Superman and Philosophy: What Would the Man of Steel Do?
March 2013, Wiley-Blackwell
He has thrilled millions for 75 years, with a legacy that transcends national, cultural, and generational borders, but is there more to the Man of Steel than just your average mythic superhero in a cape? The 20 chapters in this book present a fascinating exploration of some of the deeper philosophical questions raised by Superman, the Last Son of Krypton and the newest hero in the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture arsenal.
Part One The Big Blue Boy Scout: Ethics, Judgment, and Reason 3
1 Moral Judgment: The Power That Makes Superman Human 5
Mark D. White
2 Action Comics! Superman and Practical Reason 16
3 Can the Man of Tomorrow Be the Journalist of Today? 26
Jason Southworth and Ruth Tallman
4 Could Superman Have Joined the Third Reich? The Importance and Shortcomings of Moral Upbringing 37
Part Two Truth, Justice, and the American Way: What Do They Mean? 47
5 Clark Kent Is Superman! The Ethics of Secrecy 49
Daniel P. Malloy
6 Superman and Justice 61
7 Is Superman an American Icon? 71
Part Three The Will to Superpower: Nietzsche, the Übermensch, and Existentialism 83
8 Rediscovering Nietzsche’s Übermensch in Superman as a Heroic Ideal 85
9 Superman or Last Man: The Ethics of Superpower 101
10 Superman: From Anti-Christ to Christ-Type 111
11 Superman Must Be Destroyed! Lex Luthor as Existentialist Anti-Hero 121
Sarah K. Donovan and Nicholas Richardson
Part Four The Ultimate Hero: What Do We Expect from Superman? 131
12 Superman’s Revelation: The Problem of Violence in Kingdom Come 133
13 A World Without a Clark Kent? 145
Randall M. Jensen
14 The Weight of the World: How Much Is Superman Morally Responsible For? 157
Audrey L. Anton
Part Five Superman and Humanity: A Match Made on Krypton? 169
15 Superman and Man: What a Kryptonian Can Teach Us About Humanity 171
16 Can the Man of Steel Feel Our Pain? Sympathy and Superman 181
17 World’s Finest Philosophers: Superman and Batman on Human Nature 194
Carsten Fogh Nielsen
Part Six Of Superman and Superminds: Who Is Superman, Anyway? 205
18 “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s … Clark Kent?” Superman and the Problem of Identity 207
19 Superman Family Resemblance 217
20 Why Superman Should Not Be Able to Read Minds 225
Contributors: Trapped in the Philosophy Zone 237
Index: From Brainiac’s Files 243
Mark D. White is chair of the Department of Political Science, Economics, and Philosophy at the College of Staten Island/CUNY, where he teaches courses in economics, philosophy, and law. He has edited and coedited many books in the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series, including Batman and Philosophy, Watchmen and Philosophy, Iron Man and Philosophy, and The Avengers and Philosophy.
William Irwin is Professor of Philosophy at King’s College. He originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books as coeditor of the bestselling The Simpsons and Philosophy and has overseen recent titles including House and Philosophy, Batman and Philosophy, and Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy.
"As can be noted from my comments above, any book that will make you think or react makes for an interesting read and ‘Superman And Philosophy’ succeeds in doing that. One should always be glad that Superman sees himself as the good scout otherwise the DC Earth would truly be hell." (SFCrowsnest.org.uk, 1 June 2013)
“And this delightfully appealing tome does exactly that…” (Comics Review, 25 April 2013)
2013 sees the return of Superman. Not only is it 75 years since mild-mannered reporter, Clark Kent, transformed himself into one of the most enduring superheroes of the last century but in June, we'll be treated to a brand new film, Man of Steel. And so, what better time to top up on your knowledge of one of the greatest American cultural icons and discover what our hero, the mean streets of Metropolis and its evil gang of villains can teach us about philosophy and about life? Exchanging their every-day jackets for their own red capes, Mark White and his team of philosophers take to the skies to tell us more...
Despite often being seen as too perfect, too noble, too good, scratch the surface and Superman is not, in fact, that simple. Rather, he raises a lot of intriguing philosophical questions. If Superman is so good, why does he so often resort to violence? Why does he tell lies in order to protect his identity, and how does he reconcile this with a reporter's devotion to the truth? Could Lex Luther be right in telling us that Superman is a threat to humanity? Just how important is the big red cape and the spit curl to who Superman is? And is there a good reason why Lois Lane can't tell that Clark Kent is really Superman?
Making comparisons with great philosophical theories and drawing on the works of great philosophers including Aristotle, Wittgenstein and Nietzsche, each chapter in Superman and Philosophy uses the predicaments that our hero is faced with and the often tough choices that he has to make (save Lois or the bus full of children? Kill three Kryptonian criminals or risk them invading his own universe and threatening to destroy another Earth?) to guide the reader through a range of fascinating debates on such thought-provoking topics as existentialism, utilitarianism, morality and ethics. We learn that sometimes things of lesser importance may have to take greater priority in our decision making because we have committed to them or they are the right thing to do, are encouraged to examine our own reasoning, judgments and actions, and discover that, ultimately, there is some superhero in all of us - sadly, this doesn't include the ability to fly, read minds or "leap tall buildings in a single bound"!
A timely, highly-readable and hugely entertaining book, Superman and Philosophy is a must for anyone who has dreamed of sporting the red cape and taking to the skies over the past 75 years - up, up and away!