Aristotle on the Greatest Virtues and Their Utility to Others

Aristotle on the Greatest Virtues and Their Utility to Others

“The greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons.”


Aristotle, a renowned ancient Greek philosopher, devoted much of his work to exploring ethics and the nature of virtue. In this quote, he emphasizes that the most significant virtues are those that benefit others. By focusing on the utility of virtues in the context of serving and benefiting others, Aristotle provides insights into the essence of moral character and the significance of altruistic behavior.

  1. Understanding Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics: Aristotle’s ethical theory centers on the concept of virtue ethics, which asserts that living a virtuous life leads to human flourishing and well-being. Virtue is the golden mean between extremes and involves finding the right balance in one’s actions and emotions. Aristotle identified a range of virtues, such as courage, justice, temperance, wisdom, and benevolence, among others.
  2. The Priority of Altruistic Virtues: When Aristotle states that the “greatest virtues” are those that are most useful to other persons, he underscores the significance of altruistic virtues. While personal virtues like courage and wisdom are valuable, he suggests that virtues that promote the well-being and happiness of others hold a special place in the moral hierarchy.
  3. Benevolence and Compassion: Central to the virtues that benefit others are benevolence and compassion. Benevolence involves a genuine concern for the welfare of others and a desire to do good. Compassion, on the other hand, entails empathizing with others’ suffering and taking action to alleviate it. These virtues encourage individuals to be kind, generous, and caring towards their fellow beings.
  4. The Virtue of Justice: Aristotle’s philosophy places significant importance on the virtue of justice, which involves treating others fairly and equitably. Just behavior ensures that individuals receive what they deserve and that social harmony is maintained. By practicing justice, individuals contribute to the welfare of their communities and promote a sense of trust and cooperation among people.
  5. Virtue and Social Responsibility: Aristotle’s emphasis on virtues beneficial to others reinforces the idea that ethics is not solely a personal matter. Instead, it highlights the social dimension of morality, where individuals have a responsibility to contribute positively to their communities and society as a whole. By cultivating and embodying virtues that serve others, individuals create a more virtuous and harmonious society.


Aristotle’s perspective on the greatest virtues being those that are most useful to others reflects the core essence of altruism and social responsibility. In embracing these virtues, individuals not only enhance their own well-being but also contribute positively to the well-being of those around them. The philosophy of virtue ethics continues to inspire individuals to lead morally upright lives and strive for the betterment of society by putting the welfare of others at the forefront of their actions.

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