Courage, also known as bravery, will, intrepidity, and fortitude, is the ability to confront fear, pain, risk/danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. "Physical courage" is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, or threat of death, while "moral courage" is the ability to act faithfully in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement.
Theories of courage
Western Antiquity and Middle Ages
As a virtue, courage is discussed extensively in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, where its vice of deficiency is cowardice and its vice of excess are recklessness.
In Roman Catholicism, courage is referred to as "Fortitude" as one of the four cardinal virtues, along with prudence, justice, and temperance. ("Cardinal" in this sense means "pivotal"; it is one of the four cardinal virtues because to possess any virtue, a person must be able to sustain it in the face of difficulty.) In both Catholicism and Anglicanism, courage is also one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Tao Te Ching states that courage is derived from love ("慈 loving 故 causes 能 ability 勇 brave") and explains:
"One of courage, with audacity, will kill. One of courage, but gentle, spares life. From these two kinds of courage arise harm and benefit."
Courage (shauriya) and Patience (dhairya) appear as the first two of ten characteristics (lakshana) of dharma in the Hindu Manusmruti, besides forgiveness (kshama), tolerance (dama), honesty (asthaya), physical restraint (indriya nigraha), cleanliness (shouchya), perceptiveness (dhi), knowledge (vidhya), truthfulness (satya), and control of anger (akrodh).
Søren Kierkegaard opposed courage to angst, while Paul Tillich opposed an existential courage to be to non-being, fundamentally equating it with religion:
"Courage is the self-affirmation of being in spite of the fact of non-being. It is the act of the individual self in taking the anxiety of non-being upon itself by affirm ing itself ... in the anxiety of guilt and condemnation. ... every courage to be has openly or covertly a religious root. For religion is the state of being grasped by the power of being itself."
J.R.R. Tolkien identified in his 1936 lecture "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" a "Northern 'theory of courage'"—the heroic or "virtuous pagan" insistence to do the right thing even in the face of certain defeat without promise of reward or salvation:
"It is the strength of the northern mythological imagination that it faced this problem, put the monsters in the centre, gave them victory but no honour, and found a potent and terrible solution in naked will and courage. 'As a working theory absolutely impregnable.' So potent is it, that while the older southern imagination has faded forever into literary ornament, the northern has power, as it were, to revive its spirit even in our own times. It can work, as it did even with the goðlauss Viking, without gods: martial heroism as its own end.”
Virtuous pagan heroism or courage in this sense is "trusting in your own strength," as observed by Jacob Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology,
“Men who, turning away in utter disgust and doubt from the heathen faith, placed their reliance on their own strength and virtue. Thus in the Sôlar lioð 17 we read of Vêbogi and Râdey â sik þau trûðu, "in themselves they trusted"”
Ernest Hemingway famously defined courage as "grace under pressure."
Civil courage (sometimes also referred to as "Social courage") is defined by many different standards. In general, the term is usually referred to when civilians stand up against something that is deemed unjust and evil, knowing that the consequences of their action might lead to their death, injury or some other form of significant harm.
In some countries (e.g. Brazil, France and Germany) civil courage is enforced by law; this means that if a crime is committed in public, the public is obliged to act, either by alerting the authorities, or by intervening in the conflict. If the crime is committed in a private environment, those who witness the crime must either report it to the authorities or attempt to stop it.
Its accompanying animal is the lion. Often, Fortitude is depicted as having tamed the ferocious lion. Cf. e.g. the Tarot trump called Strength. It is sometimes seen as a depiction of the Catholic Church's triumph over sin. It also is a symbol in some cultures as a savior of the people who live in a community with sin and a corrupt church or religious body.
- b. transf. Of a plant. Obs. (Cf. ‘To bring a thing into good heart.’)
- c. Applied to a person: cf. spirit. Obs.
- 2. What is in one's mind or thoughts, what one is thinking of or intending; intention, purpose; desire or inclination. Obs. (Cf. ‘To speak one's mind’, ‘to tell all one's heart’.)
- 3. Spirit, liveliness, lustiness, vigour, vital force or energy; also fig. Obs.
- b. Anger, wrath; c. Haughtiness, pride; d. Confidence, boldness. Obs.
- e. Sexual vigour and inclination; lust. Obs.
- 4. That quality of mind which shows itself in facing danger without fear or shrinking; bravery, boldness, valour.
- b. Formerly also in pl. in reference to a number of persons. (Cf. hearts.) Obs.
- c. (with a and pl.) A kind or species of courage; an instance of courage. rare.
- d. Phrases, as to take courage, be of good c. (obs. or arch.), pluck up c., lose c., etc. Dutch courage: bravery induced by drinking (colloq.). the courage of one's convictions or opinions [F. le courage de son opinion, cited 1864]: courage in action equal to the courageousness of one's opinion; courage to act consistently with one's opinions.
- e. As an exclamation: = Take courage! Cheer up!
- 5. to the courage of: so as to awaken or increase the courage of, to the encouragement of.
- Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, 1103b15-20, 1104a15-25, 1104b1-10, 1107a30-1107b5, 1108b15-35, 1109a5-15, 1115a5-1117b25, 1129b20-5, 1137a20-5, 1144b5-10, 1167a20, 1177a30-b1, 1178a10-5, 1178a30-5, 1178b10-5, in Aristotle, Translation, Introduction, and Commentary, Broadie, Sarah, & Rowe, C., Oxford University Press, 2002.
- Chapter 67 and 73, Tao Te Ching (C. Ganson uses the word "courage", but the Mitchell translation does not.)
- https://www.zhongwen.com/ - Tao Te Ching with Hanzi translations
- Paul Tillich, The Courage To Be (London: Collins, 1952), 152-183.
- Tolkien, JRR. "BEOWULF: THE MONSTERS AND THE CRITICS". The Tolkien Estate. pp. 25. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- Grimm, Jacob (1835) (in German). Deutsche Mythologie (Teutonic Mythology) (1 ed.). Dieterich: Göttingen.
- Carter, Richard. "Celebrating Ernest Hemingway's Century". neh.gov. National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved 2009-06-19.
- Catholic Encyclopedia "Fortitude"
- Summa Theologica "Second Part of the Second Part" See Questions 123-140
- Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York: The Free Press, 1973).
- Douglas N. Walton, Courage: A philosophical investigation (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986).
- Stephen Palmquist, "Angst and the Paradox of Courage" , Chapter XII in The Tree of Philosophy (Hong Kong: Philopsychy Press, 2000)
- Oxford English Dictionary