Some philosophical topics in Hitchhiker’s

      What follows is an incomplete list of philosophical topics arising in or via the work of Douglas Adams and more specifically his Hitchhiker books (/radio, et cetera). The list is in no particular order but it does refer to the characters and events and ideas of the books. Please see further, in my Philosophy and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy book, the contents pages, the Introduction and, well, pretty much all of it.

  • An objective view of one’s place in reality – the nature and desirability (or undesirability) thereof. See, in the books, ‘The ‘Total Perspective Vortex’ (represented in the picture below), together with its creator and his wife. Compare also the ‘Ruler of The Universe’ character.

    ILLUSTRATION: Total Perspective Vortex

  • Sanity. Prak, the Vortex, ‘Wonko the Sane’, Fenchurch.

  • What it is to be at home. The vicissitudes of Arthur Dent and of the Earth. Trillian and Random. Bartledan. The Earth Mark II.

  • Artificial intelligence. Deep Thought, Marvin, various other ‘Genuine People Personalities’, the Frogstar tank, Deep Thought, Hactar . .

  • Virtual worlds. Zarniwoop’s portable universe. The Guide’s accounts system. The Mish Mash.

  • Relations between happiness and intelligence. Marvin, Zaphod, Trillian, Deep Thought as-rendered-in-the-film, the depressed elevator, the dolphins, the posers of the Ultimate Question, and Colin The Very Happy Robot. Possibly also Judiciary Pag (‘the Learned, Impartial, and Very Relaxed’).

  • The nature of the self. Zaphod. Genuine People Personalities. Possibly Fenchurch. The Bartledans.

  • Vegetarianism and the ethical weight that should be accorded to consent. The animal that wants to be eaten and also − in the latter regard − the sentient mattresses and, perhaps, Random.

  • Ethical relativism (or, perhaps, tolerance). The judgement upon the Krikkitters.

  • The ethics of entertainment. Random on Lamuella. Various versions of cricket. The ‘docudrama’-cum-‘infomercial’ on galactic history.
  • The value of art. Various instances of excruciating poetry. Vogon destruction of bejewelled crabs. The − er, originallly. . − good poetry of Lallafa. See also my ‘The Finest and the Third Worst − Aesthetics and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, at

  • The meaning of life, and what is worth doing and what is not. Most or all of the main characters. The Ultimate Question and the Ultimate Answer. The fate(s) of the Earth. Prak. ‘God’s Last Message to His Creation’. The planet NowWhat?. Wowbager the Infinitely Prolonged. The Vogons. Various advertisers, bureaucrats, editors, advertising executives, all of the Golgafrinchans and, therein, especially perhaps the telephone sanitizers.

  • Place, space, time, and dimension. The ‘Whole Sort of General Mish Mash’. The Guide Mark II. Milliways (and ‘The Big Bang Burger Bar’). The Infinite Improbability Drive. The poet Lallafa. And lots of other things, including a rogue sofa.

  • Rationality, calculability, perception. Marvin. The Vortex. The ‘Somebody Else’s Problem Field’. The ‘Perfectly Normal Beasts’. The destruction of the earth revealed as a collective delusion. Disaster Area’s accounts. ‘Bistromathics’. The Guide Mark II. Possibly also Mrs Enid Kapelsen and Fenchurch’s brother, Russell. Various exhibitions of strange reasoning would be of some interest to students of logic, too.

  • Probability. The Infinite Improbability Drive. The Whole Sort of General Mish Mash. The petunias incident as not, in fact, entirely random.

  • The existence of God. The Babel Fish. The design of the earth(s). God’s Last Message to His Creation. Also, but (even) less seriously, ‘The Great Green Arkleseizure’ and ‘Almighty Bob’.

  • Empiricism, scepticism, and myth. The Ruler of The Universe. The Somebody Else’s Problem Field. Magrathea. Old Thrashbarg.

  • Predestination / determinism. Paradox-threatening temporal escapades. Agrajag. Mr Prosser. The depressed and somewhat precognisant lift. Bistromathics.

  • Mind and body. Gargravarr, the Guardian of the Vortex. Hactar the atomized computer. Possibly the Bartledans.

  • The respective natures and values of responsibility, power, and fun. Ford, Zaphod, Arthur, Fenchurch, Slartibartfast. Parties. The Ruler of The Universe. The Galactic Presidency. The ‘enlightened’ cops. The Golgafrinchan captain who’s always in the bath. Judiciary Pag ‘the Learned, Impartial, and Very Relaxed’. The mice and the dolphins. Bad or insane behaviour by corporations and governments. Possibly the Bartledans. Deep Thought as rendered in the (dubious) film (which is to say, as watching children’s cartoons).

EDIT: I’ve also found, with the help of the marvellous Alexander Pawlak, these topics: solipsism; reincarnation/Nietzschean ‘eternal return’.

Wow. It’s all in there − as I was helped to see by this list of the minor characters of Hitchhiker’s.


My Hitchhiker book