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RE: [eldil] definition of virtue?

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  • Andrea Luxenburg
    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
    Message 1 of 12 , Apr 9 2:22 PM
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      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?
       
      *I also see in Beowulf a tension between the pagan ideals and the Christian virtues, and that is part of what I want to explore. 
       
      Is it only Christian writers who think that herosim should be tempered by
      mercy? It is it something inherent in the concept of heroism itself?

      ****Good question.  What about in the Iliad, when just about everyone seemed to think Achilles should have pity on Hector's family and return his corpse to them?  I think even in pagan heroism there is an element of noblesse oblige, that because I am strong and brave I should show mercy...but I'm not altogether sure how prominent that idea is.
       
      Thanks for your input, Steven.  It is always helpful to hear other people's points of view.
       
      Andromeda
    • Steve Hayes
      ... 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,
      Message 2 of 12 , Apr 9 8:56 PM
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        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
      • Dan Drake
        ... It s useful to be reminded of that poem, which I have always found loathsome since I first heard any of it beyond the first two lines, with their clever,
        Message 3 of 12 , Apr 10 10:44 AM
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          On Apr 9, 2013, at 8:56 PM, Steve Hayes wrote:

          > 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.

          It's useful to be reminded of that poem, which I have always found loathsome since I first heard any of it beyond the first two lines, with their clever, jolly-rogue quality. ("What? The guy is SERIOUS?" Sheeesh!" IMHO.)

          But there seems to be another thread to this matter, which hasn't been touched on. It's an account that I picked up a number of years ago, from a couple of sources, though I can't recall which, and it also seems to be just in the air to some extent.

          In this account the whole Chivalric Ideal is a more or less conscious attempt to get at the ruffians, bold in battle and highly skilled, who dominated Europe in the early Middle Ages, and civilize them by imbuing them with Christian virtue. If this is accurate, the effort certainly succeeded on a literary level, and probably on a practical one as well. As to at least the part of the ideal that constituted romanic love, I recall something of the sort from C. S. Lewis; but I don't remember whether he said much of the matter of valor, which concerns us here.

          Am I missing the obvious, or stating the too obvious, or maybe both?


          --
          Dan Drake
          dd@...
          http://www.dandrake.com/index.html
        • Steve Hayes
          ... No, I think it s an interesting point. If you read Charles Williams s book on Witchcraft you can see how the pagan Germans used to burn suspected witches
          Message 4 of 12 , Apr 10 11:21 AM
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            On 10 Apr 2013 at 10:44, Dan Drake wrote:

            >
            > On Apr 9, 2013, at 8:56 PM, Steve Hayes wrote:
            >
            > > 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.
            >
            > It's useful to be reminded of that poem, which I have always found loathsome
            > since I first heard any of it beyond the first two lines, with their clever,
            > jolly-rogue quality. ("What? The guy is SERIOUS?" Sheeesh!" IMHO.)
            >
            > But there seems to be another thread to this matter, which hasn't been touched
            > on. It's an account that I picked up a number of years ago, from a couple of
            > sources, though I can't recall which, and it also seems to be just in the air
            > to some extent.
            >
            > In this account the whole Chivalric Ideal is a more or less conscious attempt
            > to get at the ruffians, bold in battle and highly skilled, who dominated
            > Europe in the early Middle Ages, and civilize them by imbuing them with
            > Christian virtue. If this is accurate, the effort certainly succeeded on a
            > literary level, and probably on a practical one as well. As to at least the
            > part of the ideal that constituted romanic love, I recall something of the
            > sort from C. S. Lewis; but I don't remember whether he said much of the matter
            > of valor, which concerns us here.
            >
            > Am I missing the obvious, or stating the too obvious, or maybe both?

            No, I think it's an interesting point.

            If you read Charles Williams's book on "Witchcraft" you can see how the pagan
            Germans used to burn suspected witches because they thought they were
            incorrigible. Christianising them inculcated a more merciful attitude, and
            punished witchcraft accusations as much as the deed. That lasted about 5
            centuries, just about until the height of the age of chivalry, perhaps. Then
            it suddenly broke down in the Great European Witch Hunt which really got
            going in the 15th century -- wasn't that about the time Malory et al were
            writing about chivalry?




            --
            Steve Hayes
            E-mail: shayes@...
            Blog: http://khanya.wordpress.com
            Phone: 083-342-3563 or 012-333-6727
            Fax: 086-548-2525
          • Dan Drake
            ... Now there s a connection I never made. Along with a major rise of Inquisitions, for which there are some obvious historical reasons (purging Spain of the
            Message 5 of 12 , Apr 10 11:33 AM
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              On Apr 10, 2013, at 11:21 AM, Steve Hayes wrote:

              > Then
              > it suddenly broke down in the Great European Witch Hunt which really got
              > going in the 15th century -- wasn't that about the time Malory et al were
              > writing about chivalry?

              Now there's a connection I never made. Along with a major rise of Inquisitions, for which there are some obvious historical reasons (purging Spain of the Paynim Horde; Luther; Gutenberg; etc etc). Connections among all these are well beyond me to analyze, though.

              --
              Dan Drake
              dd@...
              http://www.dandrake.com/index.html
            • Graham Darling
              See C.S. Lewis The Necessity of Chivalry , originally /Time and Tide/, 1940-08-17, vol 21, p 841; reprinted in /Present Concerns/, 1986, p 13;
              Message 6 of 12 , Apr 10 11:44 AM
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                See C.S. Lewis "The Necessity of Chivalry", originally Time and Tide, 1940-08-17, vol 21, p 841; reprinted in Present Concerns, 1986, p 13; http://www.amazon.com/dp/0156027852/ref=cm_sw_su_dp#reader_0156027852 .

                The Four Cardinal Virtues (common to all humanity: see Plato The Republic,
                Steph 427ff) are Justice, Prudence (Wisdom), Temperance (Self-Mastery) and Fortitude.

                The Three Theological Virtues (special to Christians) are Faith, Hope and Love (Charity).

                On 2013-04-10 10:44 , Dan Drake wrote:
                On Apr 9, 2013, at 8:56 PM, Steve Hayes wrote:
                
                
                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.
                
                It's useful to be reminded of that poem, which I have always found loathsome since I first heard any of it beyond the first two lines, with their clever, jolly-rogue quality. ("What? The guy is SERIOUS?" Sheeesh!" IMHO.) 
                
                But there seems to be another thread to this matter, which hasn't been touched on. It's an account that I picked up a number of years ago, from a couple of sources, though I can't recall which, and it also seems to be just in the air to some extent.
                
                In this account the whole Chivalric Ideal is a more or less conscious attempt to get at the ruffians, bold in battle and highly skilled, who dominated Europe in the early Middle Ages, and civilize them by imbuing them with Christian virtue. If this is accurate, the effort certainly succeeded on a literary level, and probably on a practical one as well. As to at least the part of the ideal that constituted romanic love, I recall something of the sort from C. S. Lewis; but I don't remember whether he said much of the matter of valor, which concerns us here.
                
                Am I missing the obvious, or stating the too obvious, or maybe both?
                -GD
                -- 
                
                Mr. Graham Darling, PhD
                1007-D Gilmore Ave.
                Burnaby, BC   V5C 4S4
                Canada
                
                Phone 778-836-7122
                Email darlingg@...
                
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