What is Courage?

What is Courage?

Courage has two components; the ontological (body in action) and the conceptual (mind in action).

Paul Tillich, “Apostle to the intellectuals”, attempts to provide a new theological vocabulary by which modern wo/man might deal with the human situation. Tillich informs us that “Few concepts are as useful for the analysis of the human situation” as the concept of courage.

In his acclaimed book The Courage to Be Tillich sees courage as an “ethical reality”, i.e. courage is foremost a conceptual reality, which is rooted in the whole gestalt of human existence and “ultimately in the structure of being itself. It must be considered ontologically [body-mind in action] in order to be understood ethically”.

When one speaks of mind almost everyone thinks of a stand alone entity functioning in a logical manner in which the body is merely a house for its place of habitation until death, at which time it, sometimes called the soul, floats away to a spiritual kingdom. I wish to correct that erroneous idea.

I have coined the word body-mind, which I first discovered by reading Mark Johnson’s book The Meaning of the Body, because I wish the reader to think not of the mind as a separate entity residing in the body but because I want the reader to think of a body-mind gestalt. That is to say that the mind is an embodied mind, which cannot stand alone just as the heart cannot stand alone with the body bracketed.

Quickie from Wiki: “The psychologist, Carl Jung, who studied archetypes, proposed an alternative definition of symbol, distinguishing it from the term “sign”. In Jung’s view, a sign stands for something known, as a word stands for its referent. He contrasted this with symbol, which he used to stand for something that is unknown and that cannot be made clear or precise.”

In accordance with Carl Jung I would say that the term “body-mind” is a symbol.

Humans, when they became conscious of their mortality, became overly anxious upon discovering their forthcoming death and they conceptualized the soul, which over millions of years morphed into monotheism and religion. Religion became the promise of life everlasting and thus assuaged the anxiety of death.

This anxiety over mortality caused a self-critical humanity to develop the mind/body dichotomy. This dichotomy leads to the idea that there is an essential difference between body and mind. But SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) informs us that we have a body-mind, that is to say that we are a gestalt, not two parts working separately but an integrated functioning whole. The body and mind works as a single unit. The body in action and the mind in action make the human being in action with a constant interrelationship between these two aspects of the gestalt.

Tillich informs us that the human act of courage is fundamentally a body-mind action driven by an ethical concept. “The courage to be is the ethical act in which man affirms his own being in spite of those elements of his existence which conflict with his essential self-affirmation.”

Personal heroism by means of individualism is a task requiring courage and self-confidence. Courage and self-confidence are characteristics of few sapiens, young or old. It is a path less traveled because it imposes terrifying burdens; these burdens display themselves by isolation from the common herd. “This move exposes the person to the sense of being completely crushed and annihilated because he sticks out so much, has to carry so much in himself.”

Personal heroism demands that one exposes her self, i.e. s/he sticks out dramatically from the herd. Those creative types who expose themselves so must create their own justification. Herein we find something that may seem illogical “the more you develop as a distinctive free and critical human being, the more guilt you have. Your very work accuses you; it makes you feel inferior. What right do you have to play God?” By what authority do you presume to introduce new meaning into the world?

Otto Rank was a colleague of Freud and, like Jung, carried theories far beyond those which Freud created. “Freud’s reality psychology emphasized essentially the influence of outer factor, of the outer milieu, upon the development of the individual and the formation of character,…I [was] opposed to this biological principle, the spiritual principle which alone is meaningful in the development of the essentially human.”

For Freud the id is the nucleus of being and it, the id, is subject to the natural laws. In such a frame the personality consists of layers of identification that “form the basis of the parental super-ego.” This might be properly considered to be the spiritual structure of the average individual, i.e. the average personality results from the natural influences developed against the naturally evolved super-ego.

Such a theory accounts for the average but does not account for the two creative extremes: the creative type and the so-called “neurotic” type. I would label the average personality to be a reactive individual; an individual who goes with the flow.

[b]There are two personality types that make up the proactive personality: one creative type squeezes him or her self into a tight ball in reaction to the inner and outer milieu, i.e. the so-called “neurotic” and the second creative type who creates a personality wherein the ego “is strong just in the degree to which it [i]is[i] the representative of this primal force and the strength of this force represented in the individual we call will.”

This second creative type, which Rank identifies as the creative type while he identifies the other creative type as the “neurotic”, creates “voluntarily from the impulsive elements and moreover to develop his standards beyond the identifications of the super-ego morality to an ideal formation which consciously guides and rules this creative will in terms of the personality.”

“The essential point in this process is the fact that he evolves his ego ideal from himself, not merely on the ground of the given but also of self-chosen factors which he strives after consciously.”[/b]

Quotes from Will Therapy and Truth and Reality by Otto Rank

For me, courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.
Seize the abyss with an eagle’s claws…

Therefore courage is not the capacity to be ignorant of danger, but to realize the full ramifications of one’s actions, the potential of damage to oneself or others, and to act in the face of that.

A man who does not know fear I think is either ignorant or an imbecile.

To resist strong instinctual drives requires great self-control. Courage may then be thought of as the measure of one’s willpower.
Though both instincts and willpower could be reduced to determinism…

I admire this idea - but there are a few things that are unclear to me:
For instance, how does art play in this? And - isn’t the dichotomy between mind (thought) and body (the rest) what makes a human?
I would say real courage is to affirm ones mortality - and supercede that. As Achilles knew immortality lies not in life, but in death.
Affirmation is apparently inherently tragic. The reasons for war and for art are the same.

Maybe art developed out of war?

I am convinced that what separates the human animal from all others is our ability to create abstract concepts. Our language ability depends upon this ability and all of our scientific theories are abstract ideas.

What is Courage?

  • have guts enough to break group think
  • put aside selfpersevation and fear

Well, both art and war are creative, explosive (masculine) forces. A discharge of built up energy that of necessity must explode one way or the other. Either outwardly in order to relieve the organism of the burden of passion (which must necesarrily impose itself upon others), or inwardly for the same reasons, destroying the very organism that carries the burden, being crushed under its weight.

In a sense, I feel that this is one of the factors that seperates genius from insanity. The genius (Napoleon, Da Vinci, Bill Gates; to name a few) can easily discharge their energy without destroying themselves. The madman (Nietzsche, Van Gogh, Jesus, etc.) cannot.

I apologize for going off topic. My train of thought derailed some odd eons ago.