Sunday, February 26, 2012

The virtues as primary colors

One final post about The Bourgeois Virtues. She has an attractive metaphor for how the seven basic virtues can be combined, like primary colors.

The seven virtues of the Western tradition before Kant are ethical primary colors, the red, blue, and yellow not derivable from others but themselves able to form other colors. "The cardinal virtues," Aquinas notes, "are called more principal, not because they are more perfect than all the other virtues, but because human life more principally turns on them and the other virtues are based on them."' Blue plus yellow yields green. Love plus faith yields loyalty. Courage plus prudence yields enterprise. Temperance plus justice yields humility. Justice, courage, and faith yields honesty.


It really is a spectacularly interesting book, although it could probably have been edited down to half the length without missing much. And it is the first of a four part series. I'll get to the second one, Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World before long. Now on to something else.


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