Contest 2: Charging. Toughness Training

I believe enduring something that threatens your life or what you care about is easier to do than charging into dangerous territory. This is why the first contest–the easiest–associated with learning toughness would withstanding. Will you withstand or will you cave in, give in?

Now we come to the second contest: charging. And the question is: how do you teach someone to charge, almost to the point of rashness or hot-heated boldness? What is puzzling about this particular “how you teach” question is that I’m a philosopher and philosophy, regardless of its background or commitments, takes place as one is stepping back and considering. A philosopher wanders, wonders, and considers, turning (as it were) the whole world over.

It seems reasonable to hold that one can adduce reasons for wisely enduring something, yet that doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing one does before going on the offensive. No, one attacks, bounds forth, pushes past the inertia. The one who is charging is doing so spontaneously and is not engaged in “slow thinking.”

Well, you might say, then perhaps charging lies outside of philosophy’s territory. Not entirely, I would reply, since the virtues of character that make it possible to be open to the charge are surely teachable by philosophy. Fine, you might reply, but let’s not sidestep the issue. We’re talking about charging now, not about the possibility of being open to charging. A fair reply, I would concede.

I think the way out of the puzzle is–yes–for philosophy to give the warrior his due: set up the contest in such a way that (a) the would-be agent enters into a state of next to no thinking (a meditation of sorts?), (b) one is roused to action (cheered and jeered? goaded and egged on?) by others, and (c) one acts as if in a trance. Philosophy can only think through and set the right conditions in place and then it needs to do what it normally does well: look on as the agent bursts forth.

Philosophy therefore can

(a) help to free the mind of doubt and fear, bringing it as close as possible to the eradication of negative thoughts;

(b) call on others to rouse one to action; and

(c) look on as the agent acts as if in a trance.