“The happiness of mankind is the end of virtue, and truth is the knowledge of the means.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Virtue is the first of the four fundamental prerequisites of happiness and the meaningful life. Some ancient philosophers, such as the Stoics equate virtue and happiness, and although this seems too simplistic, nearly all philosophers of every era agree happiness and a meaningful life are elusive in the absence of virtue.
The next series of posts will examine virtue in some detail as an essential element of human flourishing following this outline:
 Definitions and distinctions
 Categories of virtue
 Virtue and the self
 Virtue and others
 Societal virtue
 Cosmic and ultimate virtue
 Supererogatory duty and virtue
 Virtue at different stages of life
 Historical paradigms
For observant readers this may appear to repeat the earlier discussion of Ethics,1 and there is significant overlap, but the focus now is on practical aspects of ethical conduct which must be addressed in a similar fashion, although this time interwoven with concepts of good and evil discussed in that special section.2
I will begin with clarification of various terms that make up the field of ethics at which time the difference in denotation of virtue and ethics will be addressed. Then I will move to traditional categories of virtue and suggestions for modifications or additions. This will be followed by discussion on the five levels of virtue where is found the reason for discrepancy among philosophers on the nature of virtue – that is, virtue manifests differently at the various levels of reality and in different contexts. I will propose that a hierarchy of obligations solves the equation of how to act in complex situations.
Next we will see that the pursuit of virtue varies over our lifetime even if the basic tenets are fixed. Then we will turn to the historian for distinguished models of flourishing lives. From this progression we will be ready to attempt to establish the defining features of moral apotheosis. Finally I will close with a summary from which we can begin to assemble an integrated system with the other three components of a meaningful life: contentment, purpose, and relationship to the ultimate.
1See posts on this website category Ethics dated 12/5/18 – 12/12/18 and 12/17/18 – 1/4/19.
2 See posts on this website category Good and Evil dated 1/6/19 – 2/16/19.