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PhilosophyGround >> Moderation vs. COURAGE


5/5/08 5:31 AM
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Socrates
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It seems that both moderation and courage are virtues. But, they seem opposed to each other. In war, for instance, it seems courageous to face the enemy head on, even when the odds are not in your favor. But, when the odds are not in your favor, the moderate action seems to be to run away and live to fight another day...

So, are moderation and courage opposed to each other? And if so, what does this say about virtue in general? Can it be divided, and still remain virtue?
5/5/08 1:46 PM
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twinkletoesCT
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Aristotle suggested that virtue is a mean between two extremes.

In the example of courage, the virtuous action would be somewhere between the cowardly action and the foolhardy one.

However, Aristotle seems to have left out how to apply this theory. He applies it equally to all situations, which is clearly inappropriate.

If the proper virtuous temperament is to feel "a little bit of fear" (as opposed to a lot or to none), then one should feel "a little bit of fear" when waking up in the morning, "a little bit of fear" while eating one's breakfast, "a little bit of fear" while driving to work, "a little bit of fear" while swinging from a trapeze, etc. Clearly, not all situations ought to inspire "a little bit of fear".

Instead, perhaps we ought to say that in each situation, there is a range of possible commensurate feelings and actions, and that the moderate or mean temperament is the one in the middle of that appropriate range. But really, the chief issue would still be the range appropriate to the situation.

So perhaps one can be moderately courageous, given the nature of the situation. In your example of facing overwhelming enemies, perhaps the range of responses are anything from fleeing to facing one's enemies, and the courageous action is somewhere between outright retreat and foolhardy continuation.

Also, perhaps "moderate" is not quite what you mean. It seems that to run away and live to fight another day is the prudent action given your context (the action "in one's own best interest"). It seems to me that prudence and courage could often be opposites, in a variety of situations, even though both are virtues.

Thus the larger conversation still remains about your final question: when judging the whether an action exhibited "virtue" (apart from rightness or wrongness), must we find a way of expressing a hierarchy or a minimum number of virtues that it demonstrates?

This is something I've been reading and, to a lesser extent, beginning to write about recently. I'm curious to hear others' opinions as well.

~Chris
5/19/08 3:45 AM
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Steppenwolf
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Book VI of the ethics is all about practical wisdom, i.e. application of his virtue ethics.

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