Word of the day – ἀρετή (arete)

Today we have a guest post from Stephen Dunne.

ἀρετή (arete), noun = meaning virtue, goodness, excellence, purity.

This Classical Greek word is difficult to encapsulate precisely in English but expresses a state of almost distinguished self enlightenment. It can however mean many other things besides virtues attached to the self; the Greeks did use the word to describe the form of inanimate objects like vases or statues.

There are many ways to think of the physical form of arete. In Ancient Greece is was the capacity and fulfilment of attaining one’s potential, perhaps in face of much environmental difficulty.

In Philosophy, arete is central to the notion of Virtue Ethics and many of the ideas stem from Aristotelian thought. Virtue Ethics is a serious challenge to other mainstream moral schools like Deontology or Consequentialism.

These days, it could be argued that many of the books in the post-capitalist self-help genre are centred on the notion of arete, with individuals seeking non material fulfilment.

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This entry was posted in Greek, Language, Words and phrases.

3 Responses to Word of the day – ἀρετή (arete)

  1. Adam says:

    I wonder how it is pronounced. Looks like “stop” in French (arrêt).

  2. formiko says:

    It’s pronounced like this:
    aretí

  3. Stephen Dunne says:

    Yes, with ἀρετή the stress is on the vowel ‘η’ (ετα) at the end and is pronounced very much like the long ‘ê’ in the French word Fête.

    For a contemporary usage of the word…. http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Aretaic-turn