In Book III, Chapter 7 of his works concerning Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle explains the qualities and virtues associated with being brave, fearless, or even a coward. He specifically discusses, though, how these different character traits, albeit being concerned with similar matters, “have different states related to them”.

Aristotle first introduces this belief through his explanation of how the way one experiences fear differs depending on the internal forces of the person as well as the external forces of the situation, excluding the few things that are said to be impossible to resist because of the intense level at which they are truly frightening. He then goes on to explain how this idea of fear relates to the differences between certain traits. A brave person, for example, experiences fear, yet remains firm in standing their ground against such fears, “for the right end, in the right way, at the right time”, causing them to exude confidence. A coward, however, does the opposite of this, fearing things in the wrong way at the wrong time, making them afraid of everything. A fearless person, according to Aristotle, is someone who is rash and who is “excessively confident”, causing them to also thrive through wrong states.

At first, this claim that there is a large difference between the deeper meanings of what it means to be brave and courageous versus fearless and rash was difficult for me to understand. I had always associated the two terms together, thinking in some ways, they could even be synonymous. However, once Aristotle began to explain that being brave meant showing this strength of courage during times of fear and being fearless meant being illogical and more boastful, I began to realize the reason in their differences. A brave person truly exhibits and contains a specific attitude in times of fear, while a rash person only pretends to have the same, mimicking courageous attitudes, conveying them in a falsified way. This shows that while they appear similar in attitudes, someone who is rash is still stuck in the wrong state while a brave person is in the right one.

Advertisements