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Freedom is Situated

To say that this freedom is "situated" is to acknowledge that we're all born into a world already brimming with buildings, ideology, poems, commerce, dental hygienists, mythology, bacteria, and hats."

I finished Batman and Philosophy but don't feel clever enough to write about it. It did turn out to be more of a book about Batman than a book about philosophy, but I'm not disappointed. Even though I meant it as a joke, my favorite chapters really did turn out to the be the ones comparing Batman and Superman.

Think about it like this: Superman is a demigod trying to earn people's trust. As such, in his dealings with the public, he has to downplay his distance from them. Therefore, he acts like the Boy Scout, and everyone (with a few notable exceptions) loves him. Batman, on the other hand, is an ordinary human trying to do extraordinary things. He has to create a myth around himself that serves as part of his armor. ... Batman must likewise distance himself from the citizens he protects. It's not enough for criminals to find Batman mysterious -- everyone has to, or the jig is up. Naturally, this creates a lonely, isolated life that is in large part self-imposed.

They had chapters on who is better and on how each of them views friendship (Superman along Aristotelian lines and Batman more like Nietzsche). There was a great argument that Batman is the better "superhero" because he knowingly puts himself into danger and potential death with every deed whereas Superman goes into things knowing he is impervious and unlikely to die; therefore, Batman exhibits greater bravery, and bravery is "superhero trait."

Furthermore, Superman can depend too much on his powers and not on ingenuity. He can underestimate people because he is so much more powerful than others, and he never uses all his strength or abilities against someone because he would do more damage than needed. (My bad summary.) Anyway, the point is Superman would hold back and Batman would not. Also, Superman wouldn't want to hurt a friend, but Batman could (they say). Consequently, in a fight Batman would win. This amused me, because I know people can come to blows over this type of Hero1 versus Hero2 discussions.

There was also a neat Tao-esque chapter discussing, among other things, the effect of Batman's shadow. As Lao-Tzu wrote, "The use of the pot is precisely where there is nothing. When you open doors or windows for a room, it is where there is nothing that they are most useful to the room." Nothingness can be more important than substance, which Bruce uses to "strike fear into the hearts of criminals," as he likes to say (endlessly, I'm afraid).


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 23rd, 2009 04:19 am (UTC)
Superman growing up in Russia sounds like a really interesting alternative-universe story line!

I think part of the reason I ended up enjoying this book was that nearly all of my Batman knowledge comes from the 60's tv show, the movies, and one cartoon series for which I cannot recall the name. So I have almost no comic book experience with Batman. Likewise, my Superman knowledge comes mostly from the first Christopher Reeve movie, the TV show Smallville, a few black & white tv episodes, and the rest from general cultural references! Again, almost no comic book knowledge. Well, and of course I grew up with the Super Friends cartoon from the 70's and more recently was addicted to that Justice League cartoon (because I had a crush on Michael Rosenbaum's Flash). I've also read The Physics of SuperHeroes, in which a physicist uses comic book superheroes to explain various physics concepts. In so doing, I gleaned a lot of comic book story lines. So I have a lot to learn about the character of Batman. Many of the philosophy articles referenced Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, so I might start there.
Feb. 27th, 2009 06:50 am (UTC)
yea i scanned through it and even though it was an interesting concept it was totally lame
they had people doing things that were just SO! out of character and i hated the way they made batman appear like a total wuss (but then again it's a superman comic)

however that idea just proves my point even further ... superman (ka'el) is just what he is "told" to be, and (overall) he seems to have a difficult time going against ideals - and if those ideals are misguided, he still goes with it and never against it (from what i've seen, not being a superman fan i don't read superman)

sides, his costume is totally fruity and he runs around in his "baby" cloth ... what grown man runs around in their baby cloth?
symbolic in the 30s perhaps, just fruity now!
Mar. 3rd, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
symbolic in the 30s perhaps, just fruity now!

I'm reading a bunch of Flash comic books from the 1950's and being awed by how much things have changed since they were written. My initial reaction was amusement at the datedness, but after 300 pages I'm starting to get used to it. What *is* still bothering me is his girlfriend Iris. She keeps mocking Barry Allen as a slowpoke and saying how wonderful the Flash is. If I were the Barry i would man up and dump her! LOL! :)
Feb. 23rd, 2009 02:45 am (UTC)
I'm a huge fan of Batman and mythology in general, as are most any of the people who are attracted to sci-fi cons. However, not everyone is with us.

For instance, last year I was out having sushi with some married friends and the husband (who was dressed as the conquistador at PiratePalooza 2008) begins telling me his personal philosophy about the differences between Superman and Batman and I was astonished at just HOW wrong he'd gotten then entire thing... how far out in left field he was on the motivations that drive Bruce Wayne to don the cowl every night, as opposed to the sense of duty and responsibility that sees Kal-el devoting so much of his time to protecting humanity....

...and somewhere, in the midst of a particularly complicated sylogism, my inner voice knocked on the inside of my eyeballs and pointed me in the direction of the conquistador's face. That's when I finally noticed the tiny smirk playing across the corner of his mouth.

The bastard had been having me on the entire time!! LOL

It's the same game I like to play on people from time to time where I intentionally misinterpret something, just to wind them up. He'd gotten me at my own game!! LOL
Feb. 24th, 2009 04:22 am (UTC)
Ha!! That's funny! I tried a similar trick on someone, but he didn't have as good a sense of humor.

I'm tragically uninformed in my comic book reading. Everything I know I have gotten from TV, the movies, popular culture, and listening to my friends talking. Despite that, I am more of a Batman fan than a Superman fan. Still, I never thought of myself as being militant about it. One evening, surrounded by friends, I somehow ended up in a discussion where I said Batman would probably beat Superman in a fight because Batman would use kryptonite. The other person disagreed. In a mostly joking tone to start with, I continued my argument. I'm pretty sure many of my points were incredibly silly, but I wasn't taking it seriously at that time. He dropped his joking tone, and it escalated. At one point, I actually thought he was going to hit me. He ended up stopping the discussion with some kind of statement to the effect that to protect me and our friendship we would just stop talking. Maybe I should have stopped before it got to that point, but some evil, chaotic part of me was amazed by how seriously he was taking it, so I kept going. He actually had to move to another part of the room, and my friends who were sitting nearby witnessing the whole thing have since done impressions of the event. (Which they said I won - because Batman does carry kryptonite in his belt. Apparently Superman gave it to him in case of Superman going rogue, because Superman trusted Batman enough to believe Batman *could* stop him.)

I actually became more of a Batman fan *because* of it. I may not have convinced him with my arguments, but I seem to have convinced myself!
Feb. 27th, 2009 06:46 am (UTC)
i highly doubt you can "convince" him otherwise - even though he's a very open and accepting person, you better not go against his believes or he tends to get a little hissy and pissy at times (which is the type of behavior i try to walk away from)

as for the batman vs. superman argument
you know where i stand .. and it's a PURLY subjective matter

do you like a TOTALLY fictional (superman) or a "plausible" character (Batman)?
i like to go with batman personally because of the darker theme it deals with and i can relate to him on a somewhat "personal" level (no, my parents didn't get shot when i was 8 and i'm not rich)

but the fact that we both love coffee, batman. action figures, and a crap load of other things makes me think we're related somehow :D
Feb. 27th, 2009 11:30 pm (UTC)
Oh, we are *totally* related. Of that I have no doubt. I do wish to point out that I'm not old enough to be your mother, however. ;)
Feb. 28th, 2009 05:17 am (UTC)
haha you and redd with that age difference
i never got a long with my age group, i still for the most part don't
people from my generation and age group just PISS ME OFF - they are such freaking ungrateful brats, it makes me want to go all BATshitcrazy on their asses at times, and for the most part the ones who have children now are doing a really crappy job raising their children to be shittier than they were ... good lord where is this going?

but yes, we're totally related and i'm sticking to that story if anyone asks during my citizenship process :D

although i'm not sure how to explain that a short redhead could be related to a 6 foot mongolian (without an accent) :D

Mar. 1st, 2009 05:02 pm (UTC)
when it comes down to the "never ending batman vs. superman" debate, it all boils down to "preference" like with anything else (think, star trek vs. star wars)
no matter what fandom or story, someone will always put a "vs" somewhere

however, if you wanna dig deeper into the "philosophical" aspects of batman vs. superman, this is how i have come to realize it over the years

a admirable quality of superman is, that he is a "hero" who does without questioning and he stands for "absolute good" - and i don't have a problem with that, that's how his earth parents raised him, and thats what he has chosen to do

however that is also my biggest problem with superman at the same time ... he's 100% "good" which is UNREAL for any being that exists (ok we're overlooking the fact here that he can fly ... ok!?)
he does without questing, he will bow to his authority figures without even asking why, as seen in "the dark knight returns" (the president asks him to stop batman and superman "tries" to stop batman - i won't mention in detail how not only could he NOT stop batman, but batman also beat the crap out of him and got away with it, hehe)

superman never asks WHY ... and that parallels too much with the "blind patriotism" i hate to begin with in this country (often seen in military people)
i could never just DO something by just being told ... i always have to know what it is that i'm doing and how it's effecting someone else in a bad way

batman on the other hand doesn't HAVE to do what he does, he CHOSE it
he's also a SUPERhero without ANY superpowers ... his superpower is his WILL to fight evil
also the fact that he's disliked by most good and bad guys, he walks a line not many can or would walk ... and when he holds someone up and talks to them the point gets across ... batman isn't "the nice guy" ... but gotham city isn't a nice place ... so he's using fire to fight fire

not to mention if we're reading DETECTIVE COMICS ... batman is a WAY better detective than superman
in the 1998 "the batman/superman movie" (made by the same people who did the 1992 animated series) batman and superman run into each other the first time in metropolis and they want to figure out who each other is ... superman uses is lame-o-vision to look through batman's mask ... batman places a tracker on his cape before that and figures out who superman is .... hehe

so once again, it all comes down to preference

(but we all know/agree how lame superman is)
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 27th, 2009 11:34 pm (UTC)
You just made me crazy happy.

Actually, most of your points were very similar if not identical to the points the "professional philosophers" were citing in their essays! So you hit on some major themes in the deconstruction of what makes a superhero and/or what makes a person moral/ethical/who they are/etc. I already liked Batman before reading the book (you know my personal preference!), but I respected his character even more so afterwards. I also have even more sympathy for him.

On an unimportant note, I saw a cool Sheldon/Batman icon that I really need to find and steal. I only have two superhero icons!
Mar. 4th, 2009 04:16 am (UTC)
hehe yea it was late and i was tired ... couldn't think of anything else to do so i did that silly crap

most of my points are really opinions i developed over the years when i was filling out some geeky online questionnaire thing and it asked "favourite super hero" and i wrote batman down without thinking about ... later someone asked me WHY i liked batman and i began to think about it ... thus leading into these "philosophies" over the years

bottom line is ... i like a superhero who shows struggle, it's more realistic and we as humans can relate more to someone who has "problems" rather some farmboy in red underwear

and what makes batman a SUPERhero is the fact that he puts that mask on every night himself .... no one has to tell him to do that .... he does it to protect the city and never asks for anything in return ... that's selflessness that makes him truly superior to any of the others

at the end of BATMAN BEGINS, gordon says "... wait, i never thanked you" ... and batman replies "and you'll never have to"
if this was said to superman his reply would make me want to shove kryptonite up his ass, if it were spiderman he'd say some cheesy shit like "my spidey senses say you're welcome" .... if it were hulk he'd just grunt and break something .... i could go on but i think you get the idea :D

also, check this book out "Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul" (link: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470270306,descCd-tableOfContents.html)

and read this article if you have time: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/07/13/a_talk_with_robert_arp_and_mark_d_white/?page=2

SHELDOR batman icon?
i want it
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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