Tag Archives: courage

Is courage teachable or natural?

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Again, Socrates being asked whether courage is something teachable or natural, “I think,” said he, “just as a body is by nature more resistant to pain than another body, so, too, one soul to another soul comes by nature stronger with regard to misfortune; for I see that there is too much difference among those who are brought up by the same law and under the same customs. On the other hand, however, I do believe that every nature gets much improvement in daring by learning and studying. For clearly the Scythians and Thracians do not wish to fight against Lacedaemonians with shields and spears, nor do the Lacedaemonians wish to conflict with the Thracians using small shields and javelins, neither with the Scythians using bows. Whence it follows that clearly in matters one wishes to become notable, these one should both learn and study”.

The various kinds of courage

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There are five kinds of courage that are called by a resemblance; for those who are well-known for their courage endure the same things but not for the same reasons. One of course is political courage; this exists on account of shame. Second is military courage; this is due to experience and knowledge, not as Socrates said the knowledge of what is awesome, but as to how they are to protect themselves from what is awesome. Third that which is due to inexperience and ignorance, which make children endure what is rumored and madmen grasp snakes. Another is because of hope, by virtue of which the extremely fortunate endure dangers as well as those who are intoxicated, since wine makes them hopeful. Another is that which comes from an irrational passive emotion, such as love or passion. For a man in love is rather over-bold than coward, and endures many dangers. The same account holds good both for wrath and for passion; for passion provokes confusion. That is why wild boars are thought to be courageous, though they are not; for they become so when misbehaved, otherwise they have changeable temper, like over-bold men. None the less the most courage is that of passion; for passion is undefeatable, and this is the reason why the young fight extremely well. Political courage is due to law. However, none of these is real, but all these are useful for encouragement and strengthening in case of danger.

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