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Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470270301
ISBN-10: 0470270306
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
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Review

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)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1st edition (June 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470270306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470270301
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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?...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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So many still mistakenly identify Batman with the campy Adam West version when the character's roots are deep and arguably disturbing. But it is that complexity that makes for fertile ground in the ongoing Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. The fact that Batman possesses no super powers outside of a limitless bank account and a drive to punish criminals made him my favorite comic book hero. Superman seemed unbeatable so boring, The Green Lantern was far-fetched, Spiderman's angst never compelled, and so on. But Batman was more mysterious, yet his motives were clear given the murder of his parents (all things stem from one's family of origin).

But it was how that pathology manifested itself in dealing with others that fascinated. The man comes across as cold and as calculating as the villains he battles. In fact, he is one step away from crossing the line and it is that danger that provides the core narrative for The Dark Knight. As explored in one of the entries in this book, "without his hate, could the Batman exist?" The answer is 'no' and though revenge is his fuel, he is seen to be mostly morally good (early stories had him killing people but the writers quickly corrected that).

This book was a fun outing but should be consumed by serious fans of Batman only. They, more than most, may excuse the repetition I found in the various essays. Still Batman is intriguing for almost anyone as all of us can identify with his tenuous position as we strive to be good but our human foibles cause thoughts and sometimes actions which are clearly not. In the end, it is Batman's constancy of purpose that we admire and his inventiveness in getting the job done.
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Format: 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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Interesting take on what the story of Dark Knight says about us. Can be a slow read at times. The book is way better if you read it out loud in your best Batman voice. You will want some lemon tea on hand though.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Two books on superheroes and philosophy very much go together; and because they intertwine quite a bit, I'm reviewing them together for my posted reviews of EACH book: BATMAN AND PHILOSOPHY ("BAP"), and also SUPERHEROES AND PHILOSOPHY ("SAP"). There's a whole lot of stuff and mental somersaults in these books, and by many authors. So following are summaries of some of the high points I think are meaningful and worthwhile, and also some of my comments along the way. The summary points are pretty much verbatim quotations from each book.

BAP

1. In the BAP book, writers and philosophers argue that Batman is the most complex character ever to appear in comic books and graphic novels.

2. An opening question is, does Batman always do right? Why won't he kill the Joker, when he can be virtually certain he will save many innocent lives if he does?

3. If we said to the Caped Crusader, as many have, "If you don't kill the Joker, the deaths of all his future victims will be on your hands," he could very well answer, "No, the deaths that the Joker causes are his responsibility and his responsibility alone. I am responsible only for the deaths I cause."

4. Most superheroes, even unintentionally, play a subversive role because very few are officially licensed or commissioned by the state to use coercion to guard public order (except, for example, Captain America during WWII). However, even if Gotham is safer because of the Batman, it is no more "orderly," since it has explicitly accepted the idea that one individual can legitimately use violence outside the law.
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