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Intellectual Courage


This blog is part of a series of reflections based on Philip Dow's book Virtuous Minds*


CS Lewis once wrote “you cannot practice any of the other virtues without bringing this one into play…it is the form of every virtue at the testing point.  Honest thinking ….  the courage to challenge frightening ideas and the courage to stick to your guns when you become convinced of the truth.”


Dow explains that “those who are intellectually courageous earnestly want to know the truth, and so they take risks in the pursuit of truth. They are willing to reconsider their own beliefs even if this scares them.” (p28)


It takes courage to re-evaluate your own beliefs, especially if this may involve a risk that your new understanding may not match that of others around you. There is a risk of opening yourself to their criticism or confrontation and even of being isolated from them to some degree. It will take further courage to stand by what you have discovered and to lead others to also discover the truth. In a culture where comfortable relationships are more important than truth, this is not an easy task. But truth is compelling. 


Courage is also needed to admit mistakes and to do what is needed to put a situation right and to apologise when needed. When chatting to a neighbour recently I mentioned a student that we both knew. There is a trail of damage from my comment and I now know how unwise my conversation was, even if well-intentioned and in defence of the student at the time. To attempt to put this right I need to tell the student and apologise. Something that I am not looking forward to doing.


Philip Dow will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Christians in Teaching Conference in April.


Can we encourage you to delve into his award winning book Virtuous Minds*, be challenged by his call to pursue truth and to build intellectual virtues in your students, and join us for the upcoming Christians in Teaching Conference


*Dow, Philip E. 2013. "Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development". Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press


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