Virtue

This is a paper I submitted for my Political Philosophy class.  Our assignment was to define virtue.

       Specific virtues, private virtue, and public virtue are three facets of virtue as a whole.  Specific traits labeled virtues (such as chastity, honesty, courage, etc.) are valuable only to the extent that they are understood and implemented in private and public virtue.  Private virtue is individual morality, purpose, and integrity.  Virtuous individuals recognize and accept the call to sacrifice of themselves for the benefit of society.  This is public virtue.  All three components of virtue are essential to liberty and true happiness.

       The first component of personal virtue is moral rectitude.  One develops this by learning correct principles and striving to ensure that one makes each decision in accordance with those principles.  However, it is not enough to be good; we must be good for something.  I believe that each of us has a unique purpose.  A lifestyle that is not virtuous leads to vice, addiction, grief, doubt, and other negative forces will detract us from our mission to find our purpose.  Therefore, virtue is living cleanly and striving to do that which God intends us to do. 

Plato explains purpose with an analogy of different types of blades.  One could cut a vine for grafting by using a sword or an axe, but the cut will not be as good as it would be when done with a pruning knife.  God put each of us on Earth when He did, where He did, and with individual capacity, interests, and talents for a reason.  That reason is our purpose.  Dr. Schulthies explained, “Virtue is doing what we were created to do – beautifully.  When we do that we are getting close to God.”  Virtue is becoming more like God.  A Greek Stoic once said, “God is man’s helping of man.”[1]  True private virtue must extend to public virtue, or it will be lost.

It is not enough to sit at home content with one’s own sense of righteousness.  Many of the founding fathers sacrificed everything they had to support the revolution.  Robert Morris gave all of his own wealth, borrowed more funds to aid Washington’s suffering troops, was credited with being the sole financier of the campaign that sealed the victory over the British, and after the war spent 5 years in debtors prison for his efforts.[2]  John Hancock’s was the only signature on the first copy of the Declaration of Independence for about a month, making him a special target of the British.[3]  What if these men and so many like them were content with sitting at home studying and hoping someone else would rise up to the seemingly impossible task before them?  Instead, they gave everything for the cause of liberty and the benefit of their fellow citizens.  This is the epitome of public virtue. 

The ultimate example of virtue was not a wealthy politician.  He was a humble teacher, a physician of the soul who sacrificed His life to help others.  Specifically, He accomplished this by fulfilling His divine role.  Everything He did in his short life was in harmony with His purpose to bring others to peace and truth.  He perfectly mastered every virtuous characteristic personally and tirelessly worked that others might do the same, yet He never used compulsion, for liberty and freedom of choice are also necessary for the cultivation of virtue.  Only through virtuous living, both private and public, can happiness and liberty truly exist in society.


[1] Ebenstein, William, and Alan O. Ebenstein.  Great Political Thinkers: Plato to the Present.  6th ed. Belmont, Ca [u.a.: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2000.  146. Print.

[2] DeMille, Oliver Van, Rachel P. DeMille, and Diann Jeppson.  A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion.  Cedar City, UT: George Wythe College, 2006.  150-151. Print.

[3] DeMille, Oliver Van, Rachel P. DeMille, and Diann Jeppson.  A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion.  Cedar City, UT: George Wythe College, 2006.  147. Print.

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About Jonathan

I am a man whose life has been profoundly changed by a beautiful woman, 5 amazing kids, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and Leadership Education.
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2 Responses to Virtue

  1. Blake says:

    Thats very well put.

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks Blake. The discussion of virtue has been a part of every semester for the last two and a half years. It’s been fun to have my understanding of it grow.

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