Philosophy needs to be real in the sense that it has to make sense of the world as it is, not as we imagine or want it to be. But philosophy deals with issues on a general level. It is concerned with a whole series of grand abstract nouns: truth, justice, the good, identity, consciousness, mind, meaning and so on.
Cartoons abstract from real life in much the same way philosophers do. Homer is not realistic in the way a film or novel character is, but he is recognisable as a kind of American Everyman. His reality is the reality of an abstraction from real life that captures its essence, not as a real particular human who we see ourselves reflected in.
The satirical cartoon world is essentially a philosophical one because to work it needs to reflect reality accurately by abstracting it, distilling it and then presenting it back to us, illuminating it more brightly than realist fiction can.
May 19, 2006
Why philosophy fits so well in cartoon form (like "The Simpsons"):