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Practical dispositions in conformity with standards of excellence or with principles of practical reason. The seven cardinal virtues of the Christian tradition include the four natural, or cardinal, virtues, those inculcated in the old pagan world that spring from the common endowment of humanity, and the three theological virtues, those specifically prescribed in Christianity and arising as special gifts from God. The natural virtues are prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice; this enumeration, said to go back to Socrates, is found in Plato and Aristotle. To these St. Paul added the theological virtues of faith, hope, and lovevirtues which, in Christian teaching, do not originate naturally in humanity but are instead imparted by God through Christ and then practiced by the believer.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on virtue, visit Britannica.com.