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Aristotle’s cardinal virtues

Cardinal, from the Latin cardo, meaning “hinge”, because these are (according to Aristotle and others) the virtues (arete or “excellences”) on which a good life turns. They are the foundations for eudaimonia – variously translated as “good spirit”, “happiness”, “flourishing”, “welfare”, “blessedness” – for the individual, the family and the wider community, city or nation.

They are:

  • Courage – “The virtue without which none of the other virtues matter” – the ability to act appropriately in the face of danger (real or perceived) – including the stamina or endurance to do so for the long haul;
  • Justice – giving others what is due to them, with the senses both of “fairness” and “righteousness”;
  • Prudence – the practical wisdom needed to discern the right thing to do in a given situation;
  • Temperance – “self-control”, “continence”, “moderation of the appetites”, “discretion”.

May you possess them in increasing measure.

See also:

Dark Counterpart
Aristotle on virtue as a mean (1)
Aristotle on virtue as a mean (2) – notable exceptions
Aristotle on virtue as a mean (3) – the hard part
Aristotle on virtue as a mean (4) – leaning out (or “Whose fool are you?”)
Ends and Meanings: Alasdair MacIntyre on the three-legged stool of Aristotelian ethics
Ends and Meanings (2): Alasdair MacIntyre on the modern self
Ends and Meanings (3): Alasdair MacIntyre virtue, mortality and story in heroic societies
Edmund Burke on learning’s purpose and reward
Charlie Gilkey on the courage to do your best work
Steven Pressfield on playing hurt
Aristocracy / Meritocracy; or, Beda Kumis*


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