Friday, July 22, 2016

Batman vs Superman

From guest blogger, Lee.

I just watched Batman vs. Superman, which surprisingly has a hefty emphasis on moral thoughts.

For those who don't know, Superman, a.k.a. "The Man of Steel", is from another world and has only one weakness: Kryptonite. But at the beginning of this movie, no human possesses any amount of the stuff. So, Superman is basically invincible. 

The villain of the movie, Lex Luther, is determined to get his hands on some kryptonite in order to kill Superman. Not only that, but he also wants to show the world how "power cannot be all good, and good cannot be all powerful". He tries to manipulate Superman into doing bad deeds.

We seem to perhaps live on a world where it is impossible to be fully good. Even though we can choose the optimific outcome, there is still another choice with potential for good that we had to turn down. Superman can catch someone falling off a skyscraper, or he can catch someone falling off of a cliff, but if they fall at the same time, he must choose one. Although he can move at the speed of light, he can't be everywhere at once (he probably could save everyone who ever needed saving if going at the speed of light but let’s assume he can't on the belief that it would give people terrible whiplash).  

Furthermore, could it be true that God, or a God on Earth, cannot be fully good? Does the status of God give one the right to define objective moral truths? If Jesus once again rose from the dead, and switched his mantra from love and acceptance of others to hate and prejudice, would that make those new morals objectively true? Wouldn't that just be some twisted case of individualism?

P.S. If you reply to this post you MUST answer the true philosophical question here: Who is better, Batman or Superman?


William Wagner said...

I think you make a great point on moral objectivity and religion. Many people do believe that morals come from their religion, but your thought experiment points out problems in that viewpoint. It is something we even see today. Jesus preached love and openness, yet his words have been twisted by some groups for their hateful agenda. If Jesus was to come back to Earth and preach hatred and ignorance, for many that would be the objective moral truth.

In response to your other question, Batman is better than Superman because he is more relatable. Yes, he is a super rich billionaire who fights crime, I understand nobody can truly relate to that. But Superman is a nigh invulnerable alien who can do no wrong. Superman has one weakness, a weakness that is a bit of a cop out anyway. Batman has many. Superman is indestructible. Batman is not. Superman wins his conflicts with brute strength. Batman often outwits his opponents, making his stories much more interesting. Superman is a static character who never seems to change. Batman is a complex and intriguing character who suffers. Finally, Batman has way cooler villains than Superman. The Joker, Bane, Ra's al Ghul, Harley Quinn, Scarecrow, Two-Face, Carmine Falcone. Compared to Superman's Lex Luthor, General Zod, and Doomsday. The Joker blows all of them out of the water anyway. Not that this argument really matters anyway because everybody knows Deadpool is the greatest comic book character of all time.

Mark said...

Funny you mention God and Superman in the same post, since Superman actually becomes God at some point in his story, I think. He's the representation of absolute good, as well as absolute capability. He has the power to indiscriminately save everyone, and chooses to do so.

Is he obligated to? No. The idea is nothing can force him to be good.

In fact, it might be better to look at when he actively chooses not to save people. In one story, Lois Lane gets killed, he goes insane, kills most of the world's population and becomes supreme dictator. Additionally, he's killed multiple villains, a great deal of people hate him for immense property damage, so on and so on...

So he's not exactly morally absolute either. He might not even be morally justified. Being the most powerful person in the room definitely gives him the first say, but doesn't really take him off the moral scale. Same with any God, if you assume they are inherently morally neutral (as opposed to absolute).

A better question to ask would probably be what constitutes an inherently good being. But that just brings us back to square one.

Catherine Peterson said...

Hi Lee,
I like that you brought up culturally interesting example. I think a lot of Super Hero movies, comics, or any related media exemplify the common ideals of what is good and bad (though in a pretty extreme way). I also agree that it seems impossible to be fully good, but I also don't think that there's any expectation to be so, as long as you put in a good, honest effort no reasonable person would find fault in that.

And I'm definitely team Batman.

Patrick said...

I love the chicken or the egg predicament you raise. I think it's interesting to look at the historical perspective of wars fought on justification of differences over religion. Conflicts like the crusades caused great injustices and tragedies because their religion supposedly justified their actions. In that context I don't believe the title of deity gives one moral absolutism.

Superman is better; in the strictest terms of better. He's stronger with fewer flaws, but he isn't human. Not because he's an alien, but what makes humans human is that we suffer and endure failure. Superman never fails, he always win. He doesn't know how to handle adversity, so I trust Batman more to make the right decision when everything is going wrong.

Wadea Mohr said...


First and foremost, this post made me want to watch the movie, Batman vs. Superman as soon as possible.

I love the connection you've made between the movie and morality. This is a good reminder that thoughts and questions on morality are so prevalent in our culture.

"Power cannot be all good, and good cannot be all powerful" is, well, a powerful statement.
Power has the ability to be used for bad, and good has the potential to lose all of its power.
But, who or what defines what is good? Who or what defines what constitutes as power?

I believe that the creator of both good and power exclude the claim in the quote above.

“We seem to perhaps live on a world where it is impossible to be fully good.” I would agree with this claim. As far as I know, no one is perfect, assuming fully good means perfect. No matter who you are, man falls short.
This is the difference between Jesus, God on earth, and mankind, essentially you and I.

Genesis 1:1 reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In the beginning God…. Only three words precede God, which are, “In the beginning.” If Genesis 1:1 stands true, then God was, is, and always will be what was at the beginning. He was and always has been. If Genesis 1:1 is true, than we have reason to believe that God came before everything else; therefore, we have reason to believe that he was the creator of all.
Being the creator of all, he is the creator of good and the creator of power. This power and good is objectively true, objective in the sense that it is constant, never changing, and even God himself cannot change it, as he has always been. Now, this is only to say if Genesis 1:1 is true, which is another whole question in itself.

P.S.—As far as who is better, I need to watch the movie before I make such a big commitment choosing between the one real superhero.

Rachel Cherney said...

After reading your post, I will now have to watch Batman vs Superman and relate it to class. Your post does a good job pointing out how I think people take what they think is 'moral' from their religious teachings, which is why morality is such a conflicted topic for so many new cases such as transgenderism and abortion. It's just incredible how much of an impact religion has on our daily lives.

I don't think that God is fully good, and furthermore, what is the definition of God or a 'God.' If we take christianity for example, God does many things that are considered immoral and bad. What about Noah and the Ark? God eliminates all of the bad people from the world to start over, but is that not murder? or is it okay because he's trying to make the world safer and more just for the people he saved?

I personally think Batman is better.

Kendra Van Lanen said...

I think batman is better...mostly because he has the best style.

In regards to the question you bring up, my opinion on the matter is that I think that humans are fully good in nature, but it is the environment that we are surrounded in that creates greed, selfishness, and some moral bad luck. When you talk about how superman is not able to save multiple people at a time, that is moral bad luck because it is impossible even though he wishes he could. He can just do the best that he can to do right in the world.

In response to raising the question of God being fully good, I think it depends on the religion and what each individual believes. If God is more humanized, he would be viewed an individual affected by the environment. If God is higher than all humans, he wouldn't be as affected. If Jesus rose again and had hate and prejudice, I think that he would lose the position so to speak because a religion is more than a person.

Alex Sorensen said...

Lee, I think your post is very interesting and thought provoking. By the way, I loved the Batman v Superman movie, so much so that I've seen it over 10 times by now. Let me get this out of the way first. I personally love both Batman and Superman. But as to which one is better, I'd have to choose Batman. I like Zach Synder's Superman and the gritty, more realistic universe he's creating, and Superman would easily beat Batman in a fight, but Batman is cooler and has the better villains. That's just what I think of course. As for the interesting questions you raised in your post, I think that there cannot be someone who is all good and all powerful. If you are all powerful, you will be forced to make choices that will affect someone poorly. And as for someone being all good, I think the same applies. Also, I think that if Jesus came back to Earth and was a hateful person, people would be sensible enough to not follow him. That may in fact be the end of religion to be honest.