Aristotle on Citizenship and Civic Education: The Central Role of Political Participation

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This chapter examines and summarizes Aristotle’s views about citizenship and education. Aristotle defines citizenship functionally, rather than by birth or status, and he understood participation and political authority to be essential to citizenship. Aristotle’s definition of citizenship is tied tightly to his theory of the good human life and to his ethics of virtue. A good citizen in the ideal state is identical to the fully ethically virtuous person. For Aristotle, the virtues of living a good human life are the same as those needed to rule and be ruled in turn. Because of the link between ethics and politics of the person, Aristotle’s (admittedly incomplete) program for civic education is connected to his program for ethical training. This makes the civic educational process intensive and somewhat foreign to modern conceptions of civic preparation. Despite this somewhat foreign idea of education, a number of influential thinkers today have drawn on Aristotelian ideas of citizenship to develop their own theories of governance for modern states today. Social democrats, communitarians, and others looking to revive the link between civic education and participatory communities have all looked explicitly (and sometimes implicitly) to Aristotle for guidance.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Citizenship and Education
EditorsAndrew Peterson, Garth Stahl, Hannah Soong
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-67905-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-67905-1
StatePublished - Oct 13 2018


  • Aristotle
  • Education
  • Participation
  • Citizenship
  • Human nature
  • Virtue


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