Of course, as you know, one thing leads to another which always leads to another. And then you become entangled in several lines of thought or books or papers and other errata.

The Greeks

I first went to find a book Pirsig had referenced; “THE GREEKS”, by H. D. F. Kitto. Something seemed to catch Pirsig’s full attention in Kitto’s book. It was the various implications of the word virtue. But it was not the word “virtue” which we use today. It was the word aretê.

It turns out that our virtue indicates goodness and morality;


     behavior showing high moral standards;

Goodness, virtuousness, righteousness, morality,

integrity, dignity, rectitude, honor,

decency, respectability, nobility,

worthiness, purity,

principles, ethics.


Of course this aretê still puzzled me. As I explained – – – I do tend to get dragged into areas that explain things and then dragged into additional explanations and so on and so forth.

So I visited The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy to find out more about this aretê.

“The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) was founded in 1995 as a non-profit organization to provide open access to detailed, scholarly information on key topics and philosophers in all areas of philosophy…….. ….. The IEP articles are written by experts but not for experts …… the way the Scientific American magazine is written by scientific experts but not primarily for scientific experts.”

Which brings us back to virtue and aretê which are found in the IEP’s Glossary of Terms.

But wait; this virtue is not our virtue. The Romans had translated aretê to virtus. It raises the question “Was this done before or after the appearance of Christian morality?” If after, then this virtus is our virtue and not the Greek’s aretê which means “excellence.”

Virtue, from the Latin virtus, translates the Greek aretê or excellence into something completely different;  not excellence but “morality.”

Please allow me one more opportunity to clarify this.

The Greeks used the word aretê to mean excellence; excellence in life’s matters.

The Romans thought that aretê was the same as their virtue; which it was not. Virtue to the Romans translated into a moral life.

Aretê to the Greeks meant an excellent life; and an excellent life meant one of choice for the individual living it. It did not mean living for someone else’s morality or for someone else’s ideals. It meant living a life of your choice for feedom of will, freedom from others, freedom for what you thought was excellent.

If Frank Sinatra was Greek he would have been singing on the stage of Greek tragedy. Did he realize he was singing about Aretê ?


And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way


I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill my share of losing
And now, as tears subside
I find it all so amusing

To think I did all that
And may I say – not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way

For what is a man, what has he got
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Yes, it was my way

Next post; Post #3 (Is selfishness a virtue?)