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Courage, Virtue, And The Immortality Of The Soul: According To Socrates

2174 words - 9 pages

In the Laches and the Phaedo, courage and virtue are discussed in depth. Also, arguments for the possibility of the existence of the immorality of the soul are given in the Phaedo. In the Laches, Socrates and two generals, Nicias and Laches, wrestle with how exactly to define courage. After discussing and working their way through two definitions of courage, Nicias proposes a third definition of courage. However, this definition of courage that he proposes is actually the definition of virtue. When the dialogue comes to an end, no definition of courage has been reached.
Virtue is very tough to define, as evidenced in the difficulty that Socrates, Nicias, and Laches have with trying to define both courage and virtue. In Socrates’ arguments with Nicias, he does seem to indicate that Nicias stumbled into a possible definition of virtue. Socrates says in regards to what Nicias thought was that, “Courage is the knowledge not just of the fearful and the hopeful, but in your [Nicias’] opinion, it would be the knowledge of practically all goods and evils put together” (Laches and Charmides, 199D). However, after Nicias agrees that this is not the definition of courage that Socrates and Nicias are searching for, Socrates asks if “[Does] a man with this kind of knowledge seem to depart from virtue in any respect” (Laches and Charmides, 199D)? The simple answer to this question is no. The definition that was suggested by Socrates for the definition of courage has become the definition of virtue. “Then the thing you are now talking about, Nicias, would seem not be a part of virtue but rather virtue entire” (Laches and Charmides, 199E). To summarize, for a person to be virtuous, he or she must have knowledge of all goods and evils, according to the definition put forth by Socrates and Nicias.
While Socrates, Nicias, and Laches seem to arrive at a satisfactory description of courage before the dialogue ends, they cannot agree upon a good definition of courage. However, from their discussion, it seems that they “were investigating it [courage] as a part of virtue” (Laches and Charmides, 198A). While courage is a part of virtue, it can still be distinguished from virtue. It would seem that for a person to be courageous he or she would not have to be virtuous. In order to be courageous it is not necessary for the person to be knowledgeable of all goods and evils. For example, a single man could be fighting off 50 men in order to try to save his house from attack. I would say that this man is courageous due to his actions of standing up to a larger army and trying to defend his home. This hypothetical man has a limited knowledge of good and evil and he certainly does not have knowledge of all goods and evils. To go a step farther, I would propose another scenario in which the same man is defending against a force of unknown strength. Is this man less courageous than in the previous scenario? No, in fact I would argue that he is even more...

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