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Cromwell has not become Mantel's flawed moral exemplar because he softens Henry's harsh policies. On the other hand, Thomas More, Bolt's hero, becomes a religious fanatic under Mantel's pen who refers to opponents in harsh, scatological language and who also tortures those whose religious views differ from his.

There are obviously different interpretations of history at play in the different portrayals of Bolt and Mantel. But more importantly, both seem to have different views of what is morally exemplary. Bolt's More defines himself in terms of core beliefs and commitments and then remains true to these even in the face of overwhelming external challenge. His claim to being a moral exemplar is based on his commitments and his giving up his life to remain true to these. Mantel's Cromwell is a bit more complicated. He is less committed to principle and more to compromise, to integrating differing and contending individuals and their positions, and to making the world a better place by gradually humanizing government and business.

This table shows how Robert Bolt and Hilary Mantel provide radically different accounts of the conflict of More and Cromwell. For Mantel, Cromwell is a moral exemplar and More a religious fanatic. For Bolt, More is a saint of self-hood while Cromwell is a Machiavellian villain.
Collision of different types of moral exemplar
Hilary Mantel--Wolf Hall Robert Bolt--A Man for All Seasons
Thomas More Mantel portrays More as a religious fanatic. His refusal to respect those who disagree with him and his use of torture to convert them to his own religious views betray, for Mantel, his own unacknowledged self-doubts. Bolt portrays More as a saint of selfhood. More's religious beliefs penetrate to his core self and arise out of a constellation of values, principles, and commitments that define his identity. More holds strongly to these identity-conferring beliefs and keeps them in-tact even in the face of extreme pressure to deny them.
Thomas Cromwell Mantel provides an unflinching yet humanistic portrayal of Cromwell. In order to do good in a corrupt political environment, Cromwell makes considerable concessions to expediency. But his overall aim is to humanize England through the personal influence he exercises on its king and through the civilizing influence of international business. Bolt sees Cromwell as Machiavellian. We see Cromwell through More's eyes as one who will sacrifice basic religious and moral truths for short-term political gain. Cromwell will undertake a course of action with double effects if the good consequences outweigh the bad. However, once Cromwell sacrifices principle and commitment, he loses his moral compass and sense of identity.

Presentation on moral exemplars

Blbliography

  • Blasi, A. (2004). Moral Functioning: Moral Understanding and Personality. In D.K Lapsley and D. Narvaez (Eds.) Moral Development, Self, and Identity, (pp. 335-347). Mahwah, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
  • Blum, L. (1994). “Moral Exemplars: reflections on Schindler, the Trochmés, and others”, Moral Perception and Particularity, Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press: 65-97.
  • Colby, A., Damon, W. (1992). Some do care: Contemporary lives of moral commitment. New York: Free Press.
  • Flanagan, O. (1991). Varieties of moral personality: Ethics and psychological realism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Huff, C., Rogerson, S. (2005). Craft and reform in moral exemplars in computing. Paper presented at ETHICOMP2005 in Linköping, September.
  • Huff, C., Frey, W. (2005). Moral Pedagogy and Practical Ethics. Science and Engineering Ethics , 11(3), 389-408.
  • Huff, C., Barnard, L., Frey, W. (2008). Good computing: a pedagogically focused model of virtue in the practice of computing (part 1), Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 6(3), 246-278.
  • Huff, C., Barnard, L., Frey, W. (2008). Good computing: a pedagogically focused model of virtue in the practice of computing (part 2), Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 6(4), 286- 316.
  • Huff, C. and Barnard, L. (2009). “Good Computing: Moral Exemplars in the Computing Profession”, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine: 47-54.
  • Jackall, R. (1988). Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Johnson, M. (1993). Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 199-202.
  • Lawrence, A. and Weber, J. (2010). Business and Society: Stakeholders Ethics and Public Policy, 13th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Pritchard, M. (1998). "Professional Responsibility: Focusing on the Exemplary," in Science and Engineering Ethics, 4: 215-234.
  • Urmson, J.O. (1958). “Saints and Heroes.” Essays in Moral Philosophy, A.I. Melden, ed., Seattle: University of Washington Press: 198-216.
  • Werhane, P. (1999). Moral Imagination and Management Decision Making. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 93-96.

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to business, management, and ethics. OpenStax CNX. Aug 14, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11959/1.4
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