Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 V - Virtue


Virtue: Desirable characteristics of a human being; that by which something or someone does or may do good.

Obviously, what counts as a virtue may vary with persons, cultures and civilizations. For Aristotle, the main virtues were the capacity and willingness to reason and the possession of rationally ordered habits; for the Romans, virtue was strength or virility (manliness) and strength of character; while Machiavelli considered what he called 'virtu' in political leaders, and seems to have identified this with strength, shrewdness, boldness and courage.

The cardinal virtues are the main virtues in some culture, civilization or faith. For the ancient Greeks, these were wisdom, courage, temperance and justice. The Christians agreed, but added the three Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity (also sometimes called love), whence 'the seven cardinal virtues', often opposed to 'the seven cardinal sins'.

It seems to me that the Greek list (also to be found in Aristotle) is sufficient, in as much as faith, in so far as it makes sense, would follow from wisdom; hope from courage; and charity from justice or wisdom.

See also: Aristotle, Ethics, Morals, Self-control, Sin


Aristotle, Bierce, Chamfort, Comte-Sponville, Edwards Ed., Rochefoucauld

 Original: Mar 10, 2005                                                Last edited: 12 December 2011.   Top