I never know what's going to spark a new blog topic in my head, but one of my Facebook friends recently provided that stimuli. Of course I'm not going to reveal their name or account out of respect for privacy, but in the general discussion, the question was basically, "What is virtue? or What creates virtue?" I didn't really pay it too much attention at first, but soon realized just how amazingly important that question is. If we are to live our lives as virtuous people, whether we be Hellenists or not, then surely we must know what constitutes it.
First, let's define the term. Virtue is "ethical and moral excellence, being of goodness and righteousness." Very powerful words, because they are presented in absolutes. Some people have a big problem with those kinds of definitions, but in this case, I don't think there's an issue at all. When it comes to virtue, these absolutes can be absolute in many different ways.
What creates virtue? In my view, it's simple. Honor. When we live and make our choices on the basis of what is honorable, we can never be without virtue. The problem is that what is honorable isn't always easy, though we may think otherwise. For example, I don't get up every day and go through the responsibilities of being a husband and father because it's always easy or enjoyable, but because I have that obligation to my wife and son. Honor tells me that it's my place to take care of them in any way I can. If I see someone drop a wallet full of money on the ground, I don't give it back because there's no temptation. I give it back because it's not mine. And I don't support universal healthcare because I enjoy paying some more taxes. I support it because it's not right to basically premeditatedly murder poor people.
Honor is when we decide that our selfishness, willful ignorance, and self-interests are not more important than doing what's right. Thus, such a life can only be a virtuous one. However, it's not simply doing what's right all the time, because someone can do the right thing for the wrong reason. Such as doing good only because you are getting a reward in return, and refusing to do it unless you do get said reward. That once again goes back to selfishness or self-interest, which causes our virtue to quickly decompose. Virtue is found in honor only for the sake of honor, and right only for the sake of right.
In the Goodness of the Gods,
I'll see you at the next Herm down the road,