Circumstantial Virtue

Written by Josie Olsen on August 25th, 2009

Intellectual and moral virtue is dependent on arguably several factors that perhaps can only be argued and never proven. To say that it is solely dependent on the state is perhaps inviting dispute, but to ignore it completely would be a vast overlook of centuries of history and evidence. The state enforces law for the benefit of society, and therefore enforces habitual maintenance of said laws whether or not all citizens of the state agree with them. It is the acknowledgment and abiding of laws which influence Aristotle’s definition of acting virtue, even if only to be a veneer, a façade for some, but a finishing surface uniting common ideas of the ideal society for the majority of the population. This case can quickly be disrupted however by pointing out corrupt governing bodies which do not reflect the public’s views and seem to have lost sight of their moral compass.

True virtue however, as defined by Aristotle, cannot be legislated, and must be motivated by doing the right things for the right reasons, opening the argument back up as to whether or not our intellectual and moral virtue are not dependent on the state. While they are dependent to a degree on the state, they are not solely dependent so long as we have inherent agency, “something within our power at which we aim after deliberation.” It is human nature to believe we could independently transcend the downfalls of civilization through our own intelligences, but the continuation of laws governing a given society are (at times although not prescribed for all instances) responsible for habitual virtue, not true virtue.  The answer then remains full of circumstantial conditions, and cannot be resorted to a black and white answer.



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