Encyclopedia of Sciences and Religions

2013 Edition
| Editors: Anne L. C. Runehov, Lluis Oviedo


Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-8265-8_1667


Virtue usually refers to some kind of dispositional perfection or excellence, as its opposite vice refers to the lack, or in some cases the excess, of some valued qualities. The central property of virtue is that it is a golden mean between excess and deficit. In many cases, however, the golden mean cannot be defined invariably. For example, what is courageous for one person can be foolhardiness for another. In Western tradition, the fundamental virtue that is supposed to control the reflection and help to find the proper way of conduct is called prudence or practical wisdom (phronesis). It is possible that virtues can contradict each other, and practical wisdom is needed to resolve these issues.

Both virtues and vices equip their holders with a potency to act toward some determined end. In classical Christian theology, virtues have been understood as “good operative habits,” which are in accord with reason and our nature. From the viewpoint of actions, being virtuous means...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland