February 2016

The Courage to be oneself

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How can it be defined? Baruch Spinoza believes that courage is an essential act of everything that participates in being, namely self-affirmation. The endeavour, where everything endeavours to persist in its own being is nothing else but the actual essence of that thing, the striving towards something. This striving is not a contingent aspect of a thing nor is it an element in its being along with other elements; it is the essentia actualis. The striving makes a thing what it is. If the striving stops the thing disappears.

Spinoza calls this striving which is the essence of a thing also its power, and he says of the mind that it affirms its own power of action. So we have the identification of actual essence, power of being, and self-affirmation. Fortitude is the strength of the soul, its power to be what it essentially is.

Courage is the desire whereby every man strives to preserve his own being in accordance with the dictates of reason. Courage is the power of life to affirm itself, while the negation of life because of its negativity is an expression of cowardice

Courage has two aspects, the desire to join other people in friendship and the power of selfaffirmation.

Eric Fromm agrees that self-affirmation and generosity to others are equally interdependent Self-affirmation logically implies the overcoming of something which threatens or denies the self.

Paul Tillich believes Nietzsche's Will-to-Power is the self-affirmation of the will as ultimate reality.

Virtue for Nietzsche and Spinoza is self-affirmation.

Courage is self-affirmation "in-spite-of," that is in spite of that which tends to prevent the self from affirming itself.

Notes from "The Courage to be" by Paul Tillich



Man and animal alike face the problem of ensuring their survival in a potentially threatening world" but while the solutions available to the animal are entailed in its generic inheritance those of man must be formed and transmitted through intellectual processes and entailing conscious reflection, cultural creation and the appropriation of tradition.