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Courage

Western Antiquity and Middle Ages

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.[1] 'live life not without fear, but with gallantry against it' : Christian L J Silver

In Roman Catholicism, courage is referred to as "Fortitude"[2] as one of the four cardinal virtues, along with prudence, justice, and temperance. ("Cardinal" in this sense means "pivotal"; it is one of the four cardinal virtues because to possess any virtue, a person must be able to sustain it in the face of difficulty.) In both Catholicism and Anglicanism, courage is also one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
[edit] Eastern traditions

The Tao De Ching states that courage is derived from love ("慈 loving 故 causes 能 ability 勇 brave") and explains: "One of courage, with audacity, will die. One of courage, but gentle, spares death. From these two kinds of courage arise harm and benefit."[3][4]

Courage (shauriya) and Patience (dhairya) appear as the first two of ten characteristics (lakshana) of dharma in the Hindu Manusmruti, 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 as a key factor in facing the Devil and in some cases Jihad to a lesser extent; many believe this because of the courage the Prophets of the past displayed against people who despised them for their beliefs.
[edit] Modernity

Søren Kierkegaard opposed courage to angst, while Paul Tillich opposed an existential courage to be to 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."[5]

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 honour, 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.[6] ”

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 the Sôlar lioð 17 we read of Vêbogi and Râdey â sik þau trûðu, "in themselves they trusted"[7] ”

Ernest Hemingway famously defined courage as "grace under pressure."[8]
[edit] Civil courage
Main article: Good Samaritan law

Civil courage (sometimes also referred to as "Social courage") is defined by many different standards. In general, the term is usually referred to when civilians stand up against something that is deemed unjust and evil, knowing that the consequences of their action might lead to their death, injury or some other form of significant harm.

In some countries (e.g. Brazil, France and Germany) civil courage is enforced by law; this means that if a crime is committed in public, the public is obliged to act, either by alerting the authorities, or by intervening in the conflict. If the crime is committed in a private environment, those who witness the crime must either report it to the authorities or attempt to stop it.
[edit] 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 (see Revelation 5:5). It also is a symbol in some cultures as a savior of the people who live in a community with sin and corruption.
[edit] Recognizing Courageous Actions

Several awards recognize courageous actions, including:

* The Congressional 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 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.
* The Carnegie 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 save others.
* The Profile in Courage Award is a private award given to recognize 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.
* The 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.

[edit] As a strength in psychology

From the end of the twentieth century, courage has been a concept generating interest in the field of psychology. In 2004, Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman’s book, Character Strengths and Virtues proposed a uniform way of classifying positive traits that highlight the elements of humanity that uplift humanity, Courage being among the key virtues. In addition, Seligman and Peterson founded the Virtues in Action (VIA) Institute and created the VIA survey which hope to bring this uniform categorization of human strengths to the masses. The VIA classifies human strengths in six, broad categories: Wisdom and Knowledge, Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, Transcendence. Courage is broken down into four main subcategories: Bravery, Perseverance, Honesty, and Zest.

Bravery

Bravery is the subcategory most people generally associate with Courage (Peterson 2004). It is defined as “the ability to do what needs to be done despite fear” (Peterson 2004) as opposed to less sophisticated definitions that simply categorize bravery as fearlessness or acting when an observer would be afraid (Evans 1981). There are several forms of this bravery. Physical bravery involves acting in spite of possible harm to one’s body. Moral bravery involves acting in a way that enhances what one believes to be good in spite of social disapproval and possible backlash. A third, theoretically newer, definition of bravery is psychological bravery which involves things such as overcoming one’s own addicting habits, irrational anxieties, and harmful dependent relationships. Psychological bravery means acting against one’s own natural inclinations and facing fears which might not have any societal moral implications (Putman 1997). Bravery works well as a virtue in the VIA classification system because it is highly regarded across cultures and has obvious benefits for those surrounded by brave people. Possible problems with viewing bravery as a classifiable human strength is that it could be argued that bravery is not trait-like since it only comes out under certain circumstances (Peterson 2004). The counterargument to this claim is that bravery is trait-like in the same way creativity is considered a trait; both appear only in certain situations (Peterson 2004). The VIA claims that it is a positive psychological trait that can be found and cultivated in certain individuals.

Perseverance

Perseverance falls under the larger category of courage because it often involves continuing along a path in the midst of and after having faced opposition and perhaps failure. Perseverance involves the ability to seek a goal in spite of obstacles and has been shown in human and animal studies to be a lasting trait with individual differences (Eisenberger 1992). In order to persevere at a task, a person must be able to suppress desires to give up and pursue an easier task, a metacognitive understanding that the ends justify the persevering means. But beyond metacognition, a person high in perseverance is able to overcome low self-esteem and estimations that one cannot do the task as well as discouragement from peers and the desire to present oneself well (Zimmerman 1995). As a categorical psychological strength, perseverance is regarded highly by society as opposed to laziness. However, its one weakness as an entry on the VIA as noted by Peterson and Seligman is that it may not be discernable from other human strengths and virtues. It especially can be seen as overlapping with self-control. However Peterson and Seligman maintain its distinctiveness, pointing out that perseverance “is explicitly shown across time, whereas control and regulation of oneself have a more here-and-now flavor” (Peterson 2004). More research needs to be done in this area to empirically show that perseverance belongs in its own distinct category.

Honesty

As defined by positive psychologists, honesty and authenticity as a subset of courage means more than simply telling the truth. It involves integrity in all areas of one’s life and the ability to be true to oneself and one’s role in the world across circumstances (Peterson 2004). Though perhaps one would not immediately associate honesty with courage, there are obvious situations in life where to be honest and authentic requires a great deal of strength in the midst of fear. The positive view societies have of honesty can be seen from the fact that it is something people try to develop in young children and adolescents (Peterson 2004). While all people seem to grow in their understanding of the moral importance of honest and integrity as they grow older (Bussey 1992), there are certain individuals who seem to especially excel in this human strength. This trait is important in many areas of life, so much so that many measurements have been developed in an effort to identify especially honest individuals. These measurements test both overt honesty, the thoughts one has about blatant dishonesty such as stealing, and covert honesty, which is very similar to conscientiousness and dependability (Peterson 2004). Of all the subcategories under courage in the VIA, Honesty shows the most promise as a distinct, well defined area of classification (Peterson 2004).

Zest

Of the four categories involved in courage, zest or vitality, is the one that has the most weaknesses as a classification. It is defined as, “feeling alive, being full of zest, and displaying enthusiasm for any and all activities” (Peterson 2004). This is a category that is influenced not only by subjective psychological factors, but also objective factors affecting one’s physical wellbeing such as chronic pain (Ryan 1997). The reason Peterson and Seligman group Zest together with other courageous virtues is that Zest most often comes forth as a character strength in the midst of trying circumstances. For example, it has been shown that people’s subjective perception of their situation when faced with chronic pain, judging their perceived ability to handle the situation and their general positivity, is able to influence their well-being. This zest can be shown to be trait-like across situations (Ryan 1997).

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The Hero

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