14. Virtue

Lesson powerpoint here

  1. Knights.
  • Ask pupils to think of the idea/role of a knight (perhaps think about the knights of King Arthur’s round table). Ask them to describe the various virtues/character traits of a knight. There is a list of virtue words on the lesson powerpoint.
  • Ask pupils if they can explain what a virtue is. If they struggle, Jonathan Lear’s definition is on the slides.

The organisation of desire which enables man to live a truly happy life Aristotle calls virtue. Remember, a virtue for the ancient Greeks was an excellence. So the virtues, for Aristotle, are states of the soul which enable a person to live an excellent life: to fulfil his function to the fullest extent. The virtues are stable states of the soul which enable a person to make the right decision about how to act in the circumstances and which motivate him so to act. It is these stable states of the soul which we think of as constituting a person’s character.’

  • The main elements of virtue are self-control; the ability to overcome desire/feeling and the ability to provide reasons for our actions which explain why they are good. They should also be a stable part of our character e.g. an honest person habitually tells the truth.
  1. A case study in knightly vice.
  • Give pupils the article from The Week about Sir Philip Green.
  • Assuming the journalist is correct, is the behaviour of Sir Philip becoming of a knight of the realm? Why? Does he display any virtues? Does he display self-control? Are his actions in the service of the good?
  1. The reveal.
  • Share the caterpillar process with the pupils and explain to them that the previous 13 lessons have been an attempt to help them learn the 5 steps of the process.
  • Ask pupils to imagine someone giving a speech about them on their 50th birthday. All of their friends are there and it is their dearest friend giving the speech. What virtues would they like their friend to highlight about them and how far along the road of establishing those virtues as ‘stable states of the soul’ do the pupils think they are? Assuming there will be some ‘banter’ in the speech, which vices do they think their friend will joke about?