Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Physical Courage=Moral Courage?

There are a lot of things to say about the recent New Yorker issue piece on Oriana Fallaci. She is certainly quite a character and quite a bit frightening. But upon finishing this piece I found myself meditating on her pronouncement that

I have reached the conclusion that those who have physical courage also have moral courage,” she said. “Physical courage is a great test.”

I find this a to be an attractive notion, but I am a bit horrified by my attraction to this notion. Perhaps I find it romantic to think that if one is willing to risk their life for a belief, then one is more capable of doing the right thing in a rather dire situation. SteveG recently wrote on Haditha and how silly the official response was to this horror, namely to offer ethics courses. SteveG points out that figuring out what the right thing to do is not hard; having moral courage is.

So what does it take to have moral courage? Does it indeed demand a kind of physical courage? And if so, what kind--the willingness to die for a cause (Socrates) or a core toughness (Nietzsche)?