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Word of the Day
Friday, November 10, 2017

Definitions for arete

  1. the aggregate of qualities, as valor and virtue, making up good character.

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Citations for arete
In general, however, according to Aristotle, we are to determine the arete of man qua man in much the same way as we determine it in any other case; by their works shall we know them. David Carr, Educating the Virtues, 1991
More than 2,000 years ago, in his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle wrote that integral to a meaningful life is striving for arête, or what we might today call excellence or mastery. Aristotle pointed out, however, that achieving arête — be it by throwing oneself fully into a work of art, intellect, or athletics — is not always pleasant: “A virtuous life,” he wrote, “requires exertion, and does not consist in amusement.” Brad Stulberg, "Your Job Can't Be the Only Meaningful Thing in Your Life," New York, March 27, 2017
Origin of arete
It is hard to imagine a more Greek word than aretḗ “excellence.” The excellence is of all kinds: military (bravery and prowess), sports (footracing), but also intelligence, public speaking, and good character. Aretḗ applies to the gods and women as well as to warriors and heroes: Penelope in the Odyssey (book 18, line 251) complains that “The immortals destroyed all excellence of mine, in beauty and stature, when the Argives sailed for Troy, and with them my husband Odysseus.” Aretḗ also applies to land (“productive”) and domestic animals (horses, dogs). Socrates pursues aretḗ “virtue, excellence” even if it costs him his life. In the Septuagint and New Testament, aretḗ also means “rewards of excellence, distinction,” as also in classical Greek. Arete entered English in the 16th century.