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346RE: [eldil] definition of virtue?

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  • Steve Hayes
    Apr 9, 2013
      On 9 Apr 2013 at 14:22, Andrea Luxenburg wrote:

      > What is the academic definition of heroism you are working from?
      >
      > ****That's just it - I need to find one to use.
      >
      > I may be wrong, but I think that in Christian theology there is an
      > ambivalence about both heroism and virtue, and, though I haven't studied
      > Beowulf closely (and haven't read it for a long time) I suspect that in it the
      > pagan notion of the virtue of herosim has been somewhat undermined by the
      > Christian notions of mercy, compassion and love.
      >
      > ****I'm not sure what you mean by an ambivalence about virtue - I thought we
      > were all in favor of it?

      To quote a Western hymn (from a somewhat rusty memory, haven't sung it for 25
      years or more):

      These keep the guard amid Salem's dear bowers
      Thrones, principalities, virtues and powers

      I just checked the "Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church", but they just
      have "See Cardinal Virtues" and "See Theological Virtues" which isn't very
      helpful, so here are a few random and half-baked thoughts that you may or may
      not want to pick up and bake.

      Virtue suggests manliness, a peculiarly male characteristic, perhaps related
      to machismo, and thus perhaps to Teutonic notions of heroism.

      I am reminded of a poem I once learned in primary school, though it was about
      Celtic heroism rather than Germanic, and also seen in Victorian retrospect.

      The War-song of Dinas Vawr
      By Thomas Love Peacock

      The mountain sheep are sweeter,
      But the valley sheep are fatter;
      We therefore deemed it meeter
      To carry off the latter.
      We made an expedition;
      We met a host, and quelled it;
      We forced a strong position,
      And killed the men who held it.

      On Dyfed's richest valley,
      Where herds of kine were browsing,
      We made a mighty sally,
      To furnish our carousing.
      Fierce warriors rushed to meet us;
      We met them, and o'erthrew them:
      They struggled hard to beat us;
      But we conquered them, and slew them.

      As we drove our prize at leisure,
      The king marched forth to catch us:
      His rage surpassed all measure,
      But his people could not match us.
      He fled to his hall-pillars;
      And, ere our force we led off,
      Some sacked his house and cellars,
      While others cut his head off.

      We there, in strife bewild'ring,
      Spilt blood enough to swim in:
      We orphaned many children,
      And widowed many women.
      The eagles and the ravens
      We glutted with our foemen;
      The heroes and the cravens,
      The spearmen and the bowmen.

      We brought away from battle,
      And much their land bemoaned them,
      Two thousand head of cattle,
      And the head of him who owned them:
      Ednyfed, king of Dyfed,
      His head was borne before us;
      His wine and beasts supplied our feasts,
      And his overthrow, our chorus.

      That, I suspect, reflects the pagan notion of heroic virtue, or virtuous
      heroism, untempered by any Christian notions of mercy.

      In effect, it is a glorification of armed robbery, which, in the eyes of the
      narrator of the poem at least, is virtuous.

      If one considers "the Dionysian nine" (cf Williams's "The place of the lion")
      I think virtue corresponds to exousia, the authority with which Jesus spoke,
      and not as the scribes. In Romans 13:1 St Paul says "Let every soul be
      subject to the superior virtues", yet in Ephesians 6:12 he refers to virtues
      as spiritual powers of wickedness in the heavenlies, against which Christians
      struggle.

      So I would say "virtue" is ambivalent, at least from a Christian point of
      view.


      --
      Steve Hayes
      E-mail: shayes@...
      Blog: http://khanya.wordpress.com
      Phone: 083-342-3563 or 012-333-6727
      Fax: 086-548-2525
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