What is virtue? Moral excellence. I’ve recently drifted from notions of virtue, relying instead on my philosophical knowhow and personal ratiocinations to guide appropriate and pragmatic behaviors.

Once upon a time I was obsessed with the notion of moral excellence. I strove daily to master the principles and virtues that upheld an outstanding character. I’d meditate daily on aphorisms and parables and definitions extolling the virtues of a moral character. I reasoned that, if I am in fact a product of my thoughts, I should take take strides to hone and refine those thoughts.

Thoughts become actions. Actions become habit. Habit becomes character. Character becomes destiny.

Ben Franklin committed himself to the upbuilding of a moral character. He created a plan to internalize and embody thirteen virtues. Each day he committed himself to fulfilling and practicing one. At the end of thirteen, he’d begin again. He kept this up for years and recorded his progress in a daily journal. The thirteen virtues he strove to emulate are listed as the following:

1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.
2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.
4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.
6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.
11. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
12. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

I desire and strive to surround myself with people who typify these virtues. I’m going to make a habit of looking at these thirteen daily and be extra conscientious about whether they are being appropriately exemplified through my actions.