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What is the Essence of Western Civilization? (6 of 6)

- by Kelly Kinkade

If you really know yourself, you know you have access to unlimited strength deep inside yourself. This is Virtue. There are only four Cardinal Virtues. The best thing to do in any situation is just the interaction of four fundamental virtues.

1) Wisdom

Wisdom is Right Reason.

It is strength, because it is like a woodcutter in the fall who needs firewood. If he uses a sharp ax, he will get more work done than if he uses a dull ax.  The man has the same bodily strength whether he uses a sharp ax or not, but if he taps into the forces of nature by sharpening his ax, the laws of nature itself (such as the vectors resulting from the sine and cosine of the angle of the ax's edge) work with him and give him more firewood.

This is wisdom’s power. Wisdom marshals the forces of Nature to work for you.

2) Justice

Justice is fairness; it is harmony with the natural rights of others. Justice is a uniquely human strength in two dramatic ways.

First, every praiseworthy pursuit in your life will require the assistance of others; and you’ll get more work done when you treat those “others’ fairly; it is human nature.

Second, if you hinder the natural rights of others, you are fighting against the forces of Nature on two fronts, because you are fighting your purpose in life, and you’re fighting the other person’s purpose in life.

3) Temperance

Temperance has the notoriety of being the least popular of the four Cardinal Virtues in America today. Temperance is the control of desires and passions.

We see drug and sexual addictions that people do not control, even though it ruins their lives and harms their relationships with their kith and kin. We see the so-called Walmartians whose decorum makes them painful to look at, yet they cannot keep themselves from going out in public. We see unhealthy gluttony, which is lack of self-control. Today, we see an epidemic of intemperance in the West. All of this is weakness.

The strength temperance gives you is the power to control a person - you. That is the only person you can control, but most people do not exercise their ability to control themselves. Temperance is the Cardinal Virtue that keeps humanity's animal instincts within the limits of what is praiseworthy.

4) Fortitude

Fortitude is endurance in the face of physical and psychological pain. It is the ability to deal with fear, opposition, or chaos successfully.

Wisdom, justice, and temperance are the virtues through which you decide what needs to be done; fortitude gives you the strength to finish the job.

Fortitude is the Cardinal Virtue that strengthens your resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in realizing your purpose in life.


These are the four Cardinal virtues. They are Nature’s GPS for your life. With only four Cardinal directions - north, south east and west – you can find 1) your position on this globe, 2) the position of the destination you need to go to, and 3) the best way to get there.

In a similar way, by wisdom, justice, temperance, and fortitude you will find 1) where you are in life, 2) where you need to get to in life, and 3) the best way to get there.

But, I have one more thing to tell you, and it’s going to hurt. Fortitude is particularly important today, because you are going to run into haters who want to destroy your virtue.

This column will have articles in the near future that will show you how to identify haters, why they hate your virtue, how you can overcome the haters with the very virtue they hate, and the limitations of using logic to try to persuade them.

The Stoic School has always taught that most people are not persuaded by logic alone; everyone is ultimately persuaded by Right Reason, of which logic is only a small part. In fact, Nature made us persuadable by an intriguing interplay of ethos, pathos, and logos. 

This six-part series is complete and is sufficient to identify the essence of Western civilization.

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