Live as a coward or die as a hero?

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FreeSpeech
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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by FreeSpeech » August 19th, 2013, 9:44 pm

Scott wrote:I recently came across the question, "Is it better to be a live coward or a dead hero?"

Here is what I think:

One can pointlessly face danger so one can be or seem tough or brave. (I call that self-destructive pseudo-toughness.) But that's not generally what is meant by heroism. Similarly, choosing not to face danger when facing the danger is more harmful than not is generally not what is meant by cowardice. I think cowardice generally refers to people who make harmful decisions out of fear. Heroes are generally people like firefighters who overcome their natural fear of fire when they can see it is worth the risk. Of course, we are more prone to use the word heroism when we feel the brave decision is especially compassionate. We are more prone to use the word cowardice when the fearful decision is especially selfish.

Anyway, regarding my own personal values, I generally prefer to stay alive. Of course, I would choose to die or risk dying if doing it would have results that I want more than choosing to live. For example, if I saw an innocent 3-year-old girl playing in the street about to be hit by a car, and for the sake of simplicity let's say I know that either I have to let her die or kill myself to save her, of course I would choose to save her. Who wouldn't?

What do you think? Is it better to live as a coward or die as a hero?
Wait a sec... weren't you Mr.Amoral who thought that his own life or pretty much anything was more important than morality? If you believe that something is true (rationally), don't you have to act according to that (rational) belief?

And even if you tried to act morally, wouldn't it be better if you stayed alive and instead paid a couple thousands of dollars to a NGO to save more lives while keeping yourself alive? (you might be moral or not, but if you're moral I don't think you can refute utilitarianism).

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Platos stepchild » August 5th, 2015, 10:14 pm

We mostly don't like to contemplate the final moment of our lives. We pretend it's somewhere out there, lurking in the nebulous future, hoping it won't catch us. But, it's the only future event which is truly inevitable. In a sense, that inevitability makes it immutable as any past event. And yet, although we must all surely die, how we die isn't written-in-stone. Once I'm able to overcome an almost visceral aversion to contemplating my own death, I can see a bit more clearly just what a terrible moment it truly is. A shrinking and desiccated moment, in harsh contrast to the vibrant life fading just behind. It quickly atomizes the very core of what being me was all about.

The only thing which can, in any way mitigate that icy terror is the belief, nay the hope that oblivion has some meaning. I lust for the hope there's someone, who if only in grief will accompany me into the monotone grey I'll quickly become. I believe that such meaning cannot come from having sated my personal greed or lust. My only hope lies in someone else mourning my demise; and, that'll only happen if I chose to sacrifice myself for that person. The terror will doubtless be just as stark. Maybe though, I'll be less terrified of the starkness.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Greta » August 6th, 2015, 1:24 am

Is either better? They just are. Both lions and mice have their own special niches in their ecosystems, so to speak. Not everyone can be a hero - otherwise every time a child fell in the river you'd probably need extra heroes on hand to save the heroes hurt in the rush to dive in and save her.

Seriously, courage is an attribute that promotes personal happiness and enriches a person's life. The courageous can seize opportunities that the more risk averse miss, and generally worry less because of their broader experience. The issue is not cowardice but anxiety. Fear and suspicion make one's world smaller, but safer.

As for high stress scenarios as in the OP, it depends on whether you've faced that level of stress enough times to know how you'd react. It could be said that if you are truly sincere about saving people in distress then you'd regularly expose yourself to high levels of physical risk. That way you could practice and tailor your fight-or-flight response for optimal performance in extreme situations, using its energy but not allowing it to hijack your mind.

However, as you get older you become more physically cautious because you can sense your growing brittleness.
Platos stepchild wrote:Once I'm able to overcome an almost visceral aversion to contemplating my own death, I can see a bit more clearly just what a terrible moment it truly is. A shrinking and desiccated moment, in harsh contrast to the vibrant life fading just behind. It quickly atomizes the very core of what being me was all about.
That's interesting, more or less opposite to my impression of the moment of death - not the painful dying beforehand (shrinking and dessication, as you put it) but the actual state transition. This impression came from a peak experience I had that centred on the present moment at the point of death.

I was filled with great bliss and love, significantly more than I'd experienced before. I felt no concern for those left behind, very much a sense of "they'll be fine". I had a sense of being completely understood. You know how everyone misunderstands each other a little, no matter how well meaning they are? There was none of that. It's hard to explain without sounding like a fruit, but it was highly positive.

Then I had the sensation that everything around me was being atomised and hurtling out into space at an impossible speed, a shower of little lights joyfully flying out into ... the cosmos?. I felt as though I could let go and join that wave - but I chickened out. It was too intense, bliss or not. Perhaps there will come a time when we don't have a choice and have to just dive in and see where things go? :shock:

As a thought experiment I've also tried to imagine being taken by a crocodile, but my mind refuses to produce a vivid impression, and I get shivers down my spine even thinking about it. After all of the above I'm still chicken about dying :lol:
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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Mark1955 » August 7th, 2015, 9:41 am

Greta wrote:As for high stress scenarios as in the OP, it depends on whether you've faced that level of stress enough times to know how you'd react.
The problem I've come across is that people who regularly face high stress scenarios know they have a limit and they also know they don't know where that limit is so they still don't know how they'll react next time.
If you think you know the answer you probably don't understand the question.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Atreyu » August 18th, 2015, 2:28 am

How about "Live as a coward or live as a hero"? Or, "Die as a coward or die as a hero"?

One will die as one lived. If one lives as a coward, one will die like a coward, and vice versa - if one lives like a "real man" (bravely), one will die like a "real man".

One's death will reflect one's life....

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Mark1955 » August 18th, 2015, 11:42 am

Atreyu wrote:One will die as one lived. If one lives as a coward, one will die like a coward, and vice versa - if one lives like a "real man" (bravely), one will die like a "real man".

One's death will reflect one's life....
So he fought through WW2 collecting several medals on the way, he got terminal cancer and died aged 80+ after a long period of significant pain. How do I tell he died bravely?
If you think you know the answer you probably don't understand the question.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by LuckyR » August 27th, 2015, 2:24 pm

Mark1955 wrote:
Atreyu wrote:One will die as one lived. If one lives as a coward, one will die like a coward, and vice versa - if one lives like a "real man" (bravely), one will die like a "real man".

One's death will reflect one's life....
So he fought through WW2 collecting several medals on the way, he got terminal cancer and died aged 80+ after a long period of significant pain. How do I tell he died bravely?

It all depends on your definition of the word: ..."died" bravely. If you mean: the nature of the last significant act of a long life, you will get one answer. If you mean: the average of a lifetime's worth of acts, you will get another.
"As usual... it depends."

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Mark1955
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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Mark1955 » August 27th, 2015, 3:09 pm

LuckyR wrote:
Mark1955 wrote:So he fought through WW2 collecting several medals on the way, he got terminal cancer and died aged 80+ after a long period of significant pain. How do I tell he died bravely?
It all depends on your definition of the word: ..."died" bravely. If you mean: the nature of the last significant act of a long life, you will get one answer. If you mean: the average of a lifetime's worth of acts, you will get another.
The second option makes Atreyu's statement a circular argument so I think I have to assume the intention is the first.
If you think you know the answer you probably don't understand the question.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by LuckyR » August 27th, 2015, 6:47 pm

Mark1955 wrote:
LuckyR wrote: (Nested quote removed.)

It all depends on your definition of the word: ..."died" bravely. If you mean: the nature of the last significant act of a long life, you will get one answer. If you mean: the average of a lifetime's worth of acts, you will get another.
The second option makes Atreyu's statement a circular argument so I think I have to assume the intention is the first.
I see your point, but if true, since different people's last moments vary dramatically, it seems unfair to label one's existance upon actions taken in a very uncharacteristic moment at the very end.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Supine » September 21st, 2015, 6:15 pm

I've been a coward before. And I'm naturally not courageous.

Self preservation is strong drive. Why, and probably more importantly, how do some people control their fear and take noble action, assuming they do have fear?

I'm of the belief that "courage" is chemical. Or it's probably better to say it is produced by chemicals in the brain. Some people seem to be born more courageous than others. But that doesn't mean I think cowardice is deterministic and that courage can't be developed and acquired.

I think a strong sense of duty be you a royal guard in the 1700s or a fire fighter in the 21st century will probably more often than not help develop a physiological characteristic of courage in a person's body and brain.

Whether it is better to survive through yielding to fear as a coward or better to take action as one of the courageous and perish consequently is a good question. I think a timeless question.

There is the old saying that a coward dies a thousand deaths but a courageous man but one. There can be truth to that. Can.

But you can move forward and forgive yourself your flaw of being a coward--at least in past instances--and go on to enjoy the sunshine, green grass and trees, and live a happy and fantastic life. The one without fear or even the one who controls his fear and acts nobly may well be rotting in some nation's war camp, prison, or their corpse rotting in the ground.

I think the conclusion will rest upon how the individual ranks and believes in other qualities of life like duty, familial name, honor and so on.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Belinda » September 22nd, 2015, 5:03 am

Firemen and soldiers are examples of people who are trained to respond courageously. Training is one way effective way of learning to put others before self. One can train oneself to be courageous but it's better done with others with the help of disciplined training.

Some people have attitudes of courage in helping others instilled from babyhood. Some others learn courage abruptly when for instance they hold their new baby in their arms.
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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by LuckyR » September 25th, 2015, 6:51 pm

Belinda wrote:Firemen and soldiers are examples of people who are trained to respond courageously. Training is one way effective way of learning to put others before self. One can train oneself to be courageous but it's better done with others with the help of disciplined training.

Some people have attitudes of courage in helping others instilled from babyhood. Some others learn courage abruptly when for instance they hold their new baby in their arms.
I disagree mildly. Training gives understanding of an area where myth usually reigns. A firefighter is not even in the top 10 of dangerous jobs in the US and beyond that about half of firefighter on the job deaths are from heart attacks and another quarter are from traffic accidents. Burning buildings account for only about a quarter of a not particularly high occupational fatality rate.

No, individuals who enjoy admiration for appearing courageous while not taking on particularly lethal work are attracted to firefighting.

My admiration goes to fishermen, who take on spectacularly high fatality rates for little to no recognition or accolades for doing so.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Scribbler60 » December 18th, 2015, 3:38 pm

-I came to this post intrigued by the title but, alas, will readily admit I haven't read 11 pages of comments. So if the following is superfluous, I ask your forgiveness.

"Live as a coward or die as a hero" betrays a simplicity that I think isn't very productive. It makes an assumption that the current situation - living as a coward - is interminable and not subject to change.

I think this is probably best explained by example.

Undoubtedly pretty much everyone here knows who Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) is: a Russian novelist, critical of the totalitarian Soviet regime, who was imprisoned for years in hard labour camps.

Some might suggest that by accepting his imprisonment and not, for instance, committing suicide, he was living as a coward. But, of course, he didn't remain static. Once released, he published The Gulag Archipelago, a withering look at totalitarianism (some would say it's on par with Animal Farm by Orwell).

By living as a coward, he was alive to fight another day and bring his considerable intellect and social conscience to bear.

Had he committed suicide, his story would have ended and we would have never heard of him and the world would be poorer for it.

So, to "live as a coward" presents a false dichotomy because people do not remain static.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by LuckyR » December 19th, 2015, 4:21 am

In addition the phrasing compares the product of a lifetime to the whims surrounding the moment of death.

But an actual issue is in there somewhere, it just is better described with different phraseology.

Is it better to compromise your ideals for expediency or stay true to yourself and suffer the consequences?
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Grotto19 » January 4th, 2016, 4:14 am

As a combat veteran I may have some insight into this querry. First of all it depends on many variables. For example if you are one who would be miserable bearing shame, or derive great satisfaction from doing the “right thing”. These are paramount issues toward answering the question and as such vary by individual. Surviving as a coward may include a life of regret about ones actions. Who can measure exactly how much pain that would amount to? The answer would be only the individual. Also of interest is how important is honor to you that you would sacrifice your life for it? Is the commemoration of your life valuable? Many feel so as we all will die and many of us believe there is no afterlife for us. If we all must die and on a grand scale it is after only a short time perhaps it is better to be remembered extraordinarily.

I am fortunate I chose the brave route but also lived. So I feel great about that. But how would I feel if I had not survived, well we will never know because I would not be here to tell you. Only the coward can express how he feels but put in that position of having had the option I suspect he would feign being happy with the choice while inside always being nagged by it.

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