The English word “courage” comes from the Latin term “cor,” meaning “heart.” Even though we often assign this virtue to acts of physical fortitude, our mental and moral strength are just as worthy of such praise. Philosopher Geoffrey Scarre—whose name simply begs introspection on this subject—has extensively pondered this topic and believes that not all bravery is summoned equally. In this excerpt from his book, On Courage (2010, Routledge), he discusses the morality of heroism and why feeling fear is one of the most humanizing traits there is.
More than any other moral quality, courage tends to evoke feelings of admiration and awe. Courage can appear to be an aristocrat among the virtues: the preserve of a rare breed of people possessing conspicuous natural nobility and greatness of soul. When we talk about brave deeds, it may seem appropriate to do so in a hushed whisper.
But it would be a mistake to suppose that all courageous action is heroic action. While many of our favorite paradigms and exemplars of courage are cases of almost unbelievable endurance or bravery in the face of danger, the virtue is as much at home in the cottage as in the castle, in the office as on the battlefield. Our thinking about courage will get off on the wrong foot unless two things are recognized at the outset: that
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