ⓘ Virtue


ⓘ Virtue

Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a trait or quality that is deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness. In other words, it is a behavior that shows high moral standards. Doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. The opposite of virtue is vice.

The four classic cardinal virtues in Christianity are temperance, prudence, courage or fortitude, and justice. Christianity derives the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love charity from 1 Corinthians 13. Together these make up the seven virtues. Buddhisms four brahmavihara "Divine States" can be regarded as virtues in the European sense. According to Nitobe Inazōs book Bushido: The Soul of Japan, the Japanese Bushidō code is characterized by eight main virtues, including honesty, heroic courage, and righteousness.


1. Etymology

The ancient Romans used the Latin word virtus derived from vir, their word for man to refer to all of the "excellent qualities of men, including physical strength, valorous conduct, and moral rectitude." The French words vertu and virtu came from this Latin root. In the 13th century, the word virtue was "borrowed into English".


2. Ancient Egypt

During Egyptian civilization, Maat or Maat thought to have been pronounced *, also spelled māt or mayet, was the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law, morality, and justice. Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities. The deities set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation. Her ideological counterpart was Isfet, who symbolized chaos, lies, and injustice.


3.1. Greco-Roman antiquity Platonic virtue

The four classic cardinal virtues are:

  • courage: ἀνδρεία andreia
  • justice: δικαιοσύνη dikaiosynē
  • prudence: φρόνησις phronēsis
  • temperance: σωφροσύνη sōphrosynē

This enumeration is traced to Greek philosophy and was listed by Plato in addition to piety: ὁσιότης hosiotēs, with the exception that wisdom replaced prudence as virtue. Some scholars consider either of the above four virtue combinations as mutually reducible and therefore not cardinal.

It is unclear whether multiple virtues were of later construct, and whether Plato subscribed to a unified view of virtues. In Protagoras and Meno, for example, he states that the separate virtues cannot exist independently and offers as evidence the contradictions of acting with wisdom, yet in an unjust way; or acting with bravery fortitude, yet without wisdom.


3.2. Greco-Roman antiquity Aristotelian virtue

In his work Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle defined a virtue as a point between a deficiency and an excess of a trait. The point of greatest virtue lies not in the exact middle, but at a golden mean sometimes closer to one extreme than the other. However, the virtuous action is not simply the "mean" mathematically speaking between two opposite extremes. As Aristotle says in the Nicomachean Ethics: "at the right times, about the right things, towards the right people, for the right end, and in the right way, is the intermediate and best condition, and this is proper to virtue." This is not simply splitting the difference between two extremes. For example, generosity is a virtue between the two extremes of miserliness and being profligate. Further examples include: courage between cowardice and foolhardiness, and confidence between self-deprecation and vanity. In Aristotles sense, virtue is excellence at being human.


3.3. Greco-Roman antiquity Prudence and virtue

Seneca, the Roman Stoic, said that perfect prudence is indistinguishable from perfect virtue. Thus, in considering all consequences, a prudent person would act in the same way as a virtuous person. The same rationale was expressed by Plato in Protagoras, when he wrote that people only act in ways that they perceive will bring them maximum good. It is the lack of wisdom that results in the making of a bad choice instead of a prudent one. In this way, wisdom is the central part of virtue. Plato realized that because virtue was synonymous with wisdom it could be taught, a possibility he had earlier discounted. He then added "correct belief" as an alternative to knowledge, proposing that knowledge is merely correct belief that has been thought through and "tethered".


3.4. Greco-Roman antiquity Roman virtues

The term "virtue" itself is derived from the Latin "virtus" the personification of which was the deity Virtus, and had connotations of "manliness", "honour", worthiness of deferential respect, and civic duty as both citizen and soldier. This virtue was but one of many virtues which Romans of good character were expected to exemplify and pass on through the generations, as part of the Mos Maiorum; ancestral traditions which defined "Roman-ness". Romans distinguished between the spheres of private and public life, and thus, virtues were also divided between those considered to be in the realm of private family life as lived and taught by the paterfamilias, and those expected of an upstanding Roman citizen.

Most Roman concepts of virtue were also personified as a numinous deity. The primary Roman virtues, both public and private, were:

  • Clementia – "mercy" – mildness and gentleness, and the ability to set aside previous transgressions.
  • Abundantia: "Abundance, Plenty" The ideal of there being enough food and prosperity for all segments of society. A public virtue.
  • Justitia – "justice" – sense of moral worth to an action; personified by the goddess Iustitia, the Roman counterpart to the Greek Themis.
  • Pietas – "dutifulness" – more than religious piety; a respect for the natural order: socially, politically, and religiously. Includes ideas of patriotism, fulfillment of pious obligation to the gods, and honoring other human beings, especially in terms of the patron and client relationship, considered essential to an orderly society.
  • Innocencia - "selfless" - Roman charity, always give without expectation of recognition, always give while expecting no personal gain, incorruptibility is aversion towards placing all power and influence from public office to increase personal gain in order to enjoy our personal or public life and deprive our community of their health, dignity and our sense of morality, that is an affront to every Roman.
  • Honestas – "respectability" – the image and honor that one presents as a respectable member of society.
  • Disciplina – "discipline" – considered essential to military excellence; also connotes adherence to the legal system, and upholding the duties of citizenship.
  • Auctoritas – "spiritual authority" – the sense of ones social standing, built up through experience, Pietas, and Industria. This was considered to be essential for a magistrates ability to enforce law and order.
  • Severitas – "sternness" – self-control, considered to be tied directly to the virtue of gravitas.
  • Nobilitas - "Nobility" - Man of fine appearance, deserving of honor, highly esteemed social rank, and, or, nobility of birth, a public virtue.
  • Frugalitas – "frugality" – economy and simplicity in lifestyle, want for what we must have and not what we need, regardless of one’s material possessions, authority or wants one has, an individual always has a degree of honour. Frugality is to eschew what has no practical use if it is in disuse and if it comes at the expense of the other virtues.
  • Gravitas – "gravity" – a sense of the importance of the matter at hand; responsibility, and being earnest.
  • Fides - "good faith" - mutual trust and reciprocal dealings in both government and commerce public affairs, a breach meant legal and religious consequences.
  • Prudentia – "prudence" – foresight, wisdom, and personal discretion.
  • Comitas – "humour" – ease of manner, courtesy, openness, and friendliness.
  • Humanitas – "humanity" – refinement, civilization, learning, and generally being cultured.
  • Firmitas – "tenacity" – strength of mind, and the ability to stick to ones purpose at hand without wavering.
  • Constantia – "perseverance" – military stamina, as well as general mental and physical endurance in the face of hardship.
  • Industria – "industriousness" – hard work.
  • Veritas – "truthfulness" – honesty in dealing with others, personified by the goddess Veritas. Veritas, being the mother of Virtus, was considered the root of all virtue; a person living an honest life was bound to be virtuous.
  • Virtus – "manliness" – valor, excellence, courage, character, and worth. Vir is Latin for "man".
  • Salubritas – "wholesomeness" – general health and cleanliness, personified in the deity Salus.
  • Laetitia - "Joy, Gladness" - The celebration of thanksgiving, often of the resolution of crisis, a public virtue.
  • Dignitas – "dignity" – a sense of self-worth, personal self-respect and self-esteem.


3.5. Greco-Roman antiquity The Seven Heavenly Virtues

In 410 CE, Aurelius Prudentius Clemens listed seven "heavenly virtues" in his book Psychomachia Battle of Souls which is an allegorical story of conflict between vices and virtues. The virtues depicted were:

  • chastity
  • kindness
  • humility.
  • charity
  • patience
  • diligence
  • temperance

4. Chivalric virtues in medieval Europe

In the 8th Century, upon the occasion of his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne published a list of knightly virtues:

  • Envy, hatred and violence separate men from the Kingdom of God
  • Render righteous judgement
  • Shun excess in eating and drinking
  • Entertain strangers
  • Be merciful to prisoners
  • Be humble and kind
  • Love your neighbour
  • Defend the Church and promote her cause.
  • Defend the cause of the widow and orphan
  • Visit the sick
  • Forgive as ye hope to be forgiven
  • Do not perjure yourself, nor let others do so
  • Love God
  • Do not steal
  • Serve your liege lord faithfully
  • Do ill to no man, nor consent unto such
  • Help the oppressed
  • Do not consent to any wrong
  • Persevere not in wrath
  • Give alms to the poor
  • Redeem the captive

5.1. Religious traditions Bahai faith

In the Bahai Faith, virtues are direct spiritual qualities that the human soul possesses, inherited from the world of God. The development and manifestation of these virtues is the theme of the Hidden Words of Bahaullah and are discussed in great detail as the underpinnings of a divinely-inspired society by `Abdul-Baha in such texts as The Secret of Divine Civilization.


5.2. Religious traditions Buddhism

Buddhist practice as outlined in the Noble Eightfold Path can be regarded as a progressive list of virtues.

  • Right Mindfulness - Mental ability to see things for what they are with clear consciousness samyak-smrti, sammā-sati.
  • Right View - Realizing the Four Noble Truths samyag-vyāyāma, sammā-vāyāma.
  • Right Concentration - Wholesome one-pointedness of mind samyak-samādhi, sammā-samādhi.

Buddhisms four brahmavihara "Divine States" can be more properly regarded as virtues in the European sense. They are:

  • Metta/Maitri: loving-kindness towards all; the hope that a person will be well; loving kindness is the wish that all sentient beings, without any exception, be happy.
  • Mudita: altruistic joy in the accomplishments of a person, oneself or other; sympathetic joy is the wholesome attitude of rejoicing in the happiness and virtues of all sentient beings.
  • Upekkha/Upeksha: equanimity, or learning to accept both loss and gain, praise and blame, success and failure with detachment, equally, for oneself and for others. Equanimity means not to distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but to regard every sentient being as equal. It is a clear-minded tranquil state of mind - not being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness or agitation.
  • Karunā: compassion; the hope that a persons sufferings will diminish; compassion is the wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering.

There are also the Paramitas "perfections", which are the culmination of having acquired certain virtues. In Theravada Buddhisms canonical Buddhavamsa there are Ten Perfections dasa pāramiyo. In Mahayana Buddhism, the Lotus Sutra Saddharmapundarika, there are Six Perfections; while in the Ten Stages Dasabhumika Sutra, four more Paramitas are listed.


5.3. Religious traditions Christianity

In Christianity, the three theological virtues are faith, hope and love, a list which comes from 1 Corinthians 13:13 νυνὶ δὲ μένει πίστις pistis faith, ἐλπίς elpis hope, ἀγάπη agape love, τὰ τρία ταῦτα μείζων δὲ τούτων ἡ ἀγάπη). The same chapter describes love as the greatest of the three, and further defines love as "patient, kind, not envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude." The Christian virtue of love is sometimes called charity and at other times a Greek word agape is used to contrast the love of God and the love of humankind from other types of love such as friendship or physical affection.

Christian scholars frequently add the four Greek cardinal virtues to the theological virtues to give the seven virtues; for example, these seven are the ones described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sections 1803–1829.

The Bible mentions additional virtues, such as in the "Fruit of the Holy Spirit," found in Galatians 5:22-23: "By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit it is benevolent-love: joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, benevolence, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is absolutely no law against such a thing."

The medieval and renaissance periods saw a number of models of sin listing the seven deadly sins and the virtues opposed to each.


5.4. Religious traditions Daoism

"Virtue", translated from Chinese de 德, is also an important concept in Chinese philosophy, particularly Daoism. De Chinese: 德 ; pinyin: de ; Wade–Giles: te originally meant normative "virtue" in the sense of "personal character; inner strength; integrity", but semantically changed to moral "virtue; kindness; morality". Note the semantic parallel for English virtue, with an archaic meaning of "inner potency; divine power" as in "by virtue of" and a modern one of "moral excellence; goodness".

In early periods of Confucianism, moral manifestations of "virtue" include ren "humanity", xiao "filial piety", and li "proper behavior, performance of rituals". The notion of ren - according to Simon Leys - means "humanity" and "goodness". Ren originally had the archaic meaning in the Confucian Book of Poems of "virility", but progressively took on shades of ethical meaning. Some scholars consider the virtues identified in early Confucianism as non-theistic philosophy.

The Daoist concept of De, compared to Confucianism, is more subtle, pertaining to the "virtue" or ability that an individual realizes by following the Dao "the Way". One important normative value in much of Chinese thinking is that ones social status should result from the amount of virtue that one demonstrates, rather than from ones birth. In the Analects, Confucius explains de as follows: "He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it." In later periods, particularly from the Tang dynasty period, Confucianism as practiced, absorbed and melded its own concepts of virtues with those from Daoism and Buddhism.


5.5. Religious traditions Hinduism

Virtue is a much debated and an evolving concept in ancient scriptures of Hinduism. The essence, need and value of virtue is explained in Hindu philosophy as something that cannot be imposed, but something that is realized and voluntarily lived up to by each individual. For example, Apastamba explained it thus: "virtue and vice do not go about saying - here we are!; neither the Gods, Gandharvas, nor ancestors can convince us - this is right, this is wrong; virtue is an elusive concept, it demands careful and sustained reflection by every man and woman before it can become part of ones life.

Virtues lead to punya Sanskrit: पुण्य, holy living in Hindu literature; while vices lead to pap Sanskrit: पाप, sin. Sometimes, the word punya is used interchangeably with virtue.

The virtues that constitute a dharmic life - that is a moral, ethical, virtuous life - evolve in vedas and upanishads. Over time, new virtues were conceptualized and added by ancient Hindu scholars, some replaced, others merged. For example, Manusamhita initially listed ten virtues necessary for a human being to live a dharmic life: Dhriti courage, Kshama forgiveness, Dama temperance, Asteya Non-covetousness/Non-stealing, Saucha inner purity, Indriyani-graha control of senses, dhi reflective prudence, vidya wisdom, satyam truthfulness, akrodha freedom from anger. In later verses, this list was reduced to five virtues by the same scholar, by merging and creating a more broader concept. The shorter list of virtues became: Ahimsa Non-violence, Dama self restraint, Asteya Non-covetousness/Non-stealing, Saucha inner purity, Satyam truthfulness.

The Bhagavad Gita - considered one of the epitomes of historic Hindu discussion of virtues and an allegorical debate on what is right and what is wrong - argues some virtues are not necessarily always absolute, but sometimes relational; for example, it explains a virtue such as Ahimsa must be re-examined when one is faced with war or violence from the aggressiveness, immaturity or ignorance of others.


5.6. Religious traditions Islam

In Islam, the Quran is believed to be the literal word of God, and the definitive description of virtue while Muhammad is considered an ideal example of virtue in human form. The foundation of Islamic understanding of virtue was the understanding and interpretation of the Quran and the practices of Muhammad. Its meaning has always been in context of active submission to God performed by the community in unison. The motive force is the notion that believers are to "enjoin that which is virtuous and forbid that which is vicious" al-amr bi-l-maʿrūf wa-n-nahy ʿani-l-munkar in all spheres of life Quran 3:110. Another key factor is the belief that mankind has been granted the faculty to discern Gods will and to abide by it. This faculty most crucially involves reflecting over the meaning of existence. Therefore, regardless of their environment, humans are believed to have a moral responsibility to submit to Gods will. Muhammads preaching produced a "radical change in moral values based on the sanctions of the new religion and the present religion, and fear of God and of the Last Judgment". Later Muslim scholars expanded the religious ethics of the scriptures in immense detail.

In the Hadith Islamic traditions, it is reported by An-Nawwas bin Saman:

"The Prophet Muhammad said, "Virtue is good manner, and sin is that which creates doubt and you do not like people to know it."

Wabisah bin Ma’bad reported:

I went to Messenger of God and he asked me:" Have you come to inquire about virtue?” I replied in the affirmative. Then he said:" Ask your heart regarding it. Virtue is that which contents the soul and comforts the heart, and sin is that which causes doubts and perturbs the heart, even if people pronounce it lawful and give you verdicts on such matters again and again.”

Virtue, as seen in opposition to sin, is termed thawāb spiritual merit or reward but there are other Islamic terms to describe virtue such as fadl "bounty", taqwa "piety" and salāh "righteousness". For Muslims fulfilling the rights of others are valued as an important building block of Islam. According to Muslim beliefs, God will forgive individual sins but the bad treatment of people and injustice with others will only be pardoned by them and not by God.


5.7. Religious traditions Jainism

In Jainism, attainment of enlightenment is possible only if the seeker possesses certain virtues. All Jains are supposed to take up the five vows of ahimsa non violence, satya truthfulness, asteya non stealing, aparigraha non attachment and brahmacharya celibacy before becoming a monk. These vows are laid down by the Tirthankaras. Other virtues which are supposed to be followed by both monks as well as laypersons include forgiveness, humility, self-restraint and straightforwardness. These vows assists the seeker to escape from the karmic bondages thereby escaping the cycle of birth and death to attain liberation.


5.8. Religious traditions Judaism

Loving God and obeying his laws, in particular the Ten Commandments, are central to Jewish conceptions of virtue. Wisdom is personified in the first eight chapters of the Book of Proverbs and is not only the source of virtue but is depicted as the first and best creation of God Proverbs 8:12-31.

A classic articulation of the Golden Rule came from the first century Rabbi Hillel the Elder. Renowned in the Jewish tradition as a sage and a scholar, he is associated with the development of the Mishnah and the Talmud and, as such, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. Asked for a summary of the Jewish religion in the most concise terms, Hillel replied reputedly while standing on one leg: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary; go and learn."


6. Samurai virtue

In Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo encapsulates his views on virtue in the four vows he makes daily:

  • To manifest great compassion and act for the sake of Man.
  • To be filial to my parents.
  • To be of good use to the master.
  • Never to be outdone in the way of the samurai or bushido.

Yamamoto goes on to say:

If one dedicates these four vows to the gods and Buddhas every morning, he will have the strength of two men and never slip backward. One must edge forward like the inchworm, bit by bit. The gods and Buddhas, too, first started with a vow.

The Bushidō code is typified by seven virtues:

  • Rectitude 義,gi
  • Courage 勇,yuu
  • Respect 礼,rei
  • Honor 誉,yo
  • Honesty 誠,sei
  • Loyalty 忠,chuu
  • Benevolence 仁,jin

Others that are sometimes added to these:

  • Care for the aged 悌,tei
  • Wisdom 智,chi
  • Filial piety 孝,kō

7.1. Philosophers views Valluvar

While religious scriptures generally consider dharma or aṟam the Tamil term for virtue as a divine virtue, Valluvar describes it as a way of life rather than any spiritual observance, a way of harmonious living that leads to universal happiness. For this reason, Valluvar keeps aṟam as the cornerstone throughout the writing of the Kural literature. Valluvar considered justice as a facet or product of aram. While ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and their descendants opined that justice cannot be defined and that it was a divine mystery, Valluvar positively suggested that a divine origin is not required to define the concept of justice. In the words of V. R. Nedunchezhiyan, justice according to Valluvar "dwells in the minds of those who have knowledge of the standard of right and wrong; so too deceit dwells in the minds which breed fraud."


7.2. Philosophers views Rene Descartes

For the Rationalist philosopher Rene Descartes, virtue consists in the correct reasoning that should guide our actions. Men should seek the sovereign good that Descartes, following Zeno, identifies with virtue, as this produces a solid blessedness or pleasure. For Epicurus the sovereign good was pleasure, and Descartes says that in fact this is not in contradiction with Zenos teaching, because virtue produces a spiritual pleasure, that is better than bodily pleasure. Regarding Aristotles opinion that happiness depends on the goods of fortune, Descartes does not deny that these goods contribute to happiness, but remarks that they are in great proportion outside ones own control, whereas ones mind is under ones complete control.


7.3. Philosophers views Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant, in his Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime, expresses true virtue as different from what commonly is known about this moral trait. In Kants view, to be goodhearted, benevolent and sympathetic is not regarded as true virtue. The only aspect that makes a human truly virtuous is to behave in accordance with moral principles. Kant presents an example for more clarification; suppose that you come across a needy person in the street; if your sympathy leads you to help that person, your response does not illustrate your virtue. In this example, since you do not afford helping all needy ones, you have behaved unjustly, and it is out of the domain of principles and true virtue. Kant applies the approach of four temperaments to distinguish truly virtuous people. According to Kant, among all people with diverse temperaments, a person with melancholy frame of mind is the most virtuous whose thoughts, words and deeds are one of principles.


7.4. Philosophers views Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsches view of virtue is based on the idea of an order of rank among people. For Nietzsche, the virtues of the strong are seen as vices by the weak and slavish, thus Nietzsches virtue ethics is based on his distinction between master morality and slave morality. Nietzsche promotes the virtues of those he calls "higher men", people like Goethe and Beethoven. The virtues he praises in them are their creative powers" the men of great creativity” -" the really great men according to my understanding” WP 957). According to Nietzsche these higher types are solitary, pursue a "unifying project", revere themselves and are healthy and life-affirming. Because mixing with the herd makes one base, the higher type" strives instinctively for a citadel and a secrecy where he is saved from the crowd, the many, the great majority…” BGE 26. The Higher type also "instinctively seeks heavy responsibilities" WP 944 in the form of an "organizing idea" for their life, which drives them to artistic and creative work and gives them psychological health and strength. The fact that the higher types are "healthy" for Nietzsche does not refer to physical health as much as a psychological resilience and fortitude. Finally, a Higher type affirms life because he is willing to accept the eternal return of his life and affirm this forever and unconditionally.

In the last section of Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche outlines his thoughts on the noble virtues and places solitude as one of the highest virtues:

And to keep control over your four virtues: courage, insight, sympathy, solitude. Because solitude is a virtue for us, since it is a sublime inclination and impulse to cleanliness which shows that contact between people" society” inevitably makes things unclean. Somewhere, sometime, every community makes people –" base.” BGE §284

Nietzsche also sees truthfulness as a virtue:

Genuine honesty, assuming that this is our virtue and we cannot get rid of it, we free spirits – well then, we will want to work on it with all the love and malice at our disposal and not get tired of perfecting’ ourselves in our virtue, the only one we have left: may its glory come to rest like a gilded, blue evening glow of mockery over this aging culture and its dull and dismal seriousness! Beyond Good and Evil, §227


7.5. Philosophers views Benjamin Franklin

These are the virtues that Benjamin Franklin used to develop what he called moral perfection. He had a checklist in a notebook to measure each day how he lived up to his virtues.

They became known through Benjamin Franklins autobiography.

  • Temperance: Eat not to Dullness. Drink not to Elevation.
  • Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling Conversation.
  • Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
  • Moderation: Avoid Extremes. Forbear resenting Injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
  • Sincerity: Use no hurtful Deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • Chastity: Rarely use Venery but for Health or Offspring; Never to Dullness, Weakness, or the Injury of your own or anothers Peace or Reputation.
  • Tranquility: Be not disturbed at Trifles, or at Accidents common or unavoidable.
  • Industry: Lose no Time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary Actions.
  • Frugality: Make no Expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. Waste nothing.
  • Cleanliness: Tolerate no Uncleanness in Body, Clothes or Habitation.
  • Justice: Wrong none, by doing Injuries or omitting the Benefits that are your Duty.
  • Order: Let all your Things have their Places. Let each Part of your Business have its Time.

8.1. Contemporary views Virtues as emotions

Marc Jackson in his book Emotion and Psyche puts forward a new development of the virtues. He identifies the virtues as what he calls the good emotions "The first group consisting of love, kindness, joy, faith, awe and pity is good" These virtues differ from older accounts of the virtues because they are not character traits expressed by action, but emotions that are to be felt and developed by feeling not acting.


8.2. Contemporary views In Objectivism

Ayn Rand held that her morality, the morality of reason, contained a single axiom: existence exists, and a single choice: to live. All values and virtues proceed from these. To live, man must hold three fundamental values that one develops and achieves in life: Reason, Purpose, and Self-Esteem. A value is "that which one acts to gain and/or keep. and the virtue a historical and cross-cultural convergence." These six categories of virtue are courage, justice, humanity, temperance, transcendence, and wisdom. Some psychologists suggest that these virtues are adequately grouped into fewer categories; for example, the same 24 traits have been grouped into simply: Cognitive Strengths, Temperance Strengths, and Social Strengths.


9. Vice as opposite

The opposite of a virtue is a vice. Vice is a habitual, repeated practice of wrongdoing. One way of organizing the vices is as the corruption of the virtues.

As Aristotle noted, however, the virtues can have several opposites. Virtues can be considered the mean between two extremes, as the Latin maxim dictates in medio stat virtus - in the centre lies virtue. For instance, both cowardice and rashness are opposites of courage; contrary to prudence are both over-caution and insufficient caution; the opposites of pride a virtue are undue humility and excessive vanity. A more "modern" virtue, tolerance, can be considered the mean between the two extremes of narrow-mindedness on the one hand and over-acceptance on the other. Vices can therefore be identified as the opposites of virtues - but with the caveat that each virtue could have many different opposites, all distinct from each other.

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