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realitycheck44

A Definition of Hero

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So I have to right a paper discussing Marx's idea that after the mid-19th century, there could be no more heroes. We read a work by Tolstoy (The Death of Ivan Ilych), and we're supposed to use that and other sources from 1850 - 1900 to support or disagree with Marx's quote. I plan on using Hugo's Ninety Three and Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter to counter Marx's statement. But I can't seem to come up with a good definition of a hero. It sounds easy, but I'm actually having a difficult time with it. (Another problem that I should state immediately is that I've only read about half of Ninety-Three a few years ago, but he is only giving us a few days to write the essay, so I don't have time to read it.)

My problem with the definition of a hero is that it must depend on some system of morality - that is, a Christian hero is not necessarily an Objectivist one. On the other hand, Hugo's heroes are almost philosophically opposite Ayn Rand's, but they are heroes nonetheless. The next idea I had was that all heros have conviction in their ideas, and are fully focused on and commited to those ideas. Indeed, this seems to be the theme of Ninety-Three. But then again, so was Toohey. It seems that one characteristic of all Romantic heroes is that they believe in the power of their ideas, and believe those ideas are life-affirming. Another characteristic is that all heroes are "first-handers" and believe in those ideas out of their own personal convictions, not out of any kind of duty or collectivism.

Anyway, I've having trouble coming up with a succint definition that captures the essential characteristics of a hero, as any decent defintion would. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Aside from being men of principle, heroes are life affirming as you mention. A hero is someone who fights for and with the virtues he believes in; the virtues which allow him to achieve his values. Toohey only fights for the 'values' he believes in and his only guide is expediency, not principle.

P.S. Make sure you write write right. ;)

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So I have to right a paper discussing Marx's idea that after the mid-19th century, there could be no more heroes. We read a work by Tolstoy (The Death of Ivan Ilych), and we're supposed to use that and other sources from 1850 - 1900 to support or disagree with Marx's quote. I plan on using Hugo's Ninety Three and Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter to counter Marx's statement. But I can't seem to come up with a good definition of a hero. It sounds easy, but I'm actually having a difficult time with it. (Another problem that I should state immediately is that I've only read about half of Ninety-Three a few years ago, but he is only giving us a few days to write the essay, so I don't have time to read it.)

My problem with the definition of a hero is that it must depend on some system of morality - that is, a Christian hero is not necessarily an Objectivist one. On the other hand, Hugo's heroes are almost philosophically opposite Ayn Rand's, but they are heroes nonetheless. The next idea I had was that all heros have conviction in their ideas, and are fully focused on and commited to those ideas. Indeed, this seems to be the theme of Ninety-Three. But then again, so was Toohey. It seems that one characteristic of all Romantic heroes is that they believe in the power of their ideas, and believe those ideas are life-affirming. Another characteristic is that all heroes are "first-handers" and believe in those ideas out of their own personal convictions, not out of any kind of duty or collectivism.

Anyway, I've having trouble coming up with a succint definition that captures the essential characteristics of a hero, as any decent defintion would. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I'm not sure what it is you're looking for, but Dr. Andrew Bernstein has an essay on his website titled, The Philosophical Foundations of Heroism. Take a look.

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Just some quick thoughts, a hero is a person that lives according to a set of standards/virtues without compromise even when threatened with death. It is the living according to their virtues that allows them to achieve, or at least strive to achieve, their values/goals.

There are many real examples of people from 1850 thru 1900 that could be considered for admiration as a hero.

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[A] hero is a person that lives according to a set of standards/virtues without compromise even when threatened with death.
But could this not also be applied to Toohey? Doesn't that need some qualifier? I think the essential difference is whether the person believes that his values are life-affirming.
There are many real examples of people from 1850 thru 1900 that could be considered for admiration as a hero.
Yes, I agree. However, for the pupose of the essay, we are to use works of art to support our point. I should have made this more clear.

As an aside, I think I will mention something, as it relates to the error Arnold caught in my original post. I'm on an anti-inflammatory right now that makes me drowsy, as well as having difficulty focusing. I had hip surgery about three weeks ago, and I'm still working on the recovery.

This is also probably part of the reason why I'm having such difficulty defining heroism.

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So I have to right a paper discussing Marx's idea that after the mid-19th century, there could be no more heroes.

Why did Marx say there could be no more heroes, anyway?

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Just some quick thoughts, a hero is a person that lives according to a set of standards/virtues without compromise even when threatened with death. It is the living according to their virtues that allows them to achieve, or at least strive to achieve, their values/goals.

There are many real examples of people from 1850 thru 1900 that could be considered for admiration as a hero.

As this thread is aimed at producing a written paper, take care to use "who" when you refer to people.

Mindy

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So I have to right a paper discussing Marx's idea that after the mid-19th century, there could be no more heroes. We read a work by Tolstoy (The Death of Ivan Ilych), and we're supposed to use that and other sources from 1850 - 1900 to support or disagree with Marx's quote. I plan on using Hugo's Ninety Three and Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter to counter Marx's statement. But I can't seem to come up with a good definition of a hero. It sounds easy, but I'm actually having a difficult time with it. (Another problem that I should state immediately is that I've only read about half of Ninety-Three a few years ago, but he is only giving us a few days to write the essay, so I don't have time to read it.)

My problem with the definition of a hero is that it must depend on some system of morality - that is, a Christian hero is not necessarily an Objectivist one. On the other hand, Hugo's heroes are almost philosophically opposite Ayn Rand's, but they are heroes nonetheless. The next idea I had was that all heros have conviction in their ideas, and are fully focused on and commited to those ideas. Indeed, this seems to be the theme of Ninety-Three. But then again, so was Toohey. It seems that one characteristic of all Romantic heroes is that they believe in the power of their ideas, and believe those ideas are life-affirming. Another characteristic is that all heroes are "first-handers" and believe in those ideas out of their own personal convictions, not out of any kind of duty or collectivism.

Anyway, I've having trouble coming up with a succint definition that captures the essential characteristics of a hero, as any decent defintion would. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I wouldn't get too worked up about what Marx ever thought, when was the last time you thought to yourself "wow, old Karl really nailed that one, bravo?"

But seriously, the question is the answer in some respects. Heroism is inauthentic to some people depending on precisely what defines a hero to them. Some people regard the odious G20 protestors as heroes for example.

So, if I may, a hero maybe regarded as someone who is true to their values to a high degree and such values must be shared by by the person giving the status as well as he upon whom it is bestowed.

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Just some quick thoughts, a hero is a person that lives according to a set of standards/virtues without compromise even when threatened with death. It is the living according to their virtues that allows them to achieve, or at least strive to achieve, their values/goals.

There are many real examples of people from 1850 thru 1900 that could be considered for admiration as a hero.

As this thread is aimed at producing a written paper, take care to use "who" when you refer to people.

Mindy

The word "that" can be used as a pronoun and a substitute for the word "who" or "whom" such as in my sentence above.

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Just some quick thoughts, a hero is a person that lives according to a set of standards/virtues without compromise even when threatened with death. It is the living according to their virtues that allows them to achieve, or at least strive to achieve, their values/goals.

There are many real examples of people from 1850 thru 1900 that could be considered for admiration as a hero.

As this thread is aimed at producing a written paper, take care to use "who" when you refer to people.

Mindy

The word "that" can be used as a pronoun and a substitute for the word "who" or "whom" such as in my sentence above.

Ray, while in general I agree with you, and have used "that" instead of "who" at times in poems (when it was a _sound_ issue), there is a slight lessening of the human quality when "that" is used instead of "who". To see this clearlynote the difference in effect If I say (taking your last example) "There are many real examples of ants from 1850 thru 1900 who could be considered..." Then, "There are many real examples of ants that could be considered..."

Just as "that" is more appropriate when referring to the non-human, so "who" is more appropriate for the human. "That" more often than not, suggests a non-volitional thing, where "who" can only suggest a volitional being.

I would say it is a little issue, not a big one, and nine times out of ten no one would feel displaced by "that". I would only add that "who' should definitely be used when one is speaking of specific persons that (or whom) one knows.

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A dictionary is often a good place to start for a definition. For example:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hero

"c: a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities d: one that shows great courage"

Terms like "noble," of course, presuppose a standard of value.

As for the assignment as a whole, was it given in the context of knowing who Marx is, what he thought a hero is, and why he thought heros were no longer possible? Or did the teacher simply pull a quote out of the air at random and ask the class to agree or disagree, without even a foggy idea of Marx's role in man's intellectual and political history?

If the former, then wouldn't the teacher be expecting the students to show that they know what Marx thought and why? (I haven't heard that particular Marx quote before myself.) Wouldn't this also imply that Marx's views and his reasons for them would be an appropriate place to begin the assignment?

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Brian, I do not remember being taught the distinction that you and Mindy have brought to my attentioin, but I do appreciate the information and will make appropriate adjustments.

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Sorry guys, I've been really busy lately. I haven't worked on the essay since Saturday (lots to do tonight, I know), but I think Mercury provided me with the definitions I needed. However, to answer some questions:

1. We were given no context for the Marx quote. Actually, we weren't even given a quote. Here's the full prompt for the essay. All we've talked about so far in the class is Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych. Nothing about Marx or the Industrial Revolution has even been mentioned.

In the wake of a number of developments, including major shifts in demographics, the consequences of the industrial production system, the implications of “modern” warfare, and the beginnings of what we today call “mass culture,” attitudes towards the individual’s ability to realize the possibilities life offers changed significantly in the nineteenth century. While the early nineteenth-century Romantics often asserted one’s heroic potential, Karl Marx, in fact, declared at mid century that there could be no more heroes.

The expression of this idea was at least in part influenced by and reflected in works that came to be labeled “realistic” and “naturalistic.” Using Tolstoy’s story “The Death of Ivan Ilych” as your central example, and reference to at least one other work of art or literature from the period c. 1850-1900, discuss this notion. If Ivan Ilych is only an “ordinary” man, why is that so? Do you agree or disagree with Marx’s assertion?

Pretty bad, I know. Actually, the class is a huge joke. It sucks. But I didn't want this to be about my class, or even this assignment. I just wanted it to be about the definition of a hero.

As far as the definition of a hero goes, I did actually look at the Merriam-Webster dictionary before posting. The problem, like you said, is it presupposes a standard of value. My problem is that you can't apply an Objectivist standard of value to that definition without eliminating the heroes of certain Romantic works, such as Quo Vadis and Ninety-Three. This is what I was struggling with. I'll give another example: the TV show The West Wing. When I watch it, I actually want the democrats to fight for their principles (which are opposite the Objectivist ones), simply because in that world, they are being heroic by doing so. In real life, I would be fighting them with all my being, but within small framework of the TV show, it feels good to see people fighting for their values. Does this make sense? I was/am trying to define the difference between the altruistic hero in a Victor Hugo novel and the altruistic villian in one of Rand's.

The only way to approach the definition is to use the Merriam Webster definition, with the standard of value simply being what the character thinks will further his life. Dr. Bernstein puts it this way:

A hero is (this is my definition, not Webster's): an individual of elevated moral stature and superior ability who pursues his goals indefatigably in the face of powerful antagonist(s).
As long as you define the "moral" as actions that the doer believes are life-affirming, this seems to fit.

Perhaps this is the long way around an easy concept, but it was harder for me than it seemed it would be.

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Sorry guys, I've been really busy lately. I haven't worked on the essay since Saturday (lots to do tonight, I know), but I think Mercury provided me with the definitions I needed. However, to answer some questions:

1. We were given no context for the Marx quote. Actually, we weren't even given a quote. Here's the full prompt for the essay. All we've talked about so far in the class is Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych. Nothing about Marx or the Industrial Revolution has even been mentioned.

In the wake of a number of developments, including major shifts in demographics, the consequences of the industrial production system, the implications of “modern” warfare, and the beginnings of what we today call “mass culture,” attitudes towards the individual’s ability to realize the possibilities life offers changed significantly in the nineteenth century. While the early nineteenth-century Romantics often asserted one’s heroic potential, Karl Marx, in fact, declared at mid century that there could be no more heroes.

The expression of this idea was at least in part influenced by and reflected in works that came to be labeled “realistic” and “naturalistic.” Using Tolstoy’s story “The Death of Ivan Ilych” as your central example, and reference to at least one other work of art or literature from the period c. 1850-1900, discuss this notion. If Ivan Ilych is only an “ordinary” man, why is that so? Do you agree or disagree with Marx’s assertion?

Pretty bad, I know. Actually, the class is a huge joke. It sucks. But I didn't want this to be about my class, or even this assignment. I just wanted it to be about the definition of a hero.

As far as the definition of a hero goes, I did actually look at the Merriam-Webster dictionary before posting. The problem, like you said, is it presupposes a standard of value. My problem is that you can't apply an Objectivist standard of value to that definition without eliminating the heroes of certain Romantic works, such as Quo Vadis and Ninety-Three. This is what I was struggling with. I'll give another example: the TV show The West Wing. When I watch it, I actually want the democrats to fight for their principles (which are opposite the Objectivist ones), simply because in that world, they are being heroic by doing so. In real life, I would be fighting them with all my being, but within small framework of the TV show, it feels good to see people fighting for their values. Does this make sense? I was/am trying to define the difference between the altruistic hero in a Victor Hugo novel and the altruistic villian in one of Rand's.

The only way to approach the definition is to use the Merriam Webster definition, with the standard of value simply being what the character thinks will further his life. Dr. Bernstein puts it this way:

A hero is (this is my definition, not Webster's): an individual of elevated moral stature and superior ability who pursues his goals indefatigably in the face of powerful antagonist(s).
As long as you define the "moral" as actions that the doer believes are life-affirming, this seems to fit.

Perhaps this is the long way around an easy concept, but it was harder for me than it seemed it would be.

That sounds like a good opportunity to write an essay on the difference between Naturalism and Romanticism. That seems to be exactly what the assignment is getting at. Do novelists have to write about some unambitious factory worker, or a hopeless Franz Kafka type character, or can they write about how men can be and ought to be, that is, as heroes?

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