Monday, October 02, 2006

Batman and Aristotle's "Golden Mean"

One thing I constantly think about is what my part is in the bigger scheme of things. Am I to live out a humble existence as a school teacher, or be some great leader or hero? Is it just me or do other men dream of being some sort of hero? (Relax, I'm not going to jump into the whole "Wild at Heart" thing). I guess my thoughts are more along the lines of... if I were presented with the opportunity to do something heroic would I stand-up or would I cower in fear?

The stories that have always fascinated me, are those about comicbook superheroes, in particular, the character of Batman. I was reminded of this when The movie, "Batman Begins" came out in theatres. This character of Batman isn't like most other superheroes, he has no super powers, and yet he feels burdened with the responsibility of seeing justice carried out.

When I saw the Batman movie, I thought, "why is this Batman character so popular, or why does he resonate with such a wide audience?" Well, the reason I think he's so popular is because of his vulnerability. We love a hero who will sacrifice himself for the well-being of others.

I remember learning about Aristotle's "golden mean" when I was in an Introductory Philosophy course in college. I'm sorry if I don't get this right because it's late and it's been awhile since I've read Aristotle, but basically the golden mean is the idea that virtue is found as a mean between two extremes. An example is the virtue of courage... At one extreme there is cowardice and at the other extreme is fearlessness. Somewhere in the middle between cowardice and fearlessness falls courage. One end of the scale is deficiency and the other end is excess. It is only courage if the person undertsands his mortality, yet overcomes his fears in an act of bravery.

This is why Batman is such a compelling character. He is vulnerable and he knows it (hence the secret identity), yet he risks his life in the pursuit of justice. He is very much human, but there is a determination in him that sets him apart from others. In juxtaposition to Batman, Superman is a character who has incredible power which makes him more of a guardian to humankind (rather than a human seeking justice among humans). This made me think that maybe Batman is more virtuous and easier to identify with, but I changed my mind after seeing the new Superman movie... however, I will save this for another blog entry.

I leave you with a quote from "Batman Begins"...

"A vigilante is just a man lost in the scramble for his own gratification. He can be destroyed, or locked up; but if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can't stop you, you become something else entirely." ~Henri Ducard

and Aristotle...

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."


Anonymous fiona said...

Hi Lee,
Since the "Golden Mean" defines courage as the inbetween of fear and fearlessness, another way to look at courage is quoted by Mark Twain (?) "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear".

I agree with you that Batman Begins is a thought provoking movie. Something can be taken out of it but I can't measure my life with Batman's. First off, he seems to have endless time and money. Would Batman be the same if he is poor and time-challenged?

To me heroism is an act of kindness, big or small. What fastinate me are people who have the ability to give even during hard times, like the people who helped the Jews during the Nazi reign. They overcomed fear of imprisonment and death to do what is right.

A book you might enjoy called I am a Messenger by Markus Zusak. It's about an ordinary guy doing extraordinary things and it involves poker games.

8:41 p.m.  
Blogger It's a Nicky said...

fiona i enjoyed your comment as I also enjoyed Lee's blog. I also think that it is amazing when people do amazing things despite their own problems which may in some cases be just as bleek as the people they are helping.

Blessed is the man who gives his life for a friend. I think somebody important said that.


6:29 p.m.  

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