# 323: Virtue and Politics
Story behind the Passage
At no point in my life so far did I think so much about virtue. Actually, I probably thought about it very much but without being fully aware of it and without naming it like this. And I was not only thinking about it. I am now almost sure that I was at least trying to be a virtuous person. This might also explain my unhappiness and dissatisfaction. What I was trying to find in different activities was not just pleasure or fulfilment or purpose — it was the sum of all these parts. It was what Aristotle probably meant by virtue.
I have to admit that I have not studied Aritstotle in detail. But this morning, as these are very special days in my life and in the life of the political “West,” I am learning a lot about the world and my place in it. Therefore I knew that I had to take a look at him. I had only vaguely dealt with bits and pieces of his philosophy via other thinkers before. And there is one thing that I will do as soon as my time allows for it: I will study him and several other classical philosophers whom I have never devoted due attention to. But that does not mean that I was not into philosophy. I think, philosophy has been my true life companion, my nutrition. Only philosophy helps me make sense of experience. And it does more than this. It helps me make decisions that lead into the future. That sounds nerdy? So be it!
“If, then, there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake (everything else being desired for the sake of this), and if we do not choose everything for the sake of something else (for at that rate the process would go on to infinity, so that our desire would be empty and vain), clearly this must be the good and the chief good.” The reason why I am saying that I am learning so much these days is because major questions about life and how to lead a good one are being answered. I cannot talk much about the details but the situation right now demanded it of me that I offered my help. There was no other way. I could not have looked into the mirror anymore. And helping means that you also help to convince others to help who have the proper means. This brought a confirmation of an ethos to me which I have been living with for a long time and which I might have quoted several times already in different variations:
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” (Goethe)
Experiencing the truth of this sentence has brought so much clarification, even “catharsis,” to my life these past days. So many people will probably disappear from my life soon because I have recognized their true character. No, I am not going to hate them or kick their asses in some way. I just learned that there are some people who bring good to my life and others who do not. I am not disrespecting them or judging them as eveil. They have good hearts and good intentions, probably. They might also have certain capabilities. They might even aspire to become more virtuous in some respects. There is only one important thing wrong right now:
They do not act accordingly
Because they did not help
when they were called to do so.
This is very obvious and very simple. There are always excuses for not acting in a particular situation. But in a situation in which danger is immediate, where every minute counts to save lives, there is no excuse, not for me. Either you help or you do not. There is nothing in-between in this particular situation. Hence, there is no difficulty for me to judge. The people who did not help, revealed their value set to me. And that value set obviously differs from my personal definition of a “virtuous” person in the sense of Aristotle.
That in and of itself would not be a problem at all because that is a private matter of the person, ony might argue. We should not forget that Aristotle’s thoughts are meant to describe virtues as a path to happiness, to fulfilment. So, if people decide against this, why should I care about their happiness? The problem is, I think that their non-virtuous way of life does affect my happiness. If I am convinced, which is a matter of belief, after all, that I want to live up to the virtues of Aristotle, then I do not want to waste my life time with people who hinder this or are not conducive to it. And this is why a situation like now is so helpful, so healing. Knowign who is not your buddy, after all, makes you shift your attention to the real buddies.
This finally takes me to the topic of politics which does not need to be discussed at length. Yes, in moments like these right now, you also see what it means to work for the state — to care about the wellbeing of individuals. That is so fulfilling and valuable, hard to describe. There is, after all and counter to my recent errors and experiments, no comparison to business whatsoever. Yes, this is my subjective assessment, my personal value set, and it only concerns my life at this point. But the experiences of the past 24 hours have definitely shown me whose heart is into what and how much their word counts:
- How many people among my business contacts decided to save lives? 0
- How many of the people from the public sector, especially education and administration, said yes? All
What more does it take to show me the way…?
1) What do “virtues” mean to you?
2) Do you agree that politics is the field where human beings can fully unfold all their capacities?
3) What was a situation in your life when you learned that the people you admired had a completely different value set than you had previously thought? Which positive consequences did this have for your life?