Book 3.5: The Several Moral Virtues and Vices.

Chapter 9: How courage involves both pain and pleasure.

Courage is concerned, as we said, with feelings both of confidence and of fear, yet it is not equally concerned with both, but more with occasions of fear: it is the man who is cool and behaves as he ought on such occasions that is called courageous, rather than he who behaves thus on occasions that inspire confidence.

And so, as we said, men are called courageous for enduring painful things.

Courage, therefore, brings pain, and is justly praised; for it is harder to endure what is painful than to abstain from what is pleasant.

I do not, of course, mean to say that the end of courage is not pleasant, but that it seems to be hidden from view by the attendant circumstances, as is the case in gymnastic contests also. Boxers, for instance, have a pleasant end in view, that for which they strive, the crown and the honours; but the blows they receive are grievous to flesh and blood, and painful, and so are all the labours they undergo; and as the latter are many, while the end is small, the pleasantness of the end is hardly apparent.

If, then, the case of courage is analogous, death and wounds will be painful to the courageous man and against his will, but he endures them because it is noble to do so or base not to do so.

And the more he is endowed with every virtue, and the happier he is, the more grievous will death be to him; for life is more worth living to a man of his sort than to any one else, and he deprives himself knowingly of the very best things; and it is painful to do that. But he is no less courageous because he feels this pain; nay, we may say he is even more courageous, because in spite of it he chooses noble conduct in battle in preference to those good things.

Thus we see that the rule that the exercise of a virtue is pleasant does not apply to all the virtues, except in so far as the end is attained.

Still there is, perhaps, no reason why men of this character should not be less efficient as soldiers than those who are not so courageous, but have nothing good to lose; for such men are reckless of risk, and will sell their lives for a small price.

Here let us close our account of courage; it will not be hard to gather an outline of its nature from what we have said.


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