Aristotle believed that the correct way to live was to follow the doctrine of the mean, the ‘middle way’. This ‘middle way’ was the centre point between 2 vices (excess and deficiency), the virtue.

He split virtues into two types: intellectual and moral. The intellectual being learnt/developed through instruction (taught) – in the rational part of the soul-  and the moral through habit – in the irrational part of the soul.


There are 9 intellectual virtues, 5 primary (p) and 4 secondary (s):

  1. Art or technical skill (techne) (p)
  2. Scientific knowledge (episteme) (p)
  3. Prudence/ practical wisdom (phronesis) (p)
  4. Intelligence/ intuition (nous) (p)
  5. Wisdom (sophia) (p)
  6. Resourcefulness/ good deliberation (eubolia) (s)
  7. Understanding (sunesis) (s)
  8. Judgment (gnome) (s)
  9. Cleverness (deinotes) (s)

And 12 moral virtues, with their corresponding vices, as shown below.


Aristotle recognised that not everyone would achieve these virtues, but he argued that a balance between the two forms of virtues was essential. He believed that the virtues were essential to a harmonious society. He saw the well being of the group as more important than the well being of individuals – only through the application and development of virtues can society be a harmonious place.

He also argued that there is no afterlife – he valued empirical evidence over all else and believed that the only thing to live on would be our memories. Because of this belief, our aim isn’t to reach unity with God or reach heaven, but to instead do it because it is the right way to live.