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Ethos

Greek philosophic term of the week: ethos ("custom, usage, manner, habit"), from the verb ethõ ("to be accustomed, to be wont"). From ethos we derive the modern English word, "ethics". However, in its original usage, both conventional and philosophic, it implied something quite different from what one might expect. To say one has "ethics" might be taken to imply that one possesses a clearly worked-out set of propositions, or rules, regarding proper conduct which one has chosen to adhere to. Originally, however, ethos referred to something much more fundamental to human development -- in essence, that practical education in how to live and to live well which one develops by living with others, following good examples, and learning to make one's way in life. More than simply referring to manners and customs, ethos designates the very bedrock of practical understanding of oneself and the world, upon which one orientates one's existence.

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