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What do you make of this? (in relation to the VT massacre)

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Altan
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I was reading through the wikipedia article on the Virginia Tech massacre and came across an interesting part that describes how a 76 year old professor held off the shooting maniac by holding the door closed:

In room 204, Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, forcibly prevented Cho from entering the room. Librescu was able to hold the door closed until most of his students escaped through the windows, but he died after being shot multiple times through the door. One student in his classroom was killed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Tech_massacre#Norris_Hall_shootings

and a speech by then president Bush:

That day we saw horror, but we also saw quiet acts of courage. We saw this courage in a teacher named Liviu Librescu. With the gunman set to enter his class, this brave professor blocked the door with his body while his students fled to safety. On the Day of Remembrance, this Holocaust survivor gave his own life so that others may live. And this morning we honor his memory and we take strength from his example.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liviu_Librescu#Death_and_legacy

So my question is, what do you make of this? Is Liviu a hero? Did he act nobly or was it utterly altruistic?

I think that what Liviu did was very noble, and I would regard him as a hero. It's hard to say whether he intended to sacrifice his own life, or that he could survive. What else could you do in such a situation if you didn't have enough time to properly barricade the door and flee? If he hadn't held against the door, he would have most likely been killed anyway, along with more students.

Edited by Altan
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Before you spend any time seriously contemplating the question on your mind, ask yourself - what *rational* action was available to him?

The answer of course, is none - he was acting in an emergency situation. As such, he acted to save the lives of those he valued - his students. I'm willing to bet that had it been possible he would have saved himself too - but also that he wouldn't have been able to respect himself if he'd saved himself and not his students.

But since no rational course of action was possible anyway, this is hardly a question worthy of considering from a rational morality perspective.

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Yes, Professor Librescu was a hero. Not jut because of this event, he dealt with hardship in an exemplary fashion all his life.

In the shooting, he had the presence of mind to not panic, and in fact act and stand up to evil, to protect his students. That takes a lot of strength of character.

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Yes, Professor Librescu was a hero. Not jut because of this event, he dealt with hardship in an exemplary fashion all his life.

In the shooting, he had the presence of mind to not panic, and in fact act and stand up to evil, to protect his students. That takes a lot of strength of character.

And an exemplary act of selfishness - on one level, that he could not have lived with himself if he'd run and survived, while his students were shot...on another that his students were a personal value to him... and another level that he was in charge, and the buck stopped with him... also, who knows?, that he'd seen enough evil in his life, and would never stand back for it again.

Sure, that's a lot of guess-work, and psychologizing, but a man like that who reacted so quickly to danger, has a lesson (for me at least).

I would bet that his action was called "selfless", and "unthinking heroism".

At that moment he did not need to think, since he'd been thinking all his life. As for "selfless" - well, Objectivists know better.

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Before you spend any time seriously contemplating the question on your mind, ask yourself - what *rational* action was available to him?

The answer of course, is none - he was acting in an emergency situation. As such, he acted to save the lives of those he valued - his students. I'm willing to bet that had it been possible he would have saved himself too - but also that he wouldn't have been able to respect himself if he'd saved himself and not his students.

But since no rational course of action was possible anyway, this is hardly a question worthy of considering from a rational morality perspective.

In the essay "The Ethics of Emergencies" Ayn Rand distinguishes the cases where morality cannot apply as metaphysical emergencies. A gunman is a man-made emergency. Ethics and rationality are applicable and the Professor is properly evaluated as a moral hero.

Edited by Grames
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In the essay "The Ethics of Emergencies" Ayn Rand distinguishes the cases where morality cannot apply as metaphysical emergencies. A gunman is a man-made emergency. Ethics and rationality are applicable and the Professor is properly evaluated as a moral hero.

Hmm. Interesting point.

I certainly consider his actions heroic, and I agree that the situation was man made, but to the teacher and the students, did it matter? For them, the emergency simply existed, and they did not cause it - so what differentiates a man-made emergency from a metaphysical one for the genuine victims who have no responsibility for the events leading to the moment of crisis?

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Another question I should have posed is: do such professors/teachers have a moral obligation to put the lives of their students before their own?

The very aspect that makes for a hero, is, when volition is denied, that which makes for a sacrificial beast.

So, definitely - NO.

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