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Hello and Welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
Now I have a philosophy exam in about two weeks, so I need to start studying my notes. But why just study my boring notes, when I can write them in a blog and bore you instead. Or, more importantly, get people smarter then me to tell me if I’ve gotten it completely wrong.
So lets start with the great-grandfather of all philosophy, Socrates. More specifically, his dialogue Laches (yes I know Plato wrote it, but it’s still a Socratic dialogue). The purpose of the dialogue Laches is to try and find a definition of courage. And who’s braver in all the pop culture world then the Dark Knight himself, Batman. But what is courage, and does the Dark Knight really have it? Well lets venture on this path and see where it leads.
Now the dialogue calls it Fighting in Armour (FA), which means fighting in battle. Or, in Batman’s case, literally fighting in armour against his enemies. The question asked is: could someone teach you to be courageous? I mean sure, you could easily be taught the skills Batman has learnt from his training. But did Ra’s al Ghul teach him courage, or did he learn it by himself? For that we’d need to define courage.
And in order to define courage, we’d need to know what a definition is. A definition, for this essay, is that there is a common property amongst them. For example, something can be classed as a Batman Villain if they hate Batman and want him dead. So lets say courage is the brave policeman that stands by their post as the Joker comes towards them. Well surely it would be foolish to try and take the Joker on, so is running away really that bad? So courage can’t be from someone standing by their post.
So how about courage equals endurance. Well someone might endure being shocked by the Joker’s electro-buzzer, but that doesn’t make them brave. It makes them stupid. So lets say that courage is something that is wisely endured, since anything foolishly endured isn’t noble (ignoring the fact that both acts are still endured regardless). So if someone wisely endures being tortured by the Joker, does that make them courageous?
So lets say that wisely endured acts are noble. Can they be noble if the end result is in self-interest? I mean, sure, you may endure a bank robbery. But if you’re only a hostage because you’re getting a cut from the robbers, does that make it wisely endured? If it ain’t noble, then it can’t be wisely endured, can it. Courage would have to be wisely endured acts that have an ends not self-interested but instead worthy and noble.
So lets say that Bruce is injected with the latest batch of Scarecrow’s fear gas and Alfred has to strap him down to the table. However his peaceful day is interrupted by Bruce’s insane babble. Alfred endures this babble, but it has no great cost on him. He’s not suffering, not as much as Bruce. So can we say that this is wisely endured, and thus courageous? No, so courage must be wise endurance + fail to endure would incur great personal loss.
So lets say both Batman and a random passer-by decided to take on the Joker. Now Batman has loads more experience then this passer-by. Does that make the passer-by more courageous? Or more foolish? Batman does endure more wisely then the passer-by since Batman knows the dangers presented by the Joker. But the passer-by may face a greater loss, so does that make him more courageous or more foolish?
And you, dear reader, have wisely endured with reading this far into the blog. Does that make you courageous for sticking this far in, or does it make you foolish for not realizing that I could be making very little sense?
So our new theory of courage is thus: Batman wisely endures for a noble end with considerable risk to oneself, with the desired outcome is weight against Batman skill set. But on a side note, if this is courage, what is cowardly?
But the next question is how do we know what is wise and what isn’t. Or, more specifically, how do we know what we need to fear and what we don’t? We’d need to have some sort of knowledge that helps us tell rational fears from irrational ones. For example, being scared of cucumbers is an irrational fear, since they can be chopped up and made into soup. However being scared of the Joker is a rational fear, sicne he can chop you up and make you into soup. So if courage is something that is wisely endured, then wisdom comes from knowing what needs to be feared in the first place.
But what about the Joker? He’s immune to Scarecrow’s fear gas, he has no fear whatsoever. Can he be brave, considering he has no idea what he should be scared of? Or would we call his actions rash and foolish, since he does things without having an understanding of the danger that is involved with them? And if Batman was scared of harmless things, like cucumbers, would we call him brave? Or would we think his actions to be foolish?
So there you have it. At the end of the day the dialogue Laches doesn’t provide a clear cut answer on what courage actually is. All I’ve done is redressed the argument to feature Batman to try and make it more interesting. If you have anything you want to add, or anything you disagree with, feel free to leave a comment (and I’ll say this in advance, my replies to the comments will probably be wrong as I’m not that smart on the subject and want to hear smarter opinions). Till next time.