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SCL Journal Winter 2015—How Do We Know: Challenging the Modern Paradigm

One way among many which causes those of us involved in Christian Classical education to be seen as dinosaurs is our emphasis on the importance of virtue. Virtue is a lost concept in our modern age; it is certainly no longer part of the common vocabulary. C. S. Lewis says that when a word dies, disappears from use, the idea it represents disappears as well. He calls this “verbicide.”

The old concept of virtue is based on the belief in absolute Goodness, a belief our age has jettisoned. We need but consider the changed understanding of the phrase “the good life” from ancient times to the present. For the ancient Greeks “the good life” was the well-lived life, the life of one who practiced virtue. Today “the good life” denotes the pleasurable life, the life which satisfies my cravings whatever they may be. How alien this is to the ancient understanding of virtue; Aristotle taught that virtuous acts are done for their own sakes, not for some other purpose. Virtue is not a means to an end; it is an end for which we were made.