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Barbell Logic

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We approach strength, health, & fitness with simplicity & logic, believing that barbell training is for everyone. We provide expert advice & discussion on nutrition & programming, technique & conditioning, voluntary hardship & self-improvement.This channel aims to be a breath of fresh air in the fit… read more


Arete: Excellence & Virtue in the Ancient World - #425

Karl Schudt discusses arete in the ancient world. This concept encompasses the words in English and underlying ideas of virtue and excellence. Depending on the subject, if you are reading an English translation of an Ancient Greek book, you will see this as either excellence or virtue.

He continues to lead seminars and do the podcast at Online Great Books, and is an Exclusive Coach at Barbell Logic as well as the Director of Coaching Development.

Aristotle & Arete: Virtue & Excellence
Excellence and virtue are divided concepts today, but in Ancient Greece the both lived under the word or concept of Arete.
If you're reading Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, you'll probably read the word virtue. If, however, someone is describing a knife or piece of pottery, you'll see the word excellence.
What this concept really means is a good example of something. An excellent knife is one that serves its purpose well, so one that can cut well. This means certain things will come with it - it will be sharp and durable. It serves its end well.
Aristotle has some good quotes pertaining to excellence and happiness. "Virtue then is a settled disposition of the mind as regards the choice of actions and feelings, consisting essentially in the observance of the mean relative to us, this being determined by principle, that is, as the prudent man would determine it."
Another quote on excellence: "all excellence has a twofold effect on the thing to which it belongs: it not only renders the thing itself good, but it also causes it to perform its function well."
Lastly, his quote on happiness: ""happiness is a certain activity of soul in conformity with perfect virtue."
Arete & the Ancient World
Karl stares stories and history from Ancient Greece to illustrate what this meant to the Athenians, Spartans, Trojans, and others.
It was in part a reaction to the reality of man, that our lives our fleeting, and we are like leaves in the wind.
What do you do when faced with your own immortality and apparent smallness and weakness?
The Greeks pursued arete and glory. They did this in warfare and in the Olympic games, in philosophy and rhetoric.
The excellence and virtue that individuals achieved contributed to the greatness of some of these ancient cities. Sparta did not defeat the Persians because of their love of freedom, but because the Spartans pursue greatness in warfare.
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