V is for Virtue

| February 25, 2014

…justice and moderation and piety and all these things were some one thing taken together, namely virtue, So go through these very things precisely for me by means of argument-that is, whether virtue is some one thing, and justice and moderation and piety are parts of it, or whether these things that I was just now speaking of are all names of it, it being one and the same thing… (Bartlett, 2004, p.26)

Socrates’ sayings provide us with an opportunity to think about the unity of virtue itself. Is virtue one thing? Or is it many things? Later on, Protagoras responds that justice, moderation, and piety are parts of virtue just as the parts (mouth, nose, eyes, and ears) of the face. Each part plays its own functions, so the parts of face (virtue) are different from one another or from the whole. Protagoras’s explanations cause me confusion on the relationship between virtue (the whole) and parts. I am not sure if I can consider these parts of virtue (justice, moderation, and piety) as characteristics of virtue. If it is, how can we define a person who has a mouth and nose but no eyes and ears? That means this person possesses wisdom and justice but no moderation and piety. Do we still consider the person virtuous? Virtue not only relates to humanistic moral development, but it also reflects on aesthetic experiences of values and views of life.  If we turn this question to ourselves, do we think we are virtuous people? Why or why not? How can we define?