Hello, gentlemen (and the occasional lady). A very good day to you all.
I had recently finished reading Mr. McKay's highly invigorating read on his seven part series on the history of honor, and how it applies to the modern day. Since reading the last installment of his series, I had a sort of reawakening; that even though cultural aspects have been relaxed in our great nation, and traditions largely ignored, that does not mean one has to give up hope. Quite the opposite, I'm please to say; now there is a purpose for all men to constantly fight for, and that is the idea of bringing back traditional concepts of honor and chivalry, in a dark, cynical, and oftentimes uncaring world.
This is no small feat, but at the same time, it is absolutely necessary to bring traditions back to the forefronts of our own lives. I do not mean to say that one must go out into the world, forcing traditional values on other people; all I am saying is that if one has the will to, in his own life, try to follow a stricter code of honor, one certainly can do that. I personally hope you, reader, do not think I am trying to force feed you my own beliefs; rather, I am offering you to look upon this new perspective, and to appreciate it for what it is. Whether or not you adopt some or all points made in this entry is not my concern.
In an attempt to learn how one becomes more honorable in his day to day life, I remember the Seven Heavenly Virtues, which is a Catholic tradition. Though the Seven Virtues have roots in Judeo-Christian tradition, I can easily believe that all people, regardless of a specific creed, may benefit from these moral dicta. I will briefly outline them below, in the format of its English name, its Latin name, and its basic summary.
The Seven Heavenly Virtues:
Chastity (Castitas)- Abstaining from lust and lustful acts, pursuit of courtly love and romantic friendship, cleanliness through good health and hygiene, purity, honesty, and betterment through education.
Temperance (Temperantia) - Self control, mindfulness of others, moderation of self-interest, justice and putting others before self. Restraint is the keystone of the Seven Virtues, of which no other virtue may be truly realized in its absence.
Charity (Caritas) - Generosity, charity, self-sacrifice, benevolence, and love.
Diligence (Industria) - Persistence, ethics, effort, tenacity, budgeting one's time and guarding against laziness or wastefulness of time. Most importantly, upholding one's convictions even when no one is seemingly present to witness otherwise; known as integrity.
Patience (Patientia) - Peace, mercy, meaning to do no harm, never resorting to violence except in the most extreme circumstances, forgiveness of the sins of others and of self, and never antagonizing or otherwise intentionally trespassing against fellow men.
Kindness (Humanitas) - Compassion, friendship, loyalty, empathy, trust without resentment or prejudice, unselfish love for the other person, positive outlook and cheerful demeanor, and inspiring kindness in others.
Humility (Humilitas) - Courage, modesty, reverence, selflessness, respecting others unconditionally. Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. Being faithful to promises, big or small. Refraining from despair, and having the ability to confront fear or intimidation. The ability to undertake tasks that are menial or unglamorous with quiet graciousness. Reverence to God, to those who teach in love, and to those who have wisdom.
Whenever someone says something mean, remember the virtue Humilitas, and think less about the hurt that the insult gave, and more about the hidden pain and suffering in that person's life.
Whenever you walk out in public, you may choose not to completely ignore strangers, but give them a friendly smile and a simple “Good day to you,” because you keep in mind the virtue of Humanitas.
Whenever something is about to ignite your ire, remember to have Patientia, and to accept the circumstances as they are, for they can be nothing else than what they are already.
In your work, and in your daily life, try to eliminate idleness, to have the virtue of Industria as a constant motivation to do good work, and recognition that time is ultimately limited, and needs to be utilized to its fullest extent.
Whenever you interact with others, remember the virtue of Caritas, to have love for others, and to be generous with your care and attention to your fellow man.
Consider Temperantia, and limiting your own consumption to what you need, while trying to consider more about what others are in need of.
Consider also the dark possibility of appearing to be a good man, without actually being a good man. With this in mind, remember to have Castitas in your daily life; to be honest, with yourself, and with others. To have clean hygienic standards, in order to show respect to yourself and to the outside world. Most importantly, when concerning women, be with them because you love them, and care about their well-being, not because you lust after them.
This, gentlemen, is a code of conduct that one can use to maintain virtue in the day to day. Following a strict set of rules in an attempt to better oneself has its distinct benefits. I think Mr. McKay put it beautifully concerning rules to govern one's own behavior:
“The paradox of honor, and the constraints of any virtuous life, is that while the commitment to live with certain principles limits you in some ways, it also frees you in others. A man may willingly consent to and even impose on himself certain restrictions that he believes will actually lead to greater freedom and/or more opportunities. For example, a man may choose not to smoke, so that he can be free from addiction, and from that addiction dictating his choices.”
If you have your own method of trying to live life as honorably as you can, I encourage you to let us know. I am eager to learn more about each and every one of your own perspectives on what it truly means to be a good man.
Sean M. Bach
The Cardinal Virtues serve me well enough; Courage, Temperance, Justice, Prudence. I like that you have Diligence/Industry in your list.
As a point of fact, courtly love doesn't belong under Chastity.
Of the Cardinal Virtues, which one do you value the most, if you were to choose one?
They're all interdependent, in my opinion, no one is greater than the other. What's Courage if you don't temper it with the proper response, at a prudent time, with a sense of justice? What's Justice if you have no courage to act? And with action we come full circle.
A wise answer, I would say. Of course, I am not asserting at all that one Cardinal Virtue is greater than the other; they all are in need of each other to function. But I am rather curious if there was one that you had a stronger feeling for than the others. In other words; which one do you like the most?
I think that if I had to choose, I would choose Fortitudo, because I see courage as a base of all of men's actions, much like the foundations of an immortal edifice. The courage in our hearts compel us to do what is right, regardless of the circumstances. I find that very inspiring.
We all like to believe we're brave. And, you are correct, courage is the base of action. But, courage, without the others, is foolhardiness.
Interesting. You've certainly given me something to think about, Shane. I appreciate your input.
You have my respect, sir. I admire your code of conduct; Responsibility, Identity, Expertise -- Duty with Honour. If one can fulfill those three traits, then suddenly that person can be of unlimited use to the group of which he belongs. I think great virtue can be gained through competent work for one's peers, or for society.
I especially like Identity, in your particular code. For one to truly have an identity, one must be recognized by one's own peers, his good deeds praised, and his inconsistencies corrected. I appreciate your contribution.
Shane mentioned the four Cardinal Virtues, which had completely slipped past my radar before he did so. I think it is worthy for this post to therefore consist of a basic overview of the four Cardinal Virtues, as well as any personal insights I may have. I invite you, reader, to add insights of your own, as well as share with us what helps you along a more virtuous path in your own life.
The word “cardinal” comes from the Latin cardinalis, which means hinge, as in a door. It can also mean “that on which something turns or depends,” as a door upon a hinge does. In this sense, the Cardinal Virtues hinge upon one another, in that if one Virtue is not followed, then the others cannot be followed as well. As Shane said earlier, it would be folly to value one Cardinal Virtue over the other because, by their very nature, they rely upon one another, and if a person utilizes any less than all four equally in his life, he has capacity to do evil.
I would like to outline briefly the four Cardinal Virtues, and discuss a little about each one. The format will be the same as my post about the Seven Heavenly Virtues, in that I will put the English name first, its Latin equivalent next, and its explanation last.
The Four Cardinal Virtues:
Prudence (Prudéntia) - The understanding necessary to discern whether or not the choices one makes in his life are righteous. It is, as Saint Thomas Aquinas puts it, “right reason in action,” perfection of the intellect. Saint Aquinas makes the point that while no one Cardinal Virtue is above the others in importance, the Virtue of Prudéntia is the first of the four. Known as auriga virtutum, it is the “Charioteer of the Virtues”, the one that comes before all others in order, and therefore initially considered while making any moral decision. To not rush headlong into action, and to instead consider the rightness and wrongness of each potential decision, carefully planning ahead and being prepared for the future, while accepting the responsibility of the outcome. While a foolish man would mistake prudence for timidity or fear, a wise man would never act without determining merit.
An interesting note about the Virtue Prudéntia; the Latin word prudéntia was originally a contraction of the word providentia, which means “to see forward,” or to think ahead and make provisions for the future (which further derives from the Latin roots pro, meaning 'forward,' and videre, 'to see'). According to the Roman orator, Cicero:
“prudéntia est rerum bonarum et malarum neutrarumque scientia. partes eius: momoria, inellegentia, providentia.”
English Translation: “Prudéntia is the knowledge of things that are good or bad or neither. Its elements are memory, understanding, and foresight.”
To the Romans, foresight, or the ability to see forward and plan for the future, was a quality shared by rulers and gods alike, a rare attribute that only few men were truly endowed with.
Justice (Iustítia) – The propensity to render to each man that which is due to him. The ability to respect the natural rights of all men, to possess the firm will to give due, to God and neighbor alike. The habitual moral correctness of thought, and the tendency to treat all people with virtuous conduct, and fair intent.
“You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.” - Leviticus, 19:15, New King James Translation.
In other words, one shall never look at a man's social standing when judging him; never showing automatic deference to either the poor, or the wealthy; the meek, or the powerful; the plebeian, or the patrician. One instead will consider a man's actions before judging him, while ousting bias, prejudice, and unchecked emotion. In this way, proper judgment is rendered, and equity between all people established.
One may compare the Cardinal Virtue of Iustítia with the Heavenly Virtue, Caritas, or Charity. In the words of Father John A. Hardon, Iustítia is the "habitual inclination of the will... the constant and permanent determination to give everyone his or her rightful due." Caritas differs from Iustítia, though both promote fairness towards all people; while Caritas reasons that fellow men should be treated fairly because they are our fellows, Iustítia is more concerned with what is owed to others for the precise reason that they are not us, and that balance must be realized to correct inherent imbalance between men.
Furthermore, Caritas is generous, in that it compels one to give more to a person than is rightfully due to him. Iustítia, in contrast, relies totally on precision; that no correction of imbalance may be too extreme or too deficient.
Fortitude (Fortitúdo) – Known more commonly as Courage. It is third of Cardinal Virtues, after Prudéntia and Iustítia, because it is in service of these first two. Where Prudéntia and Iustítia are the virtues that helps one make moral decisions, it is Fortitúdo that gives one the will to act, regardless of popular opinion, fear, intimidation, temptation, or persecution.
It is much more than this, however; it is having the strength of spirit to live well, by loving God with all one's heart and soul. No misfortune, great or small, can bring the man who possesses mighty Fortitúdo into despair. Thus, Fortitúdo is also, in a sense, the courage to live life with inner peace, and to not let the tribulations of the world pervert the perfection of the soul. Fortitúdo allows one to obey only God, and to never be shaken by treachery or deceit.
Where sin is the wound a man may experience in the constant battle between good and evil, Fortitúdo is the armor that protects one's own virtue from harm.
Fortitúdo is not, however, rashness or recklessness. It is not putting oneself in danger for danger's sake. Putting one's own body in danger's way without moral necessity is known as foolhardiness.
Temperance (Temperántia) – Men are animals. Men have to eat, sleep, and reproduce, just like any other animal. A man's unchecked desire to eat as much as he wants, sleep for as long as he can, and have as much sex as he is able, is in his very nature as an animal, as self-interest is essential to an animal's own survival. It is, therefore, Temperántia to bring men into a more humble state; to recognize the mortality of flesh and to prepare one's own spirit to become worthy in the presence of God, to restrain selfish desire while putting the needs of others above. As it says in the Old Testament:
"Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites." Sirach 18:30
It requires chastisement of one's own soul, a denial of self, sobriety and moderation in the proximity of temptation. It means an abstention from lustful sex, as well as an avoidance of gluttony. It is also the restraint of the spirit, or in other words, restraint of the Deadly Sin of Pride (Superbia). A lack of Temperántia can be seen as valuing the physical gifts on the earth above the immortal gifts from God. Temperántia is the last of the Cardinal Virtues, because it is in service of the other three; moderation of one's own desires is essential to thinking and acting morally (Prudéntia), being fair to each person and giving each man his due (Iustítia), and having a strong, righteous foundation in the face of adversity and evil (Fortitúdo).
A special thanks to Rebekah for helping me out with the Latin.
Some good and insightful points there in the discussion post, as well as in the responses here.
My question would be, how does a man actually practice these virtues? Does he wait for a situation to come up, and then respond in the appropriate way, or is there a way you can actually train train these behaviors, like you train at the gym for physical fitness?
That's an interesting question, Mr. Kim. Of course, it would be ideal to encounter on a regular basis some crisis or problem that someone else is having and save them from the situation, like a hero from a story. Such occurrences, in my own life at least, are quite rare, and so any opportunity to prove to myself and to the world the slightest semblance of honor are somewhat limited to the mundane day to day.
Yet though I think that proving one's own good intentions in a relatively uneventful life is difficult (as good deeds often go unnoticed, and therefore, unappreciated by peers), I do not believe it is any less important to live one's life -that is, every aspect of one's life, especially how he conducts his behavior towards other people- exactly as his personal moral code dictates. If we were to wait for a dire problem to save the world from, in order to prove to everyone in our midst that, without a doubt, we are honorable, then I think we would be waiting a very long time; alternatively, a harrowing disaster can occur tomorrow in which we would be able to act and save lives, but because we haven't been living by our highest moral standards daily, we find ourselves unprepared and unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to do what is right.
In any crisis, we often can perceive the best and the worst of humanity all at once. 9/11 was such a crisis. The most callous, depraved individuals that anyone could imagine even existed committed atrocities on that day to such a terrible degree, that there is no doubt in my mind that those monsters represent the very worst of humanity. Yet also on that day, there were many people who, instead of running from the destruction, were running towards it, in order to do whatever they could to help. A majority of those people paid the ultimate sacrifice, but it is their honorable deeds done on that day that resonate. Those brave men and women were the pinnacle of mankind, individuals that cared more about doing the right thing for their fellow man than their own survival.
I like to think of those people who became heroes that day were just normal, regular people every other day in their lives, perhaps following a strict moral code, or perhaps just living their lives in consideration of others as part of their normal day to day, without thinking about themselves too much.
I'll weigh-in on the developing-courage-when-your-life-is-ordinary issue, because I've asked the same question. My context was vowed religious, claimed by the Church to be models of all virtue, including courage, but usually not demonstrating courage how we ordinarily think of it. Also, I take Aristotle's definition of courage, that it is the habit of standing in the face of terrible things. (standing, as opposed to running; and terrible, as in aweful, not just really bad)
My interlocutors came back with a few angles. One is that it takes courage to commit to certain "quiet" lifestyles, and that courage is there throughout the discernment process, not just at the moment of decision. Another is that "small" acts of charity can involve great courage - you don't know how the other will respond, you don't know if your efforts will work. There is also the fear that the "ordinary" life will be meaningless or forgotten.
William Bennett includes in the Courage chapter of "The Book of Virtues" the story of a bachelor who finds out his buddy has died suddenly, leaving a wife and several young children with no means of support. The bachelor marries the widow. It's certainly not our usual image of courage, but I think the story fits under Courage at least as much as under some other possibilities, such as Compassion or Diligence.