Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Peter Singer and Batman, revisited

Over at Ivy's Vine, Ivy Reisner has chimed in on Mahesh Ananth and Ben Dixon's chapter, "Should Bruce Wayne Have Become Batman?" in Batman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul. Ananth and Dixon argue that Peter Singer 's strict utilitarianism would condemn Wayne's decision, but Reisner disagrees, concluding:
If everyone, or even most people, did as Singer proposed, there would be ample resources to help the starving poor, even absent the Wayne fortune. Therefore Wayne if helping the otherwise unaided population of Gotham by becoming Batman and is therefore doing more good than would have been possible by simply donating the Wayne fortune.

Singer seeks to bring a world where charitable organizations are fully supported by routine small donations from the majority of the world’s affluent population (defining affluent as people with disposable income for even small luxuries, like DVDs and philosophy books). Batman seeks to bring a world where Gotham is no longer corrupt and crime can be kept under control by normal law enforcement efforts, such as the police and judicial system.

I would argue their intents are in alignment, and that Singer, rather than decrying Wayne’s becoming Batman, would laud him for his Herculean efforts “to prevent something very bad from happening”.
Very nice contributon on the part of Ms. Reisner.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Taking the comicbook universe at face value, superheroes are the ultimate utilitarians because they are constantly saving the world. Poverty relief doesn't do us any good if Darkseid comes and destroys us. If it takes Wayne's fortune to prevent ultimate losses like this then I would think even Singer would see that as justified.