Cultural diversity, Human dignity, Justice, Leadership, Personal Development, Perspective

Cultivating Cardinal Virtues

Disclaimer – Today’s post is not cool. It is not sexy. Nor is it modern. It is distinctly uncool, plain and pre-modern. Yet, I believe we can all learn from classical wisdom. So, here goes :-).


In a world that seems to pay homage to the belief that more is always better and that excess is the same as success here is a plug for cultivating what the ancients considered to be the Golden Mean, where virtue is not one end of the spectrum, but a vacillating point between two vices.

Here are the four classic Cardinal Virtues with a few of my comments.


  • Self-Restraint. Do I really need that new…. Fill in the blank with your favorite luxury.
  • Living in between too much and too little; excess and self-denial. Could also be thought of as Goldilocks living, “It’s just right!”
  • As Gandhi put it, “Live simply that others might simply live.”


  • Wisdom
  • Knowing what the right thing to do is
  • Prudence learns from experience rather than simply experiencing.


  • Courage
  • Bravery
  • Fortitude is neither paralyzed by fear (Cowardice) nor oblivious to it (Foolhardiness/recklessness). It acts in spite of fear, not because it is absent.


  • Doing the right things and doing them right.
  • Treating others with Fairness.
  • The Cardinal of the Cardinal virtues. Justice incorporates all of the above. Practicing self-restraint, it learns what is best in any given situation and then, often in spite of fear or reluctance, acts to do the right thing; seeking the greater good.


Recognizing that variations exist, these virtues need to be lived out contextually, taking into account a margin of appreciation given different cultural and social settings.


I wonder what our societies would look like if we all began to practice more temperance, exhibit more prudence, display more fortitude and practice more justice? What do you think?



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