ARETE is ‘virtue’. This Ancient Greek word expresses the notion of excellence, the achievement of all potentials, the reaching of the highest quality state. In the book written by Platon (Plato) and bearing the name of Protagoras, the latter (a Sophist) explains ‘virtue‘ to Sokrates (Socrates). For him it is a single whole. He says that we use to consider qualities (such as justice, self control, holiness) singularly. But they are all parts of the only one, all-comprehensive, ‘virtue’. Therefore ‘virtue’ is an attribute larger than its several components. Also it is more significant than its single parts in defining a man, a real philosopher. In the Homeric poems, <arete> is often in association with bravery. But more frequently with effectiveness. The person of ‘virtue’ is of the highest effectiveness. He uses all his capabilities — strength, bravery, and wit — to achieve real results.

Sokratiko Logo

Sokrates further elaborates on Protagoras’ topic by underlining that valorous Athenians do not succeed in bequeathing their qualities to the offspring. Thus he demonstrates that virtue is not inherited. Virtue is something we have to work upon and that we have to refine. Then Sokrates adds that an individual may have some parts of the all-comprehensive virtue but not all of them. In the end, Sokrates affirms that people lacking virtue are not bad but ignorant. Hence, they are ignorant about what virtue is. Just as those who are virtuous have simply exploited what they have mastered.

<Arete> is ‘virtue’, a central notion in the philosophical discourse of ancient times. As a matter of fact all arguments, schoolings and trainings of the best philosophical leaders promote the development of virtue. People are measured and gauged by their virtue and by their factual evidence of having virtue.