The following paper was prepared for Dr. Jeremy Evan’s introductory philosophy class.
Among the many interesting philosophical tangles woven into The Dark Knight by the Nolan brothers, one of the most interesting is the film’s implicit contrast between a set of conflicting moral visions: the constrained utilitarianism of Batman himself, the nihilistic amoralism proclaimed by the Joker, and the quiet objectivism displayed by Lucius Fox and Rachel Dawes. Of these, Batman’s utilitarianism is both most dynamic and most interesting in the broader context of the Nolan canon. The objectivist position of Fox and Dawes and the anarchist angle espoused by the Joker are both essentially static points that provide contrasts with Batman’s philosophy throughout the second film. Meanwhile, the ethical dilemmas Bruce faces here provoke him to confront at a deeper level the questions raised by the radical utilitarianism of the League of Shadows in the movies that precede and follow The Dark Knight. As a result, Batman transforms from the idealistic, restrained utilitarian—at times almost an objectivist—of the first movie into a compromised, decidedly not objectivist utilitarian by the conclusion of the second film. Read on, intrepid explorer →