Aristotle on Law and Moral Education

Zena Hitz

in Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199644384
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191743344 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy

Aristotle on Law and Moral Education

Show Summary Details


It is widely agreed that Aristotle holds that the best moral education involves habituation in the proper pleasures of virtuous action. But it is rarely acknowledged that Aristotle repeatedly emphasizes the social and political sources of good habits, and strongly suggests that the correct law‐ordained education in proper pleasures is very rare or non‐existent. A careful look at the Nicomachean Ethics along with parallel discussions in the Eudemian Ethics and Politics suggests that Aristotle divided public moral education or law‐ordained habituation into two types. One type is a defective form practiced by the Spartans, producing civic courage and similar defective virtue‐like states motivated by external incentives. By contrast Aristotle endorses the law‐ordained musical education described in Politics 8. The chapter argues that Aristotle considers the well‐habituated state of proper pleasures in virtue to be best cultivated by this kind of musical education; and that this explains both his emphasis on good laws and on their scarcity.

Keywords: Aristotle; education; moral education; public education; music; law; Sparta; civic courage; habituation; defective virtue

Chapter.  20674 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.