Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Philosophical Avengers Assemble!

This spring, The Avengers finally hits theaters ... and bookstores ... bringing the top heroes of the Marvel Universe together to fight forces that threaten to destroy the world. Among the plethora of media tie-ins rests one that might of particular interest to you if you're reading this blog: The Avengers and Philosophy: Earth's Mightiest Thinkers (Amazon, B&N).

My contribution to this anthology takes the form of the essay:

"Can Kang Kill His Past Self? The Paradox of Time Travel." 

The title pretty much says it all, I suppose, but for the uninitiated here's some context:

Kang is a warlord from the distant future who frequently travels through time in an effort to defeat the Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers. However, over the nearly-50 years of the Avengers' existence, Kang's recurrences in the comic book have resulted in a wide range of time paradoxes.

In the essay, I walk through three of the most significant paradoxes that arise out of the various Kang storylines and discuss how they relate to our scientific and philosophical understanding of the flow of time. For a hint of the scientific themes involved, you can also check out these posts over at About.com Physics (although the Avengers make no appearances in these articles):


If time travel isn't your thing, there are a lot of other great essays based on the Avengers' many years of adventures. For example, the nature of romantic love is examined through the life of the android The Vision. What are the ethics of being a superhero? What are the philosophical implications of having and maintaining a secret identity?

These topics all sound great, but I think my favorite title (I confess I haven't yet read the essays) is:

"I Am Made of Ink: She-Hulk and Metacomics"

She-Hulk always had a playful air about her, in part because she was (sometimes, at least) actually aware that she was a character inside a comic book. She even went so far as to directly address the readers of the comics ... not in the form of a vague narration, but flat-out looking out through the "fourth wall."

What philosophical question would you most like to see tackled in relation to the Avengers?
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