Philosophy at St Andrews

Plato on Courage and Risk

Tue 6th November 2012 19:30

Arts Lecture Theatre

Angie Hobbs


Abstract: ‘Courage’ is notoriously hard to define, and any attempt at a definition has to address difficult questions, such as the relation between courage and risk or courage and stupidity. I will outline some of the main problems with defining courage, and will then argue that Plato’s discussion of andreia in the Laches offers more than an exploration of a culturally specific concept of ‘manliness’, and can help us to articulate more clearly some of the philosophical debates concerning courage.

I further suggest that the Laches provides substantive guidance on how to address these debates, and will argue that this work strongly implies that a full definition of courage must make reference to both knowledge and reasoning on the one hand and to a psychological and behavioural trait on the other, and also that the relevant knowledge and reasoning will not only concern values, goods, and ends, but also circumstances and means. I end by considering some of the implications of these findings for educational theory and practice.

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