03 November 2008

"a wonderful thing happens"

Some day in the study of virtue it might actually be useful to study what those who clearly have a virtue say about it.   Consider for instance these remarks of Col. John Ripley, who died today, an American Marine who led 600 men in battle against 20,000 Vietnamese soldiers: "When you know you're not going to make it, a wonderful thing happens.  You stop being cluttered by the feeling that you're going to save your butt."


Here's a serious warrior reflecting on how something 'wonderful' happens in battle when you cease caring about your own ...  (it's essential to the sentiment that one say) butt.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

It might be a problem that those of us who are attracted to moral philosophy in the first place tend to be pretty morally confused people -- though, if we believe Seneca, the fact that we even perceive this about ourselves shows that at least we're making progress.

There is probably a reason why the most virtuous people aren't moral philosophers. Whether there's something about moral philosophy that makes us less likely to become virtuous people -- well, that's a different story.

Anonymous said...

...it might actually be useful to study what those who clearly have a virtue say about it.

Apart from assuming that we know of people who clearly have a vitue, this also assumes (maybe more problematically) that we or they will be able to identify when they're saying things about the virtue which they (presumably) have, rather than about some other thing that is (perhaps) only marginally or even accidentally related to the virtue.

terravitan said...

Doug Walton published a wonderful book some time ago, COURAGE: A PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATION (U Cal, 1986), focused on CMH and VC recipients. I agree that if we wish to learn anything really useful about andreia, we need to put aside taxonomic works like the EE or NE, and study the living paradeigmata.

Michael Pakaluk said...

Thanks for the tip about Walton's book. I went to Amazon to order it, but apparently it is out of print. There is one used copy for sale, price $335!!

Anonymous said...

Which part of virtue was it that allowed Col. John Ripley to miss the fact that he was part of an unjust war?

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