Fortitude – Endurance in clinging to the good

Today I listened to a talk given by a friend on the virtue of fortitude. The subject of this talk reminded me of Sandro Botticelli’s depiction of Fortitude (1470), which is in the Uffizi in Florence. While it’s displayed in a set with six other paintings of virtues, this panel is the only one in the cycle that was painted by Botticelli.

It has been suggested that Fortitude appears first in the series because her “gaze is intended to literally and figuratively watch over the other virtues as well as the viewers. Without strength, one can never fathom taking on the other six virtues.”

My friend’s talk centred on Josef Pieper’s analysis of fortitude in his book The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance. In it, he discusses how “the virtue of fortitude protects a person from loving his life in such a way that he loses it.” This means that fortitude protects a person from attachment both to disordered affections but also to certain goods that are meant to be subordinated to higher ones. Continue reading