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The Courage to Be

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  3,252 ratings  ·  250 reviews
Paul Tillich describes the dilemma of modern man and points a way to the conquest of the problem of anxiety. This edition includes a new introduction reflecting on the impact of the book since it was written.
Paperback, Second Edition, 200 pages
Published July 11th 2000 by Yale University Press (first published 1952)
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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Chris Shank
Sep 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
I first started reading this book because I want answers to the existential angst that plagues me and others aware of the implications of post-modern ideas. I don’t mean to say that I wanted an alternative to post-modernism; I don’t believe that is any more realistic than saying that I want an alternative to turning 32, for that’s just wishful thinking. I’m not a post-modernist, for I am not merely a product of my culture, but I am influenced by my culture. If I’m being honest with myself, there ...more
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Interesting how as I read through more and more of the so called "great authors" I find an underlying pattern and message that is repeated over and over again. These are men and women who have journeyed deep into the darkness of the their own soul and have survived to tell the rest of us about it. To let us know that the alienation we feel is not ours alone, but of all mankind when our cultural, religious, philosophical and societal safe-guards have all failed. When we stand naked and vulnerable ...more
Jul 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If I were to try to describe to someone my faith, I would call myself a "Tillichian" more than a "Christian." Unfortunately, nobody knows who Tillich is outside on PLU, so I need to say "liberal, non-literal, existentialist Protestant" instead. ...more
Ade Bailey
Feb 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I put this book in league with Dennis Brutus (who I also adore) and his poem "Stubborn Hope." Tillich is easy to read, even when he is doing the background philosophy work. I read Tillich when I feel discouraged or disheartened. He makes me feel like the mundane struggles of life have meaning. ...more
Greg Bell
Oct 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Although Tillich's writing can seem frustratingly academic, the ideas he presents are extremely relevant. He provides a historical framework on the philosophy of courage from Plato to Spinoza and then uses that platform to posit his own reasoning as a religious philosophic. Give this some time to sink in. It's worth it.

Do not read this unless you have some momentum going already.
Chris M.H
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
That was some experience.

The ideas and concepts in this book will no doubt stay with me for the rest of my life. Paul Tillich has encouraged me to bear the responsibilities of my existential anxieties, of which a couple I had no notion of before. The Courage to Be, in spite of nonbeing is found in absolute faith, and he defines faith towards the end of the book in a completely radical way to what I’d encountered in my experience in any theism. He describes faith as the courage to accept acceptan
Rowan Leigh
Jun 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this book to be a little repetitive and too academic in its tone. For the subject matter, I'd rather read Rollo May, who happened to be a friend of Tillich's. His writing is more accessible. ...more
Jun 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is related to Tillich’s “Dynamic of Faith” while the Faith is defined as in a state of being “ultimately concerned”. Faith is not religion, and this book is not about searching for a form of religious practice. It is certainly not explicitly promoting Christianity as the conduit for faith. Instead, it is about “Courage” and “To Be” in the ontological sense.

The “Courage to Be” is the operative mode of faith in Tillich sense. Both “courage” and “to be” are used in philosophic and theolo
Sep 18, 2017 added it
Shelves: philosophy
I'm the worst sort of agnostic. And as a devoted follower of pragmatist philosophy, it's hard for me to find the vast majority of theology to be anything more than a fancy shell game carried on by intellectuals whose primary task is to close their minds off to anything that fails to qualify for their dogma-of-choice.

And yet I decided to overcome my theology phobia by reading Paul Tillich. Firstly, he states his inspirations -- the Stoics, Spinoza, and Nietzsche (seriously, how many theologians s
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology, philosophy
Tillich is one of the giants of 20th century theology and this book is probably the work most accessible to people. The cultural condition he diagnoses is on target, discussing our anxiety in the face of meaninglessness and death. In the face of this, we find God who is beyond our notions of God; God is not a being among other beings but is the ground of being, Being itself. As Tillich says at the highpoint of the book (page 184-the end), "The God of theological theism is a being beside others a ...more
Erik Graff
Feb 20, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
Grinnell College's Psychology Department was oriented towards laboratory work. I, being a vegetarian, couldn't participate in much of it. Fortunately, the theoretical side of the field was being handled by the new Religious Studies Department which had a number of psychotherapists as adjuncts and instructors in addition to philosophically inclined senior faculty. My interest in any case was with questions of meaning, those kinds of "psychological" problems which everyone has--or should have at l ...more
Mack Hayden
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, religion
This is one hell of a book, compadres. I don't think I've ever read something that so concisely and incisively describes the history of man's existential anxieties and the ways he's tried to deaden or cure them. It'd be wildly impressive simply as an overview, but the fact Tillich's own commentary is so eloquent and straight-for-the-jugular makes it doubly so. If you spend any time worrying and wondering about the situation we humans have found ourselves in, I really think you owe it to yourself ...more
Mar 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Quite heavy and often boring, but historically sophisticated, sharply focused on life's central existential questions and Tillich does offer a high resolution map through which to navigate our dominant culture.

Our anxiety is a spiritual one, contrasting with former anxieties in history. There are benefits to our great individualism, but it does create a new kind of anxiety.

Secularist people in particular, left and right, come up with their materialist hero-projects in large part because they c
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
I want to preface this review by saying that it is destined to be woefully inadequate. In all likelihood I only comprehended a portion of Tillich's ideas - but even for that I am better.

Tillich clearly distinguishes fear from anxiety. Fear, he says, necessarily has an object which can be attacked and conquered by courage. Conversely, anxiety, which he describes as the awareness of potential non-being, has no definite object and thus results in human impotence. According to Tillich, anxiety can m
Bob Nichols
Mar 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book has two overarching themes that Tillich ties together. First, the modern age is plagued with anxiety, which is an awareness of our potential for "non-being." The three threats to "being" are death, emptiness and loss of meaning, and self-condemnation about not fulfilling our destiny. The result, despair, can be addressed only by an affirmation of our essence, our true self, which is our reason that allows us to participate in universal reason and the cosmic logos. Taking that affirmati ...more
Paul Bard
Apr 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-to-be-read
Tillich in "The Courage to Be" tries to overrule Aquinas, Aristotle and Plato's intelligible, logical and sensible ordering of human goods so that instead of the traditional position of wisdom and justice being the controlling greater goods of the other virtues - that is, of courage, prudence and temperance - courage overrules all other virtues as the highest good.

To this end he begins by misreading Plato's Laches as concluding without any understanding of courage (when in fact it points towards
B. Rule
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tillich lays out the problem of meaninglessness (and what he calls broadly "Existentialism") with elegant parsimony and inexorable explication. It's one of the best accounts I've read of the history of philosophy from an existential perspective and I was doubly impressed by how compact he managed to make it. His move at the end to explain "the courage to be" as a faith in "God above God", while inspiring, left me a little confused. As best as I can tell, the "God above God" can really be nothing ...more
Feb 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
If I had read The Courage To Be years ago when I bought it, I would have given it five stars. It is cerebral and insightful and at the time I was into such books - I was reading Erich Fromm, Kierkegaard, et.al. But I have taken up Zen Buddhism since then and I found TCTB too abstract and cerebral for my present tastes. It is a fine book to occupy your mind, but it did not encourage my heart or transform my being.
This is a deep, theological, philosophical examination of fear and anxiety. There were lots of insights here, some I understood and some I didn't. I get the feeling that I wouldn't agree with everything that Tillich believes, but he still has a lot of profound thoughts that I can learn from. ...more
Raoul G
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
'The Courage to Be' is Paul Tillich's most famous book and was, according to the introduction by Harvey Cox, quite popular even among laypeople. But this doesn't mean that this is an easy read. Tillich is a philosopher after all, and even though the concepts he deals with, such as anxiety, death, guilt, meaning, faith and others are important and his language is quite concise, the nature of the subjects require quite abstract thinking at times.

The first chapter is quick tour through the history
Rose Long
Oct 25, 2022 rated it it was ok
read for class. interesting ideas but could’ve been 20 pages and idk why he did all that just to say God Is Good randomly at the end (i’m not intellectual enough for this book)
Lindsay Moore
Apr 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Tillich is brave in the face of the void, but faith ultimately offers no more than knowledge or will (Nietzsche). The ultimate question requires a new wisdom-before-death, some true seeing through the veil, something religious and supernatural. What is the spirit that seeks what is not known without skepticism?
Inspired by Heidegger, Tillich takes a great run at it with this classical book, and achieves a new high-water mark for 1952. Regrettably for those of ultimate concern, the new wisdom is
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I felt that this is a great book. I read it once when I was in the army getting ready to deploy to Iraq and I found it very helpful. Now I am a little bit older, married, trying to conceive, and struggling with the effects of PTSD and discrimination, and I still find this book just as meaningful. It can be very abstruse and you have to take it slowly and ponder it for a while.
Narguess Sabetti
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Writing such a book calls for a huge daring! The Courage to Write...
It takes time to finish reading, but do not miss this book.
Alex Lee
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I wouldn't expect what starts off as an book about emotions to be this concise or deep in wrapping up the Western philosophical tradition with its religious tradition. But it is concise and deep despite being fairly short. Tillich is capturing what it means in an emotional/pragmatic way to be in the world -- which in some sense is what philosophy and religion attempts to address, if from very different directions.

In some ways, Tillich still requires a transcendental ground. While he captures the
Kevin Spicer
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a lot that resonates with me in existentialist philosophy. I like how it takes the meaning of human suffering seriously, its rigorous relation to absolute values and ethics, its revolt against the large scale dehumanization of modern society, and the pessimistic intellect mixed with an optimistic will.

This book examines the role that anxiety and courage plays in our ultimate relation to being, the relation between pathological and existential anxiety, the tensions between individualiza
Mathias Swartling
Sep 01, 2022 rated it it was amazing
"Neurosis is the way of avoiding nonbeing by avoiding being". The high functioning neurotic escapes into the mystical warmth of the noise of the group in order to escape being confronted with his individuality, which exposes the stewardship of the talents given to him by the creator, which he has buried in the dark soil.

The talent is the good creative capacity that God has given men in order for them to serve fellow men and sanctify the world through love. Being christ like essentially.

The anxi
Aaron Mcilhenny
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very good analysis of the relationship between and individual and their anxiety. It was a bit dated (he goes very hard into how much Stalinism sucks) and I think a bit limited by its focus only on the individual effects of anxiety on the development of self, because I think we live now in a world where our (or at least, my) anxiety is inextricably tied to external world events. Still, this was the smartest (but also tbh only) theory I've read in a while, and I think it provides a very good jum ...more
Adrian K.
Dec 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tillich is a brilliant existentialist and guide for navigating the human predicament. On the other hand, his anti-theistic ideas in the last chapter are odd (essentially modernistic) and understandable given the context in which it was written (post-WW2), but they somewhat weaken the argument as a whole, since the preceding chapters promise a ‘solution’ that does not exactly arrive, at least not fully, at the book’s conclusion.
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Paul Tillich was a German-American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher. Tillich was – along with his contemporaries Rudolf Bultmann (Germany), Karl Barth (Switzerland), and Reinhold Niebuhr (United States) – one of the four most influential Protestant theologians of the 20th century. Among the general populace, he is best known for his works The Courage to Be (1952) and Dynamics of ...more

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