History has presented two different types of honor that have both been highly acceptable in their respective cultures. Christianity and the Bible put a great deal of emphasis on personal virtue, where one worries about themselves and not really anything else. This is in direct contrast to other cultures, however, where public virtue is a much more important part of society. In the play Julius Caesar, society rewards people who keep the whole in mind as opposed to keeping self in the most important place. The clash between public virtue and internal virtue is one that has created a personal struggle for many men in both of these societies, as well as in today’s society.
In the Bible, those who followed Jesus Christ were urged to practice personal virtue, as opposed to overall public virtue. Even Jesus himself was a living example of this. He was known to go against the flow and in fact, that is what eventually got him crucified. He went through his life preaching his principles, which directly clashed with what the religious elders were telling people at the time. This goes against public virtue, because it caused a ruckus within society and shook up the order that was currently working in society.
That was unimportant to Jesus Christ, though, as his main focus was on internal purity as opposed to looking out for the greater good. Still, his work did go towards the greater good, though. That is the interesting paradox that exists within this example. Though Christ’s primary focus was on internal virtue, the overall body of his work was highly focused on public virtue. This could not be evaluated until his work on earth was finished, though, as from the surface, it appeared that Christ was a divider, instead of a person who brought people together for the pursuit of a great good.
A direct clash can be found if one looks at a story like Julius Caesar. Caesar was a leader that was loved by the majority of his people for the majority of his time in office. Eventually, he had to be taken down, though. He was not doing things as the leader of Rome that needed to be done in order to ensure that the people of that area had a fair shake. Because they knew this, the members of the Roman Senate like Brutus and Marc Anthony took it upon themselves to take action. They did not focus on doing the thing that was “right”, in regards to their own personal virtue. Instead, they threw aside those personal considerations in order to do something for the greater good of society at large.
They assassinated Caesar in the most brutal manner possible in order to protect the people of Rome. In the time of Jesus, this would have been looked upon with a great deal of disgust, even though they were actually doing something good for society. Since they would have committed a personal wrong, basic Christian values would not have looked kindly upon their actions. In Roman society, where public virtue was given precedence over internal virtue, they were heroes, though. Brutus was a murderer by definition, but history looks upon him as a sympathetic and heroic figure. This speaks primarily to the differences in philosophy that existed during the two eras.
These two examples are important to understanding the clash that existed between the two ideas. For the most part, each era of time allows for only one of these theories when it comes to judging major events. It is very difficult for people to keep their internal virtue, while also doing something that exhibits public virtue. Instead, a choice must be made between the two.
People must decide if they want to keep their own internal sanctity or do that which will benefit society at large. In the case of Jesus Christ, the internal virtue overcame any consideration of public virtue because the teachings of the Bible made it that way. The time of Julius Caesar and Brutus was ruled by a different code, so history looks kindly on his actions in their scope. This interesting paradox clearly shows how different societies view different actions in regards to their moral “goodness”.
Internal virtue and public virtue are two very different ideas that were accepted in two very different times. Today’s society seems to have an understanding for both, whereas other times would only allow for one or the other. Today, respect can be found for people who keep the greater good in mind when they take action. By contrast, those people who do what is right for themselves seem to get places in today’s society, as well. The clash between the two is not nearly as strong or nearly as distinct today as it once was. Still, there are times when people have to make a choice between the two types of virtue and in those times, the choice can dictate how history views their action.