Virtue – A Habitual Thing

Simone Biles,Gabrielle Douglas


8/16-8/17: Define virtue. Describe a person in your life who you would consider “virtuous.”


The past two days, we spent some glorious time going over the class disclosure and procedures (they’re important for your success in class, but also dull – I recognize that. Thanks for sticking with me!)

However, we have also spent a significant amount of time discussing virtue – what is it? How is it cultivated? What does it look like in the classroom? in the hallway between classes or during lunch? at after-school practices or at home?

Although we all came in with our own notions and ideas of what virtue is, I suggested St. Thomas Aquinas’s definition of “a habitual and firm disposition to do the good.” Within this definition, we can see that virtue is a habit, not a one-time action. The word “firm” also makes us think of this idea – like a habit, virtue is something that is deeply engrained in us, so much so that we automatically revert to it in any situation (think Simone Biles – no matter where she is, what routine she is doing doing, she always performs with the same trained movements developed over years of practice!). We also see that virtue is a certain disposition, or way of being. Therefore, virtue is something that we are, not something we do. Lastly, virtue is always oriented toward the good – of ourselves, of others, and of all things (society, creation, even material things).

Given this definition of virtue, it seems like the only way to live more virtuously (and more beautifully and joyfully) is to actually practice virtue. As Aristotle writes in his Nichomachean Ethics, “We are what we repeatedly do.Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Our actions shape who we become, both good and bad.

In this class, everyone will be encouraged to strive for excellence. Everyone will be asked to strive to be a virtuous person who does everything for the glory of God (including your teacher!). Everyone (including your teacher!), at one point or another, will falter and fail, but know that this classroom community will be there to encourage you to keep striving.