The earlier discussion on outcomes distinguished between outcomes in relation to the success or failure of the act — i.e. whether the children were saved from the burning school building — and the outcomes in terms of the personal detriment endured by the act-doer. A similar distinction is relevant in the discussion on motives. They can be divided into the motives prior to the act and the motives during the act.

In the second case, we have an example where the motive arises during the act. We have a firewoman in a regular work scenario. She enters the burning building. The firewoman, upon entering the building, realises the near-collapse state of the ceiling and nevertheless decides to move forth to the second room to try and save the kids. The moment the firewoman decided to move forth knowing of the possible adverse consequences of her act, was the moment she exercised her agency in opposition (or above) her mandate. It is at that point that her act yielded a hero-status, which is independent from the outcome of her attempt.

But, as with the case of outcomes in terms of detriment to the act-doer, it is the exact point where considerations of motive kick in that inform the extent of the heroism. The earlier the motive kicks in, the more grandiose the hero-status that will be attached to the act.

In the case of motives — the exercise of the individual agency of the actor — the distinction between earlier and later motives qualifies the extent of the hero-status that will be attached to the act. Both stages yield the original hero-status. Or, to put it in a slightly different way, the distinction is irrelevant to the original allocation of the hero-status and it only speaks to its magnitude.

Before we proceed further with the discussion on motives, let us first address the elephant in the room; an endeavour that will be attempted in the next post.

This is a part of a series of five posts on What makes a hero? Click to read them all.