Monday, December 7, 2015
Batman and Philosophy: Installment 3 (12)
Batman the Übermensch
By: Josh King
Batman technically has no super powers but one could make the argument that his indomitable will and unrealistic dedication to perfection is super human in itself and could be seen as a super power. Batman’s dedication to excellence allows him to fit the profile of an Übermensch, or superman according to famed German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche; which is rather ironic with Batman basically being the complete opposite of superman.
Like Nietzsche, Batman’s higher consciousness, or Übermensch mentality surfaced after the death of a loved one. Nietzsche’s mentality comes from the memories of his father’s death, and his shattered friendship with Richard Wagner, the most important relationship of his life. A reflection of this can be seen in Batman being haunted by the memories of his parents, as well as the guilt he feels for the death of Jason Todd (the second Robin who was killed by the Joker), and the paralyzing of Barbra Gordon (Batgirl, also done by the Joker).
Since Nietzsche didn’t give an exact definition of the Übermensch others have given their interpretations. In an article titled Nietzsche’s Übermensch: A Hero of Our Time?, author Eva Cybulska states:
Nietzsche’s reluctance to spell out exactly what he meant has provoked numerous interpretations in the secondary literature. Hollingdale (in Nietzsche) saw in Übermensch a man who had organized the chaos within; Kaufmann (Nietzsche) a symbol of a man that created his own values, and Carl Jung (Zarathustra’s Seminars) a new ‘God’. For Heidegger it represented humanity that surpassed itself, whilst for the Nazis it became an emblem of the master race. (philosophynow.org par. 5)
Nearly all of these explanations describe Batman in one way or another. “One who has had organized the chaos within” applies to Batman in the fact that he has spent the majority of his life not only dealing justice to the chaos that runs rampant on Gotham City, but the internal chaos the dwells within him. Batman has to control his desires to kill the most heinous of villains, such as the Joker to preserve his sense of justice. He does this so he does not become just like those who he opposes and does not stoop to the level of his arch nemesis. The explanation by Kaufmann of “a symbol of a man that created his own values” is applicable to Batman in that, he has created his own very distinct set of values that abides by his perception of justice. Whether or not Batman's brand of justice is actually "just", is a matter of perception. Below is a video that dives deeper into the subject and beautifully ties what we have talked about in class in relation to Batman.
Carl Jung’s explanation of a new god can now be taken literally in regards to Batman, considering that in recent issues he has actually become a “New God”/ Batgod.
One of the main characteristics of Batman that fans admire is that he is just an ordinary man that has made the choice to dedicate his life to helping others. His indomitable will inspires others to be the best they can be and to rise to the challenge when called upon. He finds a way to win no matter what. If put to the task Batman could find a way to beat cancer with a carton of cigarettes. The philosophy of Batman is the philosophy of a winner.