Is Batman a Liar, Part II

Being uncomfortable with my reasoning from the previous post, I recruited the help of David from Life’s Private Book.  See the post, as well as my ensuing comment.

It seems that even if Batman is not guilty of a lie per se, he is still guilty of a sin against charity.  Assume that a mother asks her child whether he stole a cookie out of the cookie jar.  It would be wrong for the child to attempt to deceive his mother with an equivocal answer, tricking her with a statement which is true, but does not tell the whole truth.  The mother is a legitmate authority attempting to enforce a just law against someone obviously within her jurisdiction.  The child is being untruthful and uncharitable towards his mother.

The question is, which of my examples seems more akin to the situation in the Batman movie:  the example from my previous post about tricking a goalie in soccer, or the one just given?  It seems obvious that the latter is much more akin to Batman’s deception:  Gothom’s police force seems to be justified in knowing the truth, as they are just authorities enforcing a just law, etc. 

Those, contra my first post it seems Batman is still guilty of a sin, given a Christian worldview.

Explore posts in the same categories: Philosophy, Uncategorized

8 Comments on “Is Batman a Liar, Part II”

  1. […] to Mount Carmel Itinerarium Mentis in Paulum « How Much is Your Blog Worth? Is Batman a Liar, Part II […]

  2. Mike L Says:


    It seems that The Dark Knight has provoked a good deal of philosophical reflection. See


  3. Genna Says:

    All of this sounds like the discussions I have with my dad (an ethics lawyer) in the car during our commutes every day. I would have to agree with you, Paul, that Batman is not a liar. However, he may have been dishonest in some way. It rather reminds me of a bluff in a card game, requiring cunning but not a full-out lie. I will have to think about it some more…and talk to my dad on the way in to work tomorrow. 😉

  4. phamilton Says:


    I read your post, and enjoyed it as always. I hope you keep posting on a daily basis because any post of yours is an enjoyable break from some (perhaps) more tedious reading.


    Since you’re such an Anglophile, I think you’d appreciate this story. When King Henry VIII broke away from the Church, the Jesuits went to England in an attempt to reconvert the people. However, they were frequently killed or imprisoned because the authorities would approach them and ask them if they were Catholic priests. Since they couldn’t lie, they were killed.

    Then, a book called “A Treatise on Equivocation” was released, which taught the Jesuits the art of equivocating without ever lying. Examples of this are given in my first Batman post. Since the authorities had no right to the information they are seeking, and because they were enforcing an unjust law, the Jesuits argued that a bit of deception wasn’t wrong. So, for instance, if someone asked them if they had been saying Mass, they could say that they had merely been in their house preparing a meal!

    There is a story (perhaps untrue) that Athanasius was sailing away at night from his persecutors. One of them saw Athanasius, but without recognizing him. He asked the saint if he had seen Athanasius, to which the saint is said to have replied, “you are not far from him!”

    I think one can come up with any number of plausible situations in which someone seeks the truth from you without having the right to that information. There is a set of criteria which is helpful for determining when the seeker has a right to the information, some of which include whether they are a lawful authority, enforcing a just law, etc. So, for instance, it is not right for a child trying to dodge his mother’s enquiries in order to avoid just punishment. However, a deception in a card game does not seem wrong, for all parties seem to be agreeing to allow such deception.

    The problem is, it seems that a good case can be made that the Gotham Police force had a legitimate right to the truth.

  5. David Says:


    Do you think it is correct to judge Batman given a Christian worldview? Or is the world in which Batman lives, and that grounds the context of his moral reason, a post-Christian world?

  6. phamilton Says:


    Part of me says yes, another part says no. Assume for a second that the Dark Knight were not a work of fiction, but was rather an accurate account of events happening in Washinton DC. As a Christian, I have no other worldview by which to judge Batman’s actions other than the one I’ve got. I find this “account” to be interesting because it is helping me to attempt to apply Catholic moral principles to a very interesting case.

    However, the other part of me understands and appreciates the perspective you have taken in your blog entries. I just finished reading Jane Austen’s “Emma,” and several people have told me that they hated the character Emma because she often does horribly immoral things. Several times, I have tried to explain to people that they will not fully appreciate Jane Austen until they check their own world view at the door. It’s not that Austen’s own worldview was too different than our own Christian (and Aristotelian!) worldview. It’s just that she is such a master of her craft precisely because she is able to create diverse, complex characters with competing worldviews. In order to appreciate her writing fully, I tell people that they need to allow themselves to “get inside the head” of, e.g. Emma, or any of her other characters. It’s only when they allow Jane Austen to tell her story without letting ourselves get in her way that we can fully appreciate the complexity of her characters and the genius of her writing.

    So with regards to Batman, I can fully appreciate someone who chooses to view the movie on its own terms. As a matter of fact, a person who did not judge the movie on its own terms wouldn’t be a very good film critic. However, in my posts I am not so much interested in being a film critic as I am in doing Christian philosophy.

  7. David Says:


    I take your point, and I agree with your analysis as it flows from a Christian perspective.

    We probably agree that our moral knowledge comes from two sources: 1) Knowledge of the natural law (available in principle to everyone) and 2) Revelation (available to those who have heard the Gospel.) Even from a Christian perspective, is it appropriate to judge a non-Christian by moral standards derived from the Gospel? What prompted my comment was your use of the phrase “sin against charity”, which seems to have Revelation as its foundation.

  8. phamilton Says:


    Interesting point. I wasn’t sure what to think of your reply when I first read it, but I think you may be right. I may need to think a little bit more, though.

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