The Ten Western Virtues: A Primer


Socrates.  The first appearance of the four cardinal virtues is in Plato’s Symposium.

From “vir tu”, Latin for the power of being fully human.


Four Cardinal Virtues

  • Prudence—the ability to discern good from evil
  • Justice—giving each person his due
  • Fortitude—persistence no matter the cost
  • Temperance—using the created goods for good


Three Roman Virtues

  • Fate—the belief that everyone and everything has a destiny
  • Piety—the honoring of one’s ancestors
  • Labor—the necessity and dignity of work


Three Pauline Virtues (though, according to Eric Voegelin, originally Stoic)

  • Faith—belief in things unseen
  • Hope—belief that something greater lies elsewhere, that we play a part
  • Charity—love; the giving of oneself (time, talent, treasure) to another


From a blatantly Christian perspective–

“First, the Christian is one who, in faith, becomes aware of the reality of the triune God.  Second: the Christian strives, in hope, for the total fulfillment of his being in eternal life.  Third: the Christian directs himself, in the divine virtue of love, to an affirmation of God and neighbor that surpasses the power of any natural love.  Fourth: the Christian is prudent; namely, he does not allow his view on reality to be controlled by the Yes or No of his will, but rather he makes this Yes or No of the will dependent upon the truth of things.  Fifth: the Christian is just; that is, he is able to live “with the other” in truth; he sees himself as a member among members of the Church, of the people, and of any community.  Sixth: the Christian is brave, that is, he is prepared to suffer injury and, if need be, death for the truth and for the realization of justice.  Seventh: the Christian is temperate; namely, he does not permit his desire to possess and his desire for pleasure to become destructive and inimical to his being.”— Josef Pieper, A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart (San Francisco, Calif.: Ignatius, 1991), 10-11.


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