Rectitude (or UPRIGHTNESS) is the choice and pursuit of those things which the mind, after due inquiry and attention, clearly perceives to be fit and good, and the eschewing of those that are evil. "Rectitude of conduct," says Whately, "is intended to express the term κατόρθωσις, which Cicero translates recta efectio; κατόρθωμα he translates rectumfactum. Now the definition of κατόρθωμα was νόμου πρόσταγμα, 'a thing commanded by law' (i.e. by the law of nature, the universal law). Antoninus, speaking of the reasoning
faculty, how, without looking futrther, it rests contented in its own energies, adds, 'for which reason are all actions of this species called rectitudes (κατορθώσεις, κατὰ ὀρθός, right onwards), as denoting the directness of their progression right onwards'" (Harris, Dialogue on Happiness, p. 73, ilote). "Goodness in actions," says Hooker (Ecclesiastes Pol. bi. i, § 8), "is like unto straightness; wherefore that which is done well we term right, for, as the straight way is most acceptable to him that travelleth, because by it he cometh soonest to his journey's end, so, in action, that which doth lye the evenest between us and the end we desire must needs be the fittest for our use." If a term is to be selected to denote that in action and in disposition of which the moral faculty approves, perhaps the most precise and appropriate is rectitude, or rightness. "There are other phrases," says Dr. Reid (Active Powers, Essay v, ch. vii), "which have been used, which I see no reason for adopting, such as, acting contrary to the relations of things — contrary to the reason of things — to the fitness of things — to the truth of thinsqs — to absolute fitness. These phrases have not the authority of common use, which, in matters of language, is great. They seem to have been invented by some authors with a view to explain the nature of vice; but I do not think they answer that end. If intended as definitions of vice, they are improper; because in the most favorable sense they can bear, they extend to every kind of foolish and absurd conduct as well as to that which is vicious." But what is rectitude, or rightness, as the characteristic of an action? According to Price and others, this term denotes a simple and primitive idea, and cannot be explained. "It might as well be asked what is truth, as the characteristic of a proposition? It is a capacity of our rational nature to see and acknowledge truth; but we cannot define what truth is. We call it the conformity of our thoughts with the reality of things." "It may be doubted how far this explanation makes the nature of truth more intelligible. In like manner some explain rectitude by saying that it consists in a congruity between an action and the relations of the agent, It is the idea mwe form of an action, when it is in every way conformable to the relations of the agent and the circumstances in which he is placed. On contemplating such an action mve approve of it, and feel that if we were placed in such circumstances and in such relations, we should be under an obligation to perform it. Now the circumstances and relations in which man is placed arise from his nature and from the nature of things in general; and hence it has been said that rectitude is founded in the nature and fitness of things, i.e. an action is right when it is fit or suitable to all the relations and circumstances of the agent, and of this fitness conscience or reason is the judge. Conscience or reason does not constitute the relations; these must arise from the nature of man and the nature of things. But conscience or reason judges and determines as to the conformity of actions to these relations; and these relations arising necessarily from the very nature of things, the conformity with them, which constitutes rectitude, is said to be eternal and immutable" (Krauth's Fleming, Vocab. of Philos. s.v.).