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Bettye Johnson

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A Thread of Words
By Bettye Johnson
Last edited: Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2007

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A journey into the meaning of words and how one word leads to another.

aristotle, appreciate, value, dictionaries, intrnet,
Every now and then I enjoy tracing the meanings and usages of words. Two words intrigued me and I began a journey of research. The two words are appreciate and value. Using several Internet dictionaries, I found the definition of appreciate is to be grateful, to recognize with gratitude. There is also the definition of to be fully aware of or to prize and to gain in value. In defining appreciation, I found it to be the act of estimating the qualities of things and giving them value. Ah, I now have the word value.

Values could be interpreted as an individual’s standards of wrong or right. The word value is in some cases overused in business such as associating it with faith, as if faith and value go arm-in-arm. Values become entwined with words such as morals and ethics. Values are usually dictated by a person or a social group as an emotional investment. Do we value something or someone because of our emotional attachments? It is something to think about.

Looking at the word moral, the thread of connection to value is almost the same because it is usually society’s standards of right and wrong. In various cultures, people denote a sentiment of moral approbation – meaning official approval whether it comes from one’s family, culture, religion or government. The interpretations of moral, value and ethics change from culture to culture. What is moral or ethical in one culture is often different to another culture.

Larry Jost, a philosophy professor, University of Cincinnati writes, “Aristotle talked about a moral target. There are many ways to miss, he said, but only one way to get it right. He said a virtuous person knows how to be angry, when he should be angry, what he should be angry at and at whom he should be angry…You either hit the bull’s eye or you don’t. To make it tougher, ‘your values can pull you in different directions.”

Another interesting word popped up, virtuous. I went to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Aristotle. The following is from the Encyclopedia:

Virtue, therefore, manifests itself in action. More explicitly, an action counts as virtuous, according to Aristotle, when one holds oneself in a stable equilibrium of the soul, in order to choose the action knowingly and for its own sake. This stable equilibrium of the soul is what constitutes character.

Similarly, Aristotle’s concept of the mean is often misunderstood. In the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle repeatedly states that virtue is a mean. The mean is a state of clarification and apprehension in the midst of pleasures and pains that allows one to judge what seems most truly pleasant or painful. This active state of the soul is the condition in which all the powers of the soul are at work in concert. Achieving good character is a process of clearing away the obstacles that stand in the way of the full efficacy of the soul.

This was the first mention of the word soul in all of my research of the words appreciate, value, moral, virtuous and now I hit pay dirt. Perhaps I should include ethics as well. Rosa Say, author of Managing with Aloha writes: Values are the personal way your soul talks to you, urging you to take action. It is an individual choice as to what are our values, our morals and our ethics. Perhaps it is not giving a label to something as right or wrong, but becoming the center of the seesaw – the magnet and balancing our life and becoming a virtuous person. I perceive it to be observing and allowing another to have her/his own differences. I have contemplated the meanings or interpretations of these words and the balancing in the soul and I have arrived at my own code of morals, ethics, which evolves into value and appreciation. Over the years I have learned that I can only know truth by my own experiences and what I take to be my understanding. By choice I choose to be truthful, honorable and value life.

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