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Old 12-19-2007, 10:49 PM   #1
RWood
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Carlyle, Thomas: On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. 19 Dec 07

Written in 1841, Hero Worship is very modern. Even though written 166 years ago, it brings forth issues that we read about everyday in the newspapers and see on the television.

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These ideas were influential on the development of Socialism, but aspects of Carlyle's thinking in his later years also helped to form Fascism. Carlyle moved towards his later thinking during the 1840s, leading to a break with many old friends and allies such as Mill and, to a lesser extent, Emerson. His belief in the importance of heroic leadership found form in his book "On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History", in which he compared different types of heroes. As one of the very few philosophers who witnessed the industrial revolution but still kept a transcendental non-materialistic view of the world, Thomas Carlyle made an attempt to draw a picture of the development of human intellect by using historical people as coordinates and accorded Prophet Muhammad a special place in the book under the chapter title "Hero as a Prophet". In his work, Carlyle declares his admiration with a passionate championship of Prophet Muhammad as a Hegelian agent of reform, insisting on his sincerety and commenting ‘how one man single-handedly, could weld warring tribes and wandering Bedouins into a most powerful and civilized nation in less than two decades.’ Observing Carlyle having such an open mind to the "other" puts him in a category of his own for trying to build bridges between the peoples of the West and the East as an early historical western representative of that dialogue. For Carlyle the hero was somewhat similar to Aristotle's "Magnanimous" man — a person who flourished in the fullest sense. However, for Carlyle, unlike Aristotle, the world was filled with contradictions with which the hero had to deal. All heroes will be flawed. Their heroism lay in their creative energy in the face of these difficulties, not in their moral perfection. To sneer at such a person for their failings is the philosophy of those who seek comfort in the conventional. Carlyle called this 'valetism', from the expression 'no man is a hero to his valet'.
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