Aristotelian Essay, Research Paper

Can a Child be Virtuous?

In this paper I will argue against Aristotle and his

idea that children cannot be virtuous, as we discussed in

class. I will do this by giving concrete examples that a

certain widespread religion believes in this virtuosity of a

child. I will also use a more common example that occurs all

the time in America.

Aristotle says that children cannot be virtuous because

virtues are something that, to be acquired must be practiced

over and over again. A child has not had enough practice,

time or understanding of what he is doing to be considered

virtuous. However, I think that there are virtuous children,

and that not only Athenian gentlemen are virtuous, but

some other people also, these including children.

For my first example let us consider the religion of

Tibet. These people elect a child, in fact a newborn to be

in charge of their entire religion, this child is the Dali

Lama. They think that this child is holy, and pure.

Obviously they think that he is good, and virtuous. He has

the most power in their entire religious system of beliefs.

There are many many people who believe in this religion, and

have done so for centuries. This child is trained from a

very young age on and is selected to lead a virtuous life.

He practices things that Aristotle would view as virtuous,

for example, courage, pride, justice, and temperance. This

child could easily get in more practice time of virtuous

activity than the average person, even more than a person

who is on their way to being virtuous who is an adult.

According to Aristotle s own beliefs, there is a certain

amount of virtuous activity that must be done to become a

virtuous person. This child could easily do as many virtuous

activities by the age of 10 as say someone who is 20 in

another situation. That is one problem with Aristotle s

theory, when does the virtuous activity start adding up so

that one may become a virtuous person? How long is someone

considered a child? Do his activities not count until he

reaches a certain age, and then suddenly there is a

breakthrough and they start to count? I think not. A good

act is a good act no matter what the age, if the intent is


Those who wish to support Aristotle could in a certain

context use the Christian religion to counter the Dali Lama

example. Christians believe that all men are born sinful

and not good. There is no way that a child is any better

than anyone else. The Dali Lama would be considered just

like any other child, not virtuous. They also believe that

there is no way to become, by Aristotle s definition totally

virtuous. It is an impossibility. This is where there view

would stop counteracting the Dali Lama, and start to

contradict Aristotle himself. They think that all men are

born sinful and die sinful, whereas Aristotle thinks that it

is possible to achieve perfect virtuosity and then be happy

and never lose this state of being. He thinks it is possible

to achieve perfection.

Another example that is a little more common here in

America is the child that dials 911 to save their parents

life. This child may only be 4 or 5 years old, yet we see

the shows on TV about this little heroes all the time. Their

parents may have practiced dialing 911 over and over again

with them so that when an emergency occurred they would know

what to do. They know what is right, and display an amazing

amount of courage. They are proving that they have actually

learned what they have been taught, and took action in a


An Aristotelian supporter would say that this child did

not fully understand what they were doing, this one act does

not make them virtuous! The child is still going to be

scared sometimes (non courageous) They are going to show a

lot of non-temperance, also a non virtuous activity, and

they were just acting out of a certain repetitive task that

they have been taught. (kind of like a pet learning a trick)

Ask their parents though if this is they way that they view

the child, ask society if they think that this child is

virtuous. They will will yes he is, not all 4 year olds dial

911 in a crisis, some just sit down and cry when the time

comes, not all children, even if they know what to do,

actually do it.

In conclusion I would like to say that I think that

there are virtuous people, and virtuous children who grow

into virtuous adults or not so virtuous adults or vice

versa. I would also like to say that although these people

may exhibit a certain amount of good, that they would not

achieve Aristotle s view of becoming virtuous because this

is impossible. These people may once be good and then turn

bad, it happens all the time, or they may have a lapse.

Humans are not perfect, and therefore cannot become perfect

at anything. Sure there are people out there who will

achieve happiness, but no one is happy in the sense that

Aristotle means it, at least not 100% of the time.

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