Virtues are states of character that lie between the extremes of excess and moral deficiencies. These values have to do with feelings and the process of choosing and acting morally well according to social and moral values of a particular society. This is based on true knowledge and attaining perfection and joy because a person has to follow moral confines of the society. These moral standards of conduct include but are not limited to courage, temperance, liberality, good temper, sincerity, modesty, right ambition, high-mindedness, friendly civility, just resentment, wittiness and munificence (C. Sommers and F. Sommers 43-44). Vices, on the other hand, refer to the excesses of human conduct that contravene the moral standards of behavior. Vices are, therefore, the moral errors that people commit in the process of searching for their own happiness and gratification. These include vulgarity, prodigality, and pettiness, and spiritlessness, ambitiousness, illiberality, intemperance and vainglory (C. Sommers and F. Sommers 43).
Aristotle places great importance on rationality in his discussion of vices and virtues. Rationality is guided by practical knowledge of what can be done at hand in a certain situation. Rationality enables a person to apprehend the ultimate end of his or her action. It is, therefore, rationality that develops relevant virtues that one can pursue under some circumstances. Practical rationality guides and reveals one’s moral behavior. This is because even if a person apprehends the ultimate goal that he or she should pursue in a particular situation, rationality plays a significant role when it comes to responding within moral confines of a certain society and in the context of the situation. C. Sommers and F. Sommers (113) stated that rationality is exercised by the soul that controls impulsive push for immediate gratification and that pays no attention to the moral virtues of the society. The soul, therefore, uses rationality that enables one to strike a balance between virtuous living and the excesses of human conduct, that Aristotle called vices.
Active life is the very nature of human beings who most philosophers have considered to be political animals. In order to govern rational and free people, statesmen must be active just as the people themselves are active. It is through such active political processes that political systems in the society are established. Therefore, it is also through such an activity that good functioning of society can be achieved.Â Thus, active life is essential for being successful and happy. Â A good life is founded less on vices but more on moral grounds ofÂ virtuousness. Existence of a just society is thus only possible through an active life based on rational decisions that lead to the realization of righteous living.
St. Augustine defined happiness as that aspect of human life that is linked to supreme good. The supremacy of this goodness is what provides the blue-print for individual actions. People seek happiness for its own sake and not as a means of achieving the end. Once a person achieves this happiness through whatever devised mechanism, nothing remains that is essential for supreme good and happiness. St. Augustine goes ahead of his predecessors by claiming that happiness is actually possible but only in an afterlife, which is the divine plan and vision of God for humanity (C. Sommers and F. Â Sommers 143). Â Anyone who wants to be happy must like immortality. St. Augustine posited that a happy life will continue after death for people who are destined for eternal life. Such people will enjoy a happy life that is promised by God for human beings. In such a way, the happiest life is set apart for people who shall enter into eternity in the City of God where there is perfect peace and immortality. Therefore, in the opinion of St. Augustine, true happiness is not found in the blessings or external earthly properties. Material possessions will end with the mortal human nature, but divine happiness is eternal since it is linked to immortality. According to St. Augustine, to enjoy happiness, a person requires special divine assistance. Happiness is attainable by means of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and not material possessions and leading a virtuous lifestyle. True lasting happiness is achievable through faith in God since He alone can assure us of no loss, even upon the exit of the earthly life (C. Sommers and F. Sommers 43).
St. Augustine remains an active advocate of obedience to God, His word, and teachings as it is the only way to please God. The sole responsibility of man is thus to worship no other deity but to cultivate a mutual relationship with God through responding to God’s word in obedience. The doctrine that obedience and loyalty to God supersedes human relations is founded on the apostolic defiance to the Sanhedrin under the leadership of Peter. St. Augustine postulates that following and obeying God is evident in a believer’s life if he makes his deeds with faith in the Holy Spirit. Thus, obedience to God is manifested through gifts of the Holy Spirit that one can enjoy. C. Sommers and F. Sommers (234) cited St. Augustine’s postulation that following and obeying God are manifested through the presence of the Holy Spirit in that person’s life. St. Augustine further maintains that living according to the word of God is the bridge that connects man to the divine will of God and removes the self-will that is corrupt, evil and defiant to God. Therefore, following and obeying God enables a Christian to forsake the self-will that is vicious and give priority to loyalty to God and not men or any other deity.
In conclusion, virtues are connected with the soul. It enables one to make rational choices and avoid immoral behaviors that are associated with vices. The development of a virtuous life enhances one’s ability not only to live in harmony with the human society but also to cultivate mutual relationship with the Lord God Almighty.