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Avatar: The Last Airbender and Philosophy

Wisdom from Aang to Zuko

De Cruz, Helen / De Smedt, Johan (Herausgeber)

The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series (Band Nr. 1)


1. Auflage Dezember 2022
288 Seiten, Softcover
Wiley & Sons Ltd

ISBN: 978-1-119-80980-7
John Wiley & Sons

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Would our world be a better place if some of us were benders?

Can Katara repair the world through care?

Is Toph a disability pride icon?

What does it mean for Zuko to be bad at being good?

Can we tell whether uncle Iroh is a fool or a sage?

The world is out of sorts. The four nations, Water, Earth, Fire, and Air, are imbalanced because of the unrelenting conquest of the Fire Nation. The only one who can restore balance to the world is the Avatar. On the face of it, Avatar: The Last Airbender is a story about a lone superhero. However, saving the world is a team effort, embodied in Team Avatar, aka the Gaang. Aang needs help from his friends and tutors, even from non-human animals. Through the teachings of Guru Pathik and Huu he comes to realize that though the world and its nations seem separate, we are all one people. We all have the same roots and we are all branches of the same tree.

Avatar: The Last Airbender and Philosophy brings to the fore the Eastern, Western, and Indigenous philosophies that are implicit in the show. Following Uncle Iroh's advice that it is important to draw wisdom from many traditions, this volume features contributions by experts on Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian, and Indigenous schools of thought, next to focusing on Western classical authors such as Plotinus, Kant, and Merleau-Ponty. The volume is also unique in drawing on less common traditions such as black abolitionism, anarchism, and the philosophy of martial arts.

Intertwining experience and reflection, ATLA and Philosophy helps readers to deeply engage with today's burning questions, such as how to deal with ecological destruction, the aftermath of colonialism and genocide, and wealth inequality, using the tools from a wide range of philosophical traditions.

Contributors: Drawing Wisdom from Many Different Places viii

Preface xvi
Aaron Ehasz

Introduction: "We are all one people, but we live as if divided" 1
Helen De Cruz and Johan De Smedt

Part I: The Universe of Avatar: The Last Airbender 5

1 Native Philosophies and Relationality in Avatar: The Last Airbender: It's (Lion) Turtles All the Way Down 7
Miranda Belarde-Lewis(Zuni/Tlingit) and Clementine Bordeaux(Sicangu Oglala Lakota)

2 Getting Elemental: How Many Elements Are There in Avatar: The Last Airbender? 16
Sofia Ortiz-Hinojosa

3 The Personalities of Martial Arts in Avatar: The Last Airbender 25
Zachary Isrow

4 The End of the World: Nationhood and Abolition in Avatar: The Last Airbender 34
Nicholas Whittaker

5 The Bending World, a Bent World: Supernatural Power and Its Political Implications 43
Yao Lin

Part II: Water 53

6 Avatar: The Last Airbender and Anishinaabe Philosophy 55
Brad Cloud

7 "Lemur!" - "Dinner!": Human-Animal Relations in Avatar: The Last Airbender 63
Daniel Wawrzyniak

8 On the Moral Neutrality of Bloodbending 71
Johnathan Flowers

9 On the Ethics of Bloodbending: Why Is It So Wrong and Can It Ever Be Good? 79
Mike Gregory

10 Mystical Rationality 88
Isaac Wilhelm

11 "I will never, ever turn my back on people who need me": Repairing the World Through Care 98
Nicole Fice

12 Spirits, Visions, and Dreams: Native American Epistemology and the Aang Gaang 105
Justin Skirry and Samuel Skirry

Part III: Earth 115

13 Time Is an Illusion: Time and Space in the Swamp 117
Natalia Strok

14 There Is No Truth in Ba Sing Se: Bald-faced Lies and the Nature of Lying 124
Nathan Kellen

15 The Rocky Terrain of Disability Gain in Avatar: The Last Airbender: Is Toph a Supercrip Stereotype or a Disability Pride Icon? 133
Joseph A. Stramondo

16 The Earth King, Ignorance, and Responsibility 143
Saba Fatima

17 The Middle Way and the Many Faces of Earth 150
Thomas Arnold

Part IV: Fire 159

18 The Battle Within: Confucianism and Legalism in the Nation, the Family, and the Soul 161
Kody W. Cooper

19 Not Giving Up on Zuko: Relational Identity and the Stories We Tell 170
Barrett Emerick and Audrey Yap

20 Uncle Iroh, From Fool to Sage - Or Sage All Along? 178
Eric Schwitzgebel and David Schwitzgebel

21 Being Bad at Being Good: Zuko's Transformation and Residual Practical Identities 188
Justin F. White

22 Compassion and Moral Responsibility in Avatar: The Last Airbender: "I was never angry; I was afraid that you had lost your way" 197
Robert H. Wallace

Part V: Air 207

23 The Fire Nation and the United States: Genocide as the Foundation for Empire Building 209
Kerri J. Malloy

24 Anarchist Airbenders: On Anarchist Philosophy in Avatar: The Last Airbender 216
Savriël Dillingh

25 A Buddhist Perspective on Energy Bending, Strength, and the Power of Aang's Spirit 225
Nicholaos Jones and Holly Jones

26 Ahimsa and Aang's Dilemma: "Everyone . . . [has] to be treated like they're worth giving a chance" 235
James William Lincoln

27 The Avatar Meets the Karmapa: Interconnections, Friendship, and Moral Training 242
Brett Patterson

Index 251
HELEN DE CRUZ holds the Danforth Chair in the Humanities and is a Professor of Philosophy at Saint Louis University, Missouri. She has edited and co-edited several works of public philosophy, including Philosophy Through Science Fiction Stories and Philosophy Illustrated.

JOHAN DE SMEDT is a Research Professor (non-tenure track) at Saint Louis University, Missouri, where he is co-leading a project on oneness and interconnectedness. He is the author and editor (with Helen De Cruz) of The Challenge of Evolution to Religion, Empirically Engaged Evolutionary Ethics, and A Natural History of Natural Theology.