Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul

Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul

4.1 38
by Mark D. White
     
 

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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

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?

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780470270301
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
06/16/2008
Series:
Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, #2
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
408,298
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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Batman and Philosophy 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
SMac127 More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
RomieClay More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
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