Monday, October 06, 2008

Should Batman Kill the Joker? (1)

Over the decades from their initial encounter in Gotham City, the Joker has transformed from the Clown Prince of Crime to a mass murderer. He killed the second Robin, Jason Todd, paralysed Barbara Gordon (Batgirl), and shot and killed Lt. Sarah Essen, Commissioner Gordon's second wife. As many times, the Batman captured the Joker, as many times the Joker escaped. Being insane, Batman knew the Joker will never be persecuted. Knowing as he did that the Joker will continue to escape and hurt and kill people, why did the Batman not kill the Joker?


Batman has said many times that he refused to kill because in killing, he is no better than the criminals that he is sworn to fight. But, the Joker? Come on, man.


I have been trying to understand Batman's reluctance to kill and I come across this system of ethics named utilitarianism. This system will say, Batman kill the Joker because this will prevent all the murders he will commit in the future. While it is bad to kill, yet killing one life will be the saviour of many other lives.



Philosopher Philippa Foot and Judith Jarvis Thomson put forth the issue in form of a moral dilemma:




Imagine that a trolley is going down a track. Further down the track are five people who do not hear the trolley and will not be able to get out of the way. Unfortunately, there aren't enough time to stop the trolley before it hits and kills them. The only way to avoid killing these five people is to switch the trolley to another track. But, unfortunately, there is one person standing on that track, also too close for the trolley to stop before killing him. Now imagine an innocent bystander standing by the track switch who must make a choice; do nothing, which leads to the death of five people on the current track, or act to divert the trolley to the other track, which leads to the death of the single person.





The Batman is in the place of the bystander. He is holding the Joker's hands at the top of an unfinished office in the movie The Dark Knight. All he has to do is to let go and let the Joker fall to his death. Imagine the trolley scenario except the current track is onto the one person and switching the track will kill the five.



Do you think the Batman should kill the Joker?



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3 Comments:

Anonymous alwyn said...

looks like an interesting series - is the book anything like 'Entertainment Theology'?

2:17 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

No, it is nothing like Entertainment Theology. This book is a collection of articles by philosophers who are ardent Batman fans, writing about Batman from their respective philosophical perspectives. A really enjoyable book.

Can you imagine philosophers reading comics?

12:37 AM  
Anonymous alwyn said...

where else do they get their inspiration, right? haha

9:47 PM  

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