In the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle outlines an axis for lache (courage); where one extreme is cowardice, and the other recklessness. One can associate the emotion of fear with cowardice, but what emotion can one associate with recklessness, or indeed courage?

Are there ones in English?

Are there ones in Greek?

  • English antonyms to fear which are also emotions might include joy and love (or even just calm...)
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 15:11
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    Fear is an inhibitive emotion. The opposite emotional state is one free from any inhibition, which suggests arrogance or mania. Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 16:07
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    @NieldeBeaudrap I like that a lot. Conceptually it seems possible a different relational valence is possible here too -- that is: perhaps the opposite of fear is equally inhibitive, but "corrective/protective" rather than desperate. In other words -- maybe the opposite to fear is reason...
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 16:11
  • @de beaudrap: I like those suggestions - but is it correct to describe arrogance and mania as emotions? I wouldn't normally describe them as such, but perhaps my understanding of how the English language, or indeed other languages describe emotions is limited. Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 13:32
  • In this context you're probably looking for 'confidence'. But note the case made by @thecloud below. Also sometimes the opposite of 'fear' is courage.
    – christo183
    Commented Nov 20, 2018 at 8:26

2 Answers 2


Cowardice and courage are two potential and opposite responses to the emotion of fear. And because of this the emotion of fear accompanies the vice of cowardice as much as it accompanies the virtue of courage.

A person is no less courageous for feeling fear while doing the right thing; in fact, we might argue that the more frightened a person is who still manages to do the right thing the more courageous that person is.


I would suggest that to the degree cowardice expresses fear, courage mostly expresses anger.

It is the habit of properly outwardly acting upon passion, and 'passion' or 'joie de vivre' really are anger by another name. We have a horrible tendency to label emotions very prejudicially, and make most of the simplest default labels negative.

I lament this here -- What is it like to be happy? and should not repeat myself.

In Catholic folk-culture there is a traditional quadrature of virtues assigned to the Evangelists and linked to the "cross-quarters" of one configuration the elements: Courage, Prudence, Justice, and Temperance. The main line of those traditions indirectly encode Aristotle, so I think it is OK to argue from that viewpoint here.

From that perspective, fear leads one to Temperance by stalling potentially inappropriate action in the present and to Prudence by motivation from the fear of want in the long run. So it is not cowardice, if that lies exactly opposite Courage.

Anger in the same way, motivates both Courage and Justice, motivating both direct and indirect action against what is wrong and toward what is pleasing in an appropriate manner.

The two other "quarters" get mapped to "Sorrow" which motivates Justice and Temperance and "Shame" which motivates Courage and Prudence.

  • How does the emotion 'shame' motivate courage; I can imagine it for prudence. Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 13:34
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    Shame motivates one to act in situations when one generally might remain passive, to preserve one's self-respect. "That just cannot happen again. It would kill me. If I let that go on, I am not a man(/human being)." is a reaction from shame, and the radicalizing thought of a lot of civil rights heroes.
    – user9166
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 16:29

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