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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-A018-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

A pivotal term of ancient Greek ethics, aretē is conventionally translated ‘virtue’, but is more properly ‘goodness’ – the quality of being a good human being. Philosophy came, largely through Plato, to recognize four cardinal aretai: wisdom (phronēsis), moderation (sōphrosynē), courage (andreia) and justice (dikaiosynē). Others, considered either coordinate with these or their sub-species, included piety, liberality and magnanimity. The term generated many controversies. For example, is aretē a state of intellect, character or both? Does it possess intrinsic or only instrumental value? Is it teachable, god-given or otherwise acquired? Is it one thing or many? If many, how are they differentiated, and can you have one without having all?

Citing this article:
Sedley, David. Aretē, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-A018-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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