Black Sabbath and Philosophy: Mastering Reality
Buy Rights Online Buy Rights

Rights Contact Login For More Details

More About This Title Black Sabbath and Philosophy: Mastering Reality


A philosophical look at heavy metal's dark masters of reality, Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath is one of the world's most influential and enduring rock bands. Dubbed "the Beatles of heavy metal" by Rolling Stone, they helped to define a genre with classic songs like "Paranoid", "Iron Man", and "War Pigs", songs whose lyrics reveal hidden depth and philosophical insight. Their songs confront existential despair, social instability, political corruption, the horrors of war, and the nature of evil. This book explores the wide range of profound ideas in the band's music and lyrics to help you understand Black Sabbath as never before.

  • Discusses and debates essential Black Sabbath topics and themes, such as the problem of evil, "War Pigs" and the nature of just war theory, whether or not Sabbath is still Sabbath without Ozzy, and whether "evil is in the ear of the beholder"
  • Gives you new perspectives on Black Sabbath's music and lyrics
  • Provides a deeper appreciation and understanding of Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, and Ronnie James Dio
  • Brings some of history's heaviest thinkers to bear on the band's music, from Aristotle and Nietzsche to Schopenhauer and Marx

So . . . can you help me, occupy my brain? Yes! Start reading Black Sabbath and Philosophy.


William Irwin is professor of philosophy at King’s College in Pennsylvania. Irwin originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books with Seinfeld and Philosophy in 1999. Irwin has also co-edited The Simpsons and Philosophy and edited The Matrix and Philosophy and Metallica and Philosophy. He is currently the General Editor of The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series.


Introduction: “What Is This That Stands Before Me?” x

Acknowledgments: They Sold Their Souls for Rock ‘n’ Roll xii

Part I Necessary Evil 1

1 Beyond Good and Evil: Facing Your Demons With Black Sabbath and Existentialism 3
William Irwin

2 Masters of a Better Possible Reality: Conquering Evil With Love 12
Liz Stillwaggon Swan

3 “Is It the End, My Friend?” Black Sabbath ’ s Apocalypse of Horror 20
Brian Froese

Part II Playing Devil ’ s Advocate 31

4 Black Sabbath and the Sound of Evil 33
Joel McIver

5 The Worst of All Possible Worlds: Schopenhauer Meets Sabbath 41
James Heathers

6 Tony Iommi ’ s Hand of Doom: From Plastic Fingertips to Creative Freedom 51
Ken Pepper

Part III The Dark Art of Metal 61

7 The Art of Black Sabbath: Aristotle Joins the Band 63
Greg Littmann

8 Black Sabbath and the Problem of Defining Metal 76
Søren R. Frimodt-Møller

9 Saint Vitus Dance: The Art of Doom 87
Manuel Bremer and Daniel Cohnitz

10 Gods, Drugs, and Ghosts: Finding Dionysus and Apollo in Black Sabbath and the Birth of Heavy Metal 96
Dennis Knepp

Part IV Is It Still Sabbath Without Ozzy? 111

11 It ’ s Not Sabbath Unless Ozzy ’ s the Singer (But It ’ s Fine If You Disagree) 113
James Bondarchuk

12 Fightin’ Words: Sabbath Doesn ’ t Need the Ozzman 126
Wesley D. Cray

13 The Name Remains the Same—But Should It? 140
Mark D. White

Part V Symptoms of The Universe 149

14 Wicked World: The Politics of the Supernatural in Black Sabbath 151
Erich Christiansen

15 “Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen”: Is Ozzy Going Insane? 163
Kevin McCain

16 “As the War Machine Keeps Turning”: Just War Theory, Pacifism, and the War on Terror 171
Jacob M. Held

17 Stop Stereotyping Sabbath: Sex, Subjugation, and Stupidity 182
Robert Arp

Contributors: Children of the Grave 190

Index: The Writ 195


“This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, shedding a lot of light on the members, music, and society with regards to everything from religion to family.”  (Sacramento Book Review, 1 June 2013)

“This is a thoroughly enjoyable read, shedding a lot of light on the members, music, and society with regards to everything from religion to family.”  (City Book Review, 1 March 2013)

“Black Sabbath & Philosophy is a wholly absorbing read large . . . A long-overdue work, and a rewarding one both for fans and those curious about the philosophical gravity behind all those murky riffs.”  (PopMatters, 11 January 2013)

“Much like Black Sabbath themselves, this wide-ranging, amusing book entertains and makes your brain ache in equal measure.”  (Record Collector, 1 December 2012)

“A book to dip into, that will get you thinking and almost certainly have you going back and listening to your old Black Sabbath albums in a different light. Highly recommended.”  (Get Ready to Rock, 20  November 2012)