Monday, April 22, 2013

Morality (Not) On the Mountain

     Throughout the semester, we have spent a lot of time debating the concept of morality in extreme situations. Jon Krakauer reported that there is no morality "above 8,000 meters."  Ernest Shackleton, at least as he is presented in Alfred Lansing's book, Endurance, does believe that there is morality in the Antarctic   When the ship becomes lodged in ice, Shackleton's moral code becomes clear: "Though he was virtually fearless in the physical sense, he suffered an almost pathological dread of losing control of the situation.  In part, this attitude grew out of a consuming sense of responsibility. He felt he had gotten them into their situation, and it was his responsibility to get them out" (Lansing 73).  Whereas on Everest, it was every climber for themselves, on the Endurance, it is Shackleton for every sailor.  Part of this can be explained by the fact that the sailors are not paying customers; Shackleton is tied to them by comradeship and national pride.  However, I wonder if the type of adventure is a factor as well.  A climb of Everest is a short sprint when compared to the time it take sto sail to and from Antarctica   Perhaps the sheer amount of time the journey takes is enough to dull the comppetitive spirit in favor of morality.

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