Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul

( 39 )

Overview

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...

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
In this, the latest in Wiley’s Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series (South Park and Philosophy, The Office and…, Metallica and…), editors White and Arp assert upfront, and without qualification (apparently, that’s the contributors’ job), their belief that Batman is “the most complex character ever to appear in comic books and graphic novels.” Exploring certain works that have broadened the philosophical undercurrents of the Batman mythos (Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns are cited often, but rarely the new movies), a raft of professors, students and PhD candidates paint Bruce Wayne’s choices as, most often, either utilitarian or deontological, with basic descriptions of these systems helpfully provided for the novice. A few contributions broaden the discussion beyond the well-worn (origin stories of Batman and foes, etc.); casting butler Alfred as Kierkegaard’s “knight of faith” to Batman’s “knight of infinite resignation,” contributor Christopher M. Drohan actually gets close to the archetypal sources that keep the serialized exploits of Batman and other comic heroes from getting stale. Unfortunately, most of these essays get old fast. (July) (Publishers Weekly, July 28, 2008)
Library Journal

White (political science, economics, & philosophy, Coll. of Staten Island/CUNY) and Arp (research associate, National Ctr. for Biomedical Ontology, Univ. at Buffalo; ed., South Park and Philosophy) use the story of a comic book figure-Batman-to deal with myriad philosophical questions. White contributes two of the 20 chapters, and the other 18 are written by various philosophy scholars. The writing in each chapter is engaging as the detailed story of Batman's fictional life and experiences unfold. The philosophical questions concern, e.g., the nature of personal identity; responsibility, or lack of it, for action, including the so-called insane act; free will vs. determinism; the nature of moral acts; social obligation; political commitment; and the ethics of right and wrong. Scattered throughout the chapters are pertinent insights from well-known philosophers of the past and present, including Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Hobbes, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein. There are extensive footnotes for each chapter so that readers can turn to original sources. This philosophical examination of Batman's actions through nearly 70 years of comic books, television shows, and movies is highly recommended for all libraries.
—Leon H. Brody

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470270301
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 6/16/2008
  • Series: Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series , #2
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 330,345
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark D. White is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science, Economics, and Philosophy at the College of Staten Island/CUNY.

Robert Arp is a postdoctoral research associate through the National Center for Biomedical Ontology at the University at Buffalo, and edited South Park and Philosophy.

William Irwin is a professor of philosophy at King's College, Pennsylvania, and has coedited The Simpsons and Philosophy and edited Seinfeld and Philosophy, The Matrix and Philosophy, and Metallica and Philosophy.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments: The Oscar Speech George Clooney Never Got to Make.

Introduction: Riddle Me This...

Part One: Does the Dark Knight Always Do Right?

1. Why Doesn't Batman Kill the Joker (Mark D. White)?

2. Is It Right to Make a Robin (James DiGiovanna)?

3. Batman's Virtuous Hatred (Stephen Kershnar).

Part Two: Law, Justice, and the Social Order: Where Does Batman Fit In?

4. No Man's Land: Social Order in Gotham City and New Orleans (Brett Chandler Patterson).

5. Governing Gotham (Tony Spanakos).

6. The Joker's Wild: Can We Hold the Clown Prince Morally Responsible (Christopher Robichaud).

Part Three: Origins and Ethics: Becoming The Caped Crusader.

7. Batman's Promise (Randall M. Jensen).

8. Should Bruce Wayne Have Become Batman (Mahesh Ananth and Ben Dixon)?

9. What Would Batman Do? Bruce Wayne as Moral Exemplar (Ryan Indy Rhodes and David Kyle Johnson).

Part Four: Who is the Batman? (Is That a Trick Question?)

10. Under the mask: How Any Person Can Become Batman (Sarah KI. Donovan and Nicholas P. Richardson).

11. Could Batman Have Been the Joker (Sam Cowling and Chris Ragg)?

12. Batman's Identity Crisis and Wittgenstein's Family Resemblance (Jason Southworth).

13. What Is It Like to Be a Batman (Ron Novy)?

Part Five: Being The Vat: Insights From Existentialism and Taoism.

14. Alfred, the Dark Knight of Faith: Batman and Kierkegaard (Christopher M. Drohan).

15. Dark Nights and the Call of conscience (Jason J. Howard).

16. Batman's Confrontation with Death, Angst, and Freedom (David M. Hart).

Part Six: Friend,Father... Rival? The Many Roles of the Bat.

17. Why Batman IS Better than Superman (Galen Foresman).

18. World's Finest...Friends? Batman, Superman, and the Nature of Friendship (Daniel P. Malloy).

19. Leaving the Shadow of the Bat: Aristotle, Kant, and Dick Grayson on Moral Education (Carsten Fogh Nielsen).

20. The Tao of the Bat (Bat-Tzu).

Contributors.

Index.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(16)

4 Star

(13)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Dark Knight of The Soul; Intriguing and Interesting

    The Dark Knight of the Soul captivates the mind in the philosophy behind many aspects of Batman's life. In each one of its interesting chapters, it provides theoretical answers to many theoretical questions that Batman fans have been posing for years. The authors discuss Batman's psyche in a succession of different situations. Some of the more captivating chapters discuss why Batman doesn't just kill the joker and end everyone's misery, and Is Batman better than Superman? It discusses if it is ethical to have a Robin and if Bruce Wayne should have become the Batman in the first place. Each chapter of the book diverges into its own little story so you can put the book down and pick it up again whenever you feel like reading some more. This helps you because you don't have to remember things from earlier in the book, and it makes the book seem smaller and easier to tackle.


    The themes in this book revolve around different beliefs of philosophy, the main points of each theme being virtue and justice. In the chapter where it asks if Batman should kill the Joker, two different sects believe the same thing, just in a different light. 'The deontologists, the ends never justify the means, but rather the means should be justifiable on their own merits. So the fact that the killing would prevent future killings is irrelevant?the only relevant factor is that killing is wrong, period." Even though the death of the Joker at the hands of Batman would be a great thing for the safety of the future, Batman may not want to do this because murder qualifies as a sin, even the somewhat justifiable murder of a menace like the Joker. The other half of that argument states that Batman may be a Utilitarian. "Utilitarianism is a system of ethics that requires us to maximize the total happiness or well-being resulting from our actions." The saving of many lives through the death of the Joker would rationalize the murder of the Joker. Obviously Batman is probably not Utilitarian because then the comics would stop and many people would be sad.

    For die-hard comic fans, this is a great choice for a novel. At points it gets a little redundant and may seem like the authors are restating the same things over and over in the book and you just want to say like, "Look I get it, enough, lets move on." I would not qualify this book as an "easy read" but it definitely lets you get into the brain of Batman and see what he may be thinking in those tough situations, and the philosophy is pretty easy to comprehend. If you are young I would not recommend this book because it isn't the most exciting book ever written, it is more meant to be a learning and spiritual novel.

    Overall I would give this book three out of five stars. It was what I expected in the fact that it is helpful in the understanding of Batman but not in the aspect of having you on the edge of your seat. So if you're as big of a Batman fan as I am I would definitely find the time to read this book!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2012

    Interesting enough

    To keep you reading even if your not a fan of philosophy. My favorite chapter is the first one where all the reasons why batman wont killer the joker are presented and examined

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 2, 2011

    Very interesting read, great for deep thinkers.

    Batman and philosophy is a great book, primarily because few other authors investigate this topic. Comic books are fantastical, wondrous works of fiction, and seeing real world values and examples like Katrina, and deontology being applied is very thought provoking(of course, so is philosophy). The book was well researched, cleart in its presentation, and perhaps the best way to learn about philosophy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2014

    Quotes

    Batman begins: its not who i am underneath, but what i do that defines me. The dark knight: you either die a hero, or live, long enough to see yourself become the villian. Dkr: catwoman: you given them everything. batman: not everything, not yet

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2013

    I punched abrick and im in so much pain

    Ooowww

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    To the people tht argunna spend 10$ on this

    Nerds! Yall are nerds! Money wasting nerrrrrrddddddssss!!!!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2013

    Horni

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2013

    I agree with two below

    Batman ROCKS

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2012

    Why?

    This actually looks to be an intresting read, but lets all face facts batman is not a good subject for philosophy. See for me the high point that stuck out was fear. Fear is a powerful yet deadly weapon. And batmans battles were always personal. Yeah there were some awesome fights in the movies but from ras al ghul to the joker it was always personal. Let me give you batmans biggest most helpful philosophy for free. You are your own greatest enemy. Once you can conquer yourself, you've won one of your greatest battles. There's probably more great philosophies in batman, but save the money. Think it out yourself.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2012

    UH DUH

    HELL YEA BATMAN IS WAY BETTER THAN SUPERMAN!!!!!!!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 30, 2009

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    Posted March 5, 2011

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    Posted October 26, 2008

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    Posted October 11, 2009

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    Posted March 31, 2013

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    Posted May 20, 2011

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