What Next after Week Two?

Congratulations on completing the lesson for Week Two.  Now it’s time to start putting things into practice!

You should start using the techniques covered right now, if possible, and continue with them each day throughout the following week.  If you think you might have any problems adhering to the daily practices, or need any clarification, get in touch right away with the course facilitator.

However, your first step should be to visit the Comments section below, as soon as you’re ready, and post your thoughts on the question for this week:

“What constitutes true human ‘virtue’ or makes a person genuinely admirable?  What qualities might define someone’s character as truly good or bad?”

As you think this over, consider how even a simple act like answering this question and commenting on the forums might relate to your personal conception of virtue.  How could your interaction with others be made completely in harmony with your own core values?

Here’s a second question for you to consider, and discuss, if you want:

What’s the relationship between what’s truly “healthy” or beneficial for you and what’s genuinely “praiseworthy”?  How do these compare to what’s desirable or worth choosing to pursue in life?

Now go to the Comments section below and reply with your thoughts.

If there’s anything whatsoever you could use help with, either technical stuff or the course content, please don’t hesitate to contact the course facilitator.

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44 replies on “What Next after Week Two?”

Wisdom and justice demonstrated through authentic concern for others would seem to be a good place to start. Authenticity is sometimes difficult to achieve perhaps because we live in such a complex world where our judgements can be strained in our attempts to understand any situation .

The difference between healthy and praiseworthy. Healthy is fine as far as it goes but if your actions never include praiseworthy actions it seems to me you risk living in a very sterile world. We should always try to choose positive interactions with others. As I understand it ‘healthy’ refers only to internal, personal actions?

A person is admirable if he/she is honest, polite, reliable (especially the combination of politeness and honesty is a difficult on to achieve) and shows perseverance in his/her actions.

When you live in accord with your own values and ideas, you may lose a lot in live, but not yourself. Having said that, I do find it disconcerting that a lot of stories about people saying they have stopped doing what others wanted, meant they themselves become yoga teachers, coaches and other kinds of jobs without much responsibility or real value to society.

I find it missing that their is no mention of kindness which I believe to be an important virtue. To me kindness and trustworthiness are very key.

What is beneficial to me is to act in accordance with my virtues. These may not even be noticeable to others so praiseworthy doesn’t come into it. If I am able to put aside those knee jerk reactions that can result in anger, meanness, etc I will be much happier. But only because I end up liking myself better…not because I am praised.

Kindness is actually one of the two main aspects of the Stoic cardinal virtue of Justice. Isn’t that mentioned anywhere? If not, I’ll try to add it. Marcus Aurelius, for example, was renowned for having a kind and merciful character, and you can see him reflecting on this and other Stoic social virtues on virtually every other page of The Meditations. I think we do try to emphasize that “praiseworthy” definitely does not mean “in the eyes of others” but rather in your own eyes, or, even better, from the perspective of perfect wisdom.

Indeed, it is about virtue from the perspective of universal reason (‘divine’ logos), from which our personal, human rationality is only a small part. So it is not about being praiseworthy or kind in the eyes of fellow humans, but in the cosmological perspective. Ideally, if we were truly wise and virtuous, this universal perspective would be identical to our own personal point of view.
This I see as the biggest challenge in Stoicism: to leave your ego behind and become magnanimous in the literal sense (magnus animus) by aligning our soul (reason/logos) harmoniously with nature (universal reason / soul of the cosmos if you will).

A person is admirable if he/she manages to keep a positive, altruistic moral intention throughout his life. We cannot control the consequences of our actions, but we can control our moral intention and that is what is truly defining our character.

The virtues I came up with in the earlier exercise were kindness, industry, introspection, humor, and humility. It’s obviously not a complete list but they are qualities I admire. In general, I think that doing one’s best captures the idea of virtue in a nutshell. I really don’t see a distinction between what’s healthy and what’s praiseworthy.

I guess that many times one has the “intention” of behaving with virtue, but misses the moment, makes wrong choices, and even one realizes that there was a better or more virtuous way of acting after it is late. That’s why I believe that practical wisdom may be a fundamental quality of good beahaviour. Many of us have inside our minds the best actitudes and intentions, but realizing in time how to act according to that is where wisdom is nedded, and that will define your interaction with the world and herefore define your character as good or bad…

I like your idea of how you can always “intend” to act virtuously, but if you don’t actually do anything, then you’re not being virtuous. In this sense, practical wisdom is the ability to translate the overarching goal of being virtuous, this abstract, non-descript goal, into smaller, more specific actions that you can do in the moment. For instance, perhaps one of your virtues is to be a social human being, because that’s one of our purposes. Then, you’d think about what does it mean to be social… does it mean to be empathetic? Does it mean to appreciate others? To bring out the good in others? And then further, questioning what it means to do each…

Thus, you’d question yourself all the way down to the actions that would help you in everyday interactions… For instance when your friend is down on his luck, you might sit there and try to understand and empathize, and then turn it around and think about how this obstacle of his can help him improve and how he’s done well. Etc.

True human virtue would be acting in accordance with your excellent character traits and personal strengths in daily life, but would be most apparent to others when you faced difficult circumstances. It is hard to know if someone is doing this without taking the time to know them and who they are. It is therefore admirable to be supportive, loving, open and kind to all that we meet so as to encourage them, and find in return that seeing and experiencing their virtuous actions encourages us. So acting in accordance is good, and failing at this is bad, although I would not say it is so black and white, more a learning curve, as experience is the best teacher (after this stoicism class, of course!) as long as we are paying attention.

I think this list of character traits I deemed praiseworthy will do as my answer to first question: Kindness, compassion, wisdom, knowledge, loyalty, steadfastness, patient
endurance, forgiveness. (Sounds a bit Christian, doesn’t it? Maybe I’m in the wrong place…)
In answer to the second, I suspect that the praiseworthy character traits foster the development of healthy ones, which in turn leads to the acquisition of those things (in my case Love, knowledge, peaceful tranquillity) that one takes to be truly desirable. (Sounds a bit Epicurean, doesn’t it? Maybe I’m in the wrong place :p)

I don’t really buy into the categories of “admirable” and “good/bad”, so I’ll just answer what I admire and what may be harmful or beneficial.

I personally admire courage, clarity of thought and speech, generosity, resilience, and the ability to take others’ perspectives.

There’s some overlap with what I find “healthy” – resiliency, taking others’ root desires into consideration, the ability to take others’ perspectives, a lack of moralizing, calm, and clarity of mind.

I don’t quite know if what I listed above all are “unified” or aspects of a single thing, but to be admirable or healthy, they should all work in the service of one another.

There’s a decent relationship between what I find praiseworthy and healthy. The only main difference I can see between the two right now is that some “praiseworthy” qualities could be taken to excess and wind up being “unhealthy”, e.g. being too generous so as to cause harm to oneself. There are also some traits I find healthy (e.g. lack of moralizing) that I wouldn’t quite say is worthy of praise. This is probably because I feel the trait extends from a more basic trait (e.g. lack of moralizing comes from the ability to take others’ perspectives plus clarity of thought about what moral terms are and what work they do).

“What constitutes true human ‘virtue’ or makes a person genuinely admirable? What qualities might define someone’s character as truly good or bad?”

The ability to frame external events in a way that allows one to keep moving forward and improving without ruminating, beating oneself up for one’s mistake; the ability to discipline oneself to steer clear from vices such as cowardice, and intemperance; the ability to view obstacles and setbacks as learning experiences; and the appreciation of the hard-work and obstacles as enjoyable rewards. Whether someone is good or bad depends wholly on their wisdom and reliability in accord with their core values. If someone says that they are moral and that they will always do the right thing, then if they give in, over and over to their vices, then they are bad because they are not living in accord with their values. However, to a certain extent, if they are recognize that that their vice are present in their lives, and they work little-by-little towards improving their vices, then they are good, because they are reliable in that they work towards virtue even if they don’t always achieve it.

What’s the relationship between what’s truly “healthy” or beneficial for you and what’s genuinely “praiseworthy”? How do these compare to what’s desirable or worth choosing to pursue in life?

This is a tough question, as it reveals that I haven’t truly understood what it means to be healthy or praiseworthy if I’m struggling to show how they’re different. However, let’s attempt to answer the question. The relationship between “healthy” and “praiseworthy” is that healthy is good for you and praiseworthy is the phenomena by which you forgo vices even though they tempt you greatly in favor of the healthy actions, that will ultimately make you a better person. Healthy things are desirable, praiseworthy things are desirable and ultimately worth doing, but vices can also be desirable… in the moment. Healthy things are desirable, overarching goals that contribute to one’s life-long character and virtue, whereas vices are desirable, short-term gratification activities that take away from life-long character and virtue.

I’ve stated in the comments that love is the supreme value from which all other virtues flow. The image of the mother with a small child who cares with her whole being makes life meaningful.

I can’t really find any answer to share yet. But it’s amazing to see how the three categories such as “healthy or beneficial”, “praiseworthy” and “desirable or worthy” can differ. Though it gives me cognitive load to try to define those three categories, it feels quite hopeful to start this journey.

I believe to be open-minded, curious and to be eager to learn each day is very healthy and also praiseworthy. This attidue will hopefully finally lead to a greater wisdom and this is something desirable and for my worth choosing to pursue in life. However, I believe that there are other equally or even more important virtues in life (e.g. peacefulness).

“What constitutes true human ‘virtue’ or makes a person genuinely admirable? What qualities might define someone’s character as truly good or bad?”

The admirable spirit has a sense of loyalty to no tribe smaller than all humanity. She chooses freely and happily to play her part in the “grand project” of human flourishing, as she understands it. She applies her talents to the building of new concepts and new physical tools from which all may benefit.

True human virtue: recognizing the course of action which is most just and having the courage to follow it.

The quality of character which most generally corresponds to good v. bad or leads to good v. bad choices is honesty v. dishonesty. Someone who is dishonest with oneself, quickly makes bad choices for oneself. Someone who is consistently dishonest with others is likely to be just as consistently unjust towards others.

People praise qualities they wish to see in themselves. As we all want things which are beneficial to ourselves, we are likely to praise those achieve self-benefits.

“What constitutes true human ‘virtue’ or makes a person genuinely admirable? What qualities might define someone’s character as truly good or bad?”

I think that things that make a person truly admirable are: courage (not based on fanaticism), moderation, compassion, integrity, and a justly used intelligence (perhaps wisdom is really the best word. I think I agree with the stoics here. A bad person would be hypocritical, ill-willed, backstabbing and dishonest among other things.

What’s the relationship between what’s truly “healthy” or beneficial for you and what’s genuinely “praiseworthy”? How do these compare to what’s desirable or worth choosing to pursue in life?

The praiseworthy is what is ethically praiseworthy. Some actions (e.g. hiding persecuted people from the persecutors) may be praiseworthy, but very risky to health. However, the virtuous behaviour as such is healthy behaviour even though the consequences could possibly be non-healthy in some circumstances.

At some point charity/philanthropy expresses itself as part of the virtuous person’s life, yet it is not one of the “cardinal virtues.” Beginning students sometimes have trouble with this issue (and, when I am tired, so do I). Yet, when I find people denying charity, and examine why, I wonder if, in reality, the denial of charity is actually the presence of anger or hatred, making the act of charity merely the absence of that anger or hatred and the presence of wisdom. And then I wonder if I am seeing the true place of charity in the order of things and why the wise person is more admirable than the charitable person, per se.

Q1.

My answer is: coherence. Coherence of thought and action. Coherence of means and end. Coherence between yourself and society (family, friends, country, etc.). Coherence with nature and cosmos.

Q2.
I think the relationship is asymmetric, in part because “praiseworthy” strikes me as an inherently social concept. Of course, if the term is understood in a purely a-priori or subjectivistic way (what is “praiseworthy” is what it is independently of anyone’s judgment, or only according to my judgement), that is no longer true. That said, by taking the Stoic point of view the two conception (what is healthy and what is praisewrothy) are bound to collide eventually.

What makes a person truly bad? One who in his life deliberately brings more injustice, suffering, and hatred into the world. In Stoic terms that would be consciously choosing to live without virtue. An person leading an unexamined life can often be a bad one, and even a virtuous person’s life may have unintended and unforeseen bad effects, but neither are so truly bad as person whose life is devoted to purposefully following a dishonorable path.

When pondering the first question I’m wondering which politicians at this febrile moment in time might if not virtuous, be at least be admirable. Since Stoic thinkers were advisors to leaders of the ancient world, and in the case of Marcus Aurelius a leader himself, there seems to be some relevance. We the people are looking for leadership but paradoxically have a deep mistrust of our leaders.

CplAdsys thought that “courage, clarity of thought and speech, generosity, resilience, and the ability to take others’ perspectives”. They seem like a pretty good yardstick for a leader, now or at any time.

Q1 Living in harmony with nature or at least trying to live so. Or, as Epictetus teaches, learning to use correctly the impressions and learning to form right opinions of things by using reason. Examining our thoughts and attitudes and reactions every day and trying to improve them. “Unexamined life is not worth living” (Socrates). “Socrates became fully perfect in this way, by not paying attention to anything but his reason in everything that he met with. You, even if you are not yet Socrates, ought to live as someone wanting to be Socrates” (Handbook of Epictetus ch. 51, tr. Nicholas P. White).

“How else might you help yourself to live each day more consistently in accord with your conception of virtue? ”
I value putting others first, so before posting this, I read 10 other people’s comments and tried to absorb what they wrote. I think some strayed from Stoic teachings, however all 10 were worth reading and I would encourage others to do the same.

I have always felt that truth — and the ability to live with it — lay beneath what most people consider the virtues. Without valuing truth and being willing to persue it above most everything else, I am only left with my perceptions. And perceptions can be fooled. By testing my perceptions in the external world I arrive at truth, whether good or bad. And the discovery of what makes some of my perceptions good and others bad helps me to flourish better in the world around and live a less stressful life because I have aligned myself more closely with how the world, or universe, actually works and how best I function within it.

For Q1 I would start by saying a person needs to understand that justice cannot be applied to all equally because everyone has different needs and requirements (different forms of justice) or at know that ones personal justice is different from other people. Also a person should not be consumed with the way other people act in comparison to their own moral values. One must be open to challenges to their own beliefs and adjust them when found in err. Lastly a person must know that they have very little control of the outside world and what they can have control of should be handled with care.

The biggest character flaw that I witness is where a person acts in a way to bend the world around them and never truly engages other people in a genuine fashion.

Week two is almost over. Practising tally exercise, counting angry emotions really helps. I downloaded app. from google to my phone, calls counter. I wanted to count how many times i worry, complaining and have angry thoughts. On angry thoughts it went down from 30 to 15-20 in 5 days. As soon as you you catch yourself being angry and click counter, the anger start dissolving. Listening to the meditation instruction is helpful too.I have been doing it for the past 4 month though. The only thing is i keep felling to sleep right in the middle.

To be wise and just/fair seem to be hallmarks of the admirable person. These can be contrasted with the person who is foolish and selfish. The hoarder, the grasper after wealth and fame are revered in America at this time. It is a shame that the media and entertainment repeat these images ad nauseum. The Stoics and history tell us that wealth and fame are transient and fade away all too soon. Wealth is neither wise nor fair, a recent study indicated that five thousand live in poverty for each millionaire. Now that humanity is truly global, is this fair or wise? The justice of temperance seems also to apply here. No one needs more that a certain share of material goods to live or even live well. Why take more? That is a kind of sickness in some cultures.
So also to be whole and healthy is better than to be praised by others. Praise means an external, which is not in my power, is invoked. I can acknowledge it, but it is all to risky to seek it. Oh yes, as I child I sought the praise of parents and teachers. In work I sought as much as I could to conform to company policies and therefore praise and promotion. But I did have a reserve clause on this, I would work only up to the point my own values were in harmony with the goals of the job. Yes, I worked for others and understood the limitations on my freedom to shape the environment. Though I did always have some freedom to act with integrity. I have also resigned from many jobs when my own values and inner harmony was threatened. By living simply and within my means I had much more freedom than others who were extravegant or in debt. Sometimes I might let the boss know I had a difference of conscience, sometimes I would say I needed to tend to my health. Usually both were true, because it is unhealthy to work or associate with others whose values contradict ones own.

It does really feel like the four Stoic virtues hit the nail on the head–though from my viewpoint it seems like these values must necessarily have the underlying foundation of kindness. At least from my eyes it seems that without kindness wisdom is dead intellect, justice is cruel and unusual punishment, courage is bravado and temperance is purposeless rigidity. So while the Stoic virtues are all ones I most admire, I cannot imagine a truly good person without the quality of compassion.

The healthy vs. praiseworthy relationship is a challenging one. Since health in this discussion isn’t necessarily physical but what is “beneficial and rewarding”, it seems that there are praiseworthy activities that risk the possibility of any benefit or reward: namely heroic acts where one’s life is put at stake. Otherwise it seems that they go hand in hand. If what is healthy is what is good for us, how can doing a beneficial thing not be admirable?

What we desire might not really align with what is healthy: I might really want some ice cream right now, but what’s better for me is exercising self-control and moderation. If I can choose to pursue goals I know improve my character, then I can shape my desires over time.

What seems admirable virtue in a person is that they have a consistent set of values, considered by reason, which they apply without reservation or consideration of risks. In this way, I see the four virtues as complimentary, where one may seek to advance justice, and uses self-discipline to do it, along with the wisdom to realize how, and with the courage to do it despite its risks. The people that I’ve admired have always been those who have had such fortitude. I only wish I had it as well.

As for the difference between healthy and praiseworthy, there isn’t necessarily a correlation between the two. One may take up fitness to improve one’s health far beyond that of the average person, but it will not make you a more virtuous person alone. It may train you to apply self-discipline, however, so that you can apply it to other facets of life.

A note to the moderator, if he has time to respond to this:

I have had particular constraint in this week’s application, virtue. Besides the immediate problem of illness, I have had trouble realizing exactly what values I wish to inculcate in myself. I have only a vague realization that I want to be a fair person, but little beyond that. I tried applying the morning meditation but I’m not sure how to apply it. About the only context I feel I’ve had any success is at work, where I’ve been able to shut out distractions and concentrate on acting on my virtues. In every other context of my life, such as my family life, I have no idea how to apply this.

I have also found this exercise difficult.

I don’t think it is meant to be a quick exercise but rather something you reflect on daily. This is what Donald states in the Values Clarification page.

I find it difficult as there are so many exercises building up now as the weeks go on and finding time to fit them all in is hard. Alas, thinking like a stoic was never going to be an easy ride.

To me, an important part of “having a good character” is overcoming yourself. Always doing what you know is the right thing. That is, acting virtously in spite of bad habits, threats, bad upbringing or any other obstacles.

What constitutes true human virtue ..?
I think that self-knowledge and being honest with yourself initially plays an important role, as well as making the decision to lead a “good” life.
What I consider as truly good is very close to the comments below, in my words : being open-hearted (accepting others as they are, regardless of their possession or social position/helping others being in trouble..) // standing up fearless and uncorruptable for your position // respecting nature .

What’s the relationship between “healthy ” and “praiseworthy “..?
If praiseworthy is used in the sense of “highly estimated by others” then there is not necessarily a direct relationship.
How do these compare to what’s desirable in life?
Praise or approval is an enjoyable experience, however, I believe that pursuing a healthy life ( including the health of soul) is much more beneficial.

Have to agree with derberters comment around kindness. Pondering does kindness bring about the connectedness that makes the virtues ‘good’. A little like Google’s ‘do no evil’ as a foundation point.

Q1: For me is selflessness. When you show more interest in others than in your own problems, particularly in those that you know you can help in some way.

Q2: In relation to Q1 above, sometimes giving too much of yourself can be a drain on your emotional reserves, though would still be praiseworthy. Stepping back a little so you can sustain selflessness over time would be more healthy.

I struggled with this. The best answer I’ve arrived at so far is that true virtue lies in striving to be the person you hope and pray your children will also become. I may build upon that answer some day, but for here and now, I think that best sums it up.

I think Seld-discipline, courage and integrity are admirable and loyalty and perseverance. For example, I admire couples that have been together all their lives through ups and downs. I also admire priests who have dedicated their lives to a cause. So for me, commitment is also admirable.

When i think of bad characters images of Adolf Hitler spring to mind – the type of people that physically and mentally hurt one another to no logical reason. But, leaders, even if bad seem to hold some characteristics that we admire such as standing up for what they believe in and not listening to what people say or do – even the leaders who we would call bad.

I think I am aware of paradox here – that someone with true human virtue acts as if everything is of great importance but also knows that life is fleeting. For me, the virtues are around doing good for others and the world.
When life is on track, I feel that the healthy and praisworthy are in harmony and exemplified in my vocation with poetry therapy. I am able to keep up momentum and work hard and productively. Sometimes though, smaller-minded motivations creep in and I lose focus.

Disagree about kindness as the underlying virtue. For example, Justice is Justice, being tempered by kindness does not keep it from being cruel and unusual punishment. The fact that it is Justice prevents that. If it were cruel and unusual, then it would not be Justice.

What makes a person admirable is how closely they follow the virtues and how well they apply them in their life. Simple as that.

True human virtue that is genuinely admirable is when a person is resolutely good. Someone who genuinely cares about the well being of himself and others as one.

“What constitutes true human ‘virtue’ or makes a person genuinely admirable? What qualities might define someone’s character as truly good or bad?”

-To remain generous towards self and others despite massive adversity. Charity, like François Hollande. Such is truly good.

-To place limits on generosity, as a reaction to adversity. Such is truly bad.

What’s the relationship between what’s truly “healthy” or beneficial for you and what’s genuinely “praiseworthy”? How do these compare to what’s desirable or worth choosing to pursue in life?

1) Acting in accord with the Truth arising inside myself.
2) To serve others (not feel entitled to be served by others, in some sort of misplaced neediness).
Such is healthy and praiseworthy.

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