Virtue and argument

2020-05-06

Stoic philosophers suggested that the only important thing is to live with virtue. Then they spent the rest of their time arguing about what the hell that actually means. But I think maybe that wasn’t necessary.

First of all, virtue is probably a pretty personal thing. Two people may disagree on exactly what is more virtuous than the other based on their values and experiences. Neither of them needs to stress about this. Two people both living according to their ideas of what is virtuous will do more net good for the world than all the time they’d otherwise spend coming to agreement on exactly what the words mean.

And secondly, it’s not exactly a mysterious concept anyway. All the intellectualizing and philosophizing is just trying to explain something that we all intuitively understand pretty well. Try this: name someone you’ve known who was a really good person. That was easy, right? So why bother explaining what exactly made them such a good person so clearly that someone else will understand what you mean well enough that they can model it? Just tell them to think of someone they’ve known who was a really good person. They’ll get it.

People understand how to be more like each other. They understand that better than words and arguments. Be more like the good people you’ve known.