Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way

Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way

Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way

Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way


The comic book superheroes - Superman, Batman, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and many others - have proved to be a powerful and enduring thread in popular culture, a rich source of ideas for moviemakers, novelists, and philosophers. Superheroes and Philosophy brings together 16 leading philosophers and some of the most creative people in the world of comics, from storywriters to editors to critics, to examine the deeper issues that resonate from the hyperbolic narratives and superhuman actions of this heroic world. The comic book narratives of superheroes wrestle with profound and disturbing issues in original ways: the definitions of good and evil, the limits of violence as an efficacious means, the perils of enforcing justice outside the law, the metaphysics of personal identity, and the definition of humanity. The book also features original artwork specially commissioned from some of the most popular of today's comic book artists.


Superman, the grandfather of all superheroes, is a cultural institution. Even the most elite and insulated intellectuals have been exposed to enough pop culture to be familiar with the Man of Steel and what he stands for. He fights a “never-ending battle” for truth, for justice, and —still enthusiastically after all these years, despite the fact that no one can define it any more—for “the American Way.” Consequently, he is as close as contemporary Western culture has yet come to envisioning a champion who is the epitome of unselfishness. The truest moral statement that can be made of Superman is that he invariably puts the needs of others first.

Or does he?

Preparation for a Surprise

Some people adopt astronomy or entomology as their life's study and can identify the most prominent Magellanic nebulae in the cosmos or the least visible aphid in the garden. Others devote their time and energy to analyzing and cataloguing, in excruciating detail, anything from Welsh folk tales to the box scores of the 1969 Mets. Me, ever since I was a boy, I've been fascinated by the mythology of Superman. Though it's not my day job (not exactly), that's my field of focused expertise. I freely admit that it's—to put it charitably—rather “specialized,” but for all my other wide and varied interests, nothing in this world has ever held quite the same fascination for me as has the Man of Steel.

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