Plato considered arete separate from goodness, and the other virtues. Arete has also been used by Plato when talking about athletic training and also the education of young boys. Today, we can somewhat naively say, that any natural born citizen can become their countries leader or any man or woman can become the next Bill Gates. , In regards to the Iliad the way Homer describes Achilles is an example of Arete (187). Aristotle describes persuasion, politics, and influence as technologies with which one can achieve arete.. The $\LaTeX$ commands for the Greek alphabet. “The highest virtue” is a “moderation” and “balance” of all the virtues of a given “thing”. As the Tao puts it, “what is a good man but a bad man’s teacher”. ARISTOTLE’S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS /TABLE OF VIRTUES AND VICES (source), FACT: The concept of arete, and the stories of Homer and Plato, influenced Alexander the Great (who was tutored by Aristotle, and later a student of Plato). So then, the Greeks knew, as is still partially true today, those who are born at the right place and time simply have more access to the technology needed to achieve arete (namely social influence and resources). To cut perfectly is the arete of the knife (the art of a knife is to cut perfectly, the quality of a knife in its highest state is the ability to cut perfectly). Arete (Greek: ἀρετή), in its basic sense, means "excellence" of any kind. This article is about the philosophical concept. The term more-or-less describes one who values and acts in the pursuit of goodness and virtue over “lesser things” like money and sensual pleasure. This hints at the meaning of arete in Homeric times (800 BC)..  Educating towards arete in this sense means that the boy would be educated towards things that are useful in life. TIP: Speaking of the Republic, a good analogy for arete is a the cave metaphor. www.theoi.com. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this. However, even Plato himself says that arete is not something that can be agreed upon. Despite the elusive definitions, we can say arete is often well translated to: “the aristocracy of virtues” (“the highest moral virtue which itself encompasses and implies all other virtues in their perfect state”), and it is in this sense that it can be understood by looking at Plato and Aristotle’s theories on “essence” and, including, importantly for this conversation, Aristotle’s theories on balancing vices and virtues (as explained below).. In Greek mythology, Queen Arete (/əˈriːtiː/; Ancient Greek: Ἀρήτη, "she who is prayed for") of Scheria was the wife of Alcinous and mother of Nausicaa and Laodamas. Or it can be understood as virtue theory, where the highest virtue is the arete of virtues (which can be called “true justice“). Aristotle, in a way, combines the concepts of inner excellence, outward acts of greatness, and the communication of excellence as the concept of purpose (telos).  The term may also mean "moral virtue". He says, "Nor is there even an agreement about what constitutes arete, something that leads logically to a disagreement about the appropriate training for arete. In simple English terms, we can say arete describes “being one’s best self and living up to one’s full potential” (or the equivalent when discussing places, things, and other concepts). This is because Ares was the one god of the Greek pantheon that had no real symbolism associated with his worship. Debra Hawhee points out that the norms and practices of Athenian virtuosity “operate within the politics of reputation, whose normative poles are honor and shame” (187). The Mona Lisa is an example of excellence; Plato would have considered Socrates’ teachings to have excellence, and something simple like the act of helping an old lady cross the street can be said to have excellence. As with many minor Greek deities, there is little or no real mythical background to Arete, who is used at most as a personification of virtue. In this respect, arete is a placeholder for “The Greatest Good of a thing” (the Chief Good), it is the true essence of things, it is the true form, it is moderation, justice, happiness, and moral duty in their perfect states. TIP: The term can be stylized as Arête, Areté, or Arete. He also applied the concept of arete to non-human objects discussing how even an apple or chimney could possess excellence. In Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, "arete" is used mainly to describe heroes and nobles and their mobile dexterity, with special reference to strength and courage, but it is not limited to this. In this matter of thinking, we can romanticize the teaching of Alexander the Great by Aristotle, or the teaching of Plato by Socrates, or even Aristotle by Plato understanding that showing the path of excellence to those in the highest positions of influence has a powerful butterfly effect. 03 Feb. 2014. Or, it can be understood in terms of the Greatest Happiness theory, where the First Principle of moral philosophy in its “perfect” form is the arete of moral principles. Greek alphabet list Innate essence in any and all things, in its most exalted form, is arete. Some sources claim that it means "righteous", while others connect it with Ares, the Greek god of war. In ways, Isocrates combines the importance of inward and outward manifestations of arete and further applies the concept to statesmanship and other roles of social influence. Alexander the Great went on to found Alexandria (a city that can be said to be rooted in the concepts of arete and other related virtues). Since there is no English equivalent to arete, we have to rely on examples and semantics. In some contexts, Arete is explicitly linked with human knowledge, where the expressions "virtue is knowledge" and "Arete is knowledge" are used interchangeably. Other contenders are “quality” and “excellence”. Web. When a thing is in its perfect “balanced” state, its “best state,” perfectly mirroring its ideal form/essence, that thing is “quality,” it is a work of art, it has art, it is the arete of that thing. Kerferd, "Arete/Agathon/Kakon", in Paul Edwards [ed.-in-chief], Stephen G. Miller, "Ancient Greek Athletics", New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004*. When Alcinous compromised with the declaration, “If she be yet a maid I decree that they carry her back to her father; but if she shares a husband's bed, I will not separate her from her lord; nor, if she bear a child beneath her breast, will I give it up to an enemy,” Arete went to Jason and Medea in the night and told them to marry so that Medea's life would be spared. The term arete encompasses the related to telos (purpose), ethos (ethics), and the minor and major virtues. It is a somewhat idealist concept when applied to morality, but can also be used to describe the mundane and rational (like the knife is only a knife with a handle, the handle is a essence of sorts; if the knife cuts well and the handle is sturdy, the knife has arete). The meaning of arete changes depending on what it describes, as everything has its own particular arete, “essence,” “excellence,” or “Highest Good.”, The arete of a man is different from the arete of a horse, and they are both different than the arete of an apple, or the arete of a nation-state.. Due to the modern democratization of influence that technology and progress has brought, the understanding of the virtues, and sharing the understanding of the meaning and pursuit of excellence, is more vital than ever. G.B. The concept isn’t just to embrace these virtues in oneself, but to also understand others and help them embrace the virtues. TIP: See this excellent overview of Arête by philosophynow.org (which I use as a guidepost for the next section). This page was last edited on 19 July 2020, at 06:37. Homer wrote about arete in the Iliad and Odyssey in relation to heroes. If the point of life is happiness, as the Greek philosophers generally thought, then arete is a catch-all word that describes being in-tune with one’s higher self, finding happiness through virtue, ethics, and morality. In Greek it is αρετη stylized ἀρετή. Arete as a moral term doesn’t just mean striving toward excellence, it means avoiding vices (deficiencies and excesses of virtue) and helping others to do the same (as that is a fulfillment of grand purpose). Or, it can be understood in Plato’s Republic, where the ends of that whole theory of the ideal state describes “the arete of the state.”. If virtues like justice, temperance, charity, and courage are considered virtuous, and if seeking higher goodness over money and pleasure is also virtuous, then arete describes the pursuit and acquisition of these virtues. So, not only is Achilles a brave and brilliant warrior but also, from the outset, he is destined to die in battle at Troy with the utmost glory—a guarantor of Arete.. This way of thinking comes first from Plato, where it can be seen in the Allegory of the Cave. She was a descendant of Poseidon, who, making love to Periboea, begot Nausithous, who in turn had two sons, Rhexenor, her father and Alcinous, her uncle and later on, her husband.  He did so on Nausicaa and Athena’s instructions, the goddess having described Arete thus: Her Alcinous made his wife, and honored her as no other woman on earth is honored, of all those who in these days direct their households in subjection to their husbands; so heartily is she honored, and has ever been, by her children and by Alcinous himself and by the people, who look upon her as upon a goddess, and greet her as she goes through the city. Web. Penelope's arete, for example, relates to co-operation, for which she is praised by Agamemnon. Such is the idea of teachings like the Tao, the Art of War, religion, statesmanship, and the classics in general. Plato considered arete an underlying virtue that superseded courage, temperance, justice, and other virtues related to “goodness” and ethics or ethos.  Aristotle considered excellence as a quality of something, or someone, that manifests its unique purpose or telos.. "HOMONOIA : Goddess of Concord & Unanimity | Greek Mythology." Arete was occasionally personified as a goddess, the sister of Homonoia (not to be confused with Harmonia), and the daughter of the goddess of justice, Praxidike. To the Greeks “justice”/”balance”/”moderation” is a virtue beyond all other virtues. Through her efforts, the two were wed and the Colchians were forced to return to their homeland without Medea.. . Moderating all the virtues is then, arete. 03 Feb. 2014. In all cases, both the potential and fulfillment of a thing’s essence is arete. There are many ways to say this, and perhaps in the end it is just that this term is described best by a myriad of words which touches on the deep questions of moral philosophy like “what is justice,” “what is quality,” and “what makes something excellent?” (if not, why did Plato and Aristotle write so many books on the subject from Politics, to Nicomachean Ethics, to the Republic)?
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