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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 199

Paul Tillich’s The Courage To Be is a classic piece of twentieth-century philosophy. Like his predecessor, seminal Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, Tillich is unique for his commitment to Christianity. For Tillich, a higher power is the solution to modern man’s anxieties. That said, Tillich does not treat religion as his primary theme.

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According to Tillich, these anxieties are threefold: the first is anxiety surrounding one’s mortality. The Latin motto memento mori (“remember that you will die”) encapsulates this perpetual anxiety. The second anxiety is akin to nihilism (viz. that there is no inherent meaning in the universe). The third anxiety that uniformly plagues individuals is that one has not fulfilled his or her purpose. According to Tillich, these anxieties date to different ages—from the ancient world to modernity.
Tillich adds that the individual needs to be affirmed as an individual and as a group, which allowed the Church to gain momentum. Tillich also claims that existentialists, like Marx and Nietzsche, contributed in no small way to a sense of despair. Existentialists (unlike nihilists) seek solutions in the individual, while Tillich proposes that individuals can demonstrate courage by finding meaning in a higher power outside themselves.


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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 65

The material in Paul Tillich’s book, The Courage to Be, was first presented in the form of a series of lectures given at Yale University in 1950-1951, under the sponsorship of the Terry Foundation. The central task that the author has assumed in these lectures is that of a dialectical analysis and phenomenological description of courage as a structural category of the human condition.

Defining Courage

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 544

Courage, as understood by Tillich, is both an ethical reality and an ontological concept. As an ethical reality, courage indicates concrete action and decision that expresses a valuational content. As an ontological concept—that is, as illuminating a feature of being—courage indicates the universal and essential self-affirmation of one’s being. Tillich argues that these two meanings of courage must be united if a proper interpretation of the phenomenon is to be achieved. In the final analysis, the ethical can be understood only through the ontological. Courage as an ethical reality is ultimately rooted in the structure of being itself.

These two meanings of courage have been given philosophic consideration throughout the whole history of Western thought. The author provides a brief historical sketch of the attempt to deal with the phenomenon of courage by tracing its development from the Greek philosopher Plato through the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. There is first the tradition that begins with Plato and leads to medieval philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas. In the thought of Plato and Aristotle, the heroic-aristocratic element in courage was given priority. Plato aligned courage with the spirited part of the soul, which lies between reason and desire, and then aligned both courage and spirit with the guardian class (phylakes ), which lies between the rulers and the producers. The class of guardians, as the armed aristocracy, thus gave the Platonic definition of courage an indelible heroic-aristocratic stamp. Aristotle preserved the aristocratic element by defining the courageous person as one who acts for the sake of what is noble. However, there was another current of thought developing during this period. This was the understanding of courage as rational-democratic rather than heroic-aristocratic. The life and death of Socrates, and later the Christian tradition, gave expression...

(The entire section contains 4290 words.)

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