Here’s another values clarification exercise. The Stoics believed that virtue was fundamentally synonymous with a number of other qualities, which generally fall under two broad headings:
- Virtue is healthy, beneficial, rewarding, helpful, or good “for” us
- Virtue is honourable, meaning admirable, praiseworthy, and even “beautiful”
These are similar to what’s meant today by something being “therapeutic” and “moral”, and it comes as a surprise to many people that these two dimensions of life are so closely entwined in Stoic Ethics.
For instance, here Epictetus argues that we all, on reflection, share the preconception of virtue as something both beneficial and praiseworthy.
For which of us does not take it that a good thing is advantageous and worthy of being chosen, and something we should seek and pursue in every circumstance. Which of us does not take it that justice is something honourable and fitting? Discourses, 1.22
He goes on to say that he believes we can all agree, at least in broad strokes, that “evil” is something “harmful” and to be thoroughly avoided in life. Again, let’s not assume the Stoics were correct but try to explore the question further for ourselves. Whether or not we agree with them, or even arrive at a firm conclusion, this will probably be a valuable philosophical exercise…
[q_question title=”Values Clarification Worksheet” text=”Use this form to practice. It’s important to complete the rows one at a time. Start with the first question below and try to make a list in the first row, then proceed to complete the other two rows based on the remaining questions. When you’re done, click the Reveal button below to see some important additional questions.” items=”Desirable|Healthy|Praiseworthy” comments=”What things do you find most desirable in life or spend most time pursuing?|What do you think are the healthiest character traits a person can possess? For example, what qualities might make someone emotionally resilient and contribute to mental health?|What qualities do you find most admirable or praiseworthy in other people? Consider real people you know, historical figures, or even fictional or legendary characters.” sizes=”3,3,3″ feedback=”Now pause to consider your lists. Are the qualities in the three columns the same? If not, why are they different? What are the main qualities that might be both healthy and praiseworthy? What would happen if you also desired them more than anything else and sought them out consistently in your life?”]
You may want to return to this exercise throughout the week, and give yourself time to keep exploring it from different perspectives. If you prefer, just draw up three rows headed “desirable”, “healthy”, and “praiseworthy” on a piece of paper and use that as your worksheet, following the instructions above.
Free Email Course
Sign up today for our free email course on The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. You'll receive weekly emails with my commentary on this classic Stoic text.