This book is a collection of six studies written by a teacher of philosophy at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota. It gives the reader an overview of philosophers ranging from Socrates, Plato and Descartes to the more modern Kierkegaard, Hannah Arendt, and Simone de Beauvoir. The ultimate concern of the author is to discern what it means to live well. He believes that one must have the courage of faith in order to do so. His hope is that in discussing various philosophical texts with the reader, he/she can come to a fuller understanding of what it means to have courage in the six areas of believing, promising, hoping, loving, being responsible, and thinking. Ostovich asks the reader to approach the meditations with both head and heart. This is not a book of answers, but a tool to use in asking questions about what it means to have the courage of faith. The meditations may be read in any order and the reader should take the time to really reflect on what is being proposed within each meditation.
The author’s purpose is clearly defined and a clear definition of courage is provided from the outset. Each meditation is introduced with a brief glimpse of the texts that will be used in each discussion. In addition, Ostovich uses a variety of texts of differing faith traditions, most notably the Bible and insists that we all use “the texts of our own lives and the experiences we bring to the work of reading” (14).
Ostovich does his best to explain the more difficult texts of the philosophers, but he stays true to his goal of getting the reader to think about and feel the ideas that are being presented. The reader is taken through a number of complex ideas before arriving at the author’s conclusion. He/She must persevere to the end of each meditation to grasp the connections Ostovich is making. Reflecting on the meditation may be helpful in gaining a deeper understanding of why it takes courage to have faith.
In the chapter on promising, Ostovich draws on Hannah Arendt’s notion that freedom brings with it the unpredictability of human actions. Promises give others and ourselves an idea of what actions will be taken in the future, with the knowledge that they may not be kept. We need courage to make and accept promises “as we recognize our weakness and inability to follow through on our commitments” (59). The chapter on love draws on Plato’s Symposium: “What Socrates learned of the truth of love is that love is of truth” (92). The reader will discover Socrates’ opinion that loving the eternal is above all other loves. Ostovich then develops the idea that to love not just the created, but the very Creator, requires a particular kind of courage, dependent upon and leading deeper into faith.
Anyone with an interest in philosophy and theology will find The Courage of Faith a thoughtful read. This text would be a good supplement to a class that covers virtue ethics, as it clearly defines virtue, specifically the virtue of courage, as it is reflected in Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. The last meditation on thinking would be appropriate for any theology class discussing faith and reason.