Soldiering and the Moral Fear

Philosophy, History by Adam on 2007-01-08 12:39

What motivates a solider to throw himself into battle, knowing full well that he may be maimed or killed? “Patriotism” is the idealistic answer, and surely that is often true. But another motivation, and perhaps a more common one, is fear of being seen as cowardly by comrades and the folks back home. A Union soldier writing about his battle experience in the American civil war calls this a “moral fear” in this poignant passage:

“When bullets are whacking against tree-trunks and solid shot are cracking skulls like egg-shells, the consuming passion in the breast of the average man is to get out of the way. Between the physical fear of going forward and the moral fear of turning back, there is a predicament of exceptional awkwardness.”

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