What are the similarities of Socrates, Plato, and other philosophers with Batman, Superman, and other superheroes? They have a lot in common aside from the fact they are all prominent figures in the world of philosophy and world of fiction. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote “Behold! I teach you the superman: he is this lightning, he is this madness!” in his book entitled Thus Spoke Zarathustra in the 1800s (White, 2013). He was the first one to coin the word superman or Übermensch. He refers to it as a person who can transcend the ordinary qualities of a mere mortal and become a creator of new values. From then on, the word superman has become very popular and has reached the minds of Siegel and Shuster’s who created their comic book character under its name.
I am quite fascinated with comic book superheroes like Batman, Superman, and others because of their enormous potential to entertain and touch our wild imagination. My addiction to comic books began during my elementary days in which people had to interact face to face and the digital universe was still unknown. My favorite past time was to read comic books and then summarized the stories with my friends by flaunting what I had understood. It was the time when life was so simple, no gadget, lots of reading, and frequent conversation with childhood friends.
My fondness in reading began at that stage of my life. I was fascinated by the world of superheroes due to the positive vibes that they gave me while I read their heroic stories. Until now, I watch movies about superheroes for mere entertainment and a momentary escape from reality. In my mind, if only superman and other superheroes had existed, many wars would have been prevented and crimes could have been minimized. Most importantly, the COVID-19 crisis could have been solved right away through the effort of superheroes like Ant-Man and the Atom who have the superpower to become so small that they can penetrate the human body and kill those viruses. Unfortunately, they are not real. In life, there is only us, humans, without superpowers. Nevertheless, they still have an enormous influence on the youth and young at heart like me.
When I reached college, my addiction to comics was reborn in another area, which is philosophy. As a social science major, it was basic for me to read books about philosophy. For me, it was a whole new world of superheroes. I set aside my habit of buying and reading comics since I had to read books that had greater importance for me in college and my future career. I have carried that habit of reading books about philosophy until now because of the same addiction with comic books that have struck me. When I started earning my own money, I began collecting my copies from the Ancient Greek philosophy to the postmodern philosophy.
Then, I came across the book entitled superheroes and philosophy. What excellent parallelism, I thought so. The writers of the book have prolifically identified the glaring similarities of the philosophers and superheroes. As a book hunter as I am, I did not waste time looking for the series in digital form and I was able to read them all. Here is my synthesis of the parallelism of philosophy and superhero.
Extraordinary Human Qualities
Philosophers and superheroes have extraordinary human qualities. While superheroes have fictional superpowers, philosophers have superhuman intellect. Superman and the rest of the Justice League have unique superpowers which we can only be seen in the movies or can be read in a comic book. That is, in fact, the main reason for their popularity. We don’t see these superpowers in reality. Super strength, flight capability, techy gadgets, super-strong spider web, ability to climb on walls, regenerative ability, and unbreakable claws, super speed, and much more have successfully attracted the attention of fans (audience or readers) around the world. We have to admit that we are unconsciously hoping that we possess any of their fictional superpowers in reality.
On the one hand, philosophers possess superior intellect as compared with an ordinary human being. They were ahead of their time. Their superior intellect can be best described in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” Plato explains that most of us are contented in living out of ignorance. We don’t question what it appears to be. However, few can unravel the mystery of this universe and the courage to know the truth, they are called philosophers.
Unmatched Moral Codes
This is one common denominator of superheroes and philosophers, possessing highly admirable moral codes and for championing the truth. Indeed, their morality is incomparable to us mere mortal. They have a clear mindset, which is to fight and die for the truth. For superhero fanatics like me, you may understand why Batman and Superman would not kill their enemies. For them, killing is against their moral code. Killing is one of the heinous crimes that one can perform against another, which Superheroes would not do. Also, they would not hesitate to perform the ultimate sacrifice of all, to die for others.
Of course, philosophers would not allow these superheroes to get ahead of them in this area. They also possess that strong desire to fight for the truth. Socrates died by drinking poison hemlock. He was sentenced to die by the government for alleged corruption of the youth’s minds and for insisting on his truth. He famous saying,” the Truth is more important than life itself,” has become the mantra of real-life heroes and fictional heroes like Superman and Batman. It simply means to die for the truth is greater than fighting for one’s survival.
A Life of Solitude
Many of them lived a life of solitude or loneliness. Some of them are being criticized or even despised by the public like Batman and the X-men despite their heroic deeds. Many of them have lived a life of solitude just to keep their identities secret. For instance, Clark Kent lives a simple life with his parents on a farm while Bruce Wayne lives in a big mansion with an underground Batcave (a superb strategy to hide his costume) with his butler while being visited from time to time by his former sidekicks Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon. On the other hand, Peter Parker could not tell his true feelings to Mary Jane Watson to protect her from his enemies (what a lonely dude).
If you think that superheroes have lonely lives, you may pity many of the known philosophers who lived a life of sorrow and depression. For instance, Socrates was regularly nagged by his wife for teaching kids about life without being paid. Nietzsche, on the other hand, acquired a mental illness due to his ideas that were considered crazy during his time. Sartre, a famous existentialist, had a poor life while Descartes was merely a tutor to Queen Christina who disliked him a lot.
Positive Contributions to their Respective Worlds
Indeed, superheroes and philosophers have enormous contributions to their respective worlds, the real world, and the world of fiction. In simple terms, superheroes have saved lives while philosophers gave answers to the most difficult questions that we may encounter in this life. Superheroes have tremendous followings as shown in their box office hits and the high sales of their toys and other accessories. On the other hand, philosophers’ remarkable popularity is manifested in the formulation of theories in their honor such as Descartes’ rationalism, Platonic approach, Socratic method, Locke’s empiricism, Hume’s skepticism, and others.
White, M (2013). Superman and Philosophy. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.