Well, it's time to let the Cap out of the bag... I'm very pleased to announce my next book, The Virtues of Captain America: Modern-Day Lessons on Character from a World War II Superhero, which will be published by Wiley-Blackwell next March ahead of the film sequel Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. (If you're so inclined, you can pre-order it now from Amazon.)
Unlike the books I edited or co-edited for the Blackwell Philosophy and Popular Culture series (such as Batman and Philosophy), this one is written solely by me—for better or for worse! Also, rather than presenting a survey of philosophical ideas presented through the lens of its topic, The Virtues of Captain America has a specific focus: showing how the "old-fashioned" ethical code of Steve Rogers is just as essential today as it was in the past, not only as a role model for individual character but also as a way out of America's current political divisiveness.
I had several goals in mind as I wrote this book:
- Similar to the approach of the Blackwell Philosophy and Popular Culture series, in this book I introduce basic concepts of moral philosophy, especially virtue ethics, using examples drawn from decades of Captain America stories. In particular, I wanted to address the complexity of moral decision-making, for which simple rules, formulas, and virtues can be a guide but never the final answer. For this reason, judgment is a constant theme in the book (and takes up an entire chapter in itself).
- I wanted to address the perception that Captain America's ethical code is anachronistic, simplistic, and "black and white." As I argue throughout the book, none of these could be farther from the truth. The ideals that ground Cap's ethics are timeless, and while his core principles may be simple, the process of using judgment to balance them to make moral decisions in specific circumstances is anything but black-and-white, as Cap shows time and time again in the comics.
- More ambitiously, I wanted to show that Captain America's relationship to his country—in particular, the way he emphasizes principle over politics—can help Americans in the real world to start to heal our radical political divisions. If we focus, as Cap does, on the core ideals of justice, equality, and liberty that Americans share, we can better put into context our differences of opinion regarding how best to put these ideals into practice.
- And, most personally, I wanted to share my love of this classic superhero character through his decades of stories in comics such as Captain America, Avengers, and the countless other titles in which he's appeared over the years (hundreds of which are cited in the book). In the process, I also pay tribute to the dozens of talented creators who have crafted his stories, starting with Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, and Stan Lee, and continung with legends such as Jim Sternako, J.M. DeMatteis, Mark Waid, Ed Brubaker, and Paul Jenkins (just to name a few).
I'm sure to bombard you with more details and sneak peeks as the book approaches publication, but for the time being, you might like the following articles and blog posts I've written about Cap in the past (many of which laid the groundwork for the book):
- My Captain America op-ed from 2011, published in both The San Diego Union-Tribune and The Washington Times (PDF of print version), which serves well as an abstract of the book. (In fact, it was a large part of the proposal for it.)
- "Can Captain America Heal a Divided Nation?", at The Good Men Project (as well as here), which uses a storyline from the Ultimate Marvel Universe (not covered in my book) to address the issue of principle versus politics.
- "Are Captain America's Ethics Too Old-Fashioned for the 21st Century?", a blog post at Psychology Today that addresses the anachronist and "black-and-white" issues about Cap's moral code.
- "Can Captain America Show Us How to Be More Cosmopolitan?", a more recent Psychology Today blog post addressing Cap's worldly brand of patriotism.
- Another piece from The Good Men Project extolling several of Cap's virtues, along with my GMP review of the first Cap movie.
- A piece from this very blog discussing Cap's sense of authority in the context of Stoic thought. (You can also click on Captain America at the right to see more posts on him, not all of which are worth listing here.)
Finally, I discussed Captain America, directly or indirectly, in a number of chapters in the Blackwell Philosophy and Popular Culture series:
- "Captain America and the Virtue of Modesty," in Superheroes: The Best of Philosophy and Pop Culture, edited by William Irwin, a free e-book collecting chapters from superhero-themed books in the series along with exclusive chapters on Cap and Thor.
- "Superhuman Ethics Class with the Avengers Prime," a survey of the three main schools of ethics using Thor, Iron Man, and Cap, from my edited volume The Avengers and Philosophy: Earth's Mightiest Thinkers. (Note that here, Cap is cast as the deontologist while Thor is the virtuous one; in The Virtues of Captain America I explain why virtue ethics and deontology both help to characterize Cap's ethics.)
- "Did Iron Man Kill Captain America?", an essay addressing Tony Stark's role in the Marvel "Civil War," particularly in contrast to Cap (another recurring theme in my new book), from my edited volume Iron Man and Philosophy: Facing the Stark Reality.
- "'My Name is Peter Parker': Unmasking the Right and the Good," in which I cast Peter Parker as the prize in Iron Man and Cap's moral tug-of-war during the Civil War, from J.J. Sanford's edited volume Spider-Man and Philosophy: The Web of Inquiry. (I revisit this theme in this blog post.)