“Virtue of character [i.e., of ēthos],” writes Aristotle in Book II, Chapter 1(1) of the Nicomachean Ethics, “results from habit [ethos]; hence its name ‘ethical’, slightly varied from ‘ethos’.”
In other words, principles shape practices, and practices repeated over time (as habits) in turn shape virtue of character.
Listening to a 21st Century Creative podcast episode with entrepreneur and endurance athlete Jarie Bolanger yesterday, Jarie made a similar point: he was compelled to write an “entrepreneur’s ethos” because he hadn’t seen anyone develop a serious code of conduct for innovators.
Situational ethics matter, of course. But to know what the right thing to do is in any situation, it’s important to first grapple with the foundations of right action in general.
Actions and habits that build character and community are a great place to start.