The Hierarchy of Virtues: Intellect, Health, Character, and Wealth

Hierarchy of Virtues explores the foundations of a fulfilling life, placing Intellect, Health, Character, and Wealth in a deliberate order. Intellectual growth fuels our understanding of the world, while maintaining robust health enables us to engage fully.

In the contemplation of life’s values or virtues, intellect, health, character, and wealth arise as salient elements. After extensive discussions and reflections, I have arranged these virtues in a specific order based on their perceived importance: intellect, health, character, and wealth.

The first virtue, intellect or wisdom, forms the cornerstone of our existence. The understanding of wisdom, as Socrates suggests, is knowing that we know nothing, igniting our curiosity and lifelong pursuit of knowledge. Intellect, therefore, becomes the guiding light, illuminating our path towards understanding our health, character, and wealth.

The second virtue, health, is indispensable. An old proverb posits, “he who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything“. Indeed, without health, our pursuit of other virtues can become exceedingly challenging. Good health acts as a catalyst, fueling our efforts to maintain a commendable character and accumulate wealth as needed.

Character, the third virtue, is more a state of being than a specific activity. If wisdom is well-harnessed, it naturally leads to the development of a virtuous character. After all, we embody our character round the clock. With wisdom and health secured, we can constantly strive to remain true to our virtues.

Finally, wealth, the last virtue in this order, forms a considerable part of our lives. While it doesn’t top the list, the time and effort dedicated to work underscore its significance. It’s noteworthy that this ranking doesn’t downplay the importance of other facets of life like family and personal causes, but rather highlights these four cardinal virtues.

Historical perspectives support this order. For instance, in his work, “Republic,” Plato proposed a hierarchy of values starting with wisdom (akin to intellect), followed by courage (similar to character), temperance (related to health), and justice (related to wealth and power).

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think,” does hint at the primacy of character over wisdom. However, in line with various philosophies, I have chosen to place wisdom at the forefront.

This structure mirrors the pattern of my daily life, where the majority of my time is dedicated to seeking wisdom and maintaining health, thereby shaping my character and influencing my wealth. Actions indeed speak louder than words, and this hierarchy resonates with both my actions and philosophical alignment.

The hierarchy of these virtues is fluid and can vary between individuals. The ordering here reflects my personal philosophy, gleaned from introspection, discussion, and historical context. It is not set in stone, but it provides a structure to understand the interplay of these vital virtues in life.

Let’s delve into these four values. Intellect and wisdom take precedence, forming the pinnacle of this hierarchy. They are the keystones of a fulfilling life, providing us with the understanding and motivation to pursue truth. Intellect propels us to apply reason, a crucial tool in this pursuit. Without reason, our quest for truth crumbles, and everything falls apart. So, what good would character or wealth do if we aren’t oriented correctly?

Intellect is vital, serving as the conduit to reason, which in turn leads to the pursuit of truth. This journey towards truth will set you free, guiding you towards reality rather than dogmas or baseless beliefs. Intellect doesn’t rely on scriptures or others’ enlightenment but is rooted in reality. It also fosters a broader perspective since knowledge spans numerous facets of life. This wisdom equips us to navigate life’s complexities and challenges with resilience and grace. As Albert Einstein, a paragon of intellect, once said, wisdom is not a product of schooling but a lifelong pursuit.

The majority of my time is spent pursuing intellect, wisdom, and knowledge. Schooling is just the introduction to this lifelong learning process. Life is a book, with early schooling serving as the introduction, and university education acting as the first chapter. The rest of our lives involve exploring other subjects, concepts, and fields we haven’t mastered in college. There is no end to this journey of learning and reading more chapters of life’s book.

Next is health. Just like intellect is required to pursue our interests in life, good health is needed to undertake life’s challenges. It’s a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease. With good health, we can freely pursue intellect, enjoy life without pain or stress, make sound decisions, and optimally exercise our character.

Now, let’s move on to character. It’s the manifestation of our inner virtues and moral compass, reflecting honesty, courage, and integrity. Character isn’t merely about understanding; it’s about upholding moral principles, showing compassion, kindness, fairness, justice in our actions, speech, and interactions. Wisdom is needed to understand these concepts; therefore, it takes precedence over character.

Lastly, we have wealth. While it’s not traditionally viewed as a virtue, it’s a necessity of life, needed for sustaining a living, fulfilling obligations, and playing a role in life. Wealth, although listed last in this hierarchy, shapes the quality and trajectory of our lives, providing resources and opportunities, and enabling us to influence change.

As the Dalai Lama wisely observed, wealth and power are like empty boats if they are not paired with compassion and kindness. Wealth and power, without wisdom, character, and health, can lead to an unfulfilling existence. Let’s strive to live a life rich in intellect, flourishing in health, driven by moral character, and sufficiently resourced in wealth.