Harvey C. Mansfeld
Our Courage in Danger
Thus we see that although courage is always honored, it is not equally honored byevery society. It was much more honored in Sparta than in a modern, commercialsociety like ours, where courage must cooperate with the spirit of gain and ofbargaining. In America, we do ght wars, and thus need courageous citizens, butwe prefer to trade and prosper in peace without becoming devoted to the passionsof revenge and self-righteousness that are characteristic of
in its moresinister mode.
represents the human reaction to a threat. But when the reaction isexplained, the reasons given are usually partisan and sometimes offered in badfaith.
represents the biased side of reason; also, however, the rational sideof bias, for bias always has a biased reason to accompany it, providing cover forits nakedness. This quality illuminates the truth that we are composite creatures,animals with bodies, rational beings with souls. We cannot help giving preference toour bodies and giving reasons to satisfy our souls.
is thus the raw material of courage. It supplies the temper in every humanbeing’s animal nature that compels him to desire to defend himself. Every humanbeing has it as a kind of immunity system for his self-importance—even babies andcertainly women. (Women, like men, get angry, but are likely to express anger moreindirectly and subtly than men.) But some few have much more of it, and this is thespontaneous, natural basis for the extra, superlative courage of the courageous few.Aristotle, however, insists that
by itself is merely animal spirit rather thancourage, and he declares that those who ght not for the sake of what is noble andas reason dictates are good ghters but not courageous men. With this reasoning,he points toward the conclusion that only the truly good are truly courageous,which runs contrary to the rst impression that courage is a virtue because itis good in itself, regardless of the cause in which it is enlisted. This ambivalencereects the nature of reason: when we say man is a rational being, that means manacts for a reason, any reason; but when we say someone is reasonable, we mean hehas a good reason.Now we see the importance of opinion in relation to courage. Courage acts inbehalf of an end that is good in the
of the courageous person; from hisown standpoint, however, he thinks he has a good or true opinion. In his view,there would be something incomplete about his own courage if he were acting in abad cause.