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Al Gore’s speech to the UN 24-08-07
that speech may be quite something but the stuff written under the link is a bit icky sticky for the likes of me especially the idea that our children might one day ask us this question :”How did you find the moral courage to rise and solve this crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?” Moral courage? What is that, exactly?!
I expect by ‘moral courage’ he means doing what’s right when it’s difficult. ‘Moral’ though is redundant because it’s not courage if it’s not a good cause, it’s bravado.
OK, here’s my definition:
Moral courage is acting out a vision of a better world in the absence of widespread agreement, often requiring elements of personal risk (of being wrong, hurt or killed, ostracised etc.).
Of course it’s a fine question as to how a community, a global community none other than the world (!) is to find this ‘moral courage’. What stories will they remember or create which will bring this into perspective? The stories of progress and enlightened humanism of the last 300-400 years don’t seem to have what it takes. How can these stories be re-shaped? Who will do it? Can we ‘recreate ourselves’ by saying sustainability and environmental justice to our children?
I suspect talk of moral courage is a way to try to speak to a common moral conviction which – alas – doesn’t really exist. The moral concern needs to be broader than “hey the planet could get hot, and people could suffer and even perhaps die”.
Matt – on the contrary, I think it’s quite possible have moral courage in causes which are other-wise-than-good and that can be much more than bravado. Have you not felt morally courageous in a moral quest where you (later, all the more sadly and wisely) come to recognise that it was misguided? Was your courage then reduced by hindsight to mere bravado?
Thanks Dan. I like your definition. I like it better than Aristotle’s, which I was thinking of, and which requires a good end (if I’m remembering MacIntyre correctly). I don’t think it’s an important point here. I suppose AG tacked ‘moral’ onto it to break down the wall in some peoples minds between e.g. morality and economy, or morality and ecology.
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