virtue [Lat., = manliness], in philosophy, quality of good in human conduct. The cardinal virtues, as presented by Plato, were wisdom (or prudence), courage, temperance, and justice. They are to be interpreted as descriptive of conduct rather than innate qualities and are achieved through proper training and discipline. They have been called natural virtues, as contrasted with the Christian theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. As early as the 14th cent. the Christian virtues were combined with the Platonic virtues and called the seven cardinal virtues, figuring largely, with the opposing seven deadly sins, in such medieval literature as Dante's Divine Comedy. Some contemporary philosophers, such as Alasdair MacIntyre, have argued that traditional notions of virtue provide the best framework for reflection in ethics.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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