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I am not sure where you can find Ayn Rand talking about courage explicitly (implicitly try pretty much all her books, they all have characters who have the courage to do what is right.) But in my understanding courage is being able to do something thatmight scare or embarrass yet in the end will make you happier. Like the courage to apologize, the courage to quit your job and start your own business.

Basically weighing risk vers reward and if the reward outways the risk, having the courage to do it.

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See "The Journals of Ayn Rand" p. 261:

The virtue of courage is the strength to face any threat and to fight back. Fight what? Nature, as well as other men when necessary. If, however, one must place others above self—then it is evil to resist them; then one must surrender if a conflict arises. But the man of courage is the one who does not surrender. In an issue of courage, altruism becomes cowardice—an act of evil.

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Courage is an necessary component of conviction, which as GC states, links it to integrity. If integrity is the refusal to sacrifice oneself to any irrational, anti-life activity; and from the positive side, to practice what one preaches - if this is true, then courage is not so much a virtue, as it is an attribute. It describes someone who has integrity, but it also describes that persons integrity with relation to the challenges against their integrity.

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I wanted to chime in here again, because I thought there was something important to add:

Courage is definitely not a virtue. Courage is what it takes to stick by your integrity. But courage cannot be a virtuous initself. Is it right to get into a fight with an armed mugger whom you have can no chance of disarming? You are putting your life in danger to protect your property, when your life should be the highest value. Between your wallet and your life, it is your life which wins everytime.

Courage is not a measure of ones self worth, and on its own, it is a replacement for real self-esteem. Rather than valuing your life, you simply value taking lots of risks. They have no meaning attached to them and no resonance. You are ultimately left empty and unfulfilled if you live your life by virtue of courage.

Edited by Tenure
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Courage is definitely not a virtue.

I disagree. But then I think of courage slightly different than has been defined on here so far. A martial arts instructor once defined courage as the ability to take a necessary or a right action in the face of fear or loss. It's easy to take action when you aren't afraid of having something to lose, but more difficult when there is a risk involved.

Is it right to get into a fight with an armed mugger whom you have can no chance of disarming?

I'm not sure you have picked an example of "courage" here. It may be more like stupidity depending on what's at risk. However, suppose you are in the same situation but the mugger says he is going to kill you? Do you have the courage to try to save your life in what appears to be a situation in which you cannot win? Simply acquiescing to everyone who wishes to take something from you is not valuing your life.

You are putting your life in danger to protect your property, when your life should be the highest value. Between your wallet and your life, it is your life which wins everytime.

I think this needs more context. For some people in certain areas, people seek to take from them almost all the time. Their wallet, their rent check, their whatever, IS their life. At what point does one realize that there is a connection between their property and their life? Is a person in fact valuing their life more than their property by letting everyone walk all over them at the slightest threat of loss? For me, at least, part of the value of my life is recognized by the fact that there risk in keeping it. But I hope I have the courage to stand up to the risk when I'm faced with the possibility of losing my life or part of it.

Rather than valuing your life, you simply value taking lots of risks.

I really don't think you are talking about risk here. I may be wrong, but I think you are equating risk with stupidity (or thrill-seeking) and the two are not the same. There is nothing about the term "courage" that implies "taking lots of risks", particularly those which are unnecessary. Also, "life" (okay, at least my life), doesn't simply consist of avoiding the morgue as long as possible. There are times in life when it is perfectly rational to take risks. Courage is that virtue that allows a person to take those risks when they see them as necessary despite the risk of some loss of value.

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A martial arts instructor once defined courage as the ability to take a necessary or a right action in the face of fear or loss.

I think this is an aspect of the Objectivist virtue of integrity, maybe a high form of integrity, but none the less contained in that virtue.

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I think this is an aspect of the Objectivist virtue of integrity, maybe a high form of integrity, but none the less contained in that virtue.

I'm not sure I understand why it's important to make this distinction. Do you mean to say that there is no purpose for the use of the word "courage"? That there is not enough of a distinction to warrant a seperate concept?

I see them as two entirely distinct (but related) ideas.

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What I think I was trying to clarify was courage as a noble ideal of sacrifice. If one has a low self-esteem, they will see offering themselves upto a mugger as an act of courage. Think of Holden in Catcher in the Rye (sorry to bring this book up again), when he lets the pimp beat him up. He imagines himself as some sort of old western cowboy, with an injury to his stomach, limping over to the bathroom to clean himself up, grabbing a glass of scotch and going to find the pimp to shoot him. In reality, he's just let the guy beat him up because he has such low self-esteem, he doesn't really care whether he lives or dies.

What I'm describing is courage in the way it is classically seen, and why that isn't a virtue. The Jesus-Christ style death/rebirth is a common trend in any action film - the beaten and bloody hero comes back from the brink of death and saves the day, throwing his life on the line. It's a popular image in art which ingrains a lot of people with what it means to be courageous. And... this is courage, but courage is not a virtue, in that you don't act in virtue of being courageous. You act in virtue of your integrity, and it takes courage, a strength of will, to do that.

To separate courage as a standalone principle however is wrong. It undermines the meaning of courage, and turns it into a way of boosting a false sense of self-esteem. One might choose to get into a fight with a bully as a younger kid, not because they think it'll show they bully what-for, or because they think they'll win, but simply on virtue that it is the 'courageous' thing to do. If one detatches the meaning or virtue that the courage is attached to, it simply becomes an excuse to deny the reality low value one places on their life.

In you're questioning the context of the mugger, I assume you mean the application of it to a tax collector or some sort of money-requisitioner. Ok. Well let's look at that context. It takes courage to say you're not going to pay your taxes, and to let the Government arrest you for that. But they are not rational people. In the case of a mugger, you are dealing with someone who is not rational - you may be able to appeal to their Reason, but if you are faced in the position that they simply do not care what you think (as is the case with most forms of muggers - a drug addict, a petty crook, a tax collector), your courage counts for nothing. Are you really going to let yourself be thrown into jail? It might be 'courageous' to stand up to the man, but it is not in the interests of your life to do so.

Edited by Tenure
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To separate courage as a standalone principle however is wrong.

No, it is quite distinctly different than integrity. One can display integrity (theoretically) throughout the entirety of his life without ever having to face a serious risk of loss or danger. The distinction of courage is that it always involves facing a risk and still being able to act. We view courage differently.

I'll offer something of a self-promoting example. I value peace and justice in the society in which I live. This typically requires police officers in civilized society. Now, I could just let others do that job for me, because there are risks involved in being a police officer. However, I decided to accept those risks because I value those things so highly and because my life benefits greatly from living in a reasonably peaceful society. But that means I'm faced with opportunities in which I face personal danger of injury or death in order to preserve the peace and justice I benefit from so much in the long term. This is courage that I speak of, the ability to take those actions necessary to preserve those values even when I'm faced with losing them.

In you're questioning the context of the mugger, I assume you mean the application of it to a tax collector or some sort of money-requisitioner. Ok.

No, I mean a mugger. I would say tax collector if that is what I meant.

but if you are faced in the position that they simply do not care what you think (as is the case with most forms of muggers - a drug addict, a petty crook, a tax collector), your courage counts for nothing.

Courage "counts" for plenty if it saves my life in the face of an irrational person who would take it from me. I'm not sure why courage has to be some points one garners to sway how others think of him. Being courageous doesn't require that others recognize it.

Are you really going to let yourself be thrown into jail? It might be 'courageous' to stand up to the man, but it is not in the interests of your life to do so.

Jail?? I'm going to defend myself in the face of an attacker. If that means I have to withstand a trial, so be it. But protecting my life IS in the interest of my life. I don't know of any other person who is a better judge of what's in my rational self-interest besides me. I don't care what the "classical" view of courage is, I care about what courage is in reality.

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For some people in certain areas, people seek to take from them almost all the time. Their wallet, their rent check, their whatever, IS their life. At what point does one realize that there is a connection between their property and their life?

I assumed this was a statement about the very wide meaning of the term 'mugger' and that sometimes people have to put up with having the government having regulated control over their money - as is the case with most of the world. I'm sorry for the confusion.

Being courageous doesn't require that others recognize it.

I think you misunderstand me here. I am not saying that one must recognise your courage, except yourself. What I was talking about, people 'not caring what you think', was that if you have the courage to argue a rational case against your oppressor, it will mean nothing, because he is not acting rationally, nor does he hold concern for what is rational.

It is not a virtue to be courageous, but it takes courage to be virtuous.

I'm going to defend myself in the face of an attacker. If that means I have to withstand a trial, so be it. But protecting my life IS in the interest of my life. I don't know of any other person who is a better judge of what's in my rational self-interest besides me.

I don't care what the "classical" view of courage is, I care about

My point with that was to illustrate the negative side of holding courage up as a virtue in and of itself, that just because you are acting coureagously does not bring any good to your action. If, however, you are acting courageously in virtue of what you value then... actually...

I think I foreit this argument actually. I think you're right, courage could actually be defined as a virtue, if one takes the definition (I was listening to one of Peikoff's lectures online yesterday) of virtue meaning "acting in virtue of x". If one acts courageously, it would have to be 'in virtue' of what one believes to be a value.

However, I think my problem lies with the fact that it is possible, as I guess it is possible with all virtues, to dettatch or obscure the meaning of it to your life; as I said, in the very common instance that one can believe the virtue of 'sacrifice' to be 'courageous'. I think this requires a re-evalutation of what courage means then, thus the existence of this debate.

Is courage an alienable virtue, or is it integrity intensified in the face of danger? If it is alienable, is it still possible to call 'courage' a virtue on its own merit, when it is not done in relation to integrity? But what if one believes sacrifice to be a virtue, the application of it to be a mark of integrity and therefore a courageous action? Obviously they're wrong to believe so, but is the nature of courage such that it can exist in absence of rational thinking?

That's what I take issue with, that last point - that courage is simply a matter of facing a risk, alienable from any rational judgement.

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Is it right to get into a fight with an armed mugger whom you have can no chance of disarming? You are putting your life in danger to protect your property, when your life should be the highest value. Between your wallet and your life, it is your life which wins everytime.

This reminded me of Aristotle's take on it. That courage is a virtue between the extremes of cowardice on one end and foolhardiness on the other. What you describe above seems to be an example of the latter.

It's another way of saying that virtue is contextual.

I agree that courage is an aspect of integrity. But that it also may be related to honesty. It is the psychological willingness to act to gain or maintain your values in the face of danger or risk. If, by way of example, I believed that I valued my spouse so highly that life without her would hardly be worth living, yet chose not to protect her from harm when it mattered most, I would have had to have been dishonest with myself at some point in my evaluation of her value.

Rationalbiker, I don't think anyone means that courage as a concept is not useful. Only that as an aspect of integrity, it is not necessary to view it as a seperate virtue.

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My point with that was to illustrate the negative side of holding courage up as a virtue in and of itself, that just because you are acting coureagously does not bring any good to your action.

I strongly suspect we are still operating on different definitions of the word. If you go back to the beginning of contribution, I showed how I was using the term;

A martial arts instructor once defined courage as the ability to take a necessary or a right action in the face of fear or loss.

This doesn't include acting "courageously" destructive or stupid. It's doesn't include taking any action in the face or fear or loss.

However the same argument could be used against honesty. Just being honest doesn't necessarily bring any good to your action. Does that mean that honesty is not a virtue then?

That's what I take issue with, that last point - that courage is simply a matter of facing a risk, alienable from any rational judgement.

But that is not a position that I have ever argued. In fact I have specifically argued otherwise, distinguishing rational risk-taking from mere "thrill-seeking" and such. I recognize a clear distinction between courage and stupidity.

Rationalbiker, I don't think anyone means that courage as a concept is not useful. Only that as an aspect of integrity, it is not necessary to view it as a seperate virtue.

I know but I disagree.

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What you describe above seems to be an example of the latter.

Is it right to get into a fight with an armed mugger whom you have can no chance of disarming? You are putting your life in danger to protect your property, when your life should be the highest value. Between your wallet and your life, it is your life which wins everytime.

First, when you are being robbed, your life is already in danger. Second, I've seen too many robberies to ignore that simply complying with the robbers instructions means you automatically get to live. A woman in a grocery store lot was robbed. She gave up her purse and then the suspect shot her dead AFTER he got what he wanted. I'm not going to speculate whether or not some resistance on her part would have saved her life or not, but giving into him certainly did not.

In another situation a man was being robbed by two other men. One had a gun, the other a machete. He resisted, scared off the attacker with the gun, and took the machette from the other guy (who ended up with a few slashes of his own). The question then becomes, what would have happened if he had simply given in to their demands?

In a robbery situation, I think one could be making a grave mistake to think that only their wallet is at risk.

So to answer the first part of the question; "Is it right to get into a fight with an armed mugger whom you have can no chance of disarming?" the correct answer is - it depends. Now I'm by no means telling any of you how you should act, you need to make that call when reality dictates. I, on the other hand, may act entirely differently based on the facts and circumstances specific to that instance.

I think in this matter, perhaps we simply disagree with what's at stake when one allows people to walk all over them and take from them without putting up a fight just because there may be some risk, even grave risk, involved.

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I'm not sure I understand why it's important to make this distinction. Do you mean to say that there is no purpose for the use of the word "courage"? That there is not enough of a distinction to warrant a seperate concept?

I see them as two entirely distinct (but related) ideas.

Yeah, just a form of Rand's Razor ( no need to multiply concepts unnecessarily) and at the same time agreeing thta courage is a virtue, just already contained in the Objectivist virtue of integrity.

Can you show me how they are distinct ideas? Using the Objectivist virtue of integrity as an example.

To me, if integrity is "allowing no breach between our principles and actions", courage is simply a subset that would add ", even when those actions require the potential for significant hardship or risk."

Edited by KendallJ
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Can you show me how they are distinct ideas? Using the Objectivist virtue of integrity as an example.

To me, if integrity is "allowing no breach between our principles and actions'

From my post #13.

One can display integrity (theoretically) throughout the entirety of his life without ever having to face a serious risk of loss or danger. The distinction of courage is that it always involves facing a risk and still being able to act.
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