It refers to an innate “Excellence” or “Essence” in all things, and the striving toward that potential or purpose. Stephen G. Miller delves into this usage in his book Ancient Greek Athletics. Moderating all the virtues is then, arete. Thus, arete is a “Quality,” it is “the Highest Good (the Summum Bonum),” an “art” (speaking very loosely, as in “the highest art” of a thing; such as what “High Art” tries to capture), an “Aristocracy of Virtues,” a “Highest Goodness,” “the Highest Potential”… a fundamental zest inherent in all things, unique in all things, and common in all things.  The term may also mean "moral virtue". and Other Greek Philosophers, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Theory of the Forms, “a first virtue” that leads to a first “moral principle”, Aristotle & Virtue Theory: Crash Course Philosophy #38, Plato even more the more Realist Aristotle, our page on essentialism vs. existentialism, PHILOSOPHY – The Good Life: Aristotle [HD], excellent overview of Arête by philosophynow.org, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure HD Trailer. The term may also mean "moral virtue". Aristotle's Doctrine of the Mean is a paradigm example of his thinking.
TIP: Speaking of the Republic, a good analogy for arete is a the cave metaphor.
To cut perfectly is the arete of the knife (the art of a knife is to cut perfectly, the quality of a knife in its highest state is the ability to cut perfectly). , In regards to the Iliad the way Homer describes Achilles is an example of Arete (187).
In Greek it is αρετη stylized ἀρετή. Aristotle is quoted as deliberating between education towards arete "...or those that are theoretical". The meaning of the word changes depending on what it describes since everything has its own peculiar excellence; the arete of a man is different from the arete of a horse. This is just made more complex by the fact that it is an attempt to give name to “a highest thing” which is not directly tangible, and is instead a thing of metaphysics (and not just “a thing,” but arguably “a first virtue” that leads to a first “moral principle”). TIP: Virtue is a different concept than evil or sin. The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only. In the Homeric world, then, Arete involves all of the abilities and potentialities available to humans. TIP: The existentialists believed that things don’t have an innate essence, Plato and Aristotle did, and that makes them essentialists (Plato even more the more Realist Aristotle). 03 Feb. 2014.
Plato’s arete is well described in his Republic where the conversation about the nature of justice and the ideal balance of the state and soul, along with nearly every metaphor in the book, all center around finding a perfect balance, an arete of state and soul. For she of herself is no wise lacking in good understanding, and for the women to whom she has good will she makes an end of strife even among their husbands. In short, if a person, place, thing, etc has an “excess” or a “deficiency” of excellence, then it is not in its “most excellent” state, and thus the term arete does not describe this imbalanced state (although it could certainly describe striving back toward it). Such is the idea of teachings like the Tao, the Art of War, religion, statesmanship, and the classics in general. So, not only is Achilles a brave and brilliant warrior but also, from the outset, he is destined to die in battle at Troy with the utmost glory—a guarantor of Arete.. TIP: In some contexts, Arete is explicitly linked with human knowledge, where the expressions “virtue is knowledge” and “Arete is knowledge” are used interchangeably. , The Ancient Greeks applied the term to anything: for example, the excellence of a chimney, the excellence of a bull for breeding, and the excellence of a man. Since the perfect ideal good is not always achievable, just as “knowing” is a journey not a destination, the pursuit of excellence is arete in this sense. So then, arete is a superior virtue, the aristocracy of virtues. She is not to be confused with the mythological Queen Arete mentioned in the Argonautica and the Odyssey, whose name in Greek is spelled Ἀρήτη (with a different vowel in the second syllable). All things can have arete according to some of the later Greek philosophers, but let’s not focus on that aspect here. In Greek mythology, Queen Arete (/ ə ˈ r iː t iː /; Ancient Greek: Ἀρήτη, "she who is prayed for") of Scheria was the wife of Alcinous and mother of Nausicaa and Laodamas. 03 Feb. 2014.
As with many minor Greek deities, there is little or no real mythical background to Arete, who is used at most as a personification of virtue. His “forms metaphor” works very well as does his Cave analogy (as does his Chariot analogy, tripartite soul analogy, etc). It is not a virtue equal to these virtues, it supersedes and implies all other virtues. TIP: If I had to pick a term I might go with “art”. Aristotle. The opposite of virtue is described instead as vice. The descriptions and spelling change, and meanings evolve, but the underlying concept of moral virtue and excellence remains consistent. There are many ways to say this, and perhaps in the end it is just that this term is described best by a myriad of words which touches on the deep questions of moral philosophy like “what is justice,” “what is quality,” and “what makes something excellent?” (if not, why did Plato and Aristotle write so many books on the subject from Politics, to Nicomachean Ethics, to the Republic)? Through her efforts, the two were wed and the Colchians were forced to return to their homeland without Medea..
" To say that arete has a common definition of excellence or fulfillment may be an overstatement simply because it was very difficult to pinpoint arete, much less the proper ways to go about obtaining it. NOTE: There is more than one way to translate the table, feel free to search for other translations. Arete roughly means “moral virtue”. FACT: Arete is loosely related to the Greek word aristos, which is the root of the word aristocracy, referring to that with superiority and nobility. The shadows on the cave are half-baked versions of the “true forms” of things, a perfect representation of a form would be a “better and more excellent” version. See our page on essentialism vs. existentialism. "Praxidike." If Arete is knowledge and study, the highest human knowledge is knowledge about knowledge itself; in this light, the theoretical study of human knowledge, which Aristotle called "contemplation", is the highest human ability and happiness.
Alexander the Great went on to found Alexandria (a city that can be said to be rooted in the concepts of arete and other related virtues). With the above in mind, the following video takes a deeper look at exactly how to understand Greek philosophy through a modern lens. Arete as a moral term doesn’t just mean striving toward excellence, it means avoiding vices (deficiencies and excesses of virtue) and helping others to do the same (as that is a fulfillment of grand purpose). Aristotle expanded on the previous philosophers’ ideas of arete in Nicomachean Ethics (350 BC) and some of his other works like Politics. , Last edited on 28 September 2020, at 20:01, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Arete_(mythology)&oldid=980844512, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 28 September 2020, at 20:01. In the Odyssey, Arete appears as a noble and active superintendent of the household of her husband. So we can say “arete” encapsulates all these virtues. 03 Feb. 2014. It referred to “a young hero’s responsibility – their moral imperative,” the acquisition and mastery of intellectual and physical skills from elders in defense of the state (where the state represents that which is worth defending). We can conclude that the potential for arete exists in all things, but achieving arete is an ongoing journey, and the pursuit is itself an achievement of the highest order. Or it can be understood as virtue theory, where the highest virtue is the arete of virtues (which can be called “true justice“). "Arete Explained" is tagged with: Essentialism and Existentialism, Ethics, Happiness, Metaphysics, Morality, Plato. He thought that each virtue had a balance (mean) and each had two related vices which were expressed by a deficiency or excess of virtue. Greek alphabet letters are used as math and science symbols. Web. It doesn’t refer directly to good and evil either.  Educating towards arete in this sense means that the boy would be educated towards things that are useful in life.  In its earliest appearance in Greek, this notion of excellence was ultimately bound up with the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one's full potential. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this. The person of Arete is of the highest effectiveness; they use all their faculties—strength, bravery, and wit—to achieve real results. This can be confirmed by texts including Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. This page was last edited on 19 July 2020, at 06:37. Arete (Greek: ἀρετή), in its basic sense, means "excellence" of any kind. The arete of something is the highest quality state it can reach. Homer wrote about arete in the Iliad and Odyssey in relation to heroes. Kerferd, "Arete/Agathon/Kakon", in Paul Edwards [ed.-in-chief], Stephen G. Miller, "Ancient Greek Athletics", New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004*. He saw the importance of achieving excellence in all things, and the thing above things is the state, the virtue above all virtues is arete, therefore for Aristotle to teach Alexander the Great concepts like arete, telos, polis, and ethos was to ensure enlightenment for the people.
 He did so on Nausicaa and Athena’s instructions, the goddess having described Arete thus: Her Alcinous made his wife, and honored her as no other woman on earth is honored, of all those who in these days direct their households in subjection to their husbands; so heartily is she honored, and has ever been, by her children and by Alcinous himself and by the people, who look upon her as upon a goddess, and greet her as she goes through the city.
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