Definitions of Virtue

Virtue is conduct that reflects universal principles of moral and ethical excellence essential to leading a worthwhile life and to effective self-government. For many leading Founders, attributes of character such as courage, responsibility, and integrity were thought to flow from an understanding of the rights and obligations of men. Virtue is compatible with, but does not require, religious belief. One’s thoughts and words alone do not make a person virtuous. According to Aristotle, virtue must be based on a just objective. It requires action, and it must become a habit.


Our 139 American Portraits narratives profile historic actors and their actions within the context of virtue. Below is a list of those virtues and the narratives which explore them. For a text list of all lessons, view our "Narrative List" page.

For more robust lesson treatment, check out our partners at the Character Formation Project

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