The Two Faces of Courage

Philosophy 61 (236):151-171 (1986)
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Abstract

Courage is dangerous. If it is defined in traditional ways, as a set of dispositions to overcome fear, to oppose obstacles, to perform difficult or dangerous actions, its claim to be a virtue is questionable. Unlike the virtue of justice, or a sense of proportion, traditional courage does not itself determine what is to be done, let alone assure that it is worth doing. If we retain the traditional conception of courage and its military connotations–overcoming and combat–we should be suspicious of it. Instead of automatically classifying it as a virtue, attempting to develop and exercise it, we should become alert to its dangers. And yet and yet. There is an aspect of traditional courage that serves us: we require the capacities and traits that enable us to persist in acting well under stress, to endure hardships when following our judgments about what is best is difficult or dangerous. If courage is checked, redefined as the virtue that enables virtue–the various sets of dispositions, whatever they may be, that make us resolute in worthy, difficult action–then we need not fear the dangers of courage. We need rather to reform it by diversifying it, as a heterogeneous variety of traits that enable us to act well under stress, against the natural movements of self-protection

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Author's Profile

Amelie Rorty
PhD: Yale University; Last affiliation: Boston University

Citations of this work

Moral courage in the workplace: Moving to and from the desire and decision to act.Leslie E. Sekerka & Richard P. Bagozzi - 2007 - Business Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility 16 (2):132–149.
Must We Be Courageous?Ann B. Hamric, John D. Arras & Margaret E. Mohrmann - 2015 - Hastings Center Report 45 (3):33-40.
Courage as a Management Virtue.Howard Harris - 1999 - Business and Professional Ethics Journal 18 (3-4):27-46.

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References found in this work

Ethical Consistency.B. A. O. Williams & W. F. Atkinson - 1965 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 39 (1):103-138.
Morality and conflict.Stuart Hampshire, Sabina Lovibond & Robin Attfield - 1985 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 175 (1):90-92.

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