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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

THEORETICAL GOODNESS, PRACTICAL VIOLENCE

I've noticed, in my process of responding to Noah Berlatsky, that in several essays he has asserted that superhero narratives conflate goodness with violence.

I won't say that they never do.  But I don't think that this is the representative intent behind even the simplest of them.

Rather, in superhero narratives specifically, and combative narratives generally, the intent is not that the two are identical, but that they are linked.

In always-handy Wikipedia I read:

In Ancient Greek the word praxis (πρᾶξις) referred to activity engaged in by free men. Aristotle held that there were three basic activities of man: theoria, poiesis and praxis. There corresponded to these kinds of activity three types of knowledge: theoretical, to which the end goal was truth; poietical, to which the end goal was production; and practical, to which the end goal was action.

Many later philosophers put aside "poiesis" and focuses upon what we have come to call "theoria and praxis," or "theory and practice."

It seems obvious to me that this is the vital linkage one sees in combative narratives that focus upon a hero winning over various menaces is also one of "theory and practice."

For example, regard this page from a war-era issue of the Golden Age Captain America:




At no time does the page stress that Captain America and Bucky are good because they are powerful.  Rather, after they have beaten the evil members of a criminal Bund, they conflate the worship of pure power with Nazism, and scorn the idea of hitting "men who are licked."

Does the authors-- presumably Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for the most part-- affirm that violence is a practical necessity?  Obviously so.  But the "theory" is goodness, and its superiority is borne out by the willingness of good men to fight for it in practice.

Thus, in contrast to Adin Bellou's famous aphorism "might makes right," what this page best illustrates is Abraham Lincoln's reversal on Bellou's formula:


Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.




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