Courage: A Conceptual History


Courage has always been a central virtue in the Western ethical tradition, but its meaning has changed considerably over time. In antiquity, courage signified fearlessness in the face of bodily injury and death, whether passively endured (like Socrates and Christ) or actively risked (like Achilles and Alexander the Great).

Today, however, such "physical courage", as it is called, tends to be depreciated in favour of "moral courage", defined by Sidgwick as a readiness to “face the pains and dangers of social disapproval in the performance of what one believes to be one’s duty”.

Why did this shift occur, and what is its significance for the future of courage? These were the questions Skidelsky addressed in his talk.

Edward Skidelsky, University of Exeter, co-author of How Much is Enough? Money and the Good Life.
Commentator: Aner Barzilay, independent researcher and Visiting Fellow at the IWM.
Introduction: Ludger Hagedorn, Permanent Fellow at the IWM.