What Aristotle remarks of natural organisms and individuals generally–that every being inept for self-sufficient subsistence has to attach itself to some complementary entity or else perish–also applies within and among these castes. Independence or self-governance [autarkia] is a blessed if not divine state, and demands above all other virtues a general eudaimonia or well-roundedness and amplitude of intelligent and moral forms, i.e. an all-sided competence to understand how to deal with life/nature/history in its full-dimensionality.
Each stratum in the ranks of society represents a kind of cascade of tiers with the virtues of striven-for excellence at the top–competence, masterfulness, connoisseurship, a reputation for paradigmatic quality–and with natural necessity or bare subsistence at the bottom, stripped of all human luxuria, options of taste or commodiousness. Moderns with their ingrained sense of alienation between “is” and “ought” or fact/value will react of course against these naturalist assumptions by asserting that a predominance of slavish vices or self-vitiating tendencies does not necessarily make one morally “bad,” and a generous array of talents and faculties does not necessarily make anyone morally “good.”
But it is our own value-neutralized or amoral system of merely technical know-how to which this criticism more fitly applies; the Greeks took for granted that culture had to be a holist or organicist accomplishment, confirming one’s wisdom and sanity and piety no less than one’s worldly competence. In any case, each caste or character-type had its specific biases and warpages of value-perspectives which had to be discounted in all rhetoric and self-pleading. Greek culture knows no such notion as a merely value-vacuous kind of knowledge or consciousness: all knowing, as Aristotle says of all acting, is for the sake of what is good or naturally fulfilling, i.e. all acts of the mind are sane and wise or insane and foolish precisely as they are measured against a cultural archetype of “connoisseurship” (discriminating or evaluative knowing) rather than a narrowed modern paradigm such as our merely mechanical-technical (banausic) “science.”
Natural arete will out, will seek its own fullest and most proper expression; arete is fitly translated (but ill-understood) by “virtue” because in its classical sense arete is quite close to the sense of “natural/instinctual talent” and virtue virtually identical to the sense of “power, strength, tonic, an energizing source for the will.” Virtues naturally tend upward and vices naturally tend downward in this naturalistic or natural-law governed order (see Heraclitus, “the way up and the way down,” “the sober and the drunken soul,” etc.). Properly understood, virtue is truly its own reward because it directly rewards itself with a more profoundly bountiful life, an enhanced palette of perspectives and abilities, and a self-sublimating or ever-more self-encompassing form of self-mastery that rises from glory to glory, so to speak. And vice is likewise its own punishment because it diminishes all that is healthy, sane, energizing, clarifying, authoritative, organizing, etc. in the will and reason; it constricts the will and understanding and connoisseurial judgment down to parochial petty-souledness (pusillanimitas or mikropsychia), even as virtue opens the soul out to cosmopolitan great-souledness (magnanimitas or megalopsychia). The whole of everyday society thus makes up an articulated and perfectly evident moral allegory, the realized or concretized consequences of virtues and vices spelled out in their etiology and eventualities for anyone who has eyes to see.