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A Philosopher Reads...Marvel Comics' Civil War: Exploring the Moral Judgment of Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man

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We love to see superheroes fight, whether to protect innocent people from supervillains or to save the world. But superheroes also fight each other, and if we can look past the energy blasts and earth-shattering punches, we can find serious disagreements over principles and ethics. This was certainly the case when Captain America and Iron Man went head-to-head over liberty We love to see superheroes fight, whether to protect innocent people from supervillains or to save the world. But superheroes also fight each other, and if we can look past the energy blasts and earth-shattering punches, we can find serious disagreements over principles and ethics. This was certainly the case when Captain America and Iron Man went head-to-head over liberty and security in Marvel Comics’ epic Civil War storyline, a fictional allegory to post-9/11 America (as well as the basis for the third Captain America film). In his latest book, Mark D. White, author of The Virtues of Captain America and editor of Iron Man and Philosophy, carefully leads you through the ethical thinking of the three characters on the front lines of the Civil War: Iron Man, Captain America and Spider-Man In his characteristically light and humorous tone, White lays out the basic ethical foundations of each hero’s thinking and highlights the moral judgment each must use to put his ethics into action. But also how conflicting principles such as liberty and security must be balanced in the real world, lest both be lost. Written in a style that will be easily accessible to everyone, A Philosopher Reads… Marvel Comics’ Civil War will be a fascinating read for diehard comic fans and philosophy buffs, as well as those looking for a simple introduction to philosophical ethics.


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We love to see superheroes fight, whether to protect innocent people from supervillains or to save the world. But superheroes also fight each other, and if we can look past the energy blasts and earth-shattering punches, we can find serious disagreements over principles and ethics. This was certainly the case when Captain America and Iron Man went head-to-head over liberty We love to see superheroes fight, whether to protect innocent people from supervillains or to save the world. But superheroes also fight each other, and if we can look past the energy blasts and earth-shattering punches, we can find serious disagreements over principles and ethics. This was certainly the case when Captain America and Iron Man went head-to-head over liberty and security in Marvel Comics’ epic Civil War storyline, a fictional allegory to post-9/11 America (as well as the basis for the third Captain America film). In his latest book, Mark D. White, author of The Virtues of Captain America and editor of Iron Man and Philosophy, carefully leads you through the ethical thinking of the three characters on the front lines of the Civil War: Iron Man, Captain America and Spider-Man In his characteristically light and humorous tone, White lays out the basic ethical foundations of each hero’s thinking and highlights the moral judgment each must use to put his ethics into action. But also how conflicting principles such as liberty and security must be balanced in the real world, lest both be lost. Written in a style that will be easily accessible to everyone, A Philosopher Reads… Marvel Comics’ Civil War will be a fascinating read for diehard comic fans and philosophy buffs, as well as those looking for a simple introduction to philosophical ethics.

46 review for A Philosopher Reads...Marvel Comics' Civil War: Exploring the Moral Judgment of Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Snider

    An interesting look at these beloved characters that I could not put down.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Libby Sullivan

    It was interesting seeing theories of morality applied to the marvel universe. A really cool book to read for any Marvel fanatics out there.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Stockett

    I really enjoyed this. I thought it would be a fun romp back through the Civil War story. I didn't really anticipate learning too much. I was wrong. It was a fun romp back through the Civil War story. He does a good job of recapping important plot points. But I actually learned quite a lot. What I found most fascinating were the parts about Iron Man and utilitarianism. When I read the Civil War comics, I thought Iron Man was a monster. I couldn't fathom that a hero would ever make the decisions he I really enjoyed this. I thought it would be a fun romp back through the Civil War story. I didn't really anticipate learning too much. I was wrong. It was a fun romp back through the Civil War story. He does a good job of recapping important plot points. But I actually learned quite a lot. What I found most fascinating were the parts about Iron Man and utilitarianism. When I read the Civil War comics, I thought Iron Man was a monster. I couldn't fathom that a hero would ever make the decisions he made. I still feel that way after reading this book, but this book helped me understand his motivations. The utilitarian philosophy is an interesting one. The basic idea is that you make decisions based on what will make the most people happy. If a decision maximizes utility across a population, it is right. Any individuals who suffer are merely part of a cold equation that weighs the happiness of all. I find this philosophy to be terrifying. That kind of philosophy can justify any number of horrendous deeds toward individuals as long as the individual suffering is outweighed by greater happiness by large numbers of people. But delving into that philosophy was so interesting to me. Not only did it help me understand Iron Man, but it helped me understand some of my more liberal friends. The utilitarian philosophy will happily sacrifice individual freedom (to choose what healthcare to buy, to choose whether to be in a union, etc.) if it means the collective is happier overall. This is a great read. If you liked this storyline in the comics, you should delve into this. It also delves into the philosophy behind Spiderman and Captain America. For me, those weren't as interesting, basically because their motivations already made sense to me. But maybe if you found yourself siding with Iron Man (you monster) then you will enjoy seeing a new way of thinking in Captain America. Regardless of who you sided with, you should read this book. You might learn something about those you disagree with. You might even learn something about yourself.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alan Kingsley

  5. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Pratt

  6. 4 out of 5

    George Stremplis

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cory Hollon

  8. 5 out of 5

    Josh

  9. 5 out of 5

    peter l brown / tiny and sons glass co

  10. 5 out of 5

    Patty

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  12. 4 out of 5

    Troy Powell

  13. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  14. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  15. 4 out of 5

    Guillermo_paez_juarezhotmail.Com

  16. 4 out of 5

    Charles

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tim Smith

  18. 5 out of 5

    William Council

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karly Herself

  20. 4 out of 5

    Amy Sellers

  21. 5 out of 5

    Isaiah Keyes

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mark French

  23. 4 out of 5

    Briana C.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Edmond Williams

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  26. 4 out of 5

    Levi

  27. 4 out of 5

    Neil Considine

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amy Sellers

  29. 4 out of 5

    Leigh Anne

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hermann Berben

  31. 5 out of 5

    Isaiah Keyes

  32. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  33. 4 out of 5

    Nikki Macahon

  34. 5 out of 5

    Owen Farrington

  35. 4 out of 5

    Julian_Penner

  36. 4 out of 5

    Mark French

  37. 4 out of 5

    Briana C.

  38. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  39. 5 out of 5

    Josh Savidge

  40. 5 out of 5

    Levi

  41. 5 out of 5

    Alory Shannon

  42. 4 out of 5

    Chris Douglas

  43. 4 out of 5

    Xia

  44. 4 out of 5

    Dallas Jarvis

  45. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

  46. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Ridland

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