Just Do It: An Exposition on the Question of the Virtue of Courage

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There is no iota of doubt that one of the primordial characteristics that humanity value in a person is their virtue of courage. In Greek, the word is translated as Andrea; while the other English translation is: Fortitude. However, due to the greatness of the English language and the grandeur of the ancient Greek, today we have so many meanings or synonyms of the said word/virtue. They are: bold, valiant, firm, braveness, courageousness, valiance, spunk, intrepidity, fearlessness, moxie, sand, backbone, fortitude, stoutness, boldness, bravery, valor, nerve, heroism, confidence, intrepidness, mettle, audacity, daring, pluck, indomitable, obnoxious, uncompromising, etc.

courageWhile some commentators on this field of inquiry had also included into the lists the words Stoic and Spartan! It is interesting to note that the last two words are also Greek in origin. We all know that a stoic is a man who belongs to the philosophical school of Stoicism.

Stoicism teaches us the universe was an organic whole, guided by general universal reason; and that man, by virtue of his rationality, could discipline himself to live in accord with his universe, developing the virtues of justice, prudence, temperance, and courage in the face of all trials in the world.

Hence, these kinds of people are no quitters in life. They love life so much (not only all the good that it offers but also they valiantly accept and face all the bad and the worst part of it) that it seems to me that that their motto or credo is: no retreat, no surrender!

Corollary to this vital philosophy of the Stoics, and by virtue of the undeniable fact of their belief in “determinism” which is the idea that all things are fated or destined to be; they indomitably hold that a wise and virtuous person accepts and makes the best of what cannot be changed.   

Sparta, as we are taught in school was one of the primary city-states then in Greece and a staunch archival of the Athenians. The word Spartan was forever etched in the world’s memory because of King Leonidas’ (their most famous ruler) stand in Thermopylae together with his 300 valiant men (together with some 700 Thespians and other Greek warriors) against the whole of the Persian’s empire army. Though, the Spartans was exterminated (due to the treachery of one coward, who revealed the secret passage to the Hell’s Gate) they’ve won a resounding moral victory.

Since time immemorial that classic battle of the ancient world was dubbed variously as the “great last stand”, “the successful failure”, “the battle that changed the course of history”.

Then up to now, various writers, chroniclers, philosophers and military theorists and war tacticians has never ceased from reminiscing the said momentous event and never stop from studying its significance, glory and meaning and to extend it correspondingly to our contemporary times.

In relation to the subject-matter under discussion, the ultimate question that needs to be raise which is utterly necessary for our determination is: if you already known that prior to the commencement of the hostilities or struggle that you would lose the said conflict; will you still proceed and let yourself and so as your men to be defeated and annihilated in the field of battle?

Our answer to the question posed would incontestably reveal our conception of what courage is.

Wikipedia aptly defines courage (also known as bravery, boldness, fearlessness, mettle, fortitude, or intrepidity) “as the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation”.

While the second definition given with regard to physical courage is that: “courage 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, or discouragement”.

As already noted above, courage came from the Greek word Andrea.

In Plato’s Dialogue, Laches, we will see there the different definitions given by the various interlocutors by Socrates.

One definition asserted was: “to be brave is to stand and fight”. Socrates did not accept this definition because it is limited only to specific situation. Example of this would be those people who are engaged in the military. How about those persons in other different situations and varied conditions?

The second definition given was “bravery is endurance”. Again, Socrates did not wholly subscribe to this. He explained that to be brave does not mean to always attack. There are times in life when the right thing to do is to retreat and to withdraw. He is correct in this claim.

As the time honored principle keep on reminding us: “to retreat in the battle is not to accept defeat, but to fight another day”.

There is no shadow of doubt that the Greeks consider courage as one of the cardinal virtues. Hence to be brave is to be good; to be good is to be virtuous and to be virtuous is to have a complete and happy soul.

To be brave or courageous does not mean that the person is without fear. Like the rest of us, he is also feeling the “heat”, the “pressures” and the cracking of the “nerves”, yet what separates a bold soul from the defeatist and the coward is that his resolve and will to go on, irrespective of the outcome of the contest and regardless of the result of the conflict.

Hence, courage is a question of determination and the audacious refusal to bow, no matter how hopeless the situation is, no matter how bleak the circumstances are!

Courage doesn’t mean the absence of fear; rather it is the presence of fear, yet the indomitable will to go on.

As Teddy Roosevelt said forcefully andyet so eloquently:

 “it is not the critic that counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, and comes forth again and again because there is no effort without woe and shortcomings, and who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.  For better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

This bold statement is in conjunction to what Rosa Luxemburg had stated that: “the world belongs to the fearless”.

These are indeed, brave words, without the slightest iota of doubt; I subscribe to them!

Hence, just be brave and make sure that we do it, every day of our lives, because as Aristotle himself have stated:

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.


[Photo courtesy vcepinc.org.]

One Reply to “Just Do It: An Exposition on the Question of the Virtue of Courage”

  1. How about when a President is nowhere to be seen, when a nation is in crisis. Not only courage is lacking. It is nowhere to be seen.
    While cowardice, sometimes becomes a virtue to some politicians. It is annoying to those who elected him/her. Defrauding the voters is the name of the game.

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