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Allegory of Chastity (1475) by Hans Memling
Allegory of Chastity (1475) by Hans Memling
Innocence (1893) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau: Both young children and lambs are symbols of goodness
Innocence (1893) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau: Both young children and lambs are symbols of goodness

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Virtue (Latin virtus is moral excellence of a person. A virtue is a character trait valued as being good. The conceptual opposite of virtue is vice.

According to its etymology the word virtue (Latin virtus) signifies manliness or courage. Taken in its widest sense virtue means the excellence of perfection of a thing, just as vice, its contrary, denotes a defect or absence of perfection due to a thing. In its strictest meaning, however, as used by moral philosophers and theologians, virtue is an operative habit essentially good, as distinguished from vice, an operative habit essentially evil. The four cardinal (hinge) virtues are Justice, Courage, Wisdom, and Moderation. These were enumerated by the Greek philosophers. The three supernatural virtues of Faith, Hope and (unselfish) Love are part of the Christian tradition. Both the natural and supernatural virtues depend on a person's understanding that truth can be discovered. Modernist views are at odds with this idea.

Virtue can also be meant in another way. Virtue can either have normative or moral value; i.e. the virtue of a knife is to cut, the virtue of an excellent knife is to cut well (this is its normative value) vs. the virtues of reason, prudence, chastity, etc. (which have moral value).

In the Greek it is more properly called ēthikē aretē. It is "habitual excellence". It is something practiced at all times. The virtue of perseverance is needed for all and any virtue since it is a habit of character and must be used continuously in order for any person to maintain oneself in virtue. However, Friedrich Nietzsche stated that 'when virtue has slept, it will arise all the more vigorous'.

Virtues and values

Virtues can be placed into a broader context of values. Each individual has a core of underlying values that contribute to his or her system of beliefs, ideas and/or opinions (see value in semiotics). Integrity in the application of a value ensures its continuity and this continuity separates a value from beliefs, opinion and ideas. In this context, a value (e.g., Truth or Equality or Creed) is the core from which we operate or react. Societies have values that are shared among many of the participants in that culture. An individual's values typically are largely, but not entirely, in agreement with his or her culture's values.

Individual virtues can be grouped into one of four categories of values:

Examples of virtues include:

See also

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

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