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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 284

The characters in The Courage to Be by the Protestant Philosopher Paul Tillich are fundamental states of being in the modern Western human condition: existential anxiety, courage to face this anxiety, and proper individuation to balance the demands of society.

Tillich treats anxiety as a requisite counterpart to being and the main obstacle to be overcome by courage. Tillich distinguishes anxiety from fear which he says has a cause that can be confronted, whereas the sources of human anxiety are ambiguous and existential: the anxiety of mortality, the anxiety of meaninglessness, and the anxiety of self-doubt and guilt.

Tillich explores the evolution of the meaning of courage through the philosophies of Plato and the Stoics of antiquity, the medieval scholastic views of Aquinas, and the ideas of the modern philosophers Spinoza and Nietzsche. Each relates the meaning of courage to the conditions of their time. Through this discourse, Tillich argues for the summoning of the courage to endeavor for self-preservation and self-affirmation in the face of the inevitable conditions of anxiety and uncertainty, as opposed to the realistic if somewhat grim resignation of the Stoics (which he grants is an alternative).

Individuation is another character of The Courage to Be as a process extensively examined in relation to group participation. Neither complete isolation from the world nor the loss of self in the group are considered to be ideal by Tillich. The author commends the high value placed on individualism in the eighteenth and nineteenth-century traditions of naturalism and romanticism but finds the highest treatment of individualism in the transcendence of existentialism. Tillich argues that the divide of self and world is transcended by looking to the ultimate ground of being which incorporates both.

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