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The Courage to Be

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  2,668 ratings  ·  169 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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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.
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.
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.
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
Erik Graff
Feb 20, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians
Recommended to Erik by: Howard Burkle
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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 t
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
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
B. Mason
Tillich's seminal work is an erudite argument. The book's chronological movement, from the earliest definitions of courage and the Stoics up to modern Existential literature, there is a beautiful build in Tillich's rhetoric and this is truly artful prose. I take heart in the struggle Tillich names against self-objectification and the necessity of doubt and meaninglessness (a specific type of anxiety) within an absolute faith, a specific term in this text.
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.
Chris M.H
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 acc
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
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
Amy GB
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: inspirational, own
Really lucid exploration of a lot of existential issues. I remain unconvinced about some of the final conclusions, I think perhaps because of my background/bias in contrast to the author's. But a really thought-provoking read.
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 po
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The first and most important task for Tillich is to render courage ontologically, over and against an ethical concept. Courage as a productive, creative and energetic response to non-being is being-itself, and thus provides the ground for our own courage to be. Of course, Tillich’s book does not offer a reason for the courage to be; if the courage to be was founded on a reason, an intellectual process, it would be ultimately foundationless and as meaningless as that which it should overtake. Yet ...more
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The underlying intent of the Terry Lectures conveyed at Yale University and compiled as The Courage to Be, gives the impression of offering a scientific and philosophical edge to theology. As such, Paul Tillich focused on the idea and meaning of the term “courage” as a convergence point of Sociology, Philosophy, and Theology.

Tillich’s preliminary aim focuses on a discussion of the conception of courage from a historical context. This discussion bestows diverse defining characteristics used to explain the

Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tillich makes some bold statement and paints a convincing history of Western civilization's wrestling with existence. I had many ah-ha moments with this book. It felt like sitting at the foot of a great scholastic storyteller as Tillich unpacked each nuance of courage and its evidence in time. When I got to the end and read the italicized sentence it made a lot of sense, why Tillich defines the courage to be as (view spoiler) ...more
Jul 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a difficult read for me. Lots of philosophical terms and psychological concepts. I enjoyed feeling like an expanse of ideas occurred to include to contemplation of the following concepts:

1- God is not a supernatural entity among other entities. Instead, God is the ground upon which all beings exist. We cannot perceive God as an object which is related to a subject because God precedes the subject-object dichotomy.

2- When God is understood in this way, it becomes clear
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a book that I will probably need to read a few times to even remotely begin to understand. However, what I got out of this first reading was good and interesting, and Tillich certainly gave me a lot to think about.

The book begins with a look at the historical understanding of being and courage. The next two chapters deal with anxiety and non-being. Tillich then looks at courage and participation (or the courage to be as a part) and courage and individualization (or the courag
Dec 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: existentialism
The first thing you should know is that this is an extremely difficult book to understand. Unless you have a scholarly background, or are much, much smarter than me, you really need to read parts of it twice to understand what's going on. Not saying it's not worth it. Just saying be warned.

If you're looking for a more accessible introduction to these ideas, I can't strongly enough recommend Ernest Becker's writings, especially "The Denial of Death" and "The Birth and Death of Meaning." Becker e
Katelis Viglas
Mar 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: theology, philosophy
Rich and interesting study by an original theologian and philosopher, who offer to religious studies many new arguments, conversations, notions and theories. My only objection is about the pessimistic and heavy atmosphere of the book.
I liked his observations on Stoicism in relation to Christianity.
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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 Faith ...more
“Neurosis is the way of avoiding nonbeing by avoiding being” 35 likes
“The vitality that can stand the abyss of meaninglessness is aware of a hidden meaning within the destruction of meaning.” 31 likes
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