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.


Real Conservatives Despise Conformity


One of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, the Italian-German Romano Guardini.

With the loss of personality comes the steady fading away of that sense of uniqueness with which man had once viewed his own existence, which had once been the source of all social intercourse.  It is taken increasingly for granted that man ought to be treated as an object.  Man confronts this attitude in the range of authority exercised over him; he may merely meet it in countless statistics and tables or he may experience its culmination in the unspeakable rape of the individual, of the group, even of the whole nation.

Mass man has no desire for independence or originality in either the management or the conduct of his life.  Nor does he seek to create an environment belonging only to himself, reflecting only his self.  The gadgets and technics forced upon him by the patterns of machine production and of abstract planning mass man accepts quite simply; they are the forms of life itself.  To either a greater or a lesser degree mass man is convinced that his conformity is both reasonable and just.  Similarly, the new man of the masses has no desire to live his life according to principles which are uniquely his own.  Neither liberty of external action nor freedom of internal judgment seem for him to have unique value.  And understandably so, for he never experienced them.  As a simple matter of course mass man unites himself with any ‘organization’ modeled after the mass itself; there he obeys whatever program is placed before him.  In this fashion, ‘The Man Without Personality’ finds himself placed on the one road which will assuredly carry him through life.  Of even more significance, the regimented instincts of this new human type forbid him to appear distinctive, compel him to appear anonymous.  Mass man acts almost as if he felt that to be one’s self was both the source of all injustice and even a sign of peril.

–Romano Guardini, END OF THE MODERN WORLD, 1956

On Conservatism, Race, and Equality

Dear Stormfields Reader,

At the risk of sounding priggish and preachy, I must state this as openly as possible, especially given all that’s happened and been said (and not said) over the past two weeks or so.

st aConservatism is NOT about bigotry; it is about conserving. The ONLY things worth conserving in this vale of tears are human dignity and human liberty–which know and own no skin tones, no races, no ethnicities, no gender, and no religion.

As one of the most obvious examples of this universal quality, please consider St. Augustine. A pagan convert to Christianity, a North African who might have looked Ethiopian, Semitic, or Mediterranean. Arguably, he was the very soul of the West, but he was most certainly NOT a European.

Another rather blatant example would be Jesus. A Jew, raised in a rather Greek culture, in a Roman polity.

From the very beginnings of philosophy in Ancient Greece (roughly 510BC in Miletus), the earliest thinkers were doing everything they could to find a universal principle, holding all peoples in all times and all places together. For those of us in the western tradition, we found the LOGOS of Heraclitus, later adopted by Jews (Memra) and Christians.

At roughly 500BC, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, were discovering VERY similar ideas.

If we don’t conserve what is true, good, and beautiful as conservatives, our conservatism is worth less than nothing–it’s downright dangerous.

Conservatism is certainly not about white or black or brown or red or yellow or about man or woman. It’s certainly NOT about supremacy, and its not about power. It’s not about competition, and it’s not about owning lots of stuff.

It’s about the unique dignity of EVERY person ever created.

Yours, Brad.

P.S. I’ve seen several of my friends (folks I really admire) argue that conservatives who claim some form of equality are just succumbing to PC madness. If this is true, the West has been succumbing to it since Heraclitus. And, if true, the Catholic Church is utterly and completely PC and has been from day one.

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A Brilliant Death: My Grandmother, 2003

Grandma Basgall Dec 1990

Julitta Kuhn Basgall, 1911-2003

Probably few who passed my grandmother on the street would have thought of her as a “great woman.”  Yet, I would beg to differ.  Not that anyone is passing her now.  At least if they are, they’re more than unaware of it.  She passed away from this world into the next eleven years ago.  She had led a long life, 1911-2003.  It was also, I believe, a rather great life.

She was the best cook and baker I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve met quite a few.  I’ve done everything I can to live up to her cooking and baking skills, but I’m afraid I’m not the perfect heir.

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Solzhenitsyn, 9 Years after His Death

Shut your eyes, reader.  Do you hear the thundering of wheels?  Those are the Stolypin cars rolling on and on.  Those are the red cows rolling.  Every minute of the day.  And every day of the year.  And you can hear the water gurgling—those are prisoners’ barges moving on and on.  And the motors of the Black Marias roar.  They are arresting someone all the time, cramming him in somewhere, moving him about.  And what is that hum you hear?  The overcrowded cells of the transit prisons.  And that cry?  The complains of those who have been plundered, raped, beaten to with an inch of their lives.  We have reviewed and considered all the methods of delivering prisoners, and we have found that they are all. . . worse.  We have examined the transit prisons, but we have not found any that were good.  And even the last human hope that there is something better ahead, that it will be better in camp, is a false hope.  In camp it will be . . . worse.—End of Volume 1 of the Gulag.


The greatest of 20th-century prophets.

Last week, we passed the ninth anniversary of the death of the Russian prophet, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, one of the truly great men of our day.

Though faced with severe reprisals from the state, the betrayal of his first wife to the Soviet government, and eventual exile from his beloved though tortured homeland, he recorded the tyranny perpetuated by the Soviet ideologues in a number of deeply meaningful works, including, most famously, The Gulag Archipelago.  Some of this massive work he wrote on scraps of paper, some he memorized on the rosary beads given to him by Catholic prisoners.

Solzhenitsyn knew of that which he wrote in his appropriately subtitled “An Experiment in Literary Investigation.”

“And where among all the preceding qualities was there any place left for kindheartedness?  How could one possibility preserve one’s kindness while pushing away the hands of those who were drowning?  Once you have been steeped in blood, you can only become more cruel,” Solzhenitsyn knew.  “And when you add that kindness was ridiculed, that pity was ridiculed, that mercy was ridiculed—you’d never be able to chain all those who were drunk on blood.”

More than any other work, the Gulag forced western journalists and academics to confront the monstrous realities of the Soviet Union, not just under Stalin’s Cult of Personality dictatorship, but under the wretched evil that pervaded the entire system.  Indeed, the Soviet Union ran on the blood of those who deviated from its vision of harmony and perfection.  From the very beginning of the Soviet takeover of Russia, Solzhenitsyn noted, the revolutionaries established the ideologically-driven police, militia, army, courts, and jails.  Even the labor camps—the Gulag—began in embryo form only a month into the revolution. The parasitic Soviets craved blood from 1917 to 1991; such bloodletting was an inherent part of the system.  Solzhenitsyn claims that the Gulag state murdered 66 million just between 1917 and 1956.

The ideological system created distrust. “This universal mutual mistrust had the effect of deepening the mass-grave pit of slavery.  The moment someone began to speak up frankly, everyone stepped back and shunned him: ‘A provocation!’  And therefore anyone who burst out with a sincere protest was predestined to loneliness and alienation.”

It also, Solzhenitsyn understood, established a permanent lie.  “The permanent lie becomes the only safe form of existence, in the same way as betrayal.  Every wag of the tongue can be overheard by someone, every facial expression observed by someone.  Therefore every word, if it does not have to be a direct lie, is nonetheless obliged not to contradict the general, common lie.  There exists a collection of ready-made phrases, of labels, a selection of ready-made lies.”

Ultimately, those who died immediately had the best of it, the Russian prophet knew.  To survive meant not merely to lose the body at some point, but almost certainly the soul as well.

No mere anti-communist, Solzhenitsyn attacked not just the ideological regimes of Russia and its former communist allies in Eastern Europe, but he challenged all of modernity—in the East and the West.  Western consumerism, he warned, will destroy the West by mechanizing its citizens in a more efficient and attractive manner than communism could.  “Dragged along the whole of the Western bourgeois-industrial and Marxist path,” Solzhenitsyn stated,

A dozen maggots can’t go on and on gnawing the same apple forever; that if the earth is a finite object, then its expanses and resources are finite also, and the endless, infinite progress dinned into our heads by the dreamers of the Enlightenment cannot be accomplished on it . . . All that ‘endless progress’ turned out to be an insane, ill-considered, furious dash into a blind alley.  A civilization greedy for ‘perpetual progress’ has now choked and is on its last legs.

Only by embracing a transcendent order and the true Creator, Solzhenitsyn argued, can mankind save itself from the follies and murders of the ideologues.  In his 1983 Templeton address, he took his arguments against modernity even further.

Our life consists not in the pursuit of material success but in the quest of worthy spiritual growth.  Our entire earthly existence is but a transition stage in the movement toward something higher, and we must not stumble or fall, nor must be linger fruitless on one rung of the ladder . . . The laws of physics and physiology will never reveal the indisputable manner in which the Creator constantly, day in and day out, participates in the life of each of us, unfailingly granting us the energy of existence; when the assistance leaves us, we die.  In the life of our entire planet, the Divine Spirit moves with no less force: this we must grasp in our dark and terrible hour.

In his commentary on Solzhenitsyn’s address, Russell Kirk argued that the above passage “expressed with high feeling [ ] the conservative impulse.” Certainly, Kirk and Solzhenitsyn were kindred spirits.

Importantly, one should never underestimate the importance of Solzhenitsyn’s moral imagination.  As one of the leading Solzhenitsyn scholars, Edward E. Ericson, Jr., has argued: “I would say that One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich put the first crack into the Berlin Wall and The Gulag Archipelago was an irresistible blow to the very foundations of the Soviet edifice.”

The prophet is dead.  The priest (John Paul II) and the king (Ronald Reagan) went before him.

Emily Stelzer’s Latest: GLUTTONY AND GRATITUDE


Order now.

November 2017 | 350 pages | cloth | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0708-2

Book Information:

Despite the persistence and popularity of addressing the theme of eating in Paradise Lost, the tradition of Adam and Eve’s sin as one of gluttony — and the evidence for Milton’s adaptation of this tradition — has been either unnoticed or suppressed. Emily Stelzer provides the first book-length work on the philosophical significance of gluttony in this poem, arguing that a complex understanding of gluttony and of ideal, grateful, and gracious eating informs the content of Milton’s writing. Stelzer works with contextual material in the fields of physiology, philosophy, theology, and literature and builds from recent scholarship on Milton’s experience of and knowledge about matter and the body to draw connections between Milton’s work and both underexamined textual influences (including, for example, Gower’s Confessio Amantis) and well recognized ones (such as Augustine’s City of God and Galen’s On the Natural Faculties).

Author Information:

EMILY E. STELZER iis assistant professor of literature and program director for English and Great Texts at Houston Baptist University.

On Losing a Child: Ten Years Later

Dear Friends, I want to thank you so much for all of the wonderful and heart-warming comments about our Cecilia Rose (this past Tuesday) and what would’ve been her tenth birthday. For whatever reason, we felt more at peace with her absence than ever before. No matter what, pain and anxiety always come that day, and always will. Such is life.  For the first time since her death, however, I, at least, accepted it, even if I still hated it.

A couple of you expressed how impressed you were at our faith. All credit to Dedra for this. She’s the strong one, and she’s the one who keeps (through God’s grace) our faith as a family at its best.

I’ve spent close to the last ten years being VERY angry with God. My main thought was, how could God give us children ONLY to take them away? As parents, we have one main job: to protect and nurture our children. How can we do that when we’re not even given a chance?

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