What is Courage ?

What is Courage ?
cavinoid
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Posted Aug 10, 2009 - 8:08 PM:
Subject: What is Courage ?
A friend of mine once told me of a story about an exam paper for a university which contained the question “what is courage?” and as far as philosophical value goes I believed that it was a question worth answering.

Courage first and foremost is an age old term misconceived by the many and understood by only a few. A man once was said “courage is the ability to continue even in the presence of fear” and another more blunt man said “courage is the ability to carry on five minutes more than the man that had to run away already” and it is these phrases which epitomize the misconception. To truly understand what courage is one must underline clearly the few areas which courage is most certainly not. Courage although widely conceived is not the act of good in itself, it is not a noble or chivalric gesture because courage can exist in both good men and bad, is it not courageous that as I speak men in the far east are killing soldiers by suicide bombings, ending their own lives in a courageous manner to try and achieve their cause. And it is this example which my first point is based on, courage has no connection to noble values, the men that commit suicide in this manner do it courageously but at the same time is it not conceived in this side of the world to be evil? To kill a man with hopes dreams and expectations because he fights for a cause different from the other but still in one way the same? The cause to end conflict? This brings me to my second point regarding courage and that is whether or not it is a primitive instinct, a by natural law which is bound to us just as much as the instinct to survive when faced with a dangerous decision, or an instinct such as the one which drives men into the wars that since time memorial have existed and will until the final end? The simple answer is no, or to be more precise it is not completely so. While it is certain that people are born with an instinct of some kind that encourages them to go on and continue in the face of a situation greater than themselves is true but courage is something that is developed. The truest statement that has ever come to my mind is this, people are a product of circumstances, another debate would be what makes a person good or bad which is - without broaching the subject too deeply - the circumstances that have produced them. For example, a person who grows up in a shielded environment and who is provided for is grown that way through their own circumstances, and for this reason this person – it would be safe to suggest – would perhaps be less inclined to perform a courageous act, to stay in the face of danger, in hope that what they have done will meet their cause. On the other hand a person who has be groomed throughout life in a manner that is not shielded, a life which constantly asks more of them, asks them to show courage, in rough areas it is a necessity, a compulsory skill that when faced with a decision, a dilemma between pain and suffering and safety, or even between life and death one would stand and do what is unexpected and courageous in the hopes of achieving their own cause to be safe. And so it stands to reason that while everyone who is ever born will be born with courage not as we know it but as an element to their existence, as an instinct, courage is something that exists in both good and bad people, and that it is not only present in a few but it is present in everyone but to varying degrees and these degrees only vary because of the circumstances which produce people. To conclude the question and to provide a description of what courage is and not what it is not in my own knowledge it is safe to say this. Courage, is something that exists as blatantly as gravity and yet as elusively as religion. It is both an instinct and a natural blessing, courage is only shown when a man or a woman who have, throughout life, become a product of their circumstances and as such present themselves in a manner that separates them from the others who have grown differently because of their circumstances, courage is when one person continues in the face of total loss and still keeps going throughout the ordeal to see it through for better or for worse.


I have these views because am myself a product of m own circumstances and so in this manner this is how courage presnets itslef to me, bu I would love another persons perspetive smiling face
ecspose
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Posted Aug 11, 2009 - 12:00 AM:

Courage is going through with an action that you do not feel comfortable with, despite that feeling. It is proceeding as though you are not bothered by what is actually rife with inhibition. When there is no uncertainty, I do not believe there is any courage. We don't say it is courageous for someone to use an elevator who is not afraid of them.

As per your definition of suicide bombers, it would take an awful lot of courage to turn away from that mindset you had been raised into. I agree that courage is not limited to noble acts, and/or that 'noble' is a subjective definition. It is less courageous to do something you have been groomed for your whole life, than something that might arise spontaneously.

(p.s. you should try a paragraph break, or two)wink
Cafe Rob
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Posted Aug 11, 2009 - 3:54 AM:

"ecspose" wrote:
Courage is going through with an action that you do not feel comfortable with, despite that feeling.Cowardliness is a sin


I think this is referred to as having the courage of one's convictions. One of the most famous statements of courage was made by Captain Lawrence Oates an antarctic explorer in March 1912. Oates is known for his honorable suicide when, aware his ill-health was compromising his companions' lives, he told them "I am just going outside and may be some time" before walking out into a blizzard.

Nietzsche talks about courage as pertaining to manliness. Being a Man, exhibit maniliness. I think courage is bound up with the instincts and I don't believe you can teach a man to be courageous, in the fullest sense. True courage is bound up with morality and ethics Military training is a method of training men to overcome fear. I think courage is necessary for a man's self esteem.

Aristotle refers to cowardliness as a sin in his work the Nicomachean ethics.

A book I've just read is a about a well known coward, Robert Howard. He shot the American outlaw Jesse James in the back and killed him. Public sentiment at the time (1882) condemned the act as cowardly and some years latter Robert Howard was gunned down in an act of retribution and the killer released from prison without serving his time for the murder.
cavinoid
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Posted Aug 11, 2009 - 11:43 AM:

Aristotle is also of the opinion that courage, being a virtue, means that it must rest within the areas in which the human soul is conditioned, that being 1 feelings, 2 capacities and 3 dispostions and because of this courage is dependent on these attributes such as someone who loves, has the capacity to love and the diposition to carry out a specific virtue, courage being one of them, this utimately suggests that my point concerning the fact that courage is something which is existent in everyone just to varying degrees dependent upon their circumstances or the "condition of their human soul" is correct

Also, by saying "cowardliness is a sin" do we not contradict what courage is said to be, when a person continues on in an uncomfortable situation despite the presence of fear which in itself makes them cowardly to have such feeling, to be afraid.
wholeminutia
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Posted Aug 11, 2009 - 11:57 AM:

Courage is the will to be one's self at all times.
BoogerBrains
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Posted Aug 11, 2009 - 1:37 PM:

Positive psychology (gasp) actually has made a fairly decent classification of courage that serves to clarify its meaning. In short Courage, as a "virtue", consists of 4 component "strengths": bravery, perseverance, integrity, and zest (www.viacharacter.org/Classi...tion/tabid/56/Default.aspx). When referring to courage as a whole, you are actually referring to more than one concept. Integrity or honesty is, as wholeminutia points out, a component of courage. Bravery, as in the face of physical danger or the peer pressure of your society, is another component of courage. I've copied definitions and pasted them below. Perhaps this helps clarify?

# Courage – Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal

* Bravery [valor]: Not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain; speaking up for what is right even if there is opposition; acting on convictions even if unpopular; includes physical bravery but is not limited to it
* Perseverance [persistence, industriousness]: Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles; “getting it out the door”; taking pleasure in completing tasks
* Honesty [authenticity, integrity]: Speaking the truth but more broadly presenting oneself in a genuine way and acting in a sincere way; being without pretense; taking responsibility for one's feelings and actions
* Zest [vitality, enthusiasm, vigor, energy]: Approaching life with excitement and energy; not doing things halfway or halfheartedly; living life as an adventure; feeling alive and activated

BitterCrank
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Posted Aug 11, 2009 - 3:14 PM:

On June 11, 1963 Thích Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, went to a busy intersection in Saigon, poured a can of gasoline on himself and struck a match. He burnt himself alive to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the Diem regime (our ally) governing South Vietnam. On June 11, 2009, a Moslem woman wrapped in explosives walked into a crowded market in Baghdad and blew herself up, along with 23 Moslem women, 6 children, and 7 men.
The circumstances in these two suicides are quite different; do they both exhibit courage? If the two suicides had been stopped before ignition, would our later descriptions of their courage be the same as it would have been if they had been successful (as they both were in fact)? Might they have been deemed insane if they had failed?
On D-Day (WWII) landing craft approached the Normandy shore, opened the front end, and soldiers surged forward toward the beach. Some of the first men out were dead from enemy fire before the last of the men ran toward the sands. Meanwhile, at the Auschwitz concentration camp, newly arrived Jews quietly moved about on the railroad platform as the Nazi guards sorted them for immediate or delayed death.
The success of the Normandy Invasion required more than courage: fortitude, resolution, strength, compliance, mental stability, tenacity, a certain blindness to probability -- all manner of responses that keep a soldier moving toward death or success were required. Were these same responses present among the Jews between their arrests and arrivals at the death camps? (I never hear it mentioned.)
One of the preferred ways of dismissing an actor in an historical event is to describe him as cowardly. The 9/11 attack on the United States was dismissed as "cowardly." Robert Ford is referred to as the "dirty little coward who laid Jesse James in his grave." in a folk song. Jesse James was a wanted man with a price on his head for many murders. Shouldn't we be grateful that Robert Ford dispatched this social deviant and criminal at an opportune moment?
I think courage (and cowardice) both take many guises and depend rather heavily on context.


Edited by BitterCrank on Aug 11, 2009 - 3:23 PM
Cafe Rob
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Posted Aug 11, 2009 - 3:19 PM:

"cavinoid" wrote:
when a person continues on in an uncomfortable situation despite the presence of fear which in itself makes them cowardly to have such feeling, to be afraid.


I don't think it follows that if you're afraid of something you're also cowardly. A first world war verteran who recently died in London (over 100) who'd fought in the trenches against the Germans said that; If any man who'd been there said that he was not afraid, would be lying.
James Albert Michener (February 3, 1907 – October 16, 1997)wrote a book called 'Tales of the South Pacific' , when, as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, he was assigned to the South Pacific Ocean as a naval historian during World War II. He vividly describes in the book the landing of American Marines on Pacific Islands held by the Japanese. The thoughts and feelings as the amphibian approached the Islands. Who would not experience feelings of apprhension and fear?

Another display of courage was made by Pushkin the Russian poet who died defending his wife's honour in a duel with Georges d’Anthes. The duelists fired their guns being only 20 steps away from each other. D’Anthes mortally wounded the poet and he died two days later.

Whatever courage is, it's bound up with not shrinking from fear although you might feel inwardly afraid.


You're right in saying that courage exists in everyone to varying degrees, but I'm doubtful whether there are many truly courageous men about. Nietzsche comes out strongly about Christianity saying this has turmed men into worms who are filled with resentment but do nothing that can be called manly.
BoogerBrains
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Posted Aug 11, 2009 - 3:40 PM:

BitterCrank wrote:
I think courage (and cowardice) both take many guises and depend rather heavily on context.

You have presented 4 contextual examples illustrating the necessary conditions for courage. I interpret from them the following questions:
Can intentions without action be courageous? Can an act or intention that is courageous be morally neutral or wrong? Can courage be dignified and unassuming, humble? Can morally right actions be cowardly? I will venture to answer: yes, no, yes, no.

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Posted Aug 11, 2009 - 8:40 PM:

"BitterCrank" wrote:
Jesse James was a wanted man with a price on his head for many murders. Shouldn't we be grateful that Robert Ford dispatched this social deviant and criminal at an opportune moment?


The public feeling at the time would appear to be otherwise. Ron Hansen the author of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford also sees it this way. Some recent scholarship places Jesse James in the context of regional insurgencies of ex-Confederates following the American Civil War rather than a manifestation of frontier lawlessness or economic justice. But however he is perceived to be the act by Robert Ford was deemed to be cowardly and this is the issue here. Ford was a guest in James' house, he had gained the trust of James but took the opportunity to shoot him in the back of the head at point blank range believing that this would earn him some praise from the American public. But it didn't and if you're saying Fords's action was justified by moral reasons and therefore corageous I think you're wrong.

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