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I recently brought a cockatiel home. Of my two daughters, one is afraid of the bird and the other constantly wants to hold and play with it. When the bird is flying in the house, the afraid daughter often leaves the room.

Today the cockatiel was pacing in the cage, asking to be let out to fly a bit. The daughter who is afraid of the bird informed me of this, and asked me to let the bird out. Now, I wonder, which daughter is braver? The daughter who has no fear of the bird, or the daughter who fears the bird but asks to let the bird fly free despite her fear?

I did ask why she (the afraid daughter) requested that I let the bird out, and she said that though she is afraid she understands that the bird must fly a bit every day for its own health. She is five years old. Her sister, who is not afraid of the bird, is seven years old.

cockatiel

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  • Perhaps when you afraid daughter reaches the age of seven she too will be unafraid of the cockatiel. But of course you'd have to control for familiarisation; at some point that would be too late. Aug 23, 2014 at 12:36
  • @MoziburUllah: I'm not concerned with that aspect. I wonder who is braver: he who has no fear, or he who overcomes his fear.
    – dotancohen
    Aug 23, 2014 at 12:57

1 Answer 1

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Aristotle in the Nichomachean Ethics has a theory of the golden mean. The virtue that you have in mind is courage.

Thus one who has no fear is not courageous but reckless; thus one who is always afraid is a coward; but one who is in part afraid and in part courageous and both parts being of roughly equal magnitude is courageous.

Thus your daughter who has overcome her fear is courageous; and your daughter who shows no fear is reckless.

Of course in the siutuation you have described fearlessness doesn't show itself to be reckless; but a small modification makes it much more vivid and apparent; for imagine the cockatiel unbeknownst to you had the ability to secrete a fatal poison through its talons...one ses immediately that the fearless child is reckless.

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  • Thank you for that insight! Actually, in the case of the older daughter she trusted my telling her that the bird is safe. Therefore, perhaps I am reckless, and she is naive. But in any case, I find your analysis spot on. I'll wait a day for others to answer, but considering the appeal to Aristotle I will probably mark this as the accepted answer. I was actually expecting something from Aristotle, Plato, or Socrates.
    – dotancohen
    Aug 23, 2014 at 13:45
  • You're welcome; lache (courage) according to Aristotle is the first of virtues, the virtue on which all the others are built on. Aug 31, 2014 at 8:37

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