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Excellence is a talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards. It is also used as a standard of performance.


  • The Good of man is the active exercise of his soul's faculties in conformity with excellence or virtue, or if there be several human excellences or virtues, in conformity with the best and most perfect among them.
    • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (1934 translation by H. Rackham), book 1, chapter 7, section 15, p. 33. President John F. Kennedy often paraphrased this idea. On May 8, 1963, he said to a group of foreign students: "The ancient Greek definition of happiness was the full use of your powers along lines of excellence". The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 380.
  • Excellence is an art won by training and habituation: we do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have these because we have acted rightly; 'these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions'; we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit: 'the good of man is a working of the soul in the way of excellence in a complete life... for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy'.
  • As I said in another connection: "An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher. The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water".
    • John W. Gardner, Excellence, Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too? (1961), p. 86.
  • How miserable is the condition of men when the better a thing is, the further it recedes from our sight and the less it is recognized.
  • Difficult, say you? Difficult to be a man of virtue, truly good, shaped and fashioned without flaw in the perfect figure of four-squared excellence, in body and mind, in act and thought?
    • Simonides of Ceos, The Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles (1920 translation by J. T. Sheppard), Introduction, p. xxxi.

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