(Dostoyevsky, for example, presaged Cool in the nihilism of the Underground Man, whose fate was to be convinced that "Nothing matters." In the great spiritual wrestling match that is Notes from Underground, never resolved is the question "Which is better - cheap happiness or exalted sufferings? Well, which is better?")
But recent research by psychiatrist Ilan Dar-Nimrod, published in the Journal of Individual Differences (2012), found "that coolness has lost so much of its historical origins and meaning - the very heavy countercultural, somewhat individualistic pose." A thousand respondents to his survey on Cool tended to define it as being "nice to people, attractive, confident, and successful" - not to mention "friendly" and "trendy." Dar-Nimrod contrasted this with the "darker version" of Cool exemplified by the Nowhere Man, the Rebel Without a Cause, the Misfit.
Valor? Virtue? Mettle? Guts? Heart? Character? What the Scots call “feck” or Northern Brits call “gorm”?
We see an extended treatment of this state of being in Tom Wolfe's study of The Right Stuff. Astronaut Cool is an “ineffable quality” that Wolfe nonetheless tries to “eff”:
As one fan of the book put it, "[Wolfe] has extracted this mysterious quality - guts, machismo, the it factor, coolness - from certain historical personages and events, and has portrayed it simply and beautifully as if he were a poet sociologist from another planet."
"Your bet, you son-of-a--."