Strength is a virtue
I was rereading Alasdair MacIntyre the other day and something that had never seemed terribly significant or controversial jumped out at me. This:
At least some of the items in a homeric list of the aretai would clearly not be counted by most of us as virtues at all, physical strength being the most obvious example. (After Virtue p181)I should preface this by saying that MacIntyre is surpassed by only Jane Austen in my personal pantheon of moral thinkers.
That said, I still think he is wrong. Physical strength isn't the most significant virtue but I think it is a virtue and I think we all know it is. You can see it quite clearly where I live, and where we got a big dump of snow yesterday. A man or woman who is incapable of helping push a car out of the snow or of shoveling a driveway is morally deficient. Yes, there are legitimate excuses, old age and serious spinal injuries for example, but failing some such excuse it is a moral requirement to have a certain amount of physical strength.
This is not to say that physical strength is the most important virtue and it matters a whole lot what you use that strength to do but a virtue it is.
This comes out very clearly when I need help. If I go ask Dennis, who is much stronger than me, to help me push my car out of a snow bank, I have to treat his strength as a virtue if I am to show any moral consistency at all. If I think, “Well, you’re just a stupid bonehead Dennis but I really need your help so I am going to pretend to admire you just to get the help,” then I am treating Dennis as just a means and not as an end.
Added: I still rate MacIntyre highly but not quite so high as I did a decade ago.