Arête is the word for “excellence” in Greek. But it is only ONE of the virtues along with acceptance, compassion and loyalty. What gives this virtue its place in Hellenic thought? Why are we told to strive for arête in all things? I think it is because the word arête means more than just excellence, it means virtue itself.
And what does “Virtue” mean? It is a “commendable quality or trait” which is often connected with moral behavior. Virtue is something that we strive for every day, and something that we can lose sight of in the struggles of our everyday existence. Arête is what makes us worthy of praise because it shows that we are working to maintain or grow the virtues in our lives. It is the disciplined action by which we become more than what we were.
We are to praise those having virtue because to have it is not easy. It takes a lot of hard work to cultivate any of the virtues and maintain them as a practice and it is this hard work that makes the person doing it worthy of praise, not that they are intrinsically better than the rest of us. Excellence can take many forms and it is these forms that we praise and that we shouldpraise.