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A Clash of Heroes

Superheroes, philosophy, ethics, and politics

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And Philosophy Guest Posts

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Descartes’ Nightmare Scenario

The current story arc in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (AoS) uses a computer-generated artificial environment called The Framework to explore what might have happened if Hydra had succeeded in taking over S.H.I.E.L.D. Besides giving us the opportunity to see some of our favorite heroes at their worst, the story also raises interesting philosophical problems, questions that were anticipated centuries ago by philosophers like René Descartes. Specifically, the Hydra story explores problems associated with epistemology, or the study of what we can know and how we can know it.

Read more here.

The Unworthy Thor: Humility and Worthiness

“I’ll bet the Hulk could lift Thor’s hammer.”

My oldest son said this several years ago when I first introduced him to superheroes. (It’s a fairly common mistake, thinking that Mjolnir is so heavy that only the very strongest can lift it.) I explained to him that no, the Hulk can’t lift Mjolnir because he isn’t worthy of lifting it.

“What makes you worthy?” he asked.
Continue reading at . . . And Philosophy.

Logan, Human Dignity, and the Integrity of the Body

[Some spoilers for Logan follow.]

Who would have imagined that a movie full of brutal violence would turn out to make a persuasive plea for human dignity and the integrity of the body?

Logan might have more graphic violence and death in it than most other superhero movies combined. Set in a dark near-future in which mutants have been nearly wiped out by genocide, the movie depicts a Wolverine who has been reduced from superhero to chauffeur and struggles to keep an elderly Charles Xavier hidden from the U.S. government, which has classified Xavier as a weapon of mass destruction. It’s a world of ugliness, debauchery, greed, and hatred—a world that has carried the fear of mutants to its seemingly logical conclusion: they’re all but eradicated. Continue reading “Logan, Human Dignity, and the Integrity of the Body”

“Sorcery”? “Science”? Magic and Spirit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

I have an essay on Doctor Strange over at Wiley-Blackwell’s . . . And Philosophy blog (I’ll also be contributing a chapter to their forthcoming book, Doctor Strange And Philosophy):

“All of this is interesting because it seems to allow us to have our proverbial cake and eat it, too. We can take comfort in the knowledge that science forms the foundation of the MCU, and we can also embrace the spiritual and philosophical ideas in Doctor Strange and AoS.

On the other hand, Whedon’s insistence that the MCU’s magic is really ‘science’ and his appeal to multiverse theory to explain away the supernatural don’t really stand up to scrutiny.”

Read the rest here.

The Politics of Nick Spencer’s Captain America

I have an essay on Captain America over at Wiley-Blackwell’s . . . And Philosophy blog (I’ll also be contributing a chapter to their forthcoming book, Doctor Strange And Philosophy):

“Nick Spencer’s Captain America books (Captain America: Sam Wilson and Captain America: Steve Rogers) have been some of the most politically-charged comics that we’ve seen in a long time. Spencer is clearly influenced and inspired by the Captain America comics of the 1970s and 1980s written by Steve Englehart, Mark Gruenwald, and others. His run on the character has marked a return to contemporary politics after the magnificent Brubaker run, which was an espionage-thriller, and the sci-fi infused Rick Remender run. The result has been one of the most interesting books that Marvel is publishing right now—and also one of the most controversial.”

Read the rest here.

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