News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Courage

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I was encouraged and delighted by today's call-in program on the subject of courage on the PBS local channel. I have an unpublished journal article on Kierkegaard's concept of courage vis-a-vis Plato. (Alastair Hannay was kind enough to review a draft of the article and make a few suggestions, as was a prominent Plato scholar.)

I found the discussion on the show as a way to see what I have written in a practical (Habermas would call it a pragmatic) context. If you listen to the discussion on the program, you'll find that the last caller in the show asks a question about how to inculcate virtue--this is the gist of my own paper.

It's always difficult to synopsize articles, but I'll try. I try to show that Kierkegaard's Sickness Unto Death is an attempt to explore the concept of Christian courage. I think this is a major theme of the work, though it is not explicitly stated to be so. I take encouragement for this view from the Introduction of the book, where Kierkegaard seems to paraphrase Plato's definition of courage in the Republic.

This states that courage is knowing "what to fear and what not to fear." My own investigation of the defintion tries to show the somewhat anti-cognitivist aspects of Plato's understanding and then to move on to Kierkegaard's critique of Plato vis-a-vis faith and sin, while showing how Kierkegaard places all of this against the backdrop of modern nihilism. Kierkegaard's own anti-cognitivism comes out as a matter for the will, something that Plato still places within a rationalistic framework.

My recent studies in Tugendhat and Habermas have provided fresh material and angles to get at this subject. I will, perhaps, integrate some of this in a continuation of the paper.

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