Introduction

Pow! Bang! Kaboom! Superhero stories, first arriving on the scene in the late 1930s, are now among the most popular forms of global entertainment. From Superman's embrace of truth, justice, and the American way to Wonder Woman's efforts at promoting peace rather than war, from Spider-Man's personal struggles at balancing his romantic life with his crime-fighting exploits to the X-Men's social struggles with combating prejudice and antagonism, the world has turned its attention to these colorful and larger-than-life narratives, which first emerged in comic books and radio shows but now are also widely found in film, television, and video games. This course leverages the enthusiasm over superheroes to introduce students to core areas of philosophy—metaphysics and epistemology, social and political philosophy, ethics, philosophy of mind, and more. By directly engaging these fantastic narratives, it demonstrates that behind the four-colored panels are stories and characters of depth and complexity, affording us many opportunities to learn important and substantive philosophical ideas in a fresh and exciting way.

Meet The Faculty

Christopher Robichaud

Christopher Robichaud

Lecturer in Ethics and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

Christopher Robichaud is a lecturer in ethics and public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His interests focus on areas in ethics, political philosophy, and social epistemology. Robichaud has been a member of the faculty since 2006. He also teaches at the Harvard Extension School. Previously, he has taught philosophy courses at Texas A&M University, the University of Vermont in Burlington, and Tufts University.

Robichaud is dedicated to bringing philosophical ideas to a wider audience, and pursues this goal by looking at issues in moral and political philosophy that arise in pop culture stories, especially superhero narratives. His articles can be found in multiple volumes, including Superheroes and Philosophy (Open Court, 2005), Supervillains and Philosophy (Open Court, 2009), and Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014). He recently contributed online content to the EdX Smithsonian course, "The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture."

Robichaud is currently pursuing the pedagogical goal of gamifying certain components of the curriculum at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Extension School. His efforts in using gameplay to facilitate learning have been incorporated into areas ranging from the core masters in public policy curriculum and some executive education programs at the Harvard Kennedy School to active weekend learning exercises at the Harvard Extension School.

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