Review of Metaphysics 48 (1):163-165 (1994)

This book is an admirable addition to the genre of books which concentrate on a single Platonic dialogue so as to exhibit the mutual dependence of the overt logos and the interlocutors' historically situated characters. The overt logos of the second half of the Laches is an aporetic discussion of courage, and Schmid shows how Plato portrays the different character flaws of the famous generals, Laches and Nicias, as hindrances to further investigation. Through a fine treatment of the relevant sections of Thucydides' The Peloponnesian War, Schmid makes clear how these flaws also led to the failures of courage by Laches at the battle of Mantinea and by Nicias in the Sicilian campaign. He maintains that the secondary literature has failed to appreciate sufficiently not only that Laches' definition of courage is thoroughly traditional, deriving from Homer and Tyrtaeus, but also that Nicias's definition is not Socratic but rather sophistic and Promethian, connected with Periclean humanism. Laches defines courage as "the endurance of the soul" who fears disgrace, especially in reference to soldiers in a phalanx, but his definition omits the element of boldness, for instance, of a general who formulates an unexpected and even unpopular plan of attack or retreat. Nicias defines courage as "the knowledge of dreadful and emboldening things" which, for instance, enables a general to lead soldiers to victory. His definition not only denies the unavoidable contingency of life, and especially of war, but also overlooks the endurance of soul which is required to control one's fear of this contingency and to pursue one's plan.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph1994481122
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