“Table Talk” is the way us literary gentlemen say “random observations.”



Handle has an approach to virtue that I think is less useful for thinking and systematizing but better for applying.     Basically less accurate in  my opinion but probably handier.

Here is how I think of it. In any situation and context, there is the right decision. We are used to talking about “the narrow path”, but that is walking on a two-dimensional surface, and so deviations are only to the right and left.

Imagine instead that “the narrow path” is a flight plan for a small airplane, and you can divert from it and your “trim could be off” and be going off course in two different ways, which are distinct dimensions. You could be off yaw and going too far to the left or right, or pitch, lacking balance between weight and lift, and going too high or too low.

We are already familiar with Aristotle’s axis of deficiency or excess in any particular virtue. Call that the “yaw” axis.

But for situations of conflict between competing virtues, the “pitch” axis is one of striking the proper balance / temperance / moderation, and the extremes of the axis are “bias” (favoring one virtue too much at the expense of the other), and “indiscriminate” (unjust neutrality, false equivalence, unfair equality over merited equity.)

So, all this is like a recipe for decision making. Decisions happen at human scale and “must fit the pans” of human nature and experience – so you cannot make your cake arbitrarily large or small. But to make it you need the right amount of complementary ingredients, and you need the various ingredients to stay in the right, balanced proportions.

The virtue sets arise naturally in terms of the virtue which pulls you in the opposite direction of the pitfall which awaits you if you become obsessively focused on, or entranced by, one particular objective, and forget to keep it in check.

-thus Handle



Regarding excess vs. distortion, my working theory is that each vice represents a particular virtue distorted by a lack of the complementary virtue.

thus WJT



something I assumed that WJT spells out.  In any given virtue set, there are two traits.  The virtue and the vice that distorts it are  a trait.  You could also think of these traits as characteristics or drives or tendencies.   Like so:

This is the way that recognizing virtue sets can work as a relationship tool.  Your loved one’s weaknesses are usually the other face of their strengths.  That is what Ether 12:27 may mean:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

A corrected vice is a virtue.




WJT proposes Hot and Cool for the two types of virtues/vices.  I wish it didn’t mess up the color scheme on my existing charts, but it is good enough to go on with.

Earlier I said it would be nice if the four classical temperaments and the four classical elements fit into the scheme.  I barely remember what they are, let alone their descriptions, but I am going to label them off the top of my head and then check.

OK.  Earth and Water are Cool.  Fire and Air are Hot.  The earth and water traits we could call muddy (I’m laughing, what a terrible name).  What is the combo of fire and air called?  A blast furnace?  The sky?  Solar virtues and lunar virtues, or solar virtues and soil virtues?  It reminds me of the old split between sky gods and chthonic gods.   I hope we are finding something real here, not just rediscovering Western civ.


OK, phlegmatic and melancholic are Cool and sanguine and choleric are Hot.


Now, I’m going to check.  .  . .  Well, not too bad.  My memory did me right.      Phlegm and melancholy are literally supposed to be “cold” while sangue and choler are literally described as “hot.”  A palpable hit.  But the fact there are four humors combined with my instinct that the two types of trait each seem to have two subtypes is worth more investigation.



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