admiration, for it was their willingness to put forth dangerous viewpoints that paved the way for modern thought.  It is nothing short of incredible that they risked their lives to publish their hypotheses.  Indeed, within the tale of 17th century philosophers lies another hidden lesson:  beware of silencing academics!  While their ideas (global warming comes to mind) may be difficult to embrace, it is in our best interests to be open minded.

So it may be time to take a fresh look at these old notions, and the Nadlers have found a unique, playful way to communicate them.  If their book is any indication, hearing the two tell their tale of blending 400-year-old concepts into the modern medium of a graphic narrative is sure to be entertaining.  The father and son team will be sharing their story at the Memorial Library in October.  Bring your curiosity, anticipate some humor, and you just might learn something new from the thinkers of the past.

WHAT:  Speakers Steven and Ben Nadler, Author/Illustrator of

Heretics! The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy

Reception and Book Signing to follow the Presentation

DATE:   Wednesday, October 18, 2017

TIME:    5 p.m.

PLACE:  Memorial Library, Room 126

QUESTIONS?  Call the Friends office:  608-265-2505