Friday, 15 September 2017

The 12 virtues

   Friendliness                    Charity
Truthfulness              Courage            Temperance
      Patience      Magnanimity        Wittiness 
Proper ambition            Modesty
Magnificence               Righteous indignation

 12 virtues, here they are.

Aristotle was writing about these virtues more than 300BC. He wa an apprentice from Plato and thus was in a unique position as a philosopher himself to be exposed to the teachings of two of the greatest philosophers, Plato and Socrates. Below, I give a little bit of background about Socrates and Plato. Bur first about these virtues. Aristotle had a very wise view on happiness and saw the habit of practicing virtues as a highway to happiness. I think today we need his vision more than ever.
He saw the virtues as a mean between the two extremes of excess and deficiency. The next table (source Spark Notes ) will help you understand what he means:

Sphere of action of feeling Excess Mean Deficiency
Fear and Confidence Rashness Courage Cowardice
Pleasure and Pain Licentiousness Temperance Insensibility
Getting and Spending (minor) Prodigality Charity Illiberality
Getting and Spending (major) Vulgarity Magnificence Pettiness
Honor and Dishonor (minor) Ambition Proper Ambition Unambitiousness
Honor and Dishonor (major) Vanity Magnanimity Pusillanimity
Anger Irascibility Patience Lack of Spirit
Self-expression Boastfulness Truthfulness Understatement
Conversation Buffoonery Wittiness Boorishness
Social Conduct Obsequiousness or Flattery Friendliness Cantankerousness
Shame Shyness Modesty Shamelessness

Envy Righteous indignation Malicious enjoyment 

If we are busy with virtues, by reading about them, thinking about them, we tend to practice them more. I remember many years ago, I read an essay on politeness. I am a believer in politeness, since my very young years. But somehow in the week following the reading of the essay, I noticed that I was more polite than usual. The reading of the essay had brought politeness from the deep depths of my mind, right to the surface. Things sitting on the surface tend to guide our actions and words in a better way than if they sit somewhere deep within. :)

So let us reminisce, let us think about all virtues on a regular basis. Keep them at the surface. Happiness will never be far away :)

Now here a bit of background about Socrates and Plato:

Socrates was born to working class parents.
He worked as a laborer and entered the army on three occasions.
It was only when he retired that he started doing what he was best at, what he became so famous for: teaching. He studied wise men in Athens and noticed that they knew a lot but they were not aware that there were many things they did not know either. Socrates was aware that many things he did not know and pointed out through dialogues and questioning that so many who thought they knew, actually did not know. This turned the elite and politicians angry and he was seen as a threat to them, so they trumped up charges against him when he was 70 year. He was convicted and willingly took the punishment of drinking poison, while there were plenty of opportunities to escape.

Plato was a son of two aristocrats. He was a disciple of Socrates and after Socrates death he was so disgusted with politics that he went to study not only philosophy but also sciences. He wrote many books on Socrates (Socrates had not written anything himself). He founded the academy, which some call the first European University. All this happened more than 2300 years ago.

Aristotle studied and taught at the academy of Plato for 20 years. He was a prominent teacher but there were differences in thoughts between him and Plato.The 12 virtues were written about, by Aristotle in his book called the Nicomachean ethics (his father and son were named both Nikomachus). He considered virtues the mean between deficiency and excess.

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