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Being a Man

The Roman "Virtus" as a Contribution to Moral Philosophy


Juhani Sarsila

This study approaches virtus as a moral value concept. The author argues that it is only through conceptual analysis that the meaning and value of virtus are given adequate illustration, and that philology should be regarded as a part of practical philosophy. The study covers Roman literature from the beginnings until Livy. During the Roman Republican Age, virtus was considered a man’s contribution to his society and state, in terms of collectivism. Virtus (‘manliness’) was thought to be more real than any of its particular and transitory representations, i.e. individual male citizens. On the other hand, as an existentialist value concept, virtus at a relatively early stage denoted a man’s intrinsic or ontic value or his true self, without regard to any worldly success whatsoever. The final analysis shows that virtus (‘virtue’) is congruous with or even synonymous to individualism. This book also presents a contribution to gender studies from the standpoint of a man.
Contents: History of virtus (‘manliness’, ‘virtue’) in Republican Rome – Moral philosophy (ethics) – Virtue ethics – Conceptual content of virtus in individual authors – Good - bad (evil) – Virtue - vice – Man’s virtue - woman’s virtue – Virility – Military efficiency – Heroism – Unremitting action – Virtus and fortuna (‘good luck’) – Humanism – Stoicism (existentialism) – Epicureanism (nominalism) – Intellectual faculties – «Elitism» – Commitment and dedication to immanent reality – Man’s intrinsic value (worth), or ontic value, or his or her conscience.