Sunday, February 7, 2021

Competitive Virtues and Cooperative Virtues

The Ancient Greeks recognized two types of virtues: competitive virtues and cooperative virtues. In the Homeric texts, we discover warriors like Hector, Achilles, and Odysseus who possess the virtue of being competitive and go on to become the top warriors of their time. There are female characters, like Helen and Penelope, who compete for beauty and fidelity. The Homeric gods are competitive—Zeus is the top God because he is more powerful than other gods. These characters possess cooperative virtues as well—they understand their place in the world and strive to fulfill their duties and obligations.

The competitive virtues and cooperative virtues are critical not only for an Ancient Greece type of society but for every age, including the modern age. We no longer compete with swords, axes, and spears like Hector, Achilles, and Odysseus, or with primitive notions of beauty and fidelity like Helen and Penelope, but there are ample opportunities for men and women to hone and test their competitive virtues. Children compete in the playground, to be the best athlete, and inside the classroom, to be the best student; grownups compete in the workplace, and in the arena of sports, business, and politics. Within nations, the towns and cities, and groups with all kinds of agenda, compete for dominance; in the international arena, the nations compete with their rivals. There is a ruthless competition happening in every sphere of our existence.

The cooperative virtues are honed and tested in the sphere of personal, social, and economic relationships—these virtues inspire men to fulfill their duties and obligations while remaining true to the legal code and tenets of culture. On the level of nations and other political groupings, the cooperative virtues are honed and tested through relationships and rivalries which are economic, political, and militaristic. Without competitive and cooperative virtues, we cannot function as good human beings and we cannot preserve a good social order. When there is decline in competitive virtues, people become weak and incompetent; when there is decline in cooperative virtues, there is corruption and immorality.

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