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Should Batman execute the Joker to prevent mass murder?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/21/2011 Category: Entertainment
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,346 times Debate No: 16612
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




The moral dilemma of Batman when faced with criminals who aren't afraid who go on again and again to mass murder is an interesting one. Batman claims that if he ever allowed himself an exception to his rule of not killing (in the case of the Joker), he'd never be able to go back.

The counter argument typically is that since it is well known that the Joker escapes again and again and commits mass murder, that it would be better in the grand scheme of things if Batman put a stop to that cycle by simply killing the Joker. However, such a utilitarian equation is beyond an individual's measure. Even though it might be a powerful argument from a beyondo-human scale, a human being (in this case with an emotional/moral constitution like Batman's) would not be capable of personal justification for the action. We are limited beings with our own personal coherency after all and not merely simple numbers to be whored out uncritically into some grand equation. Do we want a less functional Batman? An emotionally crippled Batman?

When utilitarian arguments weigh equally against virtue-based arguments I favor virtue since what will be better for individual moral agents will likely be better for the collection of moral agents in the grander scheme. One has a priority or bias towards oneself especially in the face of uncertainty (as utilitarian arguments often are) and this serves as the most natural tie-breaker for an individual moral agent.

We'd no longer have a Batman after going through with executing the Joker. The fundamental gap that Bruce Wayne staked out that made him who he was apart from the criminals who murdered his parents would be breached. He would be undone to the core. It is one man's personal integrity versus the hundreds of lives of others, but how many more people might Batman save in the long run with Batman still around?

To sum up (and add some other supporting points), Batman should not execute the Joker for the following reasons:

1: No one should be asked to kill someone if they don't want to do it.

2: The Joker is responsible for his own crimes, Arkham Asylum is responsible for keeping its super-villains locked down, and Batman cannot take the blame for either.

3: It is conceivable that having a functional Batman around in the *even grander* scheme of things outweighs the mass murders of the Joker since Batman has probably saved the entire world (and possibly much more than that) more than once.

(for example, Batman saves the world from a meteor at the beginning of:

4: Sending the Joker to a better prison or as Bruce Wayne donating money to help improve Arkham Asylum's security is a better option.

5: Batman is a better role model for moral minds of Gotham if he does not kill.

6: Batman needs to have a moral high ground on the majority of the criminals that he confronts in Gotham to be perceived as a legitimate force of good and not just a criminal competitor.

7: Killing escalates the kinds of conflicts Batman would have with criminals in general (not just the extreme psychopaths who will mass murder regardless) since they average criminal will be much more likely to do something even worse if they are more threatened by Batman's interference.




1: I agree, no one should be asked to kill someone if they don't want to do it. Which is the point of this debate. If we can't create an argument which would convince even Batman to kill the Joker, then Batman would certainly continue to not kill the Joker.

2: If Joker is the greatest terrorist which Gotham City knows, then bin Laden could be called the greatest terrorist New York City has known. Recall what happened when the WTC was attacked: yes, the terrorist organization which orchestrated the attacks were the ones we ultimately held responsible. But we also investigated those intelligence channels which could possibly have been seen as not protecting NYC to their full capacity. Surely Batman would not be exempt from similar examination.

3: It is conceivable that God allowing children to be born with serious illnesses and congenital disorders is the path toward the greater good. But as I know you (Ben) accept the Problem of Evil to be sufficient justification supporting disbelief in the Biblical God, I would consider this debate to be the DC U equivalent: the Problem of Joker.

4: I would consider the complete and irrevocable incapacitation through incarceration of the Joker to be the practical equivalent of simply killing him, as far as Gotham city is concerned. And yet, clearly Batman has not done so, instead opting to return him into an insecure custody situation time and time again.

5: I'm almost inclined to agree that Batman is a better role model as a non-killer, and yet, again I'm reminded of the WTC attacks. If the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 had been unable to risk taking the lives of the hijackers, they wouldn't have been able to divert the plane's trajectory away from it's path of destruction. Yes, it is conceivable that they could have created a plan which did not result in loss of life (assuming they could land the plane safely), but if they had attempted a non-lethal take-over and failed, they would have only assured the success of the the terrorist attack. Who among us would not hope that our children show such courage in a similar situation? I don't think the fact that they took a few lives - lives which were in the process of attempting to take a greater number of lives - means we condemn their actions.

6: This falsely assumes there is only one morality and only one peak which can be called "the high ground". It underestimates the ability of humans to judge one shade of grey as darker or lighter than another. Take the case of the police force, which in America has the ability to kill if necessary. Yes, they are often corrupted, but also are justified. We the people regularly show ourselves to be capable of allowing such actions in certain circumstances and condemning such actions in other circumstances. Batman could adopt a personal philosophy of non-lethality in all but the most extreme cases, and human minds are plenty capable of separating his cause from that of organized crime.

7: This argument would make perfect sense of Batman were the first responder, as it were, who then handed the situation over to the police (who have the right to kill as a last resort). Except, they're often the ones handing the situation over to him for action. Also, this sort of "don't threaten the threateners, or they'll only cause more harm" mentality can only be extended to illogical ends. Don't get a security system on your shop, or else burglars will be driven to cause more costly destruction of property in order to successfully break in without detection! What we have here is a world in which the least moral among us are the ones who set the rules of engagement. A world run by them.

I'm surprised that you didn't make the self-destruction of Batman as one of your main points, but I'll address that as well. If killing the Joker really would be the final act of Batman, would that not be something he could harness for the greater good of Gotham. Think about it: he could go out in a blaze of glory, the sacrificial lamb, the Savior of Gotham. Nobody would forget the legend, and the name of Batman would be immortalized forever, a shining beacon in the young minds and hearts of the city.

He would then be free to live life as Bruce Wayne, finally have a family, a life of his own, no longer in psychological slavery to the well-being of the city. If he wanted to remain connected with the criminal justice system, he could do what was suggested above: become a funder of the system for the betterment of the city. He could possibly fund the training of a special forces squad of the police force. Beef up security. He could use his financial influence to even force everyone through ethics training, all as Bruce Wayne. The sacrifice of Batman need not be the end of the glory of Gotham, but only the beginning.
Debate Round No. 1


1. I think Batman has made himself very clear that he is not the man for the job. Hence, it seems that you agree that Batman should not execute the Joker even to prevent mass murder.

2. Your response seems to indicate that there should merely be an *inquiry* into whether or not Batman should execute the Joker. Not that we *know* Batman should kill the Joker.

3. There is not much evidence (if any at all) that "apparent" gratuitous evils in the world promotes some kind of net good rather than being a mostly meaningless drag on the human condition that we have to waste endless resources to strive to overcome anyway. However, there is a great deal of evidence from the DC universe that Batman has saved the entire world over and over again and will likely continue to do so. I provided merely one such example in my opening statement and such examples could be easily multiplied. Surely this point is hardly controversial. Failing to execute one mass murderer in order to preserve one's emotional sanctity while doing everything else in one's power other than that to prevent those crimes does seem to add up to much greater good in the Batman's case.

4. Wikipedia says: [Bruce] Wayne is also known for his contributions to charity, notably through the Wayne Foundation, a charity devoted to helping the victims of crime and preventing people from becoming criminals.

Ultimately the choice of how to confine the Joker is up to the local authorities or the FBI. Given that the Wayne Foundation has been established as a financial force for good along these lines, I can only imagine that if sufficient resources had not been granted to Arkham to keep its insane super villians in, it must have been government red tape and not anything Batman could have done.

5. It seems obvious that most things Batman does are risky endeavors. He's a hero. He risks his life almost every day. That doesn't mean he has to kill anyone.

6. I'm not so sure most people are that skilled at moral nuance. Not killing is a big banner that it is obvious the criminals of Gotham have taken notice of (as seen in Batman Begins). Think "government takeover of health care" and how little that corresponds to reality, but how powerful a cheap message that is.

7. Commissioner Gordon at the end of Batman Begins warns of the perils of escalation. Steven Pinker (, as seen on the video on this link: speaks of instances where there is good reason to calibrate the criminal justice system so as to make sure it is not incentivizing the worst possible scenarios where a shop-lifter is compelled to murder in order to ensure the lesser probability of getting caught and supremely punished. Hence, we tone down the punishments so that only lesser crimes are committed by the most common and trivial criminal motivations.

8. To be clear, my main argument is that since Batman/Bruce Wayne is incapable at a brute emotional level of killing someone on purpose, it is better for him not to kill at a personal level and even on a global level since remaining a whole person enables him to save even more people than someone like the Joker is ever likely to murder. This isn't just the end of the mantle of Batman at a Gotham cultural level. It's about the end of the man behind the mask himself and no amount of philanthropy as Bruce Wayne would fix that situation. All of the other points are supporting points.

Maybe someone else should kill the Joker (Seal Team 6 perhaps,, but not Batman.


1&2. Are you accusing Batman to be both lacking in the ability to ever change his mind as well as being beyond the realm of logical inquiry and rebuke? If so, then we aren't talking about a man, but an idea, in which case we should re-title this debate The Batological Argument for God.

3. All you've done is provided evidence that perhaps Batman is too busy elsewhere to deal with the Joker. But the problem with this is that he then would have to either give up pretending like Gotham is his primary concern, or else he should get back to business in his hometown and leave the other regions to the plethora of other heroes found within the DC Universe (of whom I'm sure are some who can catch giant space debris). Perhaps Batman should rebrand himself as the Meteorologist the Earth Needs, not the Savior Gotham Needs?

4. So, has the Wayne Foundation used its considerable leverage to demand that further funding be contingent upon actual systematic reforms, or is he continuing to fund a shoddy operation? Surely he could find a suitable Joker-proof prison to exile the Joker to, and see through funding that continual incarceration is possible. To say this is out of his control suggests that the Wayne Foundation is an impotent charitable organization at best, and a farce at worst.

5&7. Somehow you think the impressionable youth of Gotham are too stupid to realize when lethal force is necessary and acceptable, but that criminals are totally calculating the probable levels of escalation and necessary counter-measures and taking great pains not to go beyond minimum force. If the bad guys are really that much more clever than the good guys, then maybe it's time we handed over Gotham to the more capable minds.

6. You've lost me here. It's almost like you're admitting that "no really, I totally never kill anyone, even to save lives" is a powerful and cheap message on par with government takeover of health care. And actually, I agree, it's good PR if you want to maintain your (mostly) unrivaled position within the dominant power structure. But with great power comes great responsibility - wait, scratch that, wrong comic universe.

8. "no amount of philanthropy as Bruce Wayne would fix that situation" You lack imagination.

Who would be the equivalent of Seal Team 6 in the DC Universe? Hmm... maybe, THE GODDAMN BATMAN?
Debate Round No. 2


WarOnERROR forfeited this round.


Since you forgot to post your previous argument, I'll go easy on you and submit as my final argument this link:; The true reason Batman won't execute the Joker? They can totally milk a few dozen more comics/movies out of this trope before everyone gets tired of it. $$
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by i8JoMomma 7 years ago
batman should execute everyone in this corrupt government and if he can't.....we should
Posted by TheNerd 7 years ago
Proof that killing someone isn't antithetical to attaining hero status among our youth:
Posted by Maikuru 7 years ago
Some reading you might enjoy:

Batman is Partially Responsible for the Crimes of the Joker
Posted by TheNerd 7 years ago
Thanks! We try. :)
Posted by jar2187 7 years ago
This debate is inspiring :-D
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:01 
Reasons for voting decision: Very nice arguments from both sides, conduct point to Nerd for the forfeit. By the way, The Batman did take out the Joker in the Dark Knight Returns by breaking his neck.