Monday, February 2, 2009

Idealism v. Pragmatism: the Batman syndrome

I finally, finally, watched The Dark Knight... such an amazing movie, the characters really drive the movie, and you're always being surprised by what turns up.  Lucius Fox is amazing, Bruce Wayne is amazing, Harvey Dent is amazing, the Joker was the most amazing... (only exception to awesome main characters was Gordon... he looked mildly concerned that Harvey was going to kill his kid... yeah.)

When last I checked, normal people write about the cinematography, acting, plot, and dialog of movies... Boring.

Is Batman an idealist or a pragmatist?  He pursues the ideal of a crime-free Gothem... but he uses undoubtedly questionable methods of achieving that ideal.  He ideally refuses to kill the Joker (three times)... and his motives appear pure.  The final choice he makes, to take the blame for Harvey's actions, is a complex one.  On one hand, he is asking others to lie... to say that it was somebody else who killed all those people.  
On the other hand, he does it because it is the only way that he can achieve his ideal of a crime-free Gothem.  

Ultimately, it depends on your definition of Idealism.  If Idealism is adhering to high or noble principals, it's really hard to say.  I think it's really the message that comes across.  Batman isn't a hero, he isn't a white night, he has to hide who he is because he is a symbol of fear.  The message was portrayed very well, he is a dark knight.  On my bookshelves, I have an abridged copy of the original tales of King Arthur.  Batman is not Lancelot.  He is not Mordred.  He is a cross between the two, a noble traitor, a valiant murderer, a Dark Knight.


  1. Debate epiphany! So if idealism is pursing ideals/goals, it'll do whatever to get there. Even if it includes lying, setting up an elaborate cell phone spying network, et cetera. Yeah, you get your end goal, no compromises, but it comes at the detriment of other things. This is the missing piece of my negative case. Wow. Where the heck have I been all season?

    Gordon was an amazing character.

  2. I agree, Gordon was great... except for that one scene.

  3. "undoubtedly questionable"

    Haha, that makes it "unquestionably questionable" :P...sorry...too much Lewis Carrol.

    Micah, to be Seanish for a minute...don't be hatin' on Gordon. He's an amazing character.

    I would say that Batman is a Pragmatist. Because honestly, half the stuff he does is what he's really fitting to stop: crime. And even he realizes that breaking a mob mosses leg's isn't exactly "right", but it did the trick. He, and Gordon, also understand that his final decision to take the fall for Harvey isn't a simple one, or even an obviously noble one. Though the movie argues it's something "more" than noble. I'd say that most of the characters in the movie, with perhaps the exception of the Joker and Harvey have a "Mere Christianity" like moral compass. Remember in the beginning of mere christianity when Lewis argues that most men unconsciously have an idea of what they "ought" to do? It's much the same with the dark knight. Except here, the characters adopt what the audience see's as right and wrong, and work within, and often break that "Natural law" in order to achieve their goal. I'd say that Batman was pragmatic. [end boring dissertation]