This chapter discusses how the sea continued to furnish the imagery for staging a broad variety of conflicts, from interstate war and civil discord to interpersonal strife and individual emotional disruption. The political and social crises and emergencies that repeatedly punctuated fourteenth-century Europe thus had recourse to the land–sea dichotomy in order to articulate both hope and fear: security's potential victory over fear as well as the possible triumph of fear. As a site of insecurity and uncertainty, the nautical experience has consistently provided the terms for difficult questions in moral philosophy, for limit cases that test the validity of one's judgment. Cases where individual lives are threatened at sea furnish problems linked to the issue of urgency and the “state of exception” where conventional rules and ordinary values may be suspended. Such casuistical arguments classically reach toward conditions for moral laxity and especially thrive on the extreme example of shipwreck, an emergency situation that reevaluates interpersonal behavior and thereby questions the grounds for social relations.
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