For if any man should conceive certain things as being really good, such as prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, he would not after having first conceived these endure to listen to anything which should not be in harmony with what is really good. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)
Virtue need not be something priestly or arrogantly moral. A virtue is just a state of will that is “really good.” It is a core value and, as such, an essential part of the True Will. Here, I discuss the four cardinal virtues of Western civilization—temperance, courage, justice, and wisdom—and how we can nurture them in ourselves.
Temperance is moderation, skillful self-control, the inner power of will.
Desire-restraining strength in the face of temptation.
Tamer of the animal within.
Temperance is the ordering or controlling of certain pleasures and desires; this is curiously enough implied in the saying of ‘a man being his own master.’ (Plato, The Republic)
How to Practice Temperance
- Stick to a meal plan (e.g., try out a ketogenic diet).
- Limit your media consumption (e.g., limit your time on YouTube to 1 hour a day).
- Quit a drug you take habitually (e.g., sugar for watching a movie, caffeine for working out, weed for calming down, alcohol for socializing).
- Willpower Condensed: Master Self-Discipline to Do Your True Will
- On the Virtue of Moderation
- How Moderation Gives Us Freedom
Courage is fortitude, feigned fearlessness, the outer power of will.
Forward-rushing strength in the face of danger.
Spirit of the warrior within.
By courage I mean the desire whereby every man strives to preserve his own being in accordance solely with the dictates of reason. […] The free man is as courageous in timely retreat as in combat; or, a free man shows equal courage or presence of mind, whether he elect to give battle or to retreat. (Spinoza, Ethics)
How to Practice Courage
- Train and compete in an aggressive, full-contact sport (e.g., boxing, muay thai, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, hockey, football, rugby).
- Strategically expose yourself to your fears (e.g., travel alone to a foreign country, speak in public, go bungee jumping, ask out that woman you have been thinking about for too long, approach hot girls during the day, ask your boss for a raise, launch a product).
- Whenever you have to make a difficult decision, choose the path that seems more frightening—that makes you nervous, that shallows your breathing, that elicits instant worries and excuses; this will be your path to true pride.
- 489 Life Hacks that Make You More Confident
- What to Do about Public Speaking Anxiety
- How to Increase Willpower Through Breathing
Justice is fairness, dutiful righteousness, a devotion to the Golden Rule.
Moral strength in the face of social friction.
Heart of the primate within.
You remember the original principle […] that one man should practise one thing only, the thing to which his nature was best adapted;—now justice is this principle or a part of it. […] The just man […] sets in order his own inner life, and is his own master and his own law, and at peace with himself. (Plato, The Republic) [According to this definition, justice means to do one’s True Will.]
How to Practice Justice
- Study human nature (read Behave by Robert Sapolsky) and objective moral facts.
- Take radical responsibility for your actions as well as for the actions of your subordinates (read Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin).
- Look out for proofs of “treating others as you want to be treated” being a valuable life principle (karma, by the way, is not one of them).
Wisdom is prudence, practical intelligence, life experience that has been reflected upon.
Decision-making strength in the face of uncertainty.
Fruit of the thinker within.
The highest endeavour of the mind, and the highest virtue is to understand things by the third kind of knowledge [scientia intuitiva]. (Spinoza, Ethics) [We especially need this wisdom of our mindful intuition to identify the moderate mean between two extremes (for temperance), to take intelligent risks (for courage), and to know our true self (for justice).]
How to Practice Wisdom
- Expose yourself to the unknown of novel situations and write down your experiences (e.g., keeping a diary; personally, I record daily voice memos).
- Watch out for your ego preventing you from asking questions.
- Practice meditation to observe your judging mind on a daily basis.
- The Truth about Self-Improvement
- How to Take Action Without Judging
- Does Open-Mindedness Make You Wiser or Weaker?