Clever animals, those orcs
A while ago I got into a short argument about the ethics of Tolkien. Short, because we were coming at the question from different directions, and our ideas were simply incompatible. Anyway. I wish I'd had this to point to, at the time:
One paragraph stands out for me. To whit:
Napoleon spoke of ‘two o’clock in the morning courage’, the cold courage that is trained into a man’s bones and will allow him to act bravely in no matter what adversity. Hardly anybody is born with such courage, and most people never acquire it. To truly follow a purely secular ethical code we need two o’clock in the morning enlightenment: the ability to see, through the clamour of our desires and fears, what is the wise thing to do in each situation we encounter. And we need the courage as well, or we will not be able to go through with some of the actions we know are necessary. But we need to have a good-sized portion of enlightenment before we can even understand the need to be enlightened. Not many of us get that far without the sanctions of some religion or other. In this sense it is quite true that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. It is not the only possible beginning, but even today it remains the usual one.