Virtue is knowledge of right and wrong. A virtuous person knows the best decision to make given the information available to them at the time. The skills that help one to make the best decisions are called virtues. The goal of philosophical therapy is to cultivate virtue in oneself to that one can make the best decisions for oneself. The purpose of examining one’s own life is to gain self-knowledge: what do I like? What do I hate? What satisfies me? What harms me? When one has information like this about oneself then decision making becomes easier. Rather, it becomes increasingly difficult to make bad decisions.
Aristotle argued that the secret to happiness was to practice virtue. No matter what life throws at a virtuous person, they will handle it better than a person without any virtues. The virtues I focus on most in my practice are the following:
Honour: The prime virtue from which all other virtues are built on. Mastery of honour requires that one appreciate the value of honesty, self-ownership, responsibility, respect for others, fairness, and justice. The first step towards gaining honour is learning to be honest with oneself; despite how uncomfortable and even painful it might be to accept the things about ourselves that we do not like to admit.
Patience: Perhaps the most important virtue for maintaining strong and healthy relationships. Patience is the ability to weather disappointment, frustration, failure, loss, anxiety, worry, insecurity, and sadness all without losing hope, self-control, withdrawing, or giving up. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to wait until the right time to act or until we have enough information to make a good decision.
Courage: This is the ability to confront fear, hardship, difficult situations, and opposition. It is about being able to endure the hardships that come from asserting your interests. It is to tasks what patience is to relationships: the self-discipline to keep working on any difficult project until it is accomplished. Courage isn’t about the absence of fear and doubt, it is about feeling that fear and doubt but still pushing on.
Wisdom: This is the knowledge of what the most moral thing to do is. Lying might seem prudent in the moment, but wisdom is appreciating that honesty although uncomfortable in the moment generally works out for the better in the long run. Wisdom is about learning from experience, and accepting that one can learn from and listen to other people without being diminished while doing so.