Virtue, for Aristotle, is the developed ability to recognize the right or good thing to do. In many situations, no rulebook can tell us exactly how to act. Thus a virtuous person must possess the appropriate disposition that can recognize–as if by instinct–the correct course of action. This skill is not, however, simply innate. Rather, we acquire virtue by the development of good habits, and in turn, habit is developed by the appropriate exercise of reason in past choices.

In practice, virtue generally meant the appropriate medium between the two extremes of excess and defect. For example, brashness is an excess of courage, while cowardice is a result of the lack of courage. Courage itself, in this case, is the term used for the proper medium. Finally we might also ask, what is the purpose of virtue? Aristotle believed it was the means to happiness. He considers and dismisses alternatives like pleasure and honor: only a life of virtue can bring about happiness for human beings.