Concept of Integrity
Many people have tried to define the difficult concept of Integrity. It may be perceived today as honesty and candor, but some have argued that there is a deeper meaning to it. In Ronald Duska’s article “Integrity and Moral Courage” he proposes that there is a deeper meaning to integrity than just honesty and candor.(Duska) Duska proposes in his article “that in today’s jargon “integrity” might mean having your moral act together.”(Duska) The ancient philosophers Plato and Aristotle and their medieval commentators, who would describe the person of integrity “as one possessing the cardinal virtues.” These four virtues are, “prudence (practical wisdom), temperance (self-restraint), courage (fortitude or bravery), and justice (being well balanced).” “Having all four of those virtues makes one whole–a person of integrity.” Although the concept of integrity may seem complicated these four virtues that make up integrity are not as complicated and have been defined by many authors. By studying these four virtues one can understand the definition of integrity more fully. The purpose of this paper is to define these four virtues to give a clear understanding of the concept of integrity.
Prudence, or more simply stated as practical wisdom, could be stated as the understanding of when to speak and when to remain silent or when to act and when to wait. “Prudence is a quality—a faculty—of its own. Among other functions, prudence mediates between ideals and accommodation, telling us when to accept the latter and insist on the former.”(Weiner) When one says or does something wrong a prudent person will analyze the situation and decide whether correcting the person or remaining silent will be the wisest action. A person without prudence would have acted rashly by immediately calling the other out and could ruin relationships, trust and create unnecessary tension. Another situation where prudence could be exercised is when one is asked to do something by someone in authority to do something that is wrong.
Temperance or more simply stated as “self-restraint refers to voluntary regulation of conflicting thoughts, feelings, and actions in accordance with long-term goals.”(Duckworth) A temperate person does not act rashly or act upon angry passions and impulses. A person that has temperance will think twice before responding to unkind or false statements and actions by others. Self-restraint is a simpler explanation of temperance meaning restraining rash thoughts and actions. If a temperate person is unjustly accused or taken advantage of rather than lashing back without thinking will restrain their rash thoughts and actions. By restraining their impulses and taking time to think before responding they can avoid unnecessary conflict and tension. Another way temperance can be defined is being moderate in action and thought. The definition of moderation can be stated as not going to either extreme but finding a reasonable middle ground.
Courage defined in a traditional ways is “a set of dispositions to overcome fear, to oppose obstacles, to perform difficult or dangerous actions.”(Rorty) Defined in more modern terms as “a heterogeneous variety of traits that enable us to act well under stress, against the natural movements of self-protection.”(Rorty) Courage could also be stated as the ability to overcome fear of what other people might think or do when acting upon principles of right and wrong. The ability to overcome fear enables people to make wise decisions no matter what others may think or do. An example of having courage with integrity would be accidently not paying for an item at a store and the ability to overcome the fear and humiliation of going back and paying for the item. For some the fear of humiliation in going back and admitting that they accidently took the item without paying is more than their courage can handle. A person that has courage with integrity would not let the fear of humiliation keep them from making things right.
Justice, or a simpler definition of fairness and being well balanced can seem complicated. Justice could also be defined as receiving do reward for different actions or behaviors. A researcher set out to prove if animals know and understand what justice and fairness is.(Waal) The study was conducted by two monkeys that were in separate mesh cages side by side. When one monkey would give the researcher a stone from their cage they were then fed either a grape or a piece of cucumber second choice to grapes. one monkey was rewarded with a piece of cucumber and the other with a grape. When the first monkey that received the piece of cucumber realized that it had been treated unjustly it began protesting quite forcefully. It was not satisfied until it was treated the same as the other monkey. This study proves that even though justice may seem complicated even monkeys understand that for the same amount of effort they should receive equal reward. Justice can also be the correction of wrong actions and standing firm on principles of right and wrong, not letting feelings get in the way.
When these four virtues, prudence, temperance, courage and justice are combined then the concept of integrity becomes much clearer and definite. Studying these four virtues gives a far deeper insight into the concept of integrity than just honesty and candor as some might think.
Duska, Ronald. “Integrity and Moral Courage.” Journal of Financial Service Professionals, vol. 67, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 20-22. EBSCOhost, library.icc.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true;db=buh;AN=84617606;scope=site.
Weiner, Greg. “Of Prudence and Principle: Reflections on Lincoln’s Second Inaugural at 150.” Society, vol. 52, no. 6, Dec. 2015, p. 604. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s12115-015-9963-6.
Rorty, Amélie Oksenberg. “The Two Faces of Courage.” Philosophy, vol. 61, no. 236, 1986, pp. 151–171., doi:10.1017/S0031819100021045.
Waal, Frans De, director. Moral Behavior in Animals. TED, 2011.
Duckworth, Angela L. et al. “A Stitch in Time: Strategic Self-Control in High School and College Students.” Journal of educational psychology 108.3 (2016): 329–341. PMC. Web. 21 Feb. 2018.