What is Modesty?

Many attempt to define amd describe modesty in an effort to enforce personal convictions about clothing and behavior. These efforts are usually lazy and shallow.

A sound definition for modesty, drawn from the moral philosophy of Aristotle, would be:

Modesty is the fear of infamy.

Infamy is the evil of being known for bad quality or deed. Aristotle explains that having no fear of infamy is “impudence”, which is a vice.

A good man, on the other hand, fears infamy, and this is the virtue of “modesty”.

A good man, then, seeks to avoid infamy by avoiding the appearance of bad qualities and deeds, that his behavior will refute any accusations of such.

The person who says, “I don’t care what people think.”, and behaves in a way that lends credibility to evil suspicions or accusations is “immodest” acts unlike a virtuous man. This behavior, again, is called “impudent”.

You can read more on this subject in chapter 6 of book III of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.

William C. Michael

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