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Iron Man vs. Captain America and Philosophy 

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ISBN 978-0-8126-9976-0


x + 276 pages


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Iron Man vs. Captain America and Philosophy

Give Me Liberty or Keep Me Safe

Edited by Nicolas Michaud and Jessica Watkins
Volume 115 in the Popular Culture and Philosophy® series

A House Divided . . .

Marvel’s Civil War was a glorious moment. Even before the movie, the epic clash of so many heroes was huge. What was really important, though, wasn’t the awesomeness of seeing the good guys try to beat each other silly, it was seeing the matchup of two titans: Captain America and Iron Man. And we were all motivated to read on, not just because we wanted to know which one would kick the most ass, but because we wanted to know who was right! And that’s what this book is all about . . .

The book you have in your hands is a little unusual. Often, philosophy and popular culture books explore many aspects of a pop culture phenomenon. This book focuses on one specific question, “Who is better?” You might think that there isn’t much to say on this issue, and we’re sure you have your own opinion already, but comparing Captain America and Iron Man brings out a lot of questions and problems we don’t normally think about.

The reason why these two men in philosophical competition with each other is so important and terrifying isn’t just because they are the good guys, but because they are both our good guys. Let’s be honest, Iron man isn’t exactly a Communist superhero, and Captain America is well Captain America.

Tony Stark is the poster boy for capitalism. In fact, Stan Lee created him specifically to see if he could make people love a ragingly selfish capitalist. Captain America was created originally as a kind of propaganda to support our war effort . . . his first issue shows him punching Hitler! BOTH represent key aspects of the United States: Our economic, social philosophy “competition makes things better” and the ideas of patriotism, liberty, and just doing the right thing.

When these heroes fight, they’re revealing something we know at the core of our being is both a tremendous strength and a tremendous danger in our society . . . We are at intellectual war with ourselves! And we don’t just mean liberals and conservatives, religious and non-religious, Ford and Chevy. We mean each of us living here in the States embodies a fight between these two men and their philosophies . . . the unsolvable problem of safety vs. freedom.

So, let’s get to it . . .

Ding! Ding!

“In a world of nuclear threats, gun violence, despotic leaders, and general meanness, should our hero be a big, red, billionaire rebel who works for the government, or the blue, star-clad icon who regularly stands for his ideals against America? With something for movie fans, metaphysicians, and everyone in between, Iron Man vs. Captain America and Philosophy is a superhero-packed, true-believers’ adventure destined to enlighten, entertain, and get you to think deeply about what it means to be a hero in this crazy world.”

—Courtland Lewis, author of Way of the Doctor: Doctor Who’s Pocketbook Guide to the Good Life (2017)

“Here’s a wonderful justification for so many of us who grew up poring over superhero comics and then went on to follow our favorites at the movies. The classic stories, like those of Captain America and Iron Man are full of philosophical wisdom about life. Iron Man vs. Captain America and Philosophy succeeds very well in drawing out some of the deeper and more meaningful lessons to be found in the exploits of these super characters.”

— Tom Morris, bestselling author of The Oasis Within (2015) and Philosophy for Dummies (1999)

“Both Iron Man and Captain America strike at the heart of such big-picture ideals as virtue, moral obligation, and just what it means to be a good person (and who gets to decide). Iron Man vs. Captain America and Philosophy explores not just the comics and movies themselves, but how various nuanced issues have played out throughout history and, more importantly, in our current society. Because we’re all superheroes of our own life stories, this is a brilliantly illuminating read for everyone.”

— Jack Bowen, author of The Dream Weaver: One Boy’s Journey through the Landscape of Reality

“A choice between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers says a lot about the world we live in and the world we want to live in. A war between heroes reflects a conflict between different philosophies of life. This volume does a terrific job of untangling some of the implications of these archetypal superheroes for politics, religion, ethics, psychology, and even metaphysics.”

— Ray Scott Percival, author of The Myth of the Closed Mind: Understanding Why and How People Are Rational (2012)

Nicolas Michaud teaches philosophy at Florida State College Jacksonville. He edited Adventure Time and Philosophy: The Handbook for Heroes (2015) and Discworld and Philosophy: Reality is Not What It Seems (2016). Jessica Watkins co-edited Jurassic Park and Philosophy: The Truth Is Terrifying (2014).

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