Eulogy Virtues

David Brooks, in his new book, The Road to Character (Random House), distinguishes between what he calls "résumé virtues" and "eulogy virtues." The former are the skills that get you good grades, good jobs, nice houses, and hefty bank accounts. The latter are what make you a good person. Though I think the distinction between skills and virtues is an important one, Brooks is wrong to imply that résumé virtues are all that we need to produce excellence at work, or that eulogy virtues are for what comes after one’s work has ceased. Eulogy virtues are just as important to becoming good doctors, good lawyers, good teachers, good nurses, good physical therapists, and even good bankers as are résumé virtues. And they are also important to becoming good children, parents, spouses, friends, and citizens. As Aristotle knew, virtue is needed for material success just as it is needed for moral success.

Barry Schwartz writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education