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Author: Subject: A Question of Virtue

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  posted on 6/6/2004 at 12:30 AM
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. Don't laugh, it happens. Anyway, the bottom line here is that I am curious to know which single virtue people respect most in other people.

Please tell me the top quality (or two if you're brief... I don't want to hear from you at all if you're boxers) you admire and/or respect the most in someone and why you feel as strongly about it as you do. For instance, if your pick is open-mindedness, try to describe exactly what you think "open mindedness" is. Many of us have different ideas about what these terms mean and, for altogether too many people, the term "open mindedness" simply means the ability for someone else to see things your way. I want to know how you are using the term and why you feel it is a positive quality in all circumstances.

I'll more than likely grill you about your choices and introduce hypothetical circumstances, so be prepared to defend your pick. For instance, if you decide that you most admire selflessness, I would suggest that in many cases, selflessness can hurt the selfless person and actually comes from poor self esteem... which, in those cases, would technically make it a vice.

I appreciate your help.

~M.

 

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  posted on 6/6/2004 at 01:13 AM
If I had to narrow it down, I'd say there are two qualities I value, appreciate, and respect most.

The first is Compassion. I never really put a definition of "Compassion" into words. I suppose I would describe it as the ability to empathize and sympathize with another being's suffering, and, more importantly, to care about that suffering enough to want to ease it.

The second quality I never really put a term onto. If I had to decide on a term, I suppose I would choose "self-consideration". Simply put, someone with this quality is one who has thought about their beliefs, considered why the should believe the things they should, and rejected the beliefs they think aren't right for them, rather than just accepting the beliefs they were raised on or had handed to them.

 

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  posted on 6/6/2004 at 06:00 AM
Realism, and Idealism. Generally the two are never found together, but those who can posses both simutaneously are the people I adore most. Hoping for the best is fine, and living grounded is great, but being able to dream, and hope, and reach out even though they know how fucked up things are, is, admirable. And wonderful. Though pessimism is awsome, and anyone who is witty, and I mean Dorothy FUCKING Parker witty, well, I love that as well.

 

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“You know that if I were reincarnated, I’d want to come back a buzzard. Nothing hates him. He is never bothered or in danger, and he can eat anything.”
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  posted on 6/6/2004 at 06:04 AM
There are a lot of virtues, and in every person, I can usually pick out what virtues they have and like them for it. There is one that I value above all else, however.

Honesty. I can respect anyone who is brutally honest with me. If someone can tell me, "Hey, you really look like shit today." or "I really don't care for you." they will have my respect. Things that people may say to me might hurt a bit, but that's nothing compared to the hurt felt when someone lies to me, cheats me or steals from me. I try to be as honest as possible myself, lying hurts me... even when it would definitely be in my best interests to lie about something, I tend not to do it. At most, I will refrain from saying anything, but that seems a tad dishonest to me as well, and I usually feel a lot of guilt about it. Most of the time I make sure that I have no reason to lie about anything at all, by not doing things or behaving in ways that would tempt me to lie.


There are a lot of virtues that I value in people, but that has to be the one I most respect.

 

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  posted on 6/6/2004 at 04:51 PM
Passion! People who put everything they have into something because they feel it on a kind of Agape like level especially if it's so intense yoo feel that very energy just by being in their presence. Whether they're right or wrong, or whether they succeed or fail doesn't matter quite so much as long as they're passionate about it.

Good topic, Mono.

 

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  posted on 6/6/2004 at 05:53 PM
I'm not sure what you would call this quality, but I truly honestly respect people for these two traits.

First is when people are strong enough to be truly honest. Most specifically, people who don't hide their mistakes hoping they'll get overlooked only to cause a larger problem later, and can admit they're wrong or that they messed up. If there is one thing I can't stand are hopelessly idiotic people who have it in their mind how fabulous they are, and when they mess up they simply can't understand how it could be THEIR doing. I admire people that can look you in the face and say "man, I just did something SO stupid, how do I fix it?", even if they might get in a little trouble.

I also admire the trait of not passing off duties or chores to others when you're capable of doing them yourself. I can't stand people who bully their way into doing the "fun" things that they like to do (even if they're not immediatly necessary) while just passing off more necessary jobs to people around them.

I imagine that both those traits fall uder "integrity", but as with other things, everyone seems to have an opinion on just what a certain term means.

 

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  posted on 6/6/2004 at 11:20 PM
Sweetness. I wasn't expecting enough responses to get down and socratic with, but you guys are rocking hard as usual. I'd tip my hat to you all if I were wearing one. Let's see what we have to play with so far.

Alugarde: I disagree with none of what you outlined. I would call that second quality that you referred to "introspection", and I admire it as well.

Squire: Am I wrong to paraphrase you as saying that you respect the ability to remain upbeat and well-grounded in the face of adversity? I'll need a little bit more clarification here, and I apologise for having a dense-as-plywood day.

M_J: I would have to say that honesty doesn't qualify in my book as a virtue, although it can, from time to time, be a good quality. Truth (with a capital letter) should always be Truth at all times and for all people, otherwise the quality you are describing can not be called "virtuous", but only beneficial in a particular instance. In this case, I can be both honest and hurtful simultaneously. If I told a woman "You're fat, you're ugly and I hate you", I may not necessarily be lying, however my comment would be designed specifically to produce anguish in someone else. My motive for being honest in such a case would be malicious. I can not see how a genuine virtue could be inclusive with viciousness, and therefore must conclude that honesty is a valueless quality... it's value being contingent upon circumstance.

Squid: Similar to my problem with M_J's pick, I can see passion as having both positive and negative applications. From all accounts, Reinhardt Heydrich was pretty darned passionate about exterminating Jews, but very few people could conclude that his passion improved him much as a human being. Also, passion often stems from mania, which is an abnormal condition and generally regarded as something in need of being corrected. I can see how passion can be a positive trait in cases as well, but, I'm afraid that there are too many conditions and caveats to be made for it to qualify as a virtue.

Bettie: I would call the first trait you described "humility". And I agree that the ability to admit when you are in error is a damned fine, and damned rare, thing. Humility is often held up as a virtue, and I understand the reasons for it, but I have a little bit of a problem with that. Genuine humility is not an easy thing to achieve (Benjamin Franklin once quipped that he would be very, very proud indeed if he were ever able to manage being truly humble), however the semblance of it is fairly easy to emulate.

The litmus test here for whether or not a thing is a virtue is whether or not it improves a person (viz. makes them truly better, not necessarily materially successful) to cultivate it. In the case of humility, I am undecided. It most definitely has the potential to piss off people around you. Two historic figures who are generally used as illustrations of humility are Jesus Christ and Socrates. Whether they were truly humble or only affecting humility is as open a question as to how much they were able to benefit as human beings by cultivating it. What is not an open question is how people around them responded to them... they were both killed by the people around them who had simply had enough of their damned good examples.

The second quality that you have described is something I would call "personal responsibility". Another good pick which may also not be very cut-and dried. A problem that occurs when people are hard working, do what they ought, and generally take care of what needs to be taken care of is that people around them foist more and more of their crap on to them (Aesop's grasshopper didn't really freeze to death, he just spent the winter sponging off the ant and his own wealthy relatives). As before, though, it might not be fair to disqualify something from the category of vituosity because third parties tend to behave badly. The degree of benefit a person receives from being personally responsible is a very good question.

Everyone: Great picks, really! I hadn't considered some of them and am very impressed. Now that we have a bit of material to work with (and keep throwing more on the pile!), the next question is: if you respect a virtue in someone, have you deliberately tried to cultivate that quality in yourself? Can't wait to hear! I am, as always,

your faithful servant,

~M.

 

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  posted on 6/6/2004 at 11:55 PM
Reinhardt Heydrich was pretty darned passionate about exterminating Jews
Hate is a bigger turn-off for mee than passion is a turn-on. I'm sure if this is someone who radiated passion he would almost certainly radiate a greater amount of hate.

very few people could conclude that his passion improved him much as a human being.
That's sort of the thing about passion. It dosn't have to be directed towards anything "productive." It's an emotional as well as intellectual drive towards something.

Also, passion often stems from mania, which is an abnormal condition and generally regarded as something in need of being corrected.
Genius and "madness" overlap so much that anyone who is just intelligent or just "crazy" is the exception to the rule. Of course this is abnormal, if everybody had it, the world would be a different place. Furthermore, if everybody had it, it wouldnt be anything special.

I'm afraid that there are too many conditions and caveats to be made for it to qualify as a virtue.
A warrior must make a choice and stand by it, even if along the way he appears to be mistaken in his choice, it's better to see an incorrect acttion through than to hesitate to act.

As for trying to cultivate passion within myself I would say it's not something yoo can force. Yoo can't just wake-up and say "I think I'll be passionate from now on." I have however tried to get myself into situations that would either give mee experience to be passionate from or bring out my passion. I haven't thought about this in a long time...

Alright, Mono, yor turn.

[Edited on 6/7/2004 by IamSquid]

 

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  posted on 7/6/2004 at 12:00 AM
There are a great many traits and virtues that I can say I admire in those who possess them. If I am to single out one virtue that I put high on my admiration list, that would have to be Tact.

I've witnessed a lot of peole who believed they were being tactful, and in my opinion ended up just being tacky. Tactfulness is an art form. It requires a great deal of skill to choose the perfect angle to approach a situation. Many can come close, but few can master the art fully.

In some ways, I equate tactfulness with gracefulness. The two often go hand in hand.

In response to if I try to cultivate that virtue in myself, I try. I respect the quality greatly, and while I don't necessarily try in every circumstance, I do make an effort to strive to be more tactful.

 

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  posted on 7/6/2004 at 07:42 AM
OH I'm all about being upbeat in the face of adversity. Though adversity is a strong word, and brings to mind hunger strikes, fire hoses, and real issues like segregation, and Knight Rider reruns. But sure. Conversly (And oddly I might add) I also really dig pessimism, as long as it isn't "School sucks, that cute guy who plays NIN covers doesn't want to fuck me again, mommy won't buy me Hot Topic pants!" but more along the lines of a witty sort of sardonic pessimism, that which one might find in Dorothy FUCKING Parker, or the writers of Daria. And thusly, Prove once again that I really don't have anything good to say on this site...

 

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“You know that if I were reincarnated, I’d want to come back a buzzard.
Nothing hates him. He is never bothered or in danger, and he can eat
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  posted on 7/6/2004 at 07:48 AM
Oh and by the way, tact is the best one so far in my book! Honestly, it's a very overlooked thing. Everyone is like "GOOD VERSUS EVIL, TRUTH, THE WILL TO SURVIVE, SOCIAL VERITE DESPITE THE HUMAN CONDITION!" and then there's tact. It's the introspective equivalent of going to Rodney's rootin' tootin' Steak House and ordering a small, broiled piece of salmon, lightly garnished with basil and lemon zest,with a side order of steamed egg plant. Simple, ellegant, the small things can be the most beautiful, etc.

 

____________________
“The only thing that can alter the good writer is death.”


“You know that if I were reincarnated, I’d want to come back a buzzard. />
Nothing hates him. He is never bothered or in danger, and he can eat

anything.”


Faulkner

 

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  posted on 7/6/2004 at 09:59 AM
quote:
Bettie: I would call the first trait you described "humility". And I agree that the ability to admit when you are in error is a damned fine, and damned rare, thing. Humility is often held up as a virtue, and I understand the reasons for it, but I have a little bit of a problem with that. Genuine humility is not an easy thing to achieve (Benjamin Franklin once quipped that he would be very, very proud indeed if he were ever able to manage being truly humble), however the semblance of it is fairly easy to emulate.

The litmus test here for whether or not a thing is a virtue is whether or not it improves a person (viz. makes them truly better, not necessarily materially successful) to cultivate it. In the case of humility, I am undecided. It most definitely has the potential to piss off people around you. Two historic figures who are generally used as illustrations of humility are Jesus Christ and Socrates. Whether they were truly humble or only affecting humility is as open a question as to how much they were able to benefit as human beings by cultivating it. What is not an open question is how people around them responded to them... they were both killed by the people around them who had simply had enough of their damned good examples.



Monolycus: To me there are two parts of humility the way Bettie described it. The first is recognizing, admitting, and feeling remorseful over a mistake. The second is wanting to correct it. I think both of them have merit as virtues, and even if one is insincere about the first, I think those who ask for help or advice generally are sincere in wanting that help. The second part may be considered a seperate virtue in and of itself, ift that helps in determining wether or not humility is a virtue.

As for cultivating virtues in myself, that is one of my goals in life. I constantly try to improve myself, not only in my virtues but also in my abilities.

 

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  posted on 7/6/2004 at 11:19 AM
The thing that works for me isn't something there is a word for. It can only be explained to people who posess these traits. Everyone else takes it wrong, so it is better off not being explained so as to avoid people twisting the meaning into something that appllies to them. I usually just refer to it as being on the vibe - but that is probably not a good way to refer to it, since dirt eating hippies are generally on the vibe too, even though their brains are so melted that they eat dirt. I'm talking about the spark of life that goes with being on the vibe and knowing it and knowing what it means. It also means understanding the vibe, knowing what it feels like and how to move it around. Basically all of these things combine to make someone I can just look at and think "that person is one of my people". If someone has that, I can forgive quite a few flaws.

Whatever this is, it can probably not be considered a virtue, since it only exists when percieved by me (or someone else who values it). However it is still at the very top of my list of admirable qualities.

 

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  posted on 8/6/2004 at 12:46 AM
Squid: Ah, the point-by-point format. I admire your efficiency. I'd almost call that a virtue. Anyway, let's get to respondin'.

"Hate is a bigger turn-off for mee than passion is a turn-on. I'm sure if this is someone who radiated passion he would almost certainly radiate a greater amount of hate."

I'm not sure as I never met the man, although I heard he was quite the intellectual and was deeply sensitive; he was a virtuoso violin player and often wept during what, if one can believe the rumours, were astonishing and moving performances. I would not presume to know what kind of a person someone is, no matter how abominable one or another aspect of their life might have been. It is not fashionable to put human faces on those we loathe, and documentaries which have shown Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin or Osama bin Laden as more than one-dimensional psychopaths tend to get protested. I would also caution you not to fall into the logical trap of saying things like "I can't stand people who are intolerant. I really hate people who hate people. The worst people in the world are the judgemental ones. I think that anyone who kills someone else should be put to death." Although that line of thinking does make the U.S. one of the remaining "civilised" nations to uphold the death penalty, it will really undermine your internal consistency.

Genius and "madness" overlap so much that anyone who is just intelligent or just "crazy" is the exception to the rule. Of course this is abnormal, if everybody had it, the world would be a different place. Furthermore, if everybody had it, it wouldnt be anything special.

I've also heard that said about genius and madness, but nobody has ever bothered to explain to me what they mean by it. If you define madness as "thinking in ways that are different from the majority", and you define genius as "thinking in ways that are different than the majority", then you have set that one up yourself. I've spoken to people I consider mad and I've spoken with people I consider intellectually gifted, and I haven't had any trouble distinguishing the two to my own satisfaction. It's also a little tautological to suggest that something wouldn't be "special" if everyone had it, but that is another problem with the application of definitions. I think that life itself is pretty damned special, albeit as common as dirt.

A warrior must make a choice and stand by it, even if along the way he appears to be mistaken in his choice, it's better to see an incorrect acttion through than to hesitate to act.

The current Presidential administration would certainly seem to agree with that principle. From my perspective, though, I would suggest that if the action is incorrect, than it would, by definition, be better not to act at all. Then again, though, I am not a warrior. I'd recommend reading Antigone. It was King Creon's inability to consider changing a poorly thought-out policy that cost him his wife, son and kingdom. I'd list this vice somewhere near Bettie's observation about people who are incapable of admitting they are in error.

As for trying to cultivate passion within myself I would say it's not something yoo can force. Yoo can't just wake-up and say "I think I'll be passionate from now on." I have however tried to get myself into situations that would either give mee experience to be passionate from or bring out my passion. I haven't thought about this in a long time...

Possibly, possibly not. If one can believe some of the more adept mystical sects like the Sufis, one can discipline one's mind to do whatever you want with it. I agree that it would take some dedication, though.

I hope this is an adequate response and I apologise for my delay in getting it to you. I am, as ever,

your faithful servant,

~M.


 

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  posted on 8/6/2004 at 01:00 AM
And, some more respondin':

Starlight: Good pick, and I hadn't considered it. I've never been much of a diplomat myself and can mention from experience that the absence of tact has certainly not served me well. I think if I were to codify it into a sytem, it would fall somewhere under "social temperance". My comments shouldn't have to be moderated from without; I should be grown up enough not to screw my own self up with others. Thanks for bringing that one to the table!

Squire: You seem to have plenty of value to say on this site; but, like everyone else, there is some chaff with the wheat. Don't fret about it, just work at minimising the chaff as best you are able. Anyway, you mentioned the word "sardonic", which brings me closer to thinking that what you are describing is a sense of humour. Am I (still) wrong?

Alugarde: Good catch. The sincere desire to improve oneself is a qualitatively different kind of humility than the scraping, abject simpering of someone who just has a low self-esteem. I would definitely say one is preferable to the other. That could very well qualify as virtuous.

Devin: The signal isn't always steady, but I'm tuned in to what you're saying. Even though it's too subjective for me to be able to dissect it the way I could other qualities, it is internally consistent enough to qualify as virtuous for the person who recognises it. And it might just explain why I never see you dropping in to some of my favourite dirt cafes.

~M.

 

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  posted on 8/6/2004 at 02:44 AM
It is not fashionable to put human faces on those we loathe, and documentaries which have shown Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin or Osama bin Laden as more than one-dimensional psychopaths tend to get protested.
This is definatly true, Hitler was a vegetarian whose dog was his best friend. People are just people. Even genocidal dictators. But if yor agrument is that yoo cannot judge someone's character wihtout meeting them (somehting I agree wiht to an extent) then saying someone like Eichman was passionate about throwing Jews in the oven is not a viable argument.

I would also caution you not to fall into the logical trap of saying things like "I can't stand people who are intolerant. I really hate people who hate people. The worst people in the world are the judgemental ones. I think that anyone who kills someone else should be put to death."
I didn't, I said it's a quality I find unappealing in a person.

If you define madness as "thinking in ways that are different from the majority", and you define genius as "thinking in ways that are different than the majority", then you have set that one up yourself. I've spoken to people I consider mad and I've spoken with people I consider intellectually gifted, and I haven't had any trouble distinguishing the two to my own satisfaction.
Actually I define genius as "thinking in ways that are different from the majority which are productive to the individual's wellbeing" and madness as "thinking in ways that are different from the majority which is counter-productive to the indivual's wellbeing." For example the self-destructive behavior that plagues musical legends, philosphers, poets, painters, spiritual leaders, and serial killers. Once again, people are just people and everything comes with desirable and undesirable implications.

It's also a little tautological to suggest that something wouldn't be "special" if everyone had it, but that is another problem with the application of definitions. I think that life itself is pretty damned special, albeit as common as dirt.
Do yoo have any idea how little dirt there is in the Universe?

The current Presidential administration would certainly seem to agree with that principle.
Ouch! Actually, I don't think for a second they think they've made a single mistake in anything they've done, but that is another argument.

I'd list this vice somewhere near Bettie's observation about people who are incapable of admitting they are in error.
Touche! Hahaha!

Possibly, possibly not. If one can believe some of the more adept mystical sects like the Sufis, one can discipline one's mind to do whatever you want with it. I agree that it would take some dedication, though.
Once again, touche. I'll reconsider my answer to that last question but I'd like to add that although anyone may be able to learn something, some are naturally prone to be better at it than others, and some can take it further once learned than others.

Now come on, it's yor turn!

 

____________________



i wanted to die, and then it progressed into wanting everyone else to />
die so i could watch, and then me die.






-ickgirl

 

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  posted on 8/6/2004 at 08:00 AM
Mono I apologize now for this post.
"Do yoo have any idea how little dirt there is in the Universe?" is one of the best lines i have read on here in awhile. Squid, you just got "spitting coffee at the monitor" points off me.

As for virtues, I have to ask here, are we talking about individualistic virtues or group virtues? It is implied that a virtue is something that makes a person or social group happier, better able to function, and/or doesn’t get them killed. So far the answers cover either groups or individuals and I am wondering if there are virtues that work for both. Some suggestions could be called ethics and some morals. And some are clearly group oriented while others personally oriented.

As a social virtue, I would suggest curiosity since wondering “what happens when we do this” is something that has resulted in a better, fuller life for the people in the group (clan, family, tribe, country, chess club, etc). I would even suggest that curiosity is part of what pulls a group together and provides social cohesion. I am not pretending that one groups curiosity makes life better for all groups, but then nothing makes everything better for everyone. There is usually quite a few exceptions to any rule.

As a personal virtue, I would suggest creativity. Being able to make something, be it dinner or the great American novel, lets your mind roam and play and romp and learn. I would suggest that it is something that enriches the person’s private and public life, as well as enriching the lives of those around them.

To lump them together, I would call them having an active mind with curiosity being the cause and creativity being the effect.


 

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  posted on 8/6/2004 at 06:10 PM
As far as I'm concerned, yeah Mono, you got me pegged. Did you know birds can't burp? I didn't.

 

____________________
“The only thing that can alter the good writer is death.”

/>
“You know that if I were reincarnated, I’d want to come back a
buzzard.
/>

Nothing hates him. He is never bothered or in danger, and he can eat />

anything.”



Faulkner

 

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  posted on 8/6/2004 at 06:39 PM
*takes a bow*

Thank yoo, I'm here all week. Pasta salad is now being served at the buffet. Be sure to tip yor watiress.

 

____________________




i wanted to die, and then it progressed into wanting everyone else
to
/>

die so i could watch, and then me die.








-ickgirl

 

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  posted on 8/6/2004 at 08:48 PM
Mmmm... smell the grey matter. Definitely diggin' it.

Squid: if yor agrument is that yoo cannot judge someone's character wihtout meeting them (somehting I agree wiht to an extent) then saying someone like Eichman was passionate about throwing Jews in the oven is not a viable argument.

That deserves a tilt of the chapeau if anything ever did. While I used Heydrich (the accredited chief architect of the so-called "Final Solution") and not Eichmann (who, as far as I know was simply a pencil pusher) as my example, you're observation stands and I bow deeply to your insight.

I didn't, I said it's a quality I find unappealing in a person.

I apologise for inadvertently putting words in your mouth, friend. I know that you hadn't suggested those things, I was trying to be precautionary and ended up obfuscating my meaning a bit. Thanks, as always, for your patience.

Once again, people are just people and everything comes with desirable and undesirable implications.

I am in perfect agreement with you on that point.

Do yoo have any idea how little dirt there is in the Universe?

I am very prepared to concede that point. And it's gotten me to thinking a bit about the nature of what we find precious. You are a tough act to follow, Squid.

Actually, I don't think for a second they think they've made a single mistake in anything they've done, but that is another argument.

Has the potential for an interesting discussion. Another forum, perhaps?

although anyone may be able to learn something, some are naturally prone to be better at it than others, and some can take it further once learned than others.

That may be so. I will grant that some have a greater initial predisposition for things than others; I am not entirely sure, though, about limitations upon what one can ultimately accomplish. You may very well be correct.

callei: Mono I apologize now for this post.

No apologies are necessary as far as I can tell.

As for virtues, I have to ask here, are we talking about individualistic virtues or group virtues? It is implied that a virtue is something that makes a person or social group happier, better able to function, and/or doesn’t get them killed. So far the answers cover either groups or individuals and I am wondering if there are virtues that work for both. Some suggestions could be called ethics and some morals. And some are clearly group oriented while others personally oriented.

That's a very good question, actually. I was originally thinking only of individuals as my question referred to characteristics that one admires in another person, but you are absolutely correct to bring up the fact that a society is nothing more than a collection of individuals. I don't see any problem discussing both kinds of virtues as long as we keep track of which ones we are talking about. I think there is some value in that approach.

You proposed curiosity as a group virtue. I can see where you are coming from with that, but I am thinking that, like M_J's suggestion about honesty and Squid's suggestion about passion, there is the potential for negative as well as positive consequences for a curious group. Therefore, I think that curiosity would fall under one of those case-by-case qualities. This is making me consider that, while honesty, passion and curiosity can not be called "negative" or "undesirable" traits, but can have negative or undesirable consequences, that perhaps "temperance" should be added to the list of virtues. By this I mean the ability not to misuse those qualities which, by themselves, are neither entirely positive or entirely negative.

You also suggested creativity as a personal virtue, and I would agree if it is expressive or artistic creativity. I have known some unscrupulous people who have been pretty darned creative about causing suffering in others, though. I think I understand what you are saying, but "creativity" may be too blanket a term. I will have to think about it.

Squire: I had heard that about birds. One day, I will have to test that idea.

~M.

 

____________________
"I believe that woman is planning to shoot me again."

 
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