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human action. What do we seek? Aristotle concludes that the answer is happiness (sometimes translated today as ‘flourishing’), but observes that human beings disagree over what happiness means. He examines and dismisses a variety of popular notions, such as money or honour, and concludes that true happiness must consist in an activity of the soul in a life of the best or most complete virtue. For Aristotle, the most noble activity of the soul is that of wisdom, which deals with first causes and principles of all things, in the company of friends who are also wise, and in a well-ordered society. This wise activity is made possible principally through a combination of prudence (practical wisdom), which disposes someone to know what should be done in particular situations, and a wide variety of moral virtues that dispose someone actually to do what should be done. For Aristotle, therefore, the unity of the virtues is based on philosophical and practical wisdom, the Biblical parallel to this insight being the figure of the philosopher-king Solomon, who asked for divine wisdom to govern the people of God (1 Kings 3:1-15). Four key virtues

Besides the Nicomachean Ethics, another unified system of virtues became influential in the late pre-Christian world. The Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero (d. 43 BC), as well as the Old Testament (DeuteroCanonical) Book of Wisdom, identifies four key virtues:

b. Faith, Hope and Love.indd 14

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Faith, hope and love (preview)  

Faith, hope and love (preview)