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THE PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATIONS OF HEROISM Every rational person growing up had his favorite childhood heroes Maybe it was a John Wayne character in a Western action movie leading the cavalry over the hill in a last charge against vicious bandits or marauding Indians Maybe it was a swashbuckling swordsman who ever loyal to his King saves the Queen from a nefarious plot like dArtagnan in Alexandre Dumass The Three Musketeers Maybe as one grew older ones taste ran to more intellectual heroes such as an uncompromising young architect who stands by his own judgment against an entire society in a book stressing the virtue of independence Or maybe one found ones heroes not in fiction but in the great men and women of real life such as George Washington leading his battered troops across the Delaware to surprise the British Army on Christmas Eve--or Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence risking life fortune and sacred honor to establish the fledgling republic on the principle of individual rights--or a scientistinventor like Thomas Edison or Marie Curie or the Wright Brothers devoting years of effort to discover new knowledge or create new products Whatever ones individual tastes in heroes one fact is abundantly clear the great men and women whose achievements provide inspiration for millions come with an assortment of specific characteristics Some are predominantly physicalistic heroes some primarily intellectual some are excellent examples of the principle of mind-body integration some are grand-scale characters towering through a work of fiction whether on the printed page stage or screen--while some perform their great and notable deeds in actual existence More prosaically some are male some are female some are white some black some Oriental many are Americans many are not some lived in the 20th century many lived in the past hopefully many are yet to come And yet through the teeming multiplicity of individualized differences there runs a recurrent thread a distinguishing essence
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