We don’t talk much about virtues these days. And, the concept of vice has been turned into little more than the moniker for the squad of government enforcers assigned to keep humanity out of the gutter. But for centuries, we all would have talked, a lot, about virtue and even some about vice.
As soon as we humans could spend a bit of our time doing more than trying to stay alive, we have mused on those conditions of being that could help us to become the best that we might be. Plato, Shakespeare, Confucius, Mohamed and Jesus Christ were all among the voices guiding and challenging our thinking – helping us to frame those characteristics most likely to put us on the path to an ethical and soul-fulfilling life.
Prudence, justice, temperance and courage framed the classical understanding of virtue. Later, the letters of Saint Paul of Tarsus, pointed to faith, hope and charity. Across time, some have added the notions of thrift, inclusion and prudence.
Vice, likewise morphing across time and continent, has more-or-less been settled as defined as something degrading society or the social order. Closer to home, it is accepted as something degrading to our own health and wellbeing.
With shifting morays, our understanding of virtue and vice has likewise been reconsidered. Yet, in recent years, we seem to shun the concepts. Perhaps, our desire to be perceived as open-minded has led us to avoid the tags at all cost. Too often, we refuse to pursue virtue for fear that it might alienate others who fail to see the value in the characteristics. And, we eschew labeling our actions as vices thinking having standards somehow makes us close-minded. Shouldn’t we embrace the character traits that matter and understand why? And, shouldn’t we order our lives correspondingly?