How do I know when I have a virtue? This is a part of measuring for progress, and though I am leery about the over-emphasis of measuring for progress, it is not in itself wrongful. Why leery? An analogy: one cannot at the same time make money (produce) and count money (verify progress). Attention and energy can at best be turned in one direction or another. The man who measures for progress cannot at the same time produce. And, the man who checks for progress appears to need security as if he is not sure in the quality of the means employed. In addition, measuring for progress involves expectation about costs. What is expected after this much sacrifice of time and energy? If the expectation is mistaken, then the measurement of whether there has been enough progress is also mistaken.
The Puritanical Libertarian is leery of measurement once confidence about production method has been achieved. The best way to grow capital is to find a way and stay with it. The staying produces experience. I recommend to my students that they work hard, save and check the bank account in ten years. The compounding growth takes time. It is no good for production if it is mixed with deformed expectation and disappointment.
Back to measuring for progress. With virtue, the ultimate good, measurement is in some ways ready at hand. It is in this sense easy. But again, before looking at Aristotle’s excellent and easy method for the verification of progress I want to caution the reader about the value of such measurement. Know that measurement is possible. Do not take the solution to the verification of the presence of virtue as including any judgment about costs of investment into the production of virtue. Here I only am interested in what to do when I am ready to check on progress.
Here is the test (measurement gauge): “The pleasure or pain which accompanies actions may be regarded as a test of a person’s moral state. He who abstains from physical pleasures and feels pleasure in so doing is temperate; but he who feels pain at so doing is licentious. He who faces dangers with pleasure, or at least without pain, is brave; but he who feels pain at facing them is a coward…Hence the importance of having a certain training from very early days, as Plato says, so that we may feel pleasure and pain at the right objects; for this is true education…” (NE, Bk 2, Chptr 2)
The indication of having produced virtue is in the verification of how it feels to act virtuously. Honesty in self-reporting is presupposed. And, clarity on what it would look like for a virtuous man to act in the time and place of the action is also presupposed. That is the only way a correlation between an action that would be the product of virtuous character can serve as a sign of the presence of virtue.
This should be cause for joy. I am always in the production facility for virtue. It is simply wherever I am in time and space. I can always tell whether there is more production that needs to be done. According to Aristotle, and I have found no better measurement, I need to produce more of virtue whenever pain is felt in virtuous action.
And how to I go about producing? There is a hint in the final line about training from early days and education in the above quote. Training and education are in one sense difficult and dirty businesses. They involve repetition of the same act until it becomes natural. This is true with geometry, rhetoric, engineering or speech pathology. Their are nuances in each. But in each field there is some activity the uneducated needs to master and the role of the educator or coach is to guide toward and sometimes pressure toward that which needs mastering.
Here Aristotle is explicit: “It may fairly be said that a just man becomes just by doing what is just, and a temperate man becomes temperate by doing what is temperate, and if a man did not so act, he would not have much chance of becoming good.” (NE, Bk 2, Chptr 3)
How is virtuous character produced? Repetition of virtuous action until it feels good. The thought here is profoundly anti-modern (or anti-post-modern). In the latter eras feeling has come to dominate as guide. Aristotle recommends a paradigm in which feeling adapt to form. The form is virtuous activity. The bet by he who undertakes what Aristotle recommends is that over time (no estimates for now) feeling will change. Instead of following feeling, feeling follows.
To he who wants proof that Aristotle is right I walk by in silence. I offer none. I only look to the impoverished in spirit. He who has strength of spirit (virtue) is educated, is complete, is finished in the sense that he is on the other side of development. I leave him with his character and feeling. The Puritanical Libertarian does not aim to initiate aggression against the vicious or those he deems so even if he will defend himself against any initiated aggression against him or those to whom he maintains contracts involving protection from aggression.
For a few short years the father has the mold-ability of character in his hands. It must be used well. Then it is gone. After that he uses the tools that any other should be permitted to use–boycott, disassociation. With the withholding of himself or his property from those who are otherwise vicious he may incentivize virtuous activity. But he will just as likely earn animosity in the short-term.
It is one of the great failures of living under the coercive state that the power of boycott and disassociation have been so hampered. He must hire so and so, she must support with her own labor so and so, he must be permitted to join so and so–all of this as long as the coercive power deems to its liking. But that a private property owner exercise a similar power with what is his own is a shrinking power of the property owner. The power shrinks because the property is not really is.
Back to virtue. It is the property that cannot be stolen. When the thief in the night approaches he has no access to your or my virtue. And when he is gone the treasure that is virtue will be produced good most in demand for recreating foundations of community and the good life.