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Why Doesn't Batman Just Kill The Joker?

First Joker commits a crime, then Batman catches him and locks him up. Then, Joker invariably escapes and the cycle starts anew. So, wouldn't it be far easier if Batman just killed his archnemesis? What's stopping him?

That wasn't an idle comic store chit-chat - rather it was an example given by philosophy professors to introduce coursework:

William Irwin, a philosophy professor at King's College in Pennsylvania, edits the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, which includes titles such as Batman and Philosophy, and X-Men and Philosophy.

He says there's nothing unusual about using popular references to illustrate complex theories.

"This is what philosophy has tried to do from the very beginning," he says. "Philosophy starts with Socrates in the streets of Athens taking his message to the people and speaking in their language - agricultural analogies and common mythology."

Katie Connolly of BBC News writes about the growing use of comic book characters to teach philosophy: Link - via Cliff Pickover's Reality Carnival


He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

-- Friedrich Nietzsche

A favorite quote of mine. You must be carefull not to become that which you detest and feel is wrong, and you can't let your obessions pull you in to the point you no longer have any control. It's a struggle Batman faces on many occations, knowing that if he locks him up he'll just escape again, but he if he goes too far he'll end up no better then the Joker himself.
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Batman used to kill in the Detective Comics and World's Finest days but stopped with the Batman comic. It is generally accepted that the first issue, where he shot some giants to death, was what made Whitney Ellsworth tell Kane and Finger that Batman could not kill anymore.

As a character trait his refusal to kill was influenced by his dad who was a doctor. He also refuses to cross the line because of his parents being killed.

614 is a good issue to read, he almost kills the Joker but Gordon talks him out of it.
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I can understand why Batman hasn't killed the Joker and why the Joker hasn't killed Batman. What I really cannot understand is why the people of Gothman have not killed the Joker.

With all the damage and death the Joker has caused you would think he would have run into somebody in the many jails/institutions that would want him dead and would have had also had the means to do so.
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Batman wants to bring criminals to justice, not to just be a vigilante.

Plus, since he doesn't kill anyone, the police and the mayor and the people of Gotham can be fully behind him. He's a unifying force. If he killed his foes, he couldn't have the unconditional support of the community. It's great for your little ones to idolize someone who's a caped crusader for justice, sort of a super cop with a mask instead of a badge, but harder to let them idolize someone who kills people without a fair trial. If you kill, even if they were "bad guys", the police have to arrest you and put you on trial. Batman doesn't have to deal with any of that. He gets to be the beloved hero and protector of the city he loves.
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I don't think it's that easy.

Consider this: if the Joker kills on average 5 people a year in his mayhem, and Batman catches him and he invariably escapes, isn't Batman responsible - no matter how peripherally - for those 5 deaths every year?

Would Batman kill Hitler to save millions of lives? Or would he make an exception? If he'd kill to save a million lives, would he kill to save a hundred thousand? A thousand? Ten?
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@Alex

But is it Batman's job, or is it the job of the court/law to make that decision? We might as well condemn the whole system if that is the case.
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@seekshelter and @gauldar: But why is it Batman's job to apprehend the Joker in the first place? Isn't that the job of the police?

So. For all practical purposes, Batman is involved. The philosophical question is: If he could save the lives of the Joker's future victims but didn't - is he in a way responsible for their deaths?

Is Batman's inaction (or refusal to kill the Joker and be done with it) a morally wrong choice?
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Technically no its not morally wrong to not kill someone for the sake of protecting potential victims if batman ever did kill someone it probably be in a indirect way like we almost saw in the Dark Knight.
Joker's going come on come on knowing that the bat would act through this process but at the last second Batman decides not too.
@Alex if you went back in time and killed Hitler do you know what is most likely to happen. Someone worse would come along. and if you killed him someone worse would come along. Until the world erupted in a nuclear holocaust. It's the philosophical butterfly flapping its wings
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Batman operates outside the law, so society's rules don't bind him. The only restraint is his own moral code. People are really good at justifying our own behavior, making exceptions and violations of rules we accept seem valid to ourselves. Batman doesn't want to go down that slope and become a murderous psychopath, so he made one iron clad rule and he sticks to it at all costs.

I think those who mentioned Rorschach and Nietzsche are spot on.
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