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Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul

Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul

William Irwin (Series Editor), Mark D. White (Editor), Robert Arp (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-470-27030-1

Jun 2008

304 pages

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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 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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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).



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)