Study and Care

“All who are able, may gain virtue by study and care, for it is better to be happy by the action of nature than by chance. To entrust to chance what is most important would be defective reasoning.” – Aristotle, Nico. I.9.

Thomas Jefferson read one passage each evening that he knew would catalyze his thoughts and feelings about virtue. He wrote: “I never go to bed without an hour, or half hour’s previous reading of something moral, whereon to ruminate in the intervals of sleep.”  Jefferson understood that only study and care would lead to the refinement of virtue in his heart and mind. This process, as Aristotle noted, cannot be trusted to chance. It cannot be left to one’s teachers, preachers or creatures, no matter how loving, wise or inspiring they may be.

The cultivation of virtue ﹣ not just its appearance, but durable grounding virtue ﹣ is fundamentally a personal matter. It is the foundation upon which noble deeds are wrought and meaningful lives are lived. It comes not automatically, but by virtue of daily study and care.

10 thoughts on “Study and Care

  1. Troy

    It is important to take the steps that are necessary each day to center ourselves and align ourselves , to maintain a true orientation to the truth in a world filled with such chaos. Without due diligence it is easy to be tricked by ego, self centeredness and false idols. Virtue comes from within, and allowing those who have done the work before us to be light posts on our paths is certainly time well spent. Living according to our highest purpose and moving constantly in the right direction can only be done through conscious deliberate and honest effort. Today starts a more purposeful movement in my world. Thank you!


  2. Colin

    Any thing that is worth having is worth doing the work to achieve, and our moral health is no different. Care must be given to a thing if you wish to maintain its good condition. If no care is given, entropy is the result.


  3. Steve V

    Study, care and SHARE. As we cultivate the foundation that establishes virtue within ourselves I further realize how it can become a natural expression through our lives offering enriching blessings to others. As Aristotle and Jefferson so shared so can we!


  4. David R

    I suppose it could be said that we can’t make ourselves into what we should be, and yet the deliberate choices we make either open or shut the doors to the development of virtuous capacity. It seems people will do so many things in a deliberate fashion, and yet it is rare that deliberate steps are taken in the way you suggest. Given some loving care and deliberation, it is remarkable what can be accomplished. Thanks for the vital reminder!


  5. Beth C

    Thomas Jefferson was wise to note that the mind and heart will ruminate though the night. The theme of the rumination will be what was presented just before sleep or perhaps something that was indigestible from an earlier hour. Here is a good opportunity in the cultivation of virtue to make the adjustments that allow the night processes to work more effectively.


  6. Joy

    I love the opportunity you offer each day, to meditate on the writing of virtuous men and woman both past and present. It certainly gives abundant opportunity to refine ones heart and I can think of no better use of ones time than that. Thank you !


  7. Ernest

    The taking of ones personal responsibility for their character, and the development of their character, is one of the greatest privileges that we have. And the great thing about it is that the quest to discover and develop one’s character is a lifetime project and process. Mr. Jefferson’s habit of reading things of inspiration each evening is a great habit and a great example to all of us of how simple yet profound this privilege is.


  8. Coco

    I believe this to be true. Our world has become so skewed toward disintegration that I doubt much could happen purely in the heart and mind without some example of righteousness or a deliberate habit to constrain to love cultivated. If left to chance or to osmosis, you get what you get on that basis. Each person is in fact the master of their fate, the captain of their soul!


  9. Carrie

    Your posts are a great statement to this point! Reading each one always gives me something to look at within myself and something that I truly wish to change so I can become the best person possible. It is easy to say we didn’t have great parents, great teachers etc, but if we are really interested in our own betterment, the betterment of humanity there is plenty out there in which to immerse ourselves in and to grow each and every day. It takes dedication and discipline, or study and care as Aristotle put it.


  10. Isabelle

    What I love most about this is that Jefferson took responsibility for his own continual development. He specifically worked each evening on an area that was obviously important to him. Many people feel too busy, too indifferent or too lazy to take the time to hone their character. What could be more important than this?!


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