Saturday, 20 June 2015

Batman and Philosophy: the dark knight of the soul


I couldn't help but open my birthday present early this year. In it was a book called, Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul, ed. Mark D White and Robert Arp. It makes an immediate disclaimer: "This book has not been approved, licensed, or sponsored by any entity or person involved in creating or producing Batman, the comic, the film, or the TV series."

What an excellent read.

Well, the form is a bit fomulaic in the beginning. Compare this entry in a Standford search engine for published papers in philosophy: entry: but once the authors of the Batman book get into contrasting 'deontology' and 'consequentialism' with 'virtue ethics' things get interesting quickly (virtue ethics, says the author, "emphasize character traits, called virtues or excellences, rather than judging specific acts (as deontology and utilitarianism do)." (James Digiovanna, Is It Right To Make a Robin?, p. 21)

This 'virtue ethics' approach looks very familiar to IQ and its notions of 'education'. In discussions where I listened in on and contributed to, the Inuit elders who participated said that IQ education aims to "make a (whole) person" (ie, inuliurniq - lit. 'making of a person') who is able to think and problem-solve even in the middle of nowhere with only what he's brought himself.

Digiovanna continues:

Virtue ethics also takes into account differences, such as differences of character, the different roles people play, and the different cultures in which they live. While he strives to uphold abstract moral principles that he thinks are always right, Batman seems to understand that different sorts of characters demand different sorts of actions. Not everyone should be a Batman or a Robin. The specific character type needed to be a superhero is not suited to everyone, and society demands different roles from each of us. (ibid)

Not only are we all unique as beings but that every event in time is itself uniquely unfolding; it has a beginning and an end (Inuit elders everywhere always says this). How we respond as ethical beings has some influence in the outcome. The Inuit elders spoke at length about the issue of suicide by Inuit youth...the contrast is poignant:

...Plato and Aristotle (384-322 BCE), emphasized building character, noting the importance of training someone to be ethical, rather than simply explaining how to be ethical. (ibid, p. 23)

Trying to be an ethical person is hard. It certainly does not come naturally: it accompanies grief and heart break.


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