Most morality tales depict a simple world where a clearly defined struggle between good and evil plays out, where recognizably good values do not conflict with one another, and where the unjust are punished and the righteous rewarded. Take recent films such as Spider-Man and Superman Returns, for example.
It is vast, unknowable, and present in their physical bodies, like a man inside a Batsuit or, as the story so often flips it, the bat within Bruce Wayne. Through representations, people come to regard and understand themselves in relation to the Will.
In Schopenhauer, The Will causes suffering, and it causes people to want to procreate.
So Batman and the Joker, struggling with all these imperatives, determine their representations and impress them upon Gotham itself a place full of Will that is suffering as such: Batman inspires imitators, impresses the idea of Batman onto the populace as an inspiration and governing form, recasts the darkness of Gotham in his own image, as if it is his cape or mask, and impresses his own fear, rooted in the death of his parents, onto criminals.
The Joker impresses absurdity on social order, makes the world seem senseless and comedic, leaves around icons of clowns and jokers, makes people wear clown masks, impresses upon society games for his own amusement, and, famously, but not in Nolan, sprays gas on people that turns them into laughing death masks in his own image.
The two struggle against each other while recognizing their similarity. I did not expect my connection to hold up, but there was one part of The Dark Knight Rises in particular that made me think of Schopenhauer and revisit the relationship between the Will, Batman, Bruce Wayne and the world in which they all exist.
Bruce trains and trains, making use of only the finest bat-calisthenics and rope-and-punch-based alternative medicine. He leaps, he misses, he plunges, and, dejected, he dangles by the safety rope around his waist until lowered to confinement. Strength itself, it seems, is not enough — nor is the altruistic impulse to save your city from annihilation.
We discover from the guy who gives Bruce Wayne the answers that he must take the safety rope from around his waist — the fear of death, he say, is a necessary motivator for Bruce to realize his full potential.
Self-preservation is the most primal and powerful of drives, we learn, and depriving ourselves of it in the moments where we must be at our best is a dangerous handicap.
When Batman confronts defeats Bane, takes the bomb out to sea, and fakes his own death, his big reward, more than saving Gotham, more than beating the League of Shadows, is to live, so that he emigrate to Europe and have sex with Anne Hathaway, but mostly so he can be not dead.
Given the choice, in the third movie in an epic trilogy, we would expect bat-death.
He would rather not die. But in order to fight for life, and avoid death, he must face the fear of death, and it needs to matter to him.
A Condo in the Lazarus Pit There has been a lot of talk about Occupy movement imagery in The Dark Knight Rises, and cases made that the movie is politically conservative. But the true philosophical conflict of the movie is not between haves and have-nots, but between two potential origins for moral action and judgement.
As I mentioned in The Philosophy of Batman: The Rational Will, the thing that confers value by making judgements, dwells with the thing-in-itself, not with the phenomenological world. In a Kantian way of looking at things, ideas of art, duty and morality share a quality of elevation and separation from the people who undertake them.
Art is most successful and beautiful when it is disinterested in satisfying base needs. Acts made in the interest of gratifying the senses or causing pleasure for the agent have a lot of trouble being morally good, because these sensory responses are phenomenological, not part of the thing-in-itself.
These should be familiar moral ideas. Bane is the obvious example. He makes speeches about political and economic equality, but we all know he is lying — he just intends to kill everyone anyway and uses the words cynically to rile everyone up.
In this movie, aspiring to a greater purpose separate from yourself and elevated above yourself through logic, institutions and abstractions depends on a lie — the lie that the originator of the Rational Will is disinterested — that there are effective, admirable people who can rise above their self-interest and rule and judge objectively.
Dis-involving himself from the phenomenological world instead makes him sick, weak and depressed. In this framework, I see the Batman story as a reconciliation of the epic with the pessimistic — where the human condition is grim, but the yearning for heroes is so great that the very things that make people miserable trauma, loss and the will-to-life turn out to create its greatest triumph and hope, much like the much-referenced-on-this-website Book XXIV of the Iliadwhere the universality of death allows for a moment of mutual understanding and pity between Achilles and Priam.
The very impulses that make Bruce Wayne torture himself as Batman create either the hero it deserves or the hero it needs right now, whichever one is the yes in that line near the end of the movie that I always get wrong.
So, in The Dark Knight, Batman has this will-to-life, this desire to survive and procreate, and it causes him a lot of suffering.
It also makes him put on the mask that reflects a representation of the will and look to reproduce the image of it — of himself — all over Gotham. This is not the best situation imaginable — it still kind of sucks to be Batman, and Gotham is still pretty crappy — but it is a better situation.
And it gets that way not because Batman is selfless, but because he is self-obsessed. His energy to reproduce drives him toward extraordinary things, which we have to imagine he enjoys at least someone, or at least which follow earnestly from his yearnings.
If you consider the Will as one big unknowable thing and the various representations as shards of the Will, Bruce Wayne has traded in his shard.Combing through seventy years of comic books,television shows, and movies, Batman and Philosophy explores howthe Dark Knight grapples with ethical conundrums, moralresponsibility, his identity crisis, the moral weight he carries toavenge his murdered parents, and much more/5(53).
Jul 30, · We highlight some of the most lasting incarnations of the Clown Prince of Crime, including Alan Moore's origin story in The Killing Joke, Christopher Nolan's interpretation in The Dark Knight.
The Dark Knight Todd Walters reports on justice, rebellion and random acts of violence in Gotham City. Most morality tales depict a simple world where a clearly defined struggle between good and evil plays out, where recognizably good values do not conflict with one another, and where the unjust are punished and the righteous rewarded.
It was absolutely brilliant; The Dark Knight Rises is a movie worth watching if only for the sake of Bane. Now, let’s talk about the politics of the movie. Bane is a terrorist, who wants to bring the rich of Gotham, which are greedy and corrupt, to their knees, by giving ‘power to the people’.
The Dark Knight is not explicitly dedicated to the post-9/11 age, but through the Joker’s shocking behavior and outlook and Batman’s response to him, it does address some of this age’s salient themes. The following are excerpts are from a philosophy of Ethics essay focusing on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (), that I thought was worth sharing on with you.
The sense of duty mentioned earlier also brings us to Kantian deontological ethics.