Courage Tops Aristotle's List of Virtues

Courage Tops Aristotle's List of Virtues

I love lists. Starting lineups in sports. Recipes. Table of Contents. Indexes. Grocery lists. To do lists. Top Ten Lists (thank you, David Letterman). I could go on and on about how much I love lists. Well, most lists I love, there are some lists that I do not love, more on that later. If you have a favorite list or type of list, comment below, my friend! 

Lists help us humans to structure an unstructured world, guiding us to separate the meaning from the chaos. If you are a list maker, pat yourself on the back because you are reducing chaos!

Lists have been around for a while. For those of you interested in the explanation of where the word "list" came from, Corsair's Publishing has a 6 minute read that documents the etymology of the word "list". You can see that here. Apparently, "list" meant "jousting field" at some point in history.

I don't believe Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, spent much time on the jousting fields. He was interested in a different kind of list. He gifted the world with a dozen Virtues that still lives on today. In his Nicomachean Ethics masterpiece, he defines a Virtue as a quality that "enables a person to perform their human function well." Most of us aren't going to read Nicomachean Ethics unless our professor assigns it to us. However, a quick scan of the list of virtues is interesting:

  1. Courage – bravery and valor
  2. Temperance – self-control and restraint
  3. Liberality – bigheartness, charity and generosity
  4. Magnificence – radiance, joie de vivre
  5. Pride – self-satisfaction
  6. Honor – respect, reverence, admiration
  7. Good Temper – equanimity, level headedness
  8. Friendliness – conviviality and sociability
  9. Truthfulness – straightforwardness, frankness and candor
  10. Wit – sense of humor – meaninglessness and absurdity
  11. Friendship – camaraderie and companionship
  12. Justice – impartiality, evenhandedness and fairness

Take note if any of those jumped out at you or confused you. It might be a prompt to ponder and learn more so that you can perform your own human function in a better way. and a thank you to the Aesthetic Healing Mindset Blog at for the above summary of virtues. 

As mentioned earlier, there are some lists that I don't like. One of them was on the wall at Whitthorne Junior High School in Columbia, Tennessee. I was in the seventh grade. Tryouts for the basketball team concluded the day before. I can remember that hot nervous feeling that envelops your whole body as I made the extremely long 200 yard walk from the classrooms, past the cafeteria and office to the concession stand right beside the gym. There it was. Right there on the wall. The List of Those Who Made the Team. Much to my chagrin, my name was not on it. I was dejected, downtrodden, broken and hurt. But not defeated. The rest of that story is for another day. Let's get back to the List of Virtues, starting at the top with Courage.

In a commencement speech in 2008 at Cornell University, Maya Angelou encouraged those who were graduating with these words:

"Courage is the most important of the virtues,
because without it,
no other virtue can be practiced consistently."
For more on that speech, go here.

Sir Winston Churchill said it like this,

"Fear is a reaction.

Courage is a choice."


From the 1800's, Elizabeth Cady Stanton advocates that:

"The best protection any woman can have is courage."
If you don't know who Mrs. Stanton is, consider spending some time researching her work with Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony to get slavery abolished with the 13th Amendment and women the right to vote with the 19th Amendment. 


In conclusion, some great folks from our history have placed a priority on Courage. Therefore, when you word, courage is a great place to start. We've spent some time pondering the word and here's the result. 

"Courage" Shirts and Stickers and more are in the catalog. 
A percentage of all proceeds is donated to feed the hungry.

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