It’s not obviously a good measure, but I have a strong feeling that it would be a good measure and I’d like to talk myself through it. If you’re not familiar,
Alone is an American adventure reality game show on History. It follows the self-documented daily struggles of 10 individuals (seven paired teams in season 4) as they survive alone in the wilderness for as long as possible using a limited amount of survival equipment.wiki
At first glance the participants’ success or failure is a measurement of their survival skills like fishing and building. After watching a couple of seasons, you realize that’s just stage 1 and stages 2 through 5 are all about the mental game. You watch person after person go through the exact same mental gymnastics to convince themselves to quit and end the misery: “My family needs me”, “I think I proved what I came here to prove”, and on and on. It’s a combination of hilarious and depressing how consistent the narratives are, which is a good sign if you’re a social scientist. And seeing as the guy putting on the show is “former” special operations (just like all those “former” intelligence people in the media), there’s a better than zero chance it was conceived as a self-funding experiment to test their psychological profiling theories.
You could make a case that suffering hunger and loneliness is an expression of physical courage not unlike the courage of a firefighter. I think what sticks out to me as the key difference which makes it a measure of moral courage specifically is the absence of external moral reinforcement. The solitude removes all social feedback, so you have no culture to conform to, no one to impress, and no particular goal to aim for. Even a political prisoner engaging in a hunger strike is measuring his success by his impact on the lives of other people. But if a man starving on a deserted island talks himself into suicide and no one’s around to care…it’s hard to call that a failure of physical courage.
Therefore, you’d have to throw out everything after season 3 when they introduce paired teams.