Van Dyck, self portrait

“The virtuous man wishes to converse with himself.” Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, IX

Conversations with oneself. They could be a sign that something is wrong. But done well, they are a sign that something is right.

A virtuous man, Aristotle explains, has much delight in the inner chamber of his mind. He looks to the past with satisfaction, and to the future with confidence. Most of all, “his mind is filled with topics for consideration.” In the present.

At once guarding against frenzy and idleness, the life of this mind—like all true life—is active but steady. Prone neither to regret nor to boredom, such a mind shuns distraction, and it searches for nourishing food, and the quiet space in which to digest it. This search calls for practice and discipline, like eating well daily.

It’s not that the virtuous man avoids conversation with others. Quite the contrary. A man well-practiced in talking to himself will be great company to those around him. He will have something to say: something worth sharing.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The Nicomachean Ethics is his main moral treatise.

Image: Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), Self-portrait with a Sunflower

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