Kalos kagathos  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Kalos kagathos (Ancient Greek καλὸς κἀγαθός; also kalokagathos derived from kalos kai agathos) is an idiomatic phrase used in ancient Greek literature (including philosophy and historiography), attested to since Herodotus and the classical period. The phrase is adjectival, composed of two adjectives, καλός (beautiful) and ἀγαθός (decent) and has the meaning of ("the beautiful and good"). The derived noun is kalokagathia.

Contents

Uses

The phrase could be used both in a generic sense, or with certain specific force. As a generic term, it may have been used as the combination of distinct virtues, which we might translate as "handsome and brave", or the intersection of the two words "good" or "upstanding". Translations such as "gentleman" or "knight" have traditionally been suggested to convey the social aspect of the phrase, while "war hero" or the more cynical "martyr" are more recent versions, and emphasise the military element.

It became a fixed phrase by which the Athenian aristocracy referred to itself; in the ethical philosophers, the first of whom were Athenian gentlemen, the term came to mean the ideal or perfect man.

The possession of the beautiful and the good ("kalos kai agathos") has a correspondent in Latin: "mens sana in corpore sano" (healthy soul in healthy body). It is also seen as a target in balanced education of body and spirit.

There is thematic discussion of kalokagathia in Aristotle's Eudemian Ethics Book VIII, chapter 3. And how a kaloskagathos (gentleman) should live is also discussed at length in Xenophon's Socratic dialogues, especially the Oeconomicus.

Καλός

The adjective καλός means beautiful and encompasses meanings equivalent to English "good", "noble", and "handsome". The form given by convention is the masculine, but it was equally used of women (the feminine form is καλή) and could also describe animals or inanimate objects.

Plato, in his work Republic, used the term τό καλόν (the neutral form) in his attempts to define ideals. However, his protagonist in the dialogue, Socrates, stated that he did not fully comprehend the nature of this καλόν.

Αγαθός

The second adjective Αγαθός means good and had no particular physical or aesthetic connotations, but could describe a person's excellence of character (ethical virtue) for example their bravery. Again, around the 4th century, it had become politically meaningful, and carried implications of dutiful citizenship.

See also

Transcendentals





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Kalos kagathos" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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