Courage

Edited by Barbara Darling-Smith

Boston University Studies in Philosophy and Religion

This timely book brings together ten scholars in the varied fields of philosophy, theology, history, anthropology, and literature to reflect on the theme of courage. Contributors to this volume agree that courage is not just for the few or the dramatically heroic. While some of the authors do invoke awe-inspiring instances of death-defying courage, all recognize that courage is required of every one of us.

The first section of Courage, entitled “Courage in Philosophy and Literature,” begins with William Desmond’s exploration of the transcendent dimension of courage, which comes to us not from within ourselves but from beyond ourselves. Leroy Rouner’s essay utilizes Paul Tillich’s interpretation of faith as courage in The Courage to Be and then goes on to suggest that original sin be understood in today’s terms as ontological loneliness. Remi Brague, following Nietzsche, finds that the virtue called for in modern times is intellectual honesty—the courage to face the truth. Geoffrey Hill’s essay looks at depictions of courage in the writings of Shakespeare and his immediate predecessors. Philip Ivanhoe suggests that Aristotle’s understanding of courage can be deepened by the writings of the Confucian thinker Mengzi (Mencius), who insisted that “great courage”—courage directed toward morally praiseworthy ends—is the result of a continuing process of self-cultivation.

The second section, “Courage in War, Peace, and Nation Building,” includes John Taylor’s study of courage in wartime, which focuses particularly on Robert E. Lee and his courage. Daniel Berrigan’s piece, on the other hand, finds in the famous Isaiah text “And they will hammer their swords into plowshares” a summons to peace making. Lucius Outlaw calls for courage from each of us in constructing a multiracial, multiethnic democracy with “justice for all.”

“Courage Every Day” is the theme of the final section. Robert Neville illuminates the many varieties of courage called for each day of our lives, including the courage to dare, the courage of self-identity, the courage to love, and the courage to be alone. Katherine Platt concludes these explorations of courage with the hope-inspiring suggestion that courage is a habit we can practice.

BARBARA DARLING-SMITH is assistant professor of religion at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts and former assistant director of the Boston University Institute for Philosophy and Religion. She is the editor of Can Virtue Be Taught?, also published by the University of Notre Dame Press.

Reviews

“Courage is always in short supply—especially among intellectuals. This fine collection of essays challenges us to examine our souls and to try to live life with the joyful daring that makes it worthwhile. It is excellent reading and may do us some much-needed good.”—John Lachs, Centennial Professor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University

“Deftly edited by Barbara Darling-Smith Courage showcases a truly impressive selection of contributions by a variety of learned and scholarly authors writing about the conceptual and emotional virtue of ‘courage.’ Courage is an inherently fascinating read and a highly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as academic and community library collections.” — The Midwest Book Review