Righteousness: "Morality" or "virtue"?
I've been doing a word study on dikaiosune (the Greek word for righteousness) and its derivatives. The actual meaning of dikaiosune is pretty clear and easy to see, but finding the best English word to use for it is not so easy.
I suggested "virtue" previously. I think it captures the meaning of dikaiosune perfectly and that no better word is possible in so far as "virtue" in English means exactly 100% what dikaiosune means in Greek.
However, there are two problems.
1) Virtue doesn't have the appropriate variants in english - ie you can't say "virtuify" or speak of "virtuification" like you can of "justify" and "justification" (the words currently being used to translate the Greek variants)
2) More importantly, a couple of people suggested to me that "virtue" is a bit of an outdated word in English, and that using it is not much better than "righteousness" in terms of the fact that it means little to modern English speakers.
It is the second point that I thought was more important (especially in light of my previous post). So I was trying to think of a better word, and I recalled comments I had read when studying Plato's Republic (written ~360BC). The Republic is all about dikaiosune, so a scholar and translator of it is in a very good position to make comments relevant to the subject. The translator of my copy (Robin Waterfield, writing in 1993) comments that after careful analysis he has decided to translate dikaiosune as "morality" throughout the work.
So there we have the practical opinion of a modern translator as to what the best modern English word is: he thinks it's "morality". I'm happy with that in terms of the fact that the first two words in the dictionary.com definition of "virtue" are "moral excellence". I am much happier with the word "morality" in terms of the fact that it has meaning to modern English speakers to whom the word "virtue" is meaningless.
It was suggested to me that "morality" isn't what I'm after because lots of people today will say "morality is subjective", whereas virtue has the advantage of being a bit more non-negotiable. Initially I thought that was a valid point, but now I'm not so sure. Why? Because The Republic spends time looking at what we might call subjective morality, the idea that "might makes right" is not very far from the positions analysed in book 1 of the Republic. If some people today think that morality is subjective then it is the perfect word to use, because some people in ancient Greece were thinking exactly the same thing.
So, problem solved? Maybe not. Again there are two problems:
1) Variants still aren't great... "moralify" and "moralisation"? I think not.
2) The word "morality" is just not quite grammatically correct somehow. Consider: "O Lord, we praise you for your wonderous love, morality and mercy!" It just seems strange, whereas "virtue" sounds a whole lot better. "Morality" isn't really a quality you can praise someone for... it's really their "moral excellence" that you mean, not their "morality". Perhaps just going with "moral excellence" is better? After all, the definition Aristotle (~350BC in Nichomachean Ethics 5:1) gives for dikaiosune is that it is personal excellence (arete) in all things that pertain to the benefit of others.
In other the appropriate varient of "morality" is not at all wrong-sounding. Consider: "Will you punish the moral with the wicked?" vs "Will you punish the virtuous with the wicked?" It's not clear to me which is better.
Thoughts, comments, or votes?