Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Some examples of virtues

In Chapter 7, Aristotle briefly runs through the various emotional skills that lead to a successful life. He discusses these skills in much more detail later in the Nicomachean Ethics, but here is his brief summary.


Courage involves just the right amount of fear and confidence.

(a) Too little fear makes you rash.
(b) Too much fear makes you a coward.

In short, being courageous involves knowing when to stand your ground, and when to run.

Moderation (Temperance)

Moderation involves just the right amount of indulgence and abstinence.

(a) Too much indulgence makes you self-indulgent.
(b) Too little indulgence makes you austere.

In short, enjoying pleasure with moderation involves knowing when to indulge, and when to abstain.

Financial Liberality

Financial liberality involves just the right amount of giving and taking money.

(a) If you give too much and take too little, you are prodigal. 
(b) If you take too much and give too little, you are mean. 

(Strictly speaking, Aristotle says that financial liberality has to do with small amounts of money. If we are talking about huge amounts of money, then we are talking about magnificence, and this too can have extremes: tastelessness and vulgarity is the excess, and stinginess is the deficiency.)

In short, financial liberty involves knowing when to give, and when to take.


Honor involves just the right amount of pride and humility.

(a) Too much pride is empty vanity.
(b) To little pride is undue humility.

(Like financial liberality, this deals with smaller amounts of pride. For huge amounts, we are talking about ambition, and there too one can have too much or too little.)

In short, honor involves knowing when to be proud of yourself, and when to be humble.


Being good-tempered involves just the right amount of anger.

(a) Too much anger makes you irascible.
(b) Too little anger makes you inirascible.

In short, being good-tempered involves knowing when to be angry, and when to not, and in just the right amount.


Being truthful involves just the right amount of being truthful.

(a) Too much truthfulness makes you boastful.
(b) To little gives you false modesty.

In short, truthfulness involves just the right amount of saying what you did and what you are.


Being witty involves just the right amount of amusement.

(a) Giving too much amusement makes you a buffoon (a jokester).
(b) Giving too little amusement makes you boorish (a bore).

In short, being witty involves knowing when to crack a joke or tell a good story, and knowing when not too.


Being friendly involves just the right amount of general pleasantry.

(a) If you are too friendly too often, you are obsequious (too agreeable) and a flatterer.
(b) If you are not friendly enough, you are quarrelsome and surly (no fun).

In short, friendliness involves knowing when to be agreeable, and when to disagree.


Modesty involves just the right amount of shame and modesty.

(a) Too much shame makes you bashful.
(b) Too little shame makes you shameless.

In short, modesty involves knowing when to be ashamed, and when not to be.

Righteous Indignation

Righteous indignation involves feeling just the right amount of sympathy for the good and bad fortune of your neighbors.

(a) Too much sympathy makes you envious (I want what they have).
(b) Too little makes you spiteful (I don't care what they have).

In short, righteous indignation knows when to feel pleasure or pain for what happens to your neighbors.

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