Skip to main content

Can Virtue Be Taught?

I've been thinking about this for at least 3/4 of a year now, and I came across a lecture of Russell Kirk's by the same name in his posthumous collection called Redeeming the Time. First, we have to define virtue. Etymologically, the word comes to English by way of the French vertu and before that the Latin virtus. Its root is vir for man, linking virility with valor, merit, and moral perfection. Thus the idea that a virtuous man is a man's man.

Kirk picks up on this connection of virility and virtue when he writes,
In recent decades, many folk seemingly grew embarrassed by this word virtue; perhaps for them it had too stern a Roman ring. They made the word "integrity" do duty for the discarded "virtue." . . .[I]ntegrity is chiefly a passive quality, somewhat deficient in the vigor of "virtue." People of integrity may be the salt of the earth; yet a rough age requires some people possessed of an energetic virtue.

He says the concept of virtue has been communicated to us via the Greeks and Hebrews and classically means "the power of anything to accomplish its specific functions; a property capable of producing certain effects; strength, force, potency." Hence the connection to virility and manliness.

Kirk concludes that virtue cannot be taught except in the context of a family or other small, tight-knit group that is committed to the excellence of its members. Churches, for instance, but not schools, especially not today's public schools. Mainly, because virtue is best taught by example and not "research projects."


Popular posts from this blog

Dirty Hands Can Save You from Hell

"Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place." --Pope Francis, Laudato Si
     Wonder and awe abound in the natural world for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

     Perhaps we are caught short by a vibrant purple emanating from the petals of a wild lupine. We might stare wide-eyed at the lazy circles of a turkey vulture soaring on thermal air currents. Even the most agoraphobic city-dweller can find something beautiful about a landscape even if it's simply the warm and varied red, yellow, and orange of a sunset glowing on a building.

     "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" asserts the Psalmist. If that verse is true, why don't we live like it? Why are we flabbergasted trying to come up with the names of the many plants and animals we pass by everyday?

     All people respond to beauty in some way or another--even those who have willingly or unwi…

Worth Quoting

"Therefore whoever is not illuminated by such great splendors in created things is blind. Anyone who is not awakened by such great outcries is deaf. Anyone who is not led from such great effects to give praise to God is mute. Anyone who does not turn to the First Principle as a result of such signs is a fool.Therefore open your eyes, alert your spiritual ears, unlock your lips and apply your heart, so that in all the creatures you may see, hear, praise, love and adore, magnify and honor God, lest the entire world rise up against you." -- St. Bonaventure, Itinerarium mentis in Deum

Worth Quoting

"...[K]eep in mind that a human being is not made for the processing of data, but for wisdom; not for the utilitarian satisfaction of appetite, but for love; not for the domination of nature, but for participation in it; not for the autonomy of an isolated self, but for communion." --Anthony Esolen,  Foreword to Beauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott.