Courage (also called bravery or valour) is the choice and willingness
to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.
Physical courage is bravery in the face of physical pain, hardship,
death or threat of death, while moral courage is the ability to act
rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal,
discouragement, or personal loss.
The classical virtue of fortitude (andreia, fortitudo) is also
translated "courage", but includes the aspects of perseverance and
In the Western tradition, notable thoughts on courage have come from
philosophers, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Kierkegaard; in
the Eastern tradition, some thoughts on courage were offered by the
Tao Te Ching. More recently, courage has been explored by the
discipline of psychology.
1.1 Ancient Greece
1.2 Ancient Rome
1.3 Medieval philosophy
1.5 Eastern traditions
1.6.1 Pre-19th century
1.6.2 19th century onward
2 Society and symbolism
4 See also
7 External links
The early Greek philosopher
Plato (c. 428–348 BCE) set the
groundwork for how courage would be viewed to future philosophers.
Plato's early writings found in Laches show a discussion on courage,
but they fail to come to a satisfactory conclusion on what courage
During the debate between three leaders, including Socrates, many
definitions of courage are mentioned.
"…a man willing to remain at his post and to defend himself against
the enemy without running away…"
"…a sort of endurance of the soul…" "…knowledge of the
grounds of fear and [clarification needed]
While many definitions are given in Plato's Laches, all are refuted,
giving the reader a sense of Plato's argument style. Laches is an
early writing of Plato's, which may be a reason he does not come to a
clear conclusion. In this early writing,
Plato is still developing his
ideas and shows influence from his teachers like Socrates.
In one of his later writings, The Republic,
Plato gives more concrete
ideas of what he believes courage to be. Civic courage is described as
a sort of perseverance – "preservation of the belief that has been
inculcated by the law through education about what things and sorts of
things are to be feared". Ideas of courage being perseverance also
are seen in Laches.
Plato further explains this perseverance as being
able to persevere through all emotions, like suffering, pleasure, and
As a desirable quality, courage is discussed broadly in Aristotle's
Nicomachean Ethics, where its vice of shortage is cowardice and its
vice of excess is recklessness.
In the Roman Empire, courage formed part of the universal virtue of
virtus. Roman philosopher and statesman
Cicero (106–43 BCE) lists
the cardinal virtues does not name them such:
Virtue may be defined as a habit of mind (animi) in harmony with
reason and the order of nature. It has four parts: wisdom
(prudentiam), justice, courage, temperance. (De Inventione, II,
In medieval virtue ethics, championed by
Averroes and Thomas Aquinas
and still important to Roman Catholicism, courage is referred to as
According to Thomas Aquinas:
Among the cardinal virtues, prudence ranks first, justice second,
fortitude third, temperance fourth, and after these the other virtues.
Part of his justification for this hierarchy is that:
Fortitude without justice is an occasion of injustice; since the
stronger a man is the more ready is he to oppress the weaker.
On fortitude's general and special nature, Aquinas says:
The term "fortitude" can be taken in two ways. First, as simply
denoting a certain firmness of mind, and in this sense it is a general
virtue, or rather a condition of every virtue, since as the
Philosopher states (Ethic. ii), it is requisite for every virtue to
act firmly and immovably. Secondly, fortitude may be taken to denote
firmness only in bearing and withstanding those things wherein it is
most difficult to be firm, namely in certain grave dangers. Therefore
Tully says (Rhet. ii), that "fortitude is deliberate facing of dangers
and bearing of toils." On this sense fortitude is reckoned a special
virtue, because it has a special matter.
Aquinas holds fortitude or courage as being primarily about endurance,
As stated above (Article 3), and according to the Philosopher,
"fortitude is more concerned to allay fear, than to moderate daring."
For it is more difficult to allay fear than to moderate daring, since
the danger which is the object of daring and fear, tends by its very
nature to check daring to increase fear. Now to attack belongs to
fortitude in so far as the latter moderates daring, whereas to endure
follows the repression of fear. Therefore the principal act of
fortitude is endurance, that is to stand immovable in the midst of
dangers rather than to attack them.
In both Catholicism and Anglicanism, courage is also one of the seven
gifts of the Holy Spirit. For Thomas Aquinas, Fortitude is the virtue
to remove any obstacle that keeps the will from following reason.
Thomas Aquinas argues that
Courage is a virtue which, along with the
Christian virtues in the Summa Theologica, can only be exemplified
with the presence of the Christian virtues: faith, hope, and mercy. In
order to understand true courage in Christianity it takes someone who
displays the virtues of faith, hope, and mercy.
Courage is a
natural virtue which Saint Augustine did not consider a virtue for
Thomas Aquinas considers courage a virtue through the
Christian virtue of mercy. Only through mercy and charity can we
call the natural virtue of courage a Christian virtue. Unlike
Aristotle, Aquinas’ courage is about endurance, not bravery in
Tao Te Ching
Tao Te Ching contends that courage is derived from love ("慈
loving 故 causes 能 ability 勇 brave"), explaining, "One of
courage, with audacity, will die. One of courage, but gentle, spares
death. From these two kinds of courage arise harm and
Courage (shauriya) and
Patience (dhairya) appear as the first two of
ten characteristics (lakshana) of dharma in the Hindu Manusmṛti,
besides forgiveness (kshama), tolerance (dama), honesty (asthaya),
physical restraint (indriya nigraha), cleanliness (shouchya),
perceptiveness (dhi), knowledge (vidhya), truthfulness (satya), and
control of anger (akrodh).
Islamic beliefs also present courage and self-control as a key factor
in facing the Devil and in some cases Jihad to a lesser extent; many
believe this because of the courage (through peace and patience) the
Prophets of the past displayed against people who despised them for
Thomas Hobbes lists virtues into the categories of moral virtues and
virtues of men in his work "Man and Citizen." Hobbes outlines
moral virtues as virtues in citizens, that is virtues that without
exception are beneficial to society as a whole. These moral
virtues are justice (i.e. not violating the law) and charity. Courage
as well as prudence and temperance are listed as the virtues of
men. By this Hobbes means that these virtues are invested solely
in the private good as opposed to the public good of justice and
charity. Hobbes describes courage and prudence as a strength of mind
as opposed to a goodness of manners. These virtues are always meant to
act in the interests of individual while the positive and/or negative
effects of society are merely a byproduct. This stems forth from the
idea put forth in "Leviathan" that the state of nature is "solitary,
poor, nasty, brutish and short." According to Hobbes courage is a
virtue of the individual in order to ensure a better chance of
survival while the moral virtues address Hobbes's social contract
which civilized men display (in varying degrees) in order to avoid the
state of nature. Hobbes also uses the idea of fortitude as an idea
of virtue. Fortitude is "to dare" according to Hobbes, but also to
"resist stoutly in present dangers." This a more in depth
elaboration of Hobbes's concept of courage that is addressed earlier
in "Man and Citizen." This idea relates back to Hobbes's idea that
self-preservation is the most fundamental aspect of behavior.
David Hume listed virtues into two categories in his work A Treatise
of Human Nature as artificial virtues and natural virtues. Hume noted
in the Treatise that courage is a natural virtue. In the Treatise's
Pride and Humility, Their Objects and Causes, Hume clearly
stated courage is a cause of pride: "Every valuable quality of the
mind, whether of the imagination, judgment, memory or disposition;
wit, good-sense, learning, courage, justice, integrity; all these are
the cause of pride; and their opposites of humility".
Hume also related courage and joy to have positive effects on the
soul: "(...) since the soul, when elevated with joy and courage, in a
manner seeks opposition, and throws itself with alacrity into any
scene of thought or action, where its courage meets with matter to
nourish and employ it". Along with courage nourishing and
employing, Hume also wrote that courage defends humans in the
Treatise: "We easily gain from the liberality of others, but are
always in danger of losing by their avarice:
Courage defends us, but
cowardice lays us open to every attack".
Hume wrote what excessive courage does to a hero's character in the
Treatise's section "Of the Other
Virtues and Vices": "Accordingly we
may observe, that an excessive courage and magnanimity, especially
when it displays itself under the frowns of fortune, contributes in a
great measure, to the character of a hero, and will render a person
the admiration of posterity; at the same time, that it ruins his
affairs, and leads him into dangers and difficulties, with which
otherwise he would never have been acquainted".
Other understandings of courage that Hume offered can be derived from
Hume's views on morals, reason, sentiment, and virtue from his work An
Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals.
19th century onward
Søren Kierkegaard opposed courage to angst, while Paul Tillich
opposed an existential courage to be with 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 affirming 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 honor, 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
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
Winston Churchill stated, "
Courage is rightly esteemed the first of
human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all others."
According to Maya Angelou, "
Courage is the most important of the
virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue
consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing
consistently without courage."
In Beyond Good and Evil,
Friedrich Nietzsche describes master–slave
morality, in which a noble man regards himself as a "determiner of
values;" one who does not require approval, but passes judgment.
Later, in the same text, he lists man's four virtues as "courage,
insight, sympathy, and solitude," and goes on to emphasize the
importance of courage: "The great epochs of our life are the occasions
when we gain the courage to re-baptize our evil qualities as our best
Society and symbolism
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 in the
Catholic Church as a depiction
of Christ'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
See also Category:
Several awards claim to recognize courageous actions, including:
Edelstam Prize awarded for outstanding contributions and
exceptional courage in standing up for one's beliefs in the defense of
Victoria Cross is the highest military award that may be received
by members of the British Armed Forces and the Armed Forces of other
Commonwealth countries for valour "in the face of the enemy", the
civilian equivalent being the George Cross. A total of 1,356 VCs have
been awarded to individuals, 13 since World War II.
Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the
United States government. It is bestowed on members of the United
States armed forces who distinguish themselves "conspicuously by
gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the
call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United
Distinguished Service Cross (United States)
Distinguished Service Cross (United States) is the second highest
military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United
States Army, awarded for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual
combat with an armed enemy force.
Hero Fund – was established to recognize persons who
perform extraordinary acts of heroism in civilian life in the United
States and Canada, and to provide financial assistance for those
disabled and the dependents of those killed saving or attempting to
Profile in Courage Award is a private award given to displays of
courage similar to those John F. Kennedy described in his book
Profiles in Courage. It is given to individuals (often elected
officials) who, by acting in accord with their conscience, risked
their careers or lives by pursuing a larger vision of the national,
state or local interest in opposition to popular opinion or pressure
from constituents or other local interests.
Civil Courage Prize is a human rights award which is awarded to
"steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk – rather than
military valor." It is awarded by the Trustees of The Train Foundation
annually and may be awarded posthumously.
Courage to Care Award is a plaque with miniature bas-reliefs depicting
the backdrop for the rescuers' exceptional deeds during the Nazis'
persecution, deportation and murder of millions of Jews.
Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage is a prize awarded by
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Institute of Technology to individuals who uphold the legacy
Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., whose actions in Atlanta,
Georgia and testimony before congress in support of the 1963 Civil
Rights Bill legislation set a standard for courage during the
turbulent civil rights era of the 1960s.
Param Vir Chakra
Param Vir Chakra is the highest military award in India given to
those who show the highest degree of valour or self-sacrifice in the
presence of the enemy. It can be, and often has been, awarded
The Military Order of Maria Theresa, the highest order of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire, awarded for "successful military acts of
essential impact to a campaign that were undertaken on [an officer's]
own initiative, and might have been omitted by an honorable officer
^ Rickaby, John (1909). "Fortitude". The Catholic Encyclopedia. 6. New
York: Robert Appleton Company.
Plato Biography Philosopher, Writer (c. 428–348 BCE)". Biography.
Retrieved October 18, 2015.
^ Walton 1986, p. 5.
^ a b c d Walton 1986, pp. 56–58.
^ Plato, Cooper & Hutchinson 1997, pp. 1061–75.
^ Plato, Cooper & Hutchinson 1997, pp. 2061–75.
^ Walton 1986, pp. 59–61.
^ Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, 1103b15-20, 1104a15-25, 1104b1-10,
1107a30-1107b5, 1108b15-35, 1109a5-15, 1115a5-1117b25, 1129b20-5,
1137a20-5, 144b5-10, 1167a20, 1177a30-b1, 1178a10-5, 1178a30-5,
1178b10-5, in Aristotle, Translation, Introduction, and Commentary,
Broadie, Sarah, & Rowe, C., Oxford University Press, 2002.
^ McDonnell 2006, p. 31.
^ McDonnell 2006, p. 129.
^ a b c Walton 1986, pp. 62–63.
^ "Summa Theologica". Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
^ a b c "Summa Theologica: Fortitude (Secunda Secundae Partis, Q.
123)". New Advent.
^ Ethic. iii, 9
^ Miller 2000, p. 204.
^ Miller 2000, pp. 21–22.
^ Chapter 67 and 73,
Tao Te Ching
Tao Te Ching (C. Ganson uses the word "courage",
but the Mitchell translation does not.)
Tao Te Ching
Tao Te Ching with
^ a b Hobbes 1972, pp. 68–70.
^ Hobbes 1972, pp. 17–18.
^ Hobbes 1972, p. 290.
^ Hobbes 1972, pp. 150–52.
^ Hume 1751, p. 434.
^ Hume 1751, p. 666.
^ Hume 1751, p. 459.
^ Hume 1751, p. 900.
^ Tillich 1952, p. 89.
^ Tillich 1952, pp. 152–183.
^ Tolkien, JRR. "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics". The Tolkien
Estate. p. 25. Archived from the original on 2007-10-15.
^ Grimm, Jacob (1835). Deutsche Mythologie (Teutonic Mythology) (in
German) (1 ed.). Dieterich: Göttingen.
^ Carter, Richard (1999). "Celebrating Ernest Hemingway's Century".
neh.gov. National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved
^ Nietzsche 1989, p. 65.
^ Miller 2000, pp. 101–102.
^ Revelation 5:5
^ Walton 1986, pp. 199–202.
Jeanmart, G.; Blésin, L. (dir.), Figures du courage politique dans la
philosophie moderne et contemporaine, numéro thématique de la revue
Dissensus. Revue de philosophie politique de l'Université de Liège
(http://popups.ulg.ac.be/dissensus/), n°2, automne 2009.
Avramenko, Richard (2011). Courage: The Politics of Life and Limb.
University of Notre Dame Press.
"Catholic Encyclopedia "Fortitude"". New Advent.
Summa Theologica "Second Part of the Second Part"". New Advent.
See Questions 123–140
Becker, Ernest (1973). The Denial of Death. New York: The Free
Bussey, K. (1992). "Lying and truthfulness: Children's definitions,
standards, and evaluative reactions". Child Development. pp. 63,
Deci, E. L.; Ryan, R. M. (2000). "The 'what' and 'why' of gal
pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior".
Psychological Inquiry. pp. 4, 227–68.
Eisenberger, R. (1992). "Learned industriousness". Psychological
Review. pp. 99, 248–67.
Evans, P. D.; White, D. G. (1981). "Towards an empirical definition of
courage". Behaviour Research and Therapy. pp. 19, 419–24.
Hobbes, Thomas (1972). Bernard Gert, ed. Man and Citizen (De Homine
and De Cive). Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.
Hobbes, Thomas; Tuck, Richard (1991). Leviathan. Cambridge: Cambridge
Hume, David (2009). A Treatise On Human Nature : Being An Attempt
To Introduce The Experimental Method Of Reasoning Into Moral Subjects.
The Floating Press.
Hume, David (1751). An Enquiry Concerning The Principles Of Morals.
Lanham: Start Publishing LLC.
Peterson, C.; Seligman M. E. P. (2004). Character Strengths and
Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. New York: Oxford University
Press. pp. 197–289.
Putnam, Daniel (2004). "Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology".
Psychological Courage. pp. 1–11. ISBN 0-7618-2820-6.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (1989). Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to
a Philosophy of the Future. New York: Vintage.
Ryan, R. M.; Frederick, C. (1997). "On energy, personality, and
health: Subjective vitality as a dynamic reflection of well-being".
Journal of Personality. pp. 65, 529–65.
McDonnell, Myles (2006). Roman Manliness: "Virtus" and the Roman
Republic. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-5218-2788-4.
Miller, William Ian (2000). The Mystery of Courage. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Osho (1999). Courage: The
Joy of Living Dangerously. Macmillan.
Palmquist, Stephen (2000). "
Angst and the Paradox of Courage". The
Tree of Philosophy. Hong Kong: Philopsychy Press.
Plato; Cooper, John M.; Hutchinson, D.S. (1997). Complete Works.
Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub. ISBN 978-0-87220-349-5.
Tillich, Paul (1952). The
Courage To Be. Connecticut: Yale University
Press. ISBN 0-300-08471-4.
Walton, Douglas N. (1986). Courage: A Philosophical Investigation. Los
Angeles: University of California Press.
Zimmerman, Barry J. (1995). Self-regulation involves more than meta
cognition: A social cognitive perspective. Educational Psychologist.
pp. 30, 217–21.
Quotations related to
Courage at Wikiquote
The dictionary definition of courage at Wiktionary
Media related to
Courage at Wikimedia Commons
Virtues in Christian ethics
Great Commandment; "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two
commandments." – Matthew 22:35-40
Republic, Book IV
Augustine of Hippo
Sources: Paul the Apostle
1 Corinthians 13
Seven deadly sins
Source: Prudentius, Psychomachia
People: Evagrius Ponticus
Pope Gregory I
Mono no aware