this issue
previous article in this issuenext article in this issue

Preview first page
Document Details :

Title: Conscience and Moral Exemplarity
Subtitle: Learning from the Case of Hans Scholl
Author(s): TEN KLOOSTER, Anton
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 29    Issue: 3   Date: 2022   
Pages: 335-353
DOI: 10.2143/EP.29.3.3291669

Abstract :
In the present article, I reflect on the moral transformation of German student and resistance activist Hans Scholl (1918-1943) in order to further amend Zagzebski’s theory of moral exemplarism. In her work, Zagzebski formulates ‘courage’ as the key for admiring and emulating heroes. By bringing her ideas and Scholl’s biography in contact with Catholic moral thought on conscience, we see that ‘courage’ itself is not enough to define a hero. For that tradition, as it was for Scholl, the prudential judgment of conscience on the right cause to fight and die for is crucial. Drawing from the biographical study we can identify five factors that were key to Scholl’s development of conscience: opportunity, reflexive skills, motivation, community and the acknowledgment of an ultimate moral authority. These factors help us to identify the conditions for a proper moral formation. I propose to amend Zagzebski’s theory in light of this: what we admire in this hero is not merely the heroic act itself but the conscious formation of the moral character that led them to act in such a way. It thus shifts the focus to that which precedes the action: forming a judgment of what is good and committing to pursue that good, that is the conscious effort to form one’s own conscience. This approach also provides a better way of acknowledging this particular hero’s faults and the fallibility of conscience, while at the same time maintaining that he is a moral exemplar.

Download article