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Superman & Philosophy: What Would the Man of Steel Do?

Monday, April 15, 2013 8:08 am EDT
"leap tall buildings in a single bound"

2013 sees the return of Superman. Not only is it 75 years since mild-mannered reporter, Clark Kent, transformed himself into one of the most enduring superheroes of the last century but in June, we'll be treated to a brand new film, Man of Steel. And so, what better time to top up on your knowledge of one of the greatest American cultural icons and discover what our hero, the mean streets of Metropolis and its evil gang of villains can teach us about philosophy and about life? Exchanging their every-day jackets for their own red capes, Mark White and his team of philosophers take to the skies to tell us more...

Despite often being seen as too perfect, too noble, too good, scratch the surface and Superman is not, in fact, that simple. Rather, he raises a lot of intriguing philosophical questions. If Superman is so good, why does he so often resort to violence? Why does he tell lies in order to protect his identity, and how does he reconcile this with a reporter's devotion to the truth? Could Lex Luther be right in telling us that Superman is a threat to humanity? Just how important is the big red cape and the spit curl to who Superman is? And is there a good reason why Lois Lane can't tell that Clark Kent is really Superman?

Making comparisons with great philosophical theories and drawing on the works of great philosophers including Aristotle, Wittgenstein and Nietzsche, each chapter in Superman and Philosophy uses the predicaments that our hero is faced with and the often tough choices that he has to make (save Lois or the bus full of children? Kill three Kryptonian criminals or risk them invading his own universe and threatening to destroy another Earth?) to guide the reader through a range of fascinating debates on such thought-provoking topics as existentialism, utilitarianism, morality and ethics. We learn that sometimes things of lesser importance may have to take greater priority in our decision making because we have committed to them or they are the right thing to do, are encouraged to examine our own reasoning, judgments and actions, and discover that, ultimately, there is some superhero in all of us - sadly, this doesn't include the ability to fly, read minds or "leap tall buildings in a single bound"!

A timely, highly-readable and hugely entertaining book, Superman and Philosophy is a must for anyone who has dreamed of sporting the red cape and taking to the skies over the past 75 years - up, up and away!

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