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Aristotle’s study

The virtues of being were under the interest of philosophy and greatest thoughts at all the times. Especially, if we talk about strong sides of human’s spirit, such as courage. Today, there is the attempt to take the look at interconnections between Aristotle’s study about courage and its manifestation in Alexander’s life. There is no doubt that the most influential teacher in Alexander’s life had incredible impact to his personality forming. Therefore, it is assumed that Alexander exhibited the courage Aristotle outlines in his “Eudemian Ethics”.

To begin with, it has to be cleared what did Aristotle thought about the courage, as one of virtues. Usually, people claim that this philosopher outlined several types of courage, according to reasons, which raise it. However, this idea can be strongly opposed. Let’s turn to the primary source. “Eudemian Ethics” contains definition, which is only useful to determine the nature of courage: “Courage is the mean between fear and recklessness”(Aristotle). Being aimed to interpret these words of great thinker, courage can be explained as the balance between fear and recklessness. Coward person is not able to act under the influence of fear, reckless person does not feel fear at all. On the other hand, courageous individual feels fear likewise all other people, but he is still able to act voluntary with the confidence for honor and nobility. This is the only meaning of courage as the virtue for Aristotle. However, he still applies the word to other character types he noticed. Here is the list of these characters: civic –the result of punishment cowardice transformed to forced feel of braveness; ignorance – “children and madmen face things rushing on them”; military, based on knowledge “not of what is formidable, but of ways of encountering what is formidable”; boldness, based on previous luck, which motivates one to face danger; passion – it leads to heedlessness of the possibility to defeat (Aristotle). Seemingly, these types of characters as courage virtue identifying is rather disputable issue. On the one hand, there are direct mentions of the defining word. On the other hand, outlined definition of courage as the virtue stands aside from five types of character. This brief report is needful to get the entire view on philosophical basics of Aristotle.

Being aimed to define types of courage Alexander exhibited, the work of Plutarch is incredibly valuable. The entire view on the life of the greatest of historical figures gives us large ground for different conclusions making. In this regard, some of scenes from literature work can be multiply interpreted. For example, Alexander’s courage during some of battles can be perceived both like Aristotle’s sense of balance between fear and recklessness, and like his courage of boldness, generated by too self-confident character. However, appropriate manifestations are related to the last parts of work mostly, telling us about Alexander’s undisputable thirst of victory. Being aimed to analyze just the part of Plutarch’s “Alexander”, conclusions about General’s courage seem to be much more clear. The analyzed text is rather persuasive with the claim that Alexander was characterized with the real virtue of courage, in its meaning of human’s ability to act even under the influence of fear in goal achieving aspiration. However, some parts from Plutarch’s book can be understood doubly.

At first, let’s remind the scene with horse, from Alexander’s youth. When nobody could subdue recalcitrant stallion, Alexander said then: “What an excellent horse do they lose for want of address and boldness to manage him!” (Plutarch). Then, he bravely took control under the horse in few minutes just, risking to get wounds. Was the courage in his actions in fact? Managing very unbridled horse could cause serious harm to his health, thus, the answer is “yes”. Was this courage the manifestation of courageous child’s “ignorance” of character Aristotle wrote about? Obviously, not. The above mentioned words are appropriate proofs to this fact. Furthermore, showed skills of horse managing are not less convincing to state the wisdom of future greatest conqueror. Thereby, action of great General worth to be treated as virtue Aristotle defines in his “Eudemian Ethics”.

Now, let’s remind the part from the book, which tells us about Alexander’s entering the ruling of kingdom: “It seemed to the Macedonians a very critical time; and some would have persuaded Alexander to give up all thought of retaining the Grecians in subjection by force of arms, and rather to apply himself to win back by gentle means the allegiance of the tribes who were designing revolt, and try the effect of indulgence in arresting the first motions towards revolution. But he rejected this counsel as weak and timorous, and looked upon it to be more prudence to secure himself by resolution and magnanimity, than, by seeming to truckle to any, to encourage all to trample on him”(Plutarch). Was his attitude towards kingdom ruling courageous? Definitely! Being wisdom and skilled strategist and leader Alexander understood the danger of taken way of kingdom ruling. However, honor became the reason not to accept compromises he was forced to and not to take side of cowards. Somebody would say that this courage can be explained like the “civil” courage of Aristotle, the kind of courage forced by duty and common thought. However, this claim cannot be proved. Being the closest to real courage according to philosopher, this type is different with absence of voluntary will. Seemingly, Alexander’s ability to go against the prevailing opinion shows that there are no premises to talk about some civil encouraged character.

At last, let’s remind the scene of battle near the river Granicus. Conditions of his army location were absolutely unfavorable for Alexander’s army. In addition, he had to deal with the common belief that Daesius month is not suitable for successful military performance. Aiming to analyze Alexander’s courage, incredible influence of appropriate ancient belief is considerable. What was the alexander’s response? Here are some words from the book: “It was late, he told him that he should disgrace the Hellespont should he fear the Granicus” (Plutarch). The greatest victory followed the courageous decision of General. It cannot be said that Alexander did not feel fear at all. The quote is more useful to state that he found strength to get over it for the love of honor, nobility and greatest purpose. However, the same action can be treated as courage “based on knowledge”. Appropriate claim is supported by gathered experience from previous battles Alexander took part in. Seemingly, the only right answer cannot be generated, due to convincing supports useful to evidence both opinions.

To sum up, the types of Aristotle’s courage do not have clear lines to get the only right meaning. Multiply treated philosophical statements are even more disputable in the aspect of ancient historical events. However, it is stated that unbelievable courage of greatest conqueror is worth to be recognized the virtue of wisdom Aristotle told about. The ability to take a step over own fear in the name of purpose is rather rare feature among people in fact, and Alexander the Great was one of those, who made it one of the main premises to leave outstanding and unrepeated trace in the world’s history.


Works cited

Aristotle.“ Eudemian Ethics”. Oxford university press. 2007. Web 08 May 2011. http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Philosophy/History/Ancient/?view=usa&ci=9780198240204
Plutarch. “Alexander”. Translated by J. Dryden. 2008. Web 08 May 2011. http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-greece/plutarch_alexander.asp