Saturday, August 02, 2008

On being a Gentleman

The Question has arisen on the Monarchist, what qualities make a gentleman. I want to weigh in on this. While I enjoyed some of the Chaps postings by Bolingbrook, the problem is that it focuses on the least central part of being a gentleman, the part that is culturally contingent. That is to say that while a gentleman today should take pride in how he wears his tweeds or seersucker suit and how he mixes a Bronx Cocktail (much better than a dry martini), an Athenian gentleman would take pride in how he wore his toga and how he mixed wine and water in a krator during the symposium. Dressing well and in a manner appropriate for the occasion is part of being a gentleman, but it is not the major part.

In my view the essence of being a gentleman is striving to achieve what Aristotle called Eudemonia or human flourishing. A gentleman cultivates in himself the virtues, primary virtues such as rationality, secondary virtues such as justice and courage, and tertiary virtues such as liberality and charity.

Thus for me a gentleman is a thinking man who has a productive vocation (even if he doesn’t need the money and doesn’t earn any from his work). He conducts his business and his life on the principal of justice. He is morally ambitious striving to better himself when he falls short of his ideals. He has integrity and courage. He is generous within the structure of his means, but not beyond them. He has taken the trouble to learn how to defend both himself and his society. In short, he takes pride in himself, because he has made sure to be morally worthy of it.

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