When Our Heroes Come to Blows

 

Not Pictured: Our Feelings

This is the year we make our heroes beat-up each other: Superman fights Batman; Captain America (and friends) fights Iron Man (and friends); Daredevil fights the Punisher; Deadpool fights Our Sense of Decency and Good Taste; the Flash and Supergirl team up to fight our Suspension of Disbelief. Such concepts bring up questions from my non-cool (read: non-nerdy) friends ,who ask, “Why would good guys fight each other?”

Good question, actually! In fact, the hero vs. hero concept is an old one, not just in comic books but in literature as well. In comics, of course, it’s quite prevalent and we’re seeing a glut of it at the moment. Perhaps it’s the nature of the superhero: take a handful of guys in funny outfits who are fighting crime for a variety of personal reasons and you’re bound to find conflict. Crime-fighting vigilantes are already working on (or past) the fringes of the law, which puts them in highly subjective and nebulous territory.

Once you’re out there, you’re going to come at odds with others who’ve made the same choice for different reason.

For example, in his first comic book appearance, the Punisher was actively hunting down Spider-Man. The former was under the common mistaken impression that Spider-Man had killed Norman Osbourne. And being the Punisher, seeking justice means trying to kill Spider-Man. See? Conflict!

However, having our protagonists become mutual antagonists serves a purpose as well. It helps us to ask questions that are more difficult to wrestle over than if it were placed in a simple protagonist vs. antagonist set-up.

In Daredevil’s second season, the conflict brings up the concept of justice and how two very different vigilantes pursue it. Daredevil works outside the law but, once criminals are subdued, he brings them back to it by handing them over to authorities and the courts (often worse for wear). For the Punisher, this is not enough. The system itself is corrupt and flawed and can’t be trusted. For Daredevil, the Punisher goes too far in killing as a first (and largely only) option; for the Punisher, Daredevil doesn’t go far enough and just perpetuates the problem, telling him:

I think you’re a half-measure. I think you’re a man who can’t finish the job. I think that you’re a coward.

In Captain America: Civil War, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark wrestle with the question of who these super beings are beholden to. What happens when their abilities seemingly get out of control and people are hurt? Who’s responsible? Who keeps them in check? These answers aren’t easy (though I dislike the solutions this film offers on either side). Superman v. Batman asks much the same questions, just not as well.

In some ways, too, this need to see our heroes fight is reflective of our times as well. Look at our primaries, where we’ve had hotly-contested nominations on both sides. Our nation is strongly divided between progressives and conservatives and each of those sides is riven with internal conflicts. These groups and sub-groups come to near blows, and their fringe elements are sometimes accused of abetting the real enemy. We all agree that something is wrong, what precisely it is and what to do about it often leads to conflict.

If you want to know why our heroes fight each other, it’s because we fight each other and they’re our champions. They fight each other because, in the pursuit of what’s good, we can’t even agree on what is good.

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  1. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    SEnkey:I don’t completely buy this argument, although I think it has merit. Consider, should I not judge someone who thinks that money is good, or feces is good, or poison is good? True these things may be used well, and it is their use that makes them good or ill. Still, some things should carry some taint of good and evil. I’m not sure I’ve explained this well. Forgive the feeble attempt.

    I am really enjoying the thread!

    So I’ve done a bit of talking about the objects of the arts & sciences, of human making; & of how coming to know anything in this world requires that we first be interested in it, & that is interested in our own good; but I will add the last piece: How about human beings? Are they inherently good or evil? Who would dare to say that human beings are neutral to good or evil, at least until they make their choices?

    • #61
  2. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Titus Techera:

    SEnkey:I don’t completely buy this argument, although I think it has merit. Consider, should I not judge someone who thinks that money is good, or feces is good, or poison is good? True these things may be used well, and it is their use that makes them good or ill. Still, some things should carry some taint of good and evil. I’m not sure I’ve explained this well. Forgive the feeble attempt.

    I am really enjoying the thread!

    So I’ve done a bit of talking about the objects of the arts & sciences, of human making; & of how coming to know anything in this world requires that we first be interested in it, & that is interested in our own good; but I will add the last piece: How about human beings? Are they inherently good or evil? Who would dare to say that human beings are neutral to good or evil, at least until they make their choices?

    human beings are not neutral, they are mixed.

    • #62
  3. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    TG:

    Titus Techera:

    SEnkey:I don’t completely buy this argument, although I think it has merit. Consider, should I not judge someone who thinks that money is good, or feces is good, or poison is good? True these things may be used well, and it is their use that makes them good or ill. Still, some things should carry some taint of good and evil. I’m not sure I’ve explained this well. Forgive the feeble attempt.

    I am really enjoying the thread!

    So I’ve done a bit of talking about the objects of the arts & sciences, of human making; & of how coming to know anything in this world requires that we first be interested in it, & that is interested in our own good; but I will add the last piece: How about human beings? Are they inherently good or evil? Who would dare to say that human beings are neutral to good or evil, at least until they make their choices?

    human beings are not neutral, they are mixed.

    How about the objects human beings make for human purposes?

    • #63
  4. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Titus Techera:

    TG:

    Titus Techera:

    SEnkey:I don’t completely buy this argument, although I think it has merit. Consider, should I not judge someone who thinks that money is good, or feces is good, or poison is good? True these things may be used well, and it is their use that makes them good or ill. Still, some things should carry some taint of good and evil. I’m not sure I’ve explained this well. Forgive the feeble attempt.

    I am really enjoying the thread!

    So I’ve done a bit of talking about the objects of the arts & sciences, of human making; & of how coming to know anything in this world requires that we first be interested in it, & that is interested in our own good; but I will add the last piece: How about human beings? Are they inherently good or evil? Who would dare to say that human beings are neutral to good or evil, at least until they make their choices?

    human beings are not neutral, they are mixed.

    How about the objects human beings make for human purposes?

    If a person makes an object, intending evil purpose for that object, and another person comes along and picks up this object and uses it for good result, do you maintain that the object itself was and is evil?

    (There may be some object that can never, ever, be used for good result … I’m not thinking of one, but my failure of imagination doesn’t define reality)

    • #64
  5. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    I’m not sure whether I would! You have a remarkably abstract story on your hands. Thinking about it, I’ve got at least to very different ways of thinking about what you have in mind.

    1.I suppose anyone with even common sense could tell you have answered the question before raising it, by stipulating tacitly that all objects that can be used for evil can be used for good. Elsewise, even at your level of abstraction you could not get to the question you put to me….

    2.Maybe all you have in mind is something far more specific, far less general. Maybe, someone making weapons to murder people & someone else coming along, taking them in some beautiful way, & turning them into ornaments or implements of agriculture. Of course, even at this level, one wonders what the meaning is. Discovering an old sword once used for murder & rapine? Or discerning in the souls of men evil & robbing them of the means of evildoing? This latter is far more serious morally, far less inclined to leave things to chance, but far more problematic–like the question about the justice of disarming the insane…

    (Then you leave aside the distinction between the purpose of the user & the purpose of the maker. It is implicit in your story, but neglected. Does the object have any relation to either or is it also neutral to that!)

    So the problem with such abstraction is that it removes objects from their human meaning.

    • #65
  6. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    So do we hold that evil & good in human beings have to do with their actions? Some human actions are, however, neutral to good & evil? & in the class of neutral actions all production by art, craft, & science enters? Is this the opinion of those who hold that evil & good cannot be said about objects, on the argument that wood or metal or even plastic have not in themselves moral relevance?

    How is it possible for man’s good & evil to relate to the world that man has not made & the world that man has made then? How does evil enter into the world? If the potential for protection & destruction, for creation is irrelevant to the discussion of good & evil–how does the evil in man come into the world: How is it even possible?

    • #66
  7. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Or do we say, too, that human actions are in themselves not good or evil–after all, with sufficient abstraction, the cutting of a limb by a doctor, a soldier, & a torturer are the same action…? Where is good & evil then?

    • #67
  8. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Humans are good when they stand for something outside of themselves. This is why Cincinattis or even Marcus Aurelius are dearly loved by classicist still by Julius Cesar and August are morally complicated. The former two stood for their country while the later two were pretty much for themselves.

    Some men stood for ideas and institutions beyond themselves but they were terribly evil ideas and institutions. Stalin and Hitler probably genuinely believed in their ideas. They are still evil.

    A good man is someone who devotes himself to something good that is beyond him.

    • #68
  9. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Titus Techera: You have a remarkably abstract story on your hands.

    I find it amusing when you complain about me “speaking” in abstractions.

    • #69
  10. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Titus Techera: Where is good & evil then?

    First answer:  Good heavens, Titus, do I look like a philosopher to you?!?

    Addendum to first answer:  Yes, of course I find no sense in the concept that objects can be inherently evil.  If you want to try to convince me of it, give it your best shot.

    Second answer:  Good and evil are in the hearts of humans beings.  Which is trite.  But not false.

    Third answer:  Good and evil are in our intentions, shown in our actions and modulated by our knowledge and our responsibility.  Young children and animals can act (and can cause bad results) but cannot do evil.  If I intend good result, but take no action to create that result, I cannot truthfully say that I have done good.  If I aver that I intend good result, but take actions that I should have known would lead to bad result, if I had bothered to think about the issue or learn about it … then I have actually done evil.

    And you’re going to complain, again, that I’m being too abstract – but if you really want to talk about a specific example, why am I the one who is required to read your mind and figure out what specific example you want to discuss?

    • #70
  11. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Ma’am, I think you should distinguish your new answer from the old answer. That was abstract; this is what is known as a statement about psychology; an attempt at generalization. You may be right or wrong, but the statements make sense from the standpoint of common sense, though they require a bit of unusual thinking.

    Your first answer combined an abstract statement with a few bits of story. That’s not useful for anything. Either the answer to your question was embedded in the statement or there was no answer.

    Now, it is true, thinking implies abstraction; but there is a difference between attempting to generalize from human experiences, each particular, but having things in common that suggest the generalization–& abstracting from any given human experience for the sake of some opinion. We finally live in an age where almost anyone, if pushed, will start speaking in abstractions. Generalizations are supposed to be concrete, not abstract.

    Almost everyone will call whatever opinion he holds a philosophy or something like that. This is to use the word almost in the opposite sense to that originally intended, thinking through opinions… Almost everyone will talk about human things in a very abstract language learned from economics of physics or math or whatever science seems to lend prestige or a crutch to those who lack the finesse that makes novelists worthwhile… Confronted with complications or questions, almost everyone falls back on idea so abstract that they cannot connect them to their concrete situation.

    • #71
  12. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    So good & evil are inseparable from human actions. That seems to be what common sense suggests.

    Human action depends on human purpose. We come to know about objects, to a large extent, because we want to use them or fear them; it might not be possible for things to begin to even make sense to us except in relation to the good–our sense of what’s good for us, that is.

    It seems to me, the kind of thinking where objects are neutral to human concerns is very abstract; the natural experience of human beings related the world to our purposes. I’m sure people think these days that this is wrongheaded–not objective, or what have you–I’ve heard this more than a little…–but I think they’re dehumanizing themselves. They’re abandoning the natural perspective for the sake of a pretended wisdom that cannot even answer the question, what is it to be human.

    But I think if you see that good & evil have to do with the heart & also with action–you have to find out how it is possible for the things of this world to become objects of human making & use & how it is possible for both kinds of objects to become part of human action. Human knowledge & human powers need both kinds of objects, & they are themselves necessary to human action. Attempting to separate the objects from the thinking about good & evil is far trickier than people assume-

    • #72
  13. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Titus Techera:So good & evil are inseparable from human actions. That seems to be what common sense suggests.

    Human action depends on human purpose. We come to know about objects, to a large extent, because we want to use them or fear them; it might not be possible for things to begin to even make sense to us except in relation to the good–our sense of what’s good for us, that is.

    It seems to me, the kind of thinking where objects are neutral to human concerns is very abstract; the natural experience of human beings related the world to our purposes. I’m sure people think these days that this is wrongheaded–not objective, or what have you–I’ve heard this more than a little…–but I think they’re dehumanizing themselves. They’re abandoning the natural perspective for the sake of a pretended wisdom that cannot even answer the question, what is it to be human.

    But I think if you see that good & evil have to do with the heart & also with action–you have to find out how it is possible for the things of this world to become objects of human making & use & how it is possible for both kinds of objects to become part of human action. Human knowledge & human powers need both kinds of objects, & they are themselves necessary to human action. Attempting to separate the objects from the thinking about good & evil is far trickier than people assume-

    I’m a simple sort, so I don’t perceive the difficulty in separating the physical objects from thinking about good and evil.  The physical object may be of use to a human being in performing an action (good or evil or neutral) or the physical object may be created by a action – in either (nonexclusive) case, the good or evil is not inherent to the object.  If your aim is to convince me this is so, you’ve not hit your mark.

    • #73
  14. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Well, ask yourself this: Why do people make all the different objects they make by the various arts & sciences?

    • #74
  15. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Titus Techera:Well, ask yourself this: Why do people make all the different objects they make by the various arts & sciences?

    They make all the different objects they make because they believe (or perhaps merely hope) that making those objects will aid those people in achieving their individual (or collective) goals.

    • #75
  16. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    TG:

    Titus Techera:Well, ask yourself this: Why do people make all the different objects they make by the various arts & sciences?

    They make all the different objects they make because they believe (or perhaps merely hope) that making those objects will aid those people in achieving their individual (or collective) goals.

    This seems to be so. Now we need to look at these goals, individual & collective. Do you say that human beings try to achieve those ends or goals or purposes which they believe would be good for them or those which they believe to be bad?

    • #76
  17. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Titus Techera:

    TG:

    Titus Techera:Well, ask yourself this: Why do people make all the different objects they make by the various arts & sciences?

    They make all the different objects they make because they believe (or perhaps merely hope) that making those objects will aid those people in achieving their individual (or collective) goals.

    This seems to be so. Now we need to look at these goals, individual & collective. Do you say that human beings try to achieve those ends or goals or purposes which they believe would be good for them or those which they believe to be bad?

    Sane humans aim for goals that are good for themselves and for those they love (and therefore good for themselves …).  Some people, not necessarily defined as insane, decide that good for themselves requires bad for someone else.

    • #77
  18. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    TG:

    Titus Techera:

    TG:

    Titus Techera:Well, ask yourself this: Why do people make all the different objects they make by the various arts & sciences?

    They make all the different objects they make because they believe (or perhaps merely hope) that making those objects will aid those people in achieving their individual (or collective) goals.

    This seems to be so. Now we need to look at these goals, individual & collective. Do you say that human beings try to achieve those ends or goals or purposes which they believe would be good for them or those which they believe to be bad?

    Sane humans aim for goals that are good for themselves and for those they love (and therefore good for themselves …). Some people, not necessarily defined as insane, decide that good for themselves requires bad for someone else.

    Sure. It would seem that Americans thought destroying all sorts of enemies was necessary for American peace after 9/11. But it would seem that they preferred not to do this before something so horrifyingly destructive happened, so that suggests a preference for peace, not war.

    But whether or not it is possible to do things that are unqualifiedly good for all or whether we are bound to be enemies, being human–a concern for what’s good for oneself & those human beings one knows best seems to guide human purpose.

    So that then is the source of all the supposedly neutral arts & sciences!

    • #78
  19. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Titus Techera:

    TG:

    Titus Techera:

    TG:

    Titus Techera:Well, ask yourself this: Why do people make all the different objects they make by the various arts & sciences?

    They make all the different objects they make because they believe (or perhaps merely hope) that making those objects will aid those people in achieving their individual (or collective) goals.

    This seems to be so. Now we need to look at these goals, individual & collective. Do you say that human beings try to achieve those ends or goals or purposes which they believe would be good for them or those which they believe to be bad?

    Sane humans aim for goals that are good for themselves and for those they love (and therefore good for themselves …). Some people, not necessarily defined as insane, decide that good for themselves requires bad for someone else.

    Sure. It would seem that Americans thought destroying all sorts of enemies was necessary for American peace after 9/11. But it would seem that they preferred not to do this before something so horrifyingly destructive happened, so that suggests a preference for peace, not war.

    But whether or not it is possible to do things that are unqualifiedly good for all or whether we are bound to be enemies, being human–a concern for what’s good for oneself & those human beings one knows best seems to guide human purpose.

    So that then is the source of all the supposedly neutral arts & sciences!

    And evil is still not inherent to any of the physical objects.  Which is what I thought we were talking about.

    • #79
  20. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    TG:

    Titus Techera:

    TG:

    Titus Techera:

    TG:

    Titus Techera:Well, ask yourself this: Why do people make all the different objects they make by the various arts & sciences?

    They make all the different objects they make because they believe (or perhaps merely hope) that making those objects will aid those people in achieving their individual (or collective) goals.

    This seems to be so. Now we need to look at these goals, individual & collective. Do you say that human beings try to achieve those ends or goals or purposes which they believe would be good for them or those which they believe to be bad?

    Sane humans aim for goals that are good for themselves and for those they love (and therefore good for themselves …). Some people, not necessarily defined as insane, decide that good for themselves requires bad for someone else.

    Sure. It would seem that Americans thought destroying all sorts of enemies was necessary for American peace after 9/11. But it would seem that they preferred not to do this before something so horrifyingly destructive happened, so that suggests a preference for peace, not war.

    But whether or not it is possible to do things that are unqualifiedly good for all or whether we are bound to be enemies, being human–a concern for what’s good for oneself & those human beings one knows best seems to guide human purpose.

    So that then is the source of all the supposedly neutral arts & sciences!

    And evil is still not inherent to any of the physical objects. Which is what I thought we were talking about.

    And here I thought we were talking about superheroes.

    • #80
  21. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    TG:And evil is still not inherent to any of the physical objects. Which is what I thought we were talking about.

    Ma’am, a lot of this depends on what satisfies you as an account of human action. If you’ve seen wood & said, that ain’t evil, & that’s the end of thinking on the matter so far as you’re concerned, there’s no use talking about it. No amount of talk can make wood, or iron, evil to attract your attention.

    But if you think the good & evil in men cannot be known aside from human action, then how good causes human action really matters. You & I seemed to me to have agreement on the condition there; but apparently, when it comes to the consequence, you are satisfied to say, I saw wood & wood wasn’t evil.

    • #81
  22. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    Titus Techera:

    TG:And evil is still not inherent to any of the physical objects. Which is what I thought we were talking about.

    Ma’am, a lot of this depends on what satisfies you as an account of human action. If you’ve seen wood & said, that ain’t evil, & that’s the end of thinking on the matter so far as you’re concerned, there’s no use talking about it. No amount of talk can make wood, or iron, evil to attract your attention.

    But if you think the good & evil in men cannot be known aside from human action, then how good causes human action really matters. You & I seemed to me to have agreement on the condition there; but apparently, when it comes to the consequence, you are satisfied to say, I saw wood & wood wasn’t evil.

    I think that you are correct that you and I agree in part.

    • #82
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