Overall, this entry in Blackwell's "Philosophy and Popular Culture" series is a solid effort that explores philosophical themes found in the Green Lantern comic book series. It is well-structured, and covers a number of different areas in philosophy: reason vs. emotion, ethics, friends and relationships, duty, metaphysics and power. There is a Notes section after each chapter, nine of which refer the reader to other essays in the collection. The number of Green Lantern comics referred to in the Notes sections show that either an incredible amount of research went into these essays, or that the contributors must really know Green Lantern inside and out. This book has two editors, and four of the contributors wrote two essays. (Both editors are in this group.) Personally, I find this a bit worrisome. I wonder why this happened, and if it affected the range and quality of the essays, and if it should have been avoided.
As is usual in any collection of essays, some are weak, a few are excellent, and most fall in between. In my opinion, weak essays were ones that loaded up on philosophers and read like a survey course or encyclopedia entry (chps. 2, 3, 15), may have identified solid themes yet failed to develop them in an engaging manner (chps. 7, 13, 16), or had no mention of any philosophers (chp. 4). Leonard Finkleman's "All for One and One for All" (chp. 15) asks how the power ring could identify a prospective Green Lantern candidate. Although an excellent theme, nevertheless, the essay was pedantic and exhausting in its execution. It felt like the History of Philosophy in eleven pages! Paul R. Jaissle's "Green Mind: The Book of Oa, the Lantern Corps, and Peirce's Theory of Communal Mind" (chp. 16) looks at how each and every Green Lantern relies on the combined knowledge of the entire Green Lantern Corps. However, it merely presents Charles Sanders Peirce's ideas on the subject, and does not develop the theme. Andrew Terjesen's "Will They Let Just Anybody Join?: Testing for Moral Judgment in the Green Lantern Corps" (chp. 4) did not mention any philosophers. I feel that it is important that essays such as these mention at least one philosopher. Doing so "anchors" the essay. To do otherwise is to simply present one's unsupported opinions. I don't need to buy a book to get one of those.
Three essays stood out as being excellent. They were excellent in that they each indentified a theme and wove it together with at least one philosopher's ideas. Jane Dryden's "The Greatest Green Lantern: Aesthetic Admiration and the Praiseworthy Hero" looked at three Green Lanterns and applied Hegel's definition of the tragic hero. Tragic heroes may be aesthetically pleasing to the audience, but their actions bring about their downfall. Nicolas Michaud's "There Should Be No Forgiveness for Hal Jordan" uses three contemporary philosophers to explore the theme of moral responsibility. Adam Barkman's "The Ring of Gyges, the Ring of the Green Lantern, and the Temptation of Power" uses Plato's theory of desire and power to determine whether three Green Lanterns behaved immorally for reasons other than ignorance. For Plato, ignorance is the cause of immorality.
If there was one essay that disappointed me, it was Ruth Tallman's and Jason Southworth's "The Oaths of Soranik Natu: Can a Doctor Be a Green Lantern?" This essay strangely asks whether one can be both a good doctor and a good Green Lantern. Reading further into the essay, one learns about Soranik Natu, who was a doctor before she became a Green Lantern. The essay is concerned about the ethical issues involved when a person has sworn two oaths that might conflict under some circumstances. On the one hand, targeting the Green Lantern oath as a theme was brilliant, as this is more than likely the first thing that comes to mind when anyone thinks of the Green Lantern. "In brightest day, in blackest night..." However, the execution of the essay was poor, indeed sloppy and haphazard, with two contemporary philosophers being introduced, briefly, at the last minute. I feel that, given the theme, Kant's deontological ethics could have been applied, or even the concept of "principalism" from biomedical ethics. The theme of this essay, that one can swear two oaths that may conflict, is a perfect example of how different moral rules may conflict. Kant's deontological ethics has been criticized for its failure to address what one should do when such rules conflict, whereas in biomedical ethics, it's acknowledged that there should be some rank ordering of virtues, that is, given the situation, some virtues are more important than others. So, what is probably the most relevant theme in the Green Lantern universe, the oath, was handled sloppily. Not what I've come to expect from an essay that was crafted (in part) by Ruth Tallman. Perhaps this is an argument for essays having only one author each?
In re typos, I only have three questions. (1) Right after the cover page, "Spider-Man and Philosophy" is listed. However, the Wiley-Blackwell website shows this as coming out in May 2012. (2) P. 261, "location" s/b "locations". (3) In the "Contributors" section, should Terjesen's entry have "without" or "with" fear of clowns?
A solid entry in the Blackwell series, but I feel that it will appeal more to Green Lantern fans. Four stars. John V. Karavitis, John Karavitis, Karavitis