What constitutes heroism? Let me give some examples and discuss them.
1. Someone volunteers for a dangerous job that benefits society, when he could receive the same pay for a safer job. This could be a policeman, fireman, or a soldier in the time of war.
2. As in number 1, but he dies in the line of duty.
3. Someone rescues a stranger’s baby from a burning building.
4. Someone rescues his own baby from a burning building.
I put #1 and #2 up because I do not think that dying should make a difference. To put it another way, I don’t believe there is no such thing as a live hero. A person is either heroic or he isn’t and external factors, such as whether he lives through it or not are not the issue.
#3 and #4 are also worth comparing. If a man rescues his own children from a burning building I consider him to be less heroic than if a stranger rescues children. To put it another way, if my own child died because I would not take a risk I would feel the guilt for years, if not decades. If a stranger’s child died under similar circumstances, I might feel guilty, but I would probably not carry the guilt for the rest of my life. To put it in a more practical way, I might give my own child a kidney, but I doubt I would give a stranger a kidney.
I will now give my own definition of a hero: A hero is a person who takes extraordinary risks for the benefit of strangers.