Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series)

Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series)

Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker and end everyone’s misery?

Can we hold the Joker morally responsible for his actions?

Is Batman better than Superman?

If everyone followed Batman’s example,

would Gotham be a better place?

What is the Tao of the Bat?

Batman is one of the most complex characters ever to appear in comic books, graphic novels, and on the big screen. What philosophical trials does this superhero confront in order to keep Gotham safe? Combing through seventy years of comic books, television shows, and movies, Batman and Philosophy explores how the Dark Knight grapples with ethical conundrums, moral responsibility, his identity crisis, the moral weight he carries to avenge his murdered parents, and much more. How does this caped crusader measure up against the teachings of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Lao Tzu?

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3 Comments so far »

  1. Larry Mark "editor of MyJewishBooks.com" said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 4:19 am

    35 of 38 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Is it virtuous to be Batman? WWBD. And What of Robin?, July 24, 2008
    This review is from: Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series) (Paperback)

    The editors and authors of this book have loved Batman since he is human and without super powers; he is so complex, he can be used as a vehicle or ploy to discuss philosophical concepts. I know little of formal philosophy, but this book was a good introduction to so many concepts, and quite intellectually funny at the same time. There are Six Parts in this book. Part One: Does The Dark Knight Always Do Right?; Part Two: Law Justice and the Social Order; Where Does Batman Fit In?; Part Three: Origins and Ethics: Why Become The Caped Crusader; Part Four: Who Is The Batman?; Part Five: Being The Bat: Insights from Existentialism and Taoism; and Part Six: Friend, Father.. Rival?: The Many Roles of The Bat.

    Of course, much of this book was above my head and bat ears. But the parts I thoroughly enjoyed were quite informative. For example, in the first chapter, the author asks whether Batman is a Utilitarian or a Deontologist? Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker, if he knows that he will merely kill again and kill close friends? Is the death of one Joker better than hundreds of innocent victims? The authors tell the story of a runaway trolley and a person who stands at the switch. The train can hit and kill five bystanders if you do nothing, or you can divert the track and the train will kill just one person. Can you get involved and kill fewer people? Are those parties deemed morally equivalent? Deontologists judge the morality of an act, regardless of the consequences (the ends do not justify the means). The second chapter looks at Ethics, in “Is it Right to Make a Robin?” “What should Bruce Wayne? How should he Live his life? What sort of person should he be?… Is it right (ethical) for Batman to take an orphan and train him to fight crime instead of turning him into social services? Can we excuse Batman for throwing a young man at vicious criminals in a spandex outfit? In this chapter, the reader learns about Kant, Mill, Bentham, Plato, and deon(duty)tological ethics, virtue ethics, universal ethics, and categorical (without exception) ethics. (Can Batman lie to the Joker? Can he choose to be ethical only some of the time?) In Chapter 3, the author looks at Aristotle and virtue ethics and Batman’s hatred as a virtue. Batman, a loner, makes a virtue of vice, perhaps. The author asks whether Batman is virtuous or does he merely DO virtuous things?

    In “Governing Gotham” the authors look at Batman as a reaction to the failure and incapacity of the government to control crime and protect Bruce Wayne’s parents from being murdered. They throw in Max Weber’s view of state legitimacy, as well as Hobbes’ Leviathan. Plus they throw in Nietzsche and his views on the state as a threat to liberty and self expression. Can only the state use force to bring law and order? Or can Batman use force as well? In Chapter 11, the authors ask whether Batman Could Have Been the Joker?. They discuss identities and ModAl and metaphysics (the study of what exists and how it goes about existing). That was too deep for my pea sized brain. The same holds true for Chapter 12, in which Wittgenstein’s ideas on identity and language are brought to bear on Batman. Chapter 18, on the nature of friendship (Batman and Superman), Aristotle, loyalty, and Nietsche’s ubermensch were easier for me to understand. All these just skim the surface of the wealth of ideas and explanations found in this book. Reading it will spur great discussions on the new Batman film, and you will learn more about philosophical ideas than you thought possible.

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  2. B. Frisch "Brad224" said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 4:58 am

    12 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Interesting read, October 3, 2008
    By 
    B. Frisch “Brad224” (Blue Springs, MO) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series) (Paperback)

    Very interesting read. The various authors seem to have done their homework – not only on philosophical ideas, but on the Batman mythos as well, and actually do a really good job of citing their sources and backing their claims with actual Batman storylines.

    It’s not the easiest read in the world – if you are expecting a graphic novel, think again – but philosophy itself isn’t an easy subject to cover.

    I like the fact they bring well-known philosophers’ work to bear on the subject (Nietzsche, Singer, Kierkegaard for instance) so I was able to learn a little bit about them as well.

    Overall a fun read, I enjoyed it.

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  3. Ariel Brennan said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 5:35 am

    3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Exciting depth of knowledge… on both subjects!, June 10, 2009
    By 
    Ariel Brennan (New York) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series) (Paperback)

    If you’re looking for a light, cheap (in the intellectual sense) read that doesn’t require any thinking, this isn’t your book. If you’re looking for a book that shows a surprising depth of understanding both about both subjects, one that will make you think about aspects of both Batman you had never considered before and maybe teach you a few (or many) things about philosophy and interpretation of great philosophers along the way, this is definitely the book for you. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Batman (or anyone involved in his crazy large batfamily!), and anyone versed in or just curious about great philosophers.

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