Virtues, happiness and stoicism

Virtues, happiness and stoicism

It’s true that the phrase advantage, with its connotations of self-sacrifice and Victorian morality, may be fairly disagreeable. Nevertheless, for lots of the historic Greeks and Romans, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics amongst them, the cultivation of advantage was the key to a contented and moral life. Latest analysis helps this view. One of many many advantages of Stoicism is that it could possibly enable you to lead a virtuous and due to this fact glad and purposeful life.

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What are virtues?

Aretes, the Greek phrase for advantage, means perfection. Virtues are qualities of character which might be manifested nice human beings, qualities that may enable you to notice your potential to turn out to be the most effective model of your self.

The Greek thinker Plato recognized 4 cardinal or cardinal virtues knowledge, braveness, self-control, and justice. There are numerous different virtues, all of that are finest regarded as a part of a household of associated qualities headed by one cardinal advantage. For instance,

  • Data, curiosity, creativity, perception, prudence and discretion are a part of knowledge
  • Perseverance, bravery, honesty, integrity, energy and willpower are the weather braveness
  • Temperance, self-discipline, self-regulation, temperance, endurance, and humility are the substances self management.
  • Justice, kindness, teamwork, friendship, compassion and love add up justice. It ought to be famous that justice is used very broadly to cowl virtues associated to how we deal with folks nicely, not simply justice.

The science of well-being, in any other case generally known as optimistic psychology, has led to vital empirical analysis into what makes life good. A big-scale literature overview of philosophical and historic concepts about optimistic human qualities confirmed that Plato’s 4 cardinal virtues are of paramount significance (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).

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Why virtues are vital

Just a little reflection on every of the principle virtues confirms their worth.

  • Braveness means that you can cope nicely with worry. With out braveness, nervousness or discomfort can forestall you from doing what, to paraphrase John Wayne, you’ll want to do.
  • Self-control means that you can curb your needs. In any other case, your appetites may cause you to undergo from relationships or bodily well being.
  • Justice ensures that you simply deal with others nicely, with kindness and justice. It creates and maintains concord in relationships and communities.
  • Knowledge helps us make sense of the world and what issues most, and what to do in particular conditions.

Would not you need your baby or another person you take care of to have all of those qualities?

Fashionable analysis on the advantages of virtues

Our analysis in the course of the latest Stoic Week discovered a really robust connection between the only assertion that I domesticate virtues corresponding to knowledge, braveness, self-control, and justice and well-being (LeBon, 2022). A excessive correlation was demonstrated between cultivation of core virtues and flourishing (0.55), goal and which means (0.45), participation in day by day actions (0.44), and optimistic feelings (0.41).

Quite a few research have discovered a hyperlink between the follow of sure virtues and well-being. For instance, Steger, Kashdan, and Oishi (2008) discovered that virtue-congruent actions corresponding to gratitude, volunteerism, and process persistence had been related to larger well-being.

In a scientific overview of analysis on advantage and well-being, Diener and Kessebeer (2013) concluded that there’s a clear relationship between happiness and advantage, which appears notably robust in terms of self-enhancing virtues corresponding to hope, ardour, gratitude, love, and curiosity. They argue that advantage and happiness type a virtuous cycle, with causation working in each instructions. For instance, should you deal with others with love, you’ll probably really feel happier consequently. Different folks might nicely reciprocate, and on this case, your well-being will enhance much more, and your motivation to like will likely be strengthened.

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What virtues ought to be developed?

Fashionable psychology has shed a whole lot of mild on the worth of virtues and methods of their growth. The VIA (Values ​​in Motion) classification, created as an initiative by Peterson and Seligmans, offers a framework for measuring advantage and what they name 24 character strengths. Two high suggestions from optimistic psychology:

  1. Focus in your strengths, not your weaknesses
  2. Make extra use of your core or attribute strengths (Seligman, 2002).

Though such interventions have been discovered to be helpful, there are potential pitfalls, together with overuse and misuse of strengths. Fashionable recommendation ought to be tempered with historic knowledge. Let’s assume that the principle energy of your docs is optimism. Wouldn’t it be a good suggestion if, once you requested her to look at your doubtlessly ominous lump, she used her optimism to dismiss your legitimate considerations by saying, Oh, I would not fear about that! That might be an instance extreme use energy. Or consider a robber whose primary energy is braveness. Would you need him to make use of that energy to have the audacity to interrupt into your own home in broad daylight? It might be misuse with energy.

Self-control. Fundamental readings

The Stoics proposed two key concepts that specify why too easy a optimistic psychology intervention can backfire:

  1. Knowledge is the muse of advantage. Sensible knowledge is required (Phronesis) to tell apart between conditions the place warning is required quite than optimism, corresponding to within the case of a suspicious-looking lump. We additionally want ethical knowledge (Sofia) perceive that stealing homes is just not the way in which to a great life.
  2. Values ​​are strongly interrelated. In case you wouldn’t have one of many primary virtues, it can forestall you from possessing the others. For instance, true braveness (versus bravado) requires all the opposite virtues. Suppose you might be about to go away a job that you’re not glad with. You may suppose that this can be a daring transfer. Nevertheless, the Stoics urge you to think about whether or not that is affordable (How will you pay the payments?), simply (How does it have an effect on others?), and self-monitoring (sure not an impulsive response after a nasty day on the workplace).

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It follows that you need to attempt to develop all the things cardinal virtues

How you can be virtuous

U 365 methods to be extra stoic (LeBon, 2022) features a part on methods to develop every of the cardinal virtues, drawing on each fashionable analysis and historic Stoic recommendation.

I will shut right here with three suggestions that may be utilized throughout the board to all advantages:

1. Be a job mannequin.

Who could be your position mannequin for every of the cardinal virtues? Possibly Nelson Mandela for justice and Greta Thunberg for braveness? Maybe Dumbledore could be a mannequin of knowledge for you, and your buddy who has given up alcohol an instance of methods to develop self-control?

2. Use a advantage lens.

When one thing occurs to you, at all times bear in mind to show to your self and ask what energy you need to cope with it. Epictetus, Handbook10

At the moment, if you find yourself confronted with a alternative, ask your self which advantage you want. Whenever you’re ready in line on the grocery store, chances are you’ll want endurance (a part of self-control). When you’ll want to give unfavourable suggestions to a colleague, chances are you’ll want each tact (the knowledge half) and braveness. A advantage lens will enable you to body your dilemmas when it comes to the very qualities you’ll want to deal with them nicely, and provide you with follow in creating every advantage.

3. Flip virtues into habits with common small steps.

Each behavior and each potential is confirmed and strengthened by applicable motion when you do not need to purchase the behavior, chorus from it, and get into the behavior of doing one thing else as a substitute. Epictetus, Discourses2:18

Will Durant (1926), following Aristotle, makes the same level:

We’re what we repeatedly do. So excellence is just not an act, however a behavior.

Latest analysis means that habits are finest fashioned by breaking them down into small, easy-to-do steps (e.g., Fogg, 2019). You can begin right now by deciding on one cardinal advantage to work on. You’ll be able to lengthen the well-known concept of ​​performing random acts of kindness to different virtues and carry out 5 small acts of braveness, self-control, or knowledge. You’ll be able to even rely studying this put up as a kind of steps!


Durant, W (1926) Historical past of philosophy. Simon and Schuster.

Epictetus, Enchiridiontranslated by Elizabeth Carter (1750).

Epictetus. Speeches, e book 1-2. Translated by WA Oldfather. Loeb Classical Library 131. Cambridge, MA: Harvard College Press, 1925.

Fogg, B.J., (2019) Tiny habits (Virgin Books).

Kesebir, P. & Diener, E. (2013). Virtuous cycle: relationships between Happiness and advantage. SSRN Digital Journal. 10.2139/ssrn.2309566

Lebon, T (2022) Report on Stoic Week 2022 (

Lebon, T. (2022) 365 methods to be extra stoic. London: John Murray Press.

Peterson, C. and Seligman, MEP (2004). Character strengths and virtues: a information and classification. New York: Oxford College Press and Washington, DC: American Psychological Affiliation.

Plato (2007) Republic of penguin, translated by Melissa Lane and HDP Lee.

Steger, M., Kashdan, T., & Oishi, S. (2008). Being Good by Doing Good: Each day Eudaemonic Exercise and Properly-Being Journal of Persona Research, Quantity 42, Challenge 1,

Author: ZeroToHero

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