Being of Great Soul

“A great-souled person doesn’t chase after things held in popular esteem, or things in which others excel; the actions he is inclined to perform are few, but great and renowned.” – Aristotle

As it stands the topic of today’s discussion is also a personal aphoristic saying of mine, and is in need of some elucidation so that it might sit more comfortably as a rarified belief in kind. All are welcome to join me for this reflection of sorts but before we get underway know this: My general understanding of a person with great soul – magnanimity – is largely ascertained through Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics.

Being of great soul is to possess a steady mindset that embraces worthy ends. It is not concerned with pettiness, nor easily given over to distraction or worry. Thus one can endure difficulty with ease so as to focus on what is important without getting tangled in the superficial. Such a person cares more for the truth than for what people think and takes no satisfaction in gossip or flattery, and neither do they feel dejected while being scorned or inflated when praised.

Such a magnanimous person avoids the extremes of being excessive and deficient when it comes to manifesting their exterior goals. S/he is neither vain nor self-deprecating. In other words the characteristic of a great-souled person doesn’t pursue ends that are beyond their means, nor concern themselves with endeavours that are beneath them. Nevertheless they wholeheartedly aspire to be great, regardless of their conditions or the limitations of their culture.

Though magnanimity in historical times was often associated with attaining honour among men, this outward expression does not capture its essence, for a person of great-soul is by virtue rooted in character. Any outward display of magnanimity is but secondary in comparison to forming a solid character base which is fortified through virtue.

“Greatness of soul, then, seems to be a certain kind of adornment of the virtues, since it makes them greater, and does not come about without them.” – Aristotle

Similar to Aristotle, my supposition is one towards the emphasis of the virtues that will bring out the best in s/he who possesses a disposition for being magnanimous. This crown or combination of virtues goes beyond that of the cardinal and includes generosity and forgiveness. For instance, a magnanimous man, who happens to be wealthy, would be more than happy to pay for the construction of a new road through a town in need of it, even if its Mayor openly despises him.

So now that we have attained a general depiction of what it means to be of great soul let’s put this to bed and see what kind of dreams will become of it. My theory being if we sit with this discourse a while, rather than immediately react, attack or dissect it, our unconscious may process and make sense of the idea in ways not possible within the confines of an egghead.

About Jason Youngman

An explorer of volition and soul, a song under a night sky and a dream that forever yearns to be.
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6 Responses to Being of Great Soul

  1. Author says:

    All we have to do is get that darn ego out of the way and let our soul express itself to the world.

  2. inese says:

    Wonderful depiction Jason. It is exactly what Aristotle meant. Generous, noble, never scurrying, never trying to please everybody.

  3. Anna says:

    I’m not learn-ed in philosophy and all that, but this was my aphorism of choice when I read through your list, without having known the true meaning. “Of great soul.”

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