Tom Petty and Philosophy: Call for Abstracts


Randall E. Auxier and Megan Volpert, Editors

Abstracts are sought for a volume in Open Courts Philosophy of Popular Culture series on Tom Petty. Tom Pettys body of work exists on a continuum between Folk and Rock, between New Wave and Americana, between Southern simplicity and West Coast chic. This is evidenced not only by the legacy left to his main backing band, the Heartbreakers, but also bookended by Mudcrutch and his collaborations with his elders, such as Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash.

The songs hook and they captivate, but they are often profound in their understatement, their stark minimalism. Pettys insight into the human condition adumbrates a powerful philosophical anthropology with a metaphysics of tragedy, gravity, and levity. His ethics focuses on dilemmas of the outcast, downtrodden and heartbroken with a view to the fallen and the sinful as our redeemable antiheroes of the everyday. Some want out, some want back in, some wont move. His political thinking is that of the artist, enlivened by Southern hostilities and Californian futilities, culminating in a deontology that puts duty to the fans first. His theory of knowledge is psychological and interpersonal, both deeply meditative and delightfully skeptical. The dialectic of love and hate, abuse and recovery, poverty and power, triumph and loss provide the genuine objects of knowledge. Above all, Pettys songs are the confessions of a poetic mind interpreting a wounded soul.

Petty lived his life the way he wrote and the way he played. It was grit, drive, and just enough finesse, to make things nice, where they need to be nice. On stage, he put the schau in Anschauung. He stood up to corporate assholes in a number of precedent-setting legal maneuvers and album concepts, risking his career and fortune, but never backing down. He was the center of a musical community that endured over four decades. His ability to cultivate new generations of listeners while connecting himself backward to the heroes of his own youth have made him universally respected by the widest range of music fans.

This volume will explore Pettys thoughts and the thoughts we have while we listen. Contributors are welcome to submit abstracts on any topic of philosophical interest that pertains to Tom Petty.

Suggest topics (other topics welcome):

Yer So Bad: Pettys Classification of the Criminal Kind

Rebels: Regionalism and Birthright as Agencies of Dissent

Anything Thats Rock ‘nRoll (Is Fine): On Authoritarianism and Permission

Listen to Her Heart: The Role of Intuition in Decision-making

Flirting with Time: Karma and Consequences

Running Mans Bible: On the Boundaries of Intervention

She Went Down Swingin: Pettys View of Women

Break Down: Weakness of the Will and the Structure of Desire
Dont Come Around Here: How to Break Someones Heart

Stop Dragging My Heart Around: Co-dependency and Recovery

Refugees: The Effects of Abuse and Tough Love

Something Big, Big Weekend: On Hedonism and Suicidal Urges

I Should Have Known It: Petty and Possibility

Southern Accents: Between the West and the South

You Got Lucky: Chance, Love and Logic

You Dont Know How It Feels: Resentment and the Pathologies of Consciousness

Kings Road: An American Abroad

Spike: Demarcation of Difference and Strategies of Assimilation

Insiders: On Radical Empathy

 Century City: On Legal and Corporate Intentionality

The Last DJ: Corruption as Progress

Its Good to Be King: Petty and Power

American Dream Plan B: Cynicism as Political Protest

What Are You Doinin My Life: Stalkers, Friends, Fans

Mary Janes Revenge: Tom Petty and Death

Louisiana Rain: Travelogues and Transcendentalism in the Great Wide Open

Nightwatchman: The Effects of Securitization on Personalism

Eat Me: Pettys Pioneering Music Videography

So You Wanna Be a Rock ‘nRoll Star: Collaboration versus Mentorship

JamminMe: Surrealist Challenges to Structuralism

Something Good Coming: The Relationship between Aesthetic Time and Space

Contributor Guidelines:

Submit an abstract of no more than 500 words, along with a resume/CV for each (co)author, as attachments in an email to by April 1, 2018.

Notification of acceptance by April 15. Polished first drafts due by June 15. Finished contributions should be 3,000 to 4,000 words, written in a style appropriate to an intelligent lay audience (no unexplained philosophical jargon, assumed knowledge of philosophical concepts, or extensive referencing).

“Qui tacet consentit.”

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