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The Courage to be Paperback – January 1, 1963
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- Item Weight : 7.8 ounces
- ASIN : B009NNI0KM
- Publisher : Yale; Extensive Underlining Edition (January 1, 1963)
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,159,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The psychologist Rollo May [a close friend of Tillich’s] wrote a sympathetic biography of him ( Paulus ) and Tillich’s wife Hannah wrote a much less-friendly account ( From Time to Time ). [NOTE: page numbers below refer to the 197-page paperback edition.]
He begins this 1952 book with the statement, “In agreement with the stipulation of the Terry Foundation that the lectures shall be concerned with ‘religion in the light of science and philosophy’ I have chosen a concept in which theological, sociological, and philosophical problems converge, the concept of ‘courage.’ Few concepts are as useful for the analysis of the human situation. Courage is an ethical reality, but it is rooted in the whole breadth of human existence and ultimately in the structure of being itself. It must be considered ontologically in order to be understood ethically.” (Pg. 1)
He explains, “The title of this book, ‘The Courage to Be,’ unites both meanings of the concept of courage, the ethical and the ontological. Courage as a human act, as a matter of valuation, is an ethical concept. Courage as the universal and essential self-affirmation of one’s being is an ontological concept. The courage to be is the ethical act in which man affirms his own being in spite of those elements of his existence which conflict with his essential self-determination.” (Pg. 2-3)
He continues, “Courage is the affirmation of one’s essential nature, one’s inner aim or entelechy, but it is an affirmation which has in itself the character of ‘in spite of.’ It includes the possible and, in some cases, the unavoidable sacrifice of elements which also belong to one’s being but which, if not sacrificed, would prevent us from reaching our actual fulfillment. This sacrifice may include pleasure, happiness, even one’s own existence. In any case it is praiseworthy, because in the act of courage the most essential part of our being prevails against the less essential, It is the beauty and goodness of courage that the good and the beautiful are actualized in it.” (Pg. 4-5)
He states, “it is necessary for an ontology of courage to include an ontology of anxiety, for they are interdependent. And it is conceivable in the light of an ontology of courage some fundamental aspects of anxiety may become visible. The first assertion about the nature of anxiety is this: anxiety is the state in which a being is aware of its possible nonbeing. The same statement, in a shorter form, would read: anxiety is the existential awareness of nonbeing.” (Pg. 35) He adds, “Anxiety and fear have the same ontological root but they are not the same in actuality… Fear, as opposed to anxiety has a definite object… which can be faced, analyzed, attacked, endured. One can act upon it, and in acting upon it participate in it---even if in the form of struggle. Courage can meet every object of fear, because it is an object and makes participation possible.” (Pg. 36)
He says, “I suggest that we distinguish three types of anxiety according to the three directions in which nonbeing threatens being. Nonbeing threatens man’s ontic self-affirmation, relatively in terms of fate, absolutely in terms of death. It threatens man’s spiritual self-affirmation, relatively in terms of emptiness, absolutely in terms of meaninglessness. It threatens man’s moral self-affirmation, relatively in terms of guilt, absolutely in terms of condemnation.” (Pg. 41)
He observes, “Despair is an ultimate or ‘boundary-line’ situation. One cannot go beyond it. Its nature is indicated in the etymology of the word despair: without hope. No way out into the future appears. Nonbeing is felt as absolutely victorious. But there is a limit to its victory; nonbeing is FELT as victorious, and feeling presupposes being. Enough being is left to feel the irresistible power of nonbeing, and this is the despair within the despair.” (Pg. 54-55)
He notes, “Anxiety turns toward courage, because the other alternative is despair. Courage resists despair by taking anxiety into itself. This analysis gives the key to understanding pathological anxiety. He who does not succeed in taking his anxiety courageously upon himself can succeed in avoiding the extreme situation of despair by escaping into neurosis. He still affirms himself but on a limited scale. Neurosis is the way of avoiding nonbeing by avoiding being.” (Pg. 66)
He states, “Individualism is the self-affirmation of the individual self as individual self without regard to its participation in its world. As such it is the opposite of collectivism, the self-affirmation of the self as part of a larger whole without regard to its character as an individual self. Individualism has developed out of the bondage of primitive collectivism and medieval semicollectivism. It could grow under the protective cover of democratic conformity, and it has come into the open in moderate or radical forms within the Existentialist movement.” (Pg. 113)
He points out, “The courage to be as oneself is never completely separated from the other pole, the courage to be as a part; and even more, that overcoming isolation and facing the danger of losing one’s world in the self-affirmation of oneself as an individual are a way toward something which transcends both self and world. Ideas like the microcosm mirroring the universe, or the monad representing the world, or the individual will to power expressing the character of will to power in life itself---all these point to a solution which transcends the two types of courage to be.” (Pg. 123)
He summarizes, “Courage is the self-affirmation of being in spite of the fact of nonbeing. It is the act of the individual self in taking the anxiety of nonbeing upon itself by affirming itself either as part of an embracing whole or in its individual selfhood. Courage always includes a risk, it is always threatened by nonbeing, whether the risk of losing oneself and becoming a thing within the whole world of things or of losing one’s world in an empty self-related ness. Courage needs the power of being, a power transcending the nonbeing which is experienced in the anxiety of fate and death, which is present in the anxiety of emptiness and meaninglessness, which is effective in the anxiety of guilt and condemnation. The courage which takes this threefold anxiety into itself must be rooted in a power of being that is greater than the power of oneself and the power of one’s world.” (Pg. 135)
He suggests, “One could say that the courage to be is the courage to accept oneself as accepted in spite of being unacceptable… But one must remind theologians and ministers that in the fight against the anxiety of guilt by psychotherapy the idea of acceptance has received the attention and gained the significance which in the Reformation period was to be seen in phrase like ‘forgiveness of sins’ or ‘justification through faith.’ Accepting acceptance though being unacceptable is the basis for the courage of confidence.” (Pg. 164-165)
He states, “We have defined courage as the self-affirmation of being in spite of non-being. The power of this self-affirmation is the power of being which is effective in every act of courage. Faith is the experience of this power… Faith accepts ‘in spite of’; and out of the ‘in spite of’ of faith the ‘in spite of’ of courage is born. Faith is not a theoretical affirmation of something uncertain, it is the existential acceptance of something transcending ordinary experience. Faith is not an opinion but a state. It is the state of being grasped by the power of being which transcends everything that is an in which everything that is participates. He who is grasped by this power is able to affirm himself because he knows that he is affirmed by the power of being-itself. In this point mystical experience and personal encounter are identical. In both of them faith is the basis of the courage to be.” (Pg. 172-173)
He continues, “Of course, in the state of despair there is nobody and nothing that accepts. But there is the power of acceptance itself which is experienced. Meaninglessness, as long as it is experienced, includes an experience of the ‘power of acceptance.’ To accept this power of acceptance consciously is the religious answer of absolute faith, of faith which has been deprived by doubt of any concrete content, which nevertheless is faith and the source of the most paradoxical manifestation of the courage to be. This faith transcends both the mystical experience and the divine-human encounter… Absolute faith includes an element of skepticism which one cannot find in the mystical experience.” (Pg. 177)
He concludes, “There are no valid arguments for the ‘existence’ of God, but there are acts of courage in which we affirm the power of being, whether we know it or not. If we know it, we accept acceptance consciously. If we do not know it, we nevertheless accept it and participate in it. And in our acceptance of that which we do not know the power of being is manifest to us. Courage has revealing power, the courage to be is the key to being-itself.” (Pg. 181)
This book is perhaps Tillich’s most “psychological,” and may be of interest not just to theologians and philosophers, but to psychologists and even counselors.