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Yoga Korunta

Life & Politics

Location: United States

One learns, as nothing endures but change.

29 August 2006

Tuesday's Word: virtue

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Personification of virtue (Greek ἀρετή) in Celsus Library in Ephesos, Turkey
Virtue (Latin virtus; Greek ἀρετή) is moral excellence of a person. A virtue is a character trait valued as being good. The conceptual opposite of virtue is vice.

The Greek word ἀρετή (aretē) has not come into ordinary English. The English word virtue is derived from the Latin word virtus which is in turn from vir meaning "man" in the masculine sense. The word virtus means "the male function" conceived in terms of strength or force; hence "the power to accomplish". [The unrelated Latin word vis means simply "power" or "violence"; ancient grammarians were unable to distinguish the two words.] Cf. Ernout-Meillet, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine: Histoire des mots.

Due to ancient social norms and these linguistic subtleties, virtus was sometimes identified with the masculine warlike virtues such as courage. This has sometimes led to a sense of irony concerning the supposed etymology. In English the word virtue is often used to refer to a woman's chastity. As the philosopher Leo Strauss expresses it, "The mystery of Western thought is how a term that originally meant the manliness of a man came to mean the chastity of a woman."

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 ἠθικὴ ἀρετή (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.

One hopes Blog Babe will overlook his exuberance to understand that her opinions are valued and her privacy respected.


Blogger catherine belle said...

How about "morality" as your next word? That is, of course, if you haven't defined it already.

Blogger Yoga Korunta said...

"Morality," it shall be, Catherine! Thanks for reading!


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