Heroes, Saints, and Ordinary Morality

Heroes, Saints, and Ordinary Morality
Andrew M. Flescher

Heroes, Saints, and Ordinary Morality proposes a significant shift in the way in which we think about moral requirement in everyday society. I argue that ordinary assumptions about what we perceive and accept our duty to be ought to be more influenced by the moral insights of heroes and saints than they normally are. I suggest that morality is not merely about the avoidance of wrongdoing; and I claim against the commonsense view, that we should embrace the heroic and saintly insight that the virtues of self-introspection, discomfort, and striving are those that lie at the center of the moral life. I look closely at the testimony, religious and social backgrounds, and altruistic influence of heroes and saints in the modern and contemporary eras. I examine actual "heroes"---from harborers of refugees fleeing genocide to rescue workers responding to the September 11th tragedy, as well as political and moral "saints"--- ranging from Dorothy Day (co-founder of the Catholic Social Workers Movement) to Martin Luther King, Jr. to saints that emerge within other specific religious traditions.