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Rawls™s defense of a political liberalism that would sustain this
distinction, however, has reignited rather than resolved the ques-
tion of how “transformative” liberalism is or needs to be. This ques-
tion informs the “long-standing dialogue” and disagreement between
Stephen Macedo and William Galston concerning the “moral and prac-
tical requirements of a liberal public order.”67 Macedo™s account of
“civic liberalism” “ a liberalism that attends to its moral and political
supports through civic education “ presents a robust conception of
liberal citizenship and its pedagogic underpinnings. He argues that
liberals must become more self-conscious not only of liberalism™s sup-
ports but also of its transformative ambitions. “The success of our
civic project,” he observes, “relies upon a transformative project that
includes the remaking of moral and religious communities.”68 In this
matter, Macedo is critical of liberal scholars, such as Iris Young and

66 See Charles Larmore, Patterns of Moral Complexity (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1987): “We do better to recognize that liberalism is not a philosophy of man,
but a philosophy of politics” (p. 129).
67 Galston, “Review of Stephen Macedo™s Diversity and Distrust: Civic Education in a
Multicultural Democracy,” Ethics 112 (January 2002): 386“91.
68 Macedo, Diversity and Distrust, p. x.
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics
30

Richard Flathman, who praise diversity or “difference” and yet rely
upon “an account of citizen virtue without articulating it, defending
it, and describing how it can and should be promoted.”69 Defenders
of liberalism, he argues, suffer a kind of “false consciousness” in fail-
ing to acknowledge the manner and extent to which liberal politics
transforms individuals™ deepest moral and political beliefs.70
The clearest resistance to this transformation is also the source of
the intolerance and strife that distinguished the religious wars of the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and that, according to Rawls, gave
rise to liberalism™s political project: orthodox (creedal and Salvation-
ist) religion. In seeking to construct a political order in which the
“true believers” “ with their comprehensive doctrines and deference
to divine law “ can live together in peace, Macedo argues, the lib-
eral project necessarily did more than establish a neutral institutional
framework within which con¬‚icting doctrines can coexist. This project
transformed these doctrines. Although Macedo stops short of recom-
mending what he calls “civic totalism,” the education to a comprehen-
sive liberal view of the good such as that offered by John Dewey, he is
nevertheless suspicious of a simple distinction between public and pri-
vate that obscures the ways that this very distinction and liberal public
principles shape individual lives: “widespread acceptance of the rule
of law and the distinction between public and private represent ways
of constructing the world as a whole.”71 On the one hand, it is essen-
tial to liberalism™s mission to establish the separation between private
and public, and between church and state; on the other, the success of
such a separation requires that the wall between the two be breached
in fundamental ways. Looking to Locke™s Letter on Toleration, Macedo
concludes, “Lockean politics cannot, any more than our own, leave
private moral beliefs altogether to one side; it cannot leave the soul
alone to care only for the body. It counts on a convergence of public
and private.”72
According to Macedo, the nature and necessity of this convergence
are manifest in American historical experience, and particularly in the


69 Ibid., p. 26.
70 See Macedo™s Liberal Virtues, pp. 45, 51 and his Democracy and Distrust, pp. 217, 227.
71 Macedo, Diversity and Distrust, p. 15; see also Liberal Virtues, pp. 16“21.
72 Macedo, Diversity and Distrust, p. 34.
The Limits of Liberal Citizenship 31

transformation of American Catholicism. The abatement of the “gen-
uine tension that existed between American republicanism and the
nineteenth century Catholic hierarchy,” he argues, is attributable in
no small part to post“Vatican II changes within the Catholic Church
that “may be regarded as concessions to liberal democracy.”73 To be
sure, these changes were often justi¬ed in doctrinal terms “ in terms,
for example, of Catholic social justice “ but they represent a funda-
mental shift in the moral perspective of the Catholic Church in the
direction of distinctively liberal values. Although this shift reduces “the
range of signi¬cant normative diversity,” Macedo observes, it is to be
lauded, not mourned: “What we want are healthy forms of diversity,
and from a political standpoint that means forms of diversity support-
ive of basic principles of justice and a liberal democratic civic life.”74
Even as such liberalization is to be embraced, then, it must be seen
for what it is. In addition to dampening the doctrinal or dogmatic
zeal that has historically been a cause of sectarian strife, the conver-
gence of public and private in the education of liberal citizens has
essentially undercut traditional religious principles that give priority
to divine authority and its representatives over secular authority and
the individual, to the salvation of the soul over the preservation of the
body, and to the one true faith over the many false ones. The conver-
gence of public and private has thus secured the separation of church
and state and the disestablishment or privatization of religion. Indeed,
according to Macedo, a wholly self-aware liberalism understands the
necessity of a shared civic morality that is able “to turn people™s deep-
est convictions “ including their religious beliefs “ in directions that
are congruent with the ways of a liberal republic.”75 A shared civic
morality cannot help but shape private life; as he observes in an ear-
lier work, “Liberal political norms have a private life: they help shape
and structure the private lives of liberal citizens. To a greater extent
than liberals usually allow, freedom is a way of life.”76


73 Ibid., p. 88. See generally pp. 59“87 and p. 130: “While the animus against Irish
Catholics was indeed based partly on race prejudice, there were more substantial and
honorable grounds for worrying that the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church
before Vatican II were inconsistent with liberalism.”
74 Ibid., p. 134.
75 Ibid., p. 43.
76 Macedo, Liberal Virtues, p. 265.
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics
32

But given his view of the extent of liberalism™s reach, how does
Macedo separate his own civic liberalism from the civic totalism of a
John Dewey? In response to this dif¬culty, Macedo has recourse to
the Rawlsian notion of public reason. With Rawls, he insists that the
diversity of comprehensive “worldviews” “ religious and philosophic “
requires that public deliberation and judgment appeal only to reasons
that are accessible and acceptable to all “reasonable” citizens, that is,
to “reasons and arguments that we can share in spite of our differ-
ences.”77 In this regard, liberal justice itself is not grounded in a single
religious or philosophic comprehensive view: “Political liberal prin-
ciples are justi¬ed only in being justi¬ed independently of religious
and other comprehensive claims.”78 When it comes to political mat-
ters, no comprehensive doctrine can have priority. Political author-
ity, as a common concern, requires common consensus and there-
fore a public, as opposed to private, reason that can represent such a
consensus.
In taking issue with Macedo, however, Galston points out that
Rawls™s liberalism is “political in two senses”: “not only are public rea-
sons political rather than comprehensive but they are also addressed
to the basic structure of society rather than to social life as a whole.”79
For Galston, it is Macedo™s insistence on the convergence of public
and private in the latter sense that is the deeply illiberal element of his
civic liberalism. In this important regard, “Macedo is a totalist while
Rawls is not.” Regarding the scope or effect of liberal principles, rather
than the basis of their public justi¬cation, then, it would seem that
Macedo destroys and Rawls preserves the “traditional liberal distinc-
tion between public and private.”80
As Galston acknowledges, his own early work also underscores the
connection between liberal political principles and a particular vision
of the human good, and he rejects the view that the liberal state is
wholly neutral.81 Galston is at one with Macedo, therefore, in insisting

77 Macedo, Diversity and Distrust, p. 172; see pp. 167“87 for his discussion of Rawls and
public justi¬cation.
78 Ibid., p. 179.
79 Galston, “Review of Macedo™s Diversity and Distrust,” p. 388.
80 Ibid.
81 See Galston, Liberal Purposes, p. 3: “Like every other political community, it [the liberal
state] embraces a view of the human good that favors certain ways of life and tilts
against others.”
The Limits of Liberal Citizenship 33

on the connection between liberalism™s public principles and ideas of
the good, and he agrees with those who suggest that liberal practices
and purposes necessitate distinctively liberal virtues, such as tolerance
or openness to diverse views, willingness to settle disagreements openly
and through persuasion, and a certain “magnanimity” or reciprocity.82
In his most recent work, Liberal Pluralism, he observes that theorists
like Macedo have rightly drawn attention to the educative effects of
liberalism: “Liberal democratic citizens are made, not born, and we
cannot blithely rely on the invisible hand of civil society to carry out
civic paideia.”83 Yet, Galston also insists, the liberal state, as compared
to the ancient regime, does not impose a comprehensive way of life or
doctrine of the good. To the contrary, its great achievement has been
to create a constitutional framework of institutions and practices that
accommodate and even protect the diverse pursuit of the good. His
central disagreement with Macedo pertains to what he calls Macedo™s
“civic presumption,” a presumption that “gives inadequate weight to a
core human value that helps justify liberalism.” This core human value
is “expressive liberty” or “the ability to live one™s life in a manner that
freely expresses one™s deepest convictions about the sources of value
and meaning.”84
Arising from this liberty, Galston also argues, is “value-pluralism,”
the existence of which further justi¬es the liberal state™s presumption
in favor of individual liberty. On this subject, Galston takes his bearings
from Isaiah Berlin™s view that “our moral universe is characterized by
plural and con¬‚icting values that cannot be harmonized in a single
comprehensive way of life.”85 Galston™s liberal pluralism is a compre-
hensive, as compared to freestanding, theory precisely because it pur-
ports to be consistent with the “basic structure of the moral world
we actually inhabit” “ a world in which there is a range of “ratio-
nally defensible” comprehensive views or in which “no single uniquely
rational ordering or combination of such values [is]. . . binding on all
individuals.” Now, by rationally defensible, Galston means most sim-
ply that these views “fall above the Hampshire“Hart line of minimum

82 Ibid., pp. 226“7; see also Galston, “Review of Gutmann and Thompson™s Democracy
and Disagreement,” Ethics 108 (April 1998): 607“10.
83 Galston, Liberal Pluralism, p. 15.
84 Galston, “Review of Macedo,” p. 390.
85 Galston, Liberal Pluralism, pp. 27“8.
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics
34

decency.”86 In his more expansive moments, however, he suggests also
that a view of the good is rationally defensible because it represents
an ordering of goods that is objectively good for the individual or
that constitutes a truly rich and worthwhile way of life for human
beings.87 Indeed, Galston de¬nes “diversity” itself as “legitimate differ-
ences among individuals and groups over such matters as the nature
of the good life, sources of moral authority, reason versus faith, and
the like.”88
Yet how are we to know what the actual structure of the moral
universe is? The empirical evidence proves ambiguous at best. In the
¬rst place, the homogeneity or heterogeneity of the moral world we
inhabit is fundamentally shaped by the “regime” that constitutes it.
Galston notes, for example, that there are political communities that
are more rather than less homogeneous, and he is himself against
forms of liberalism that, by giving pride of place to the principles of
autonomy or individuality, exert a “homogenizing pressure” on ways
of life that do not accept such a principle.89 As Galston also acknowl-
edges, moreover, the mere fact of diversity is insuf¬cient to establish its
naturalness or desirability. Judging whether the heterogeneity of the
moral world under a properly constituted liberal democracy, or under
any other condition, re¬‚ects the “actual structure of the normative
universe” requires establishing that these conditions are also natural
to and naturally good for human beings. It is this important question
that ultimately undergirds the disagreement between Macedo and Gal-
ston concerning the constitution of a liberal order and the character
of liberal citizenship.
For most deeply at issue between Macedo and Galston is the ques-
tion of the best conditions for both the political community and its
individual members. This question becomes all the more complex in
light of their agreement that it cannot be settled by direct recourse to
the principle of state neutrality “ to the principle that Ronald Dworkin


86 Ibid., p. 57. Galston™s case concerning the heterogeneity of the good is in fact even
more complicated, since he draws upon three orders of diversity as evidence: the
clash among values within the same value system, the differences of goods relative to
individuals, and the diversity of worthwhile lives (p. 34).
87 Ibid., pp. 30“2, 37, 57.
88 Ibid., p. 21, my emphasis.
89 Ibid., pp. 20“4.
The Limits of Liberal Citizenship 35

could once insist upon in saying that political decisions should strive
to remain “independent of any particular conception of the good life,
or of what gives value to life.”90 To be sure, Macedo is less convinced
than Galston that a liberal state, as a civic educator, can remain at all
independent of a particular conception of the good, and he considers
it a matter of “self-consciousness,” not to say honesty, on the part of
liberals to acknowledge this fact. But more importantly, short of recom-
mending civic totalism, Macedo is also more convinced than Galston
that a distinctively liberal conception of what gives value to life is also
good for those who hold it. Macedo is more willing, therefore, to wield
the instruments of political authority and civic education in support
of this conception.
In rejecting Macedo™s civic presumption in favor of liberal plural-
ism, however, Galston establishes that the “underlying assumption” of
the pluralist argument is a presumption against coercion:

This argument draws its force from the underlying assumption that coercion
always stands exposed to a potential demand for justi¬cation. Individuals and
groups whose desires and values are thwarted by existing arrangements have
an incentive to question those arrangements, and they are entitled to a reply.
No one asks why it is legitimate for our movements to be in¬‚uenced by gravity;
they just are. But coercion is not a fact of nature, nor is it self-justifying. Just the
reverse: There is a presumption against it, grounded in the pervasive human
desire to go our own way in accordance with our own desires and beliefs.91

Galston proceeds to argue that coercion cannot be justi¬ed by the
claim that a certain understanding of the human good is defective.
Rather, since the natural presumption favors individual liberty, “suf¬-
cient” reasons must be offered if liberty is to be restricted. Indeed, if
there are such reasons, then the failure to restrict liberty “ “to inter-
vene in wrongful or self-destructive behavior” “ may itself be judged
“morally culpable.”92
But Galston™s argument is more complicated than he admits, and
its complications illuminate the need to confront the question of the
human good more fully than he does. For gravity and the pervasive

90 Ronald Dworkin, A Matter of Principle (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
1985), p. 191.
91 Galston, Liberal Pluralism, p. 58.
92 Ibid.
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics
36

human desire to go our own way are natural facts of different orders,
and in the context of a political community, the mere existence of the
latter does not justify its free rein simply. If suf¬cient reasons for the
limitation of liberty must be offered, so too must suf¬cient reasons
for its enjoyment: The wish to “go my own way,” in other words, also
“stands exposed to a potential demand for justi¬cation,” and I may
be judged “morally culpable” if I cannot offer a reason for doing so.
Just as the mere fact of liberalism™s pervasive or coercive educative
in¬‚uence would not on its own justify that in¬‚uence, neither does the
existence or nature of human desire by itself offer a suf¬cient reason
for its free rein. What, then, would justify either coercion or liberty?
What is the standard of “suf¬cient reason”? What constitute legitimate
differences over such matters as the nature of the good life, sources
of moral authority, or reason versus faith? It is with respect to these
dif¬culties that the question of the human good necessarily reemerges.
For, if, as Galston insists, the “superiority of democratic practices” “ the
defense of liberal democracy as better than the alternatives “ rests on its
allowing a diversity of rationally defensible worthwhile and good lives, we
cannot establish that there is in fact such a diversity simply by appealing
to the standard of “minimum decency.”93 We are compelled, that is,
to address the question of what makes a human life worthwhile and
good.
Concerning this question, it is important ¬rst to be clear about what
precisely is at stake. For when scholars such as Rawls, Sandel, Macedo,
and Galston now speak of the good, they are no longer referring to
the subjective preferences of the individual, as Rawls, following Kant,
originally meant. Rather they are referring to that “comprehensive
doctrine” of values or beliefs “ grounded in individual conscience,
religious belief, or philosophical outlook “ that gives life its deepest
meaning and constitutes an individual™s view of what it means to be a
good human being and to live a good life. Citizenship and the virtues
that belong to it, from the liberal point of view, do not or ought not to
constitute the good in this sense. Even if these virtues and the obliga-
tions of citizenship have a certain moral claim over us “ in demanding
our devotion to and participation in a liberal order “ they do not
de¬ne an order or a comprehensive good in accord with which we

93 Ibid., pp. 46, 52“3.
The Limits of Liberal Citizenship 37

must direct our individual lives. In eschewing a claim to be such an
order, moreover, liberalism is deeply suspicious of any authority, espe-
cially religious authority, whose political or public end is the imposition
of a single comprehensive view on individuals.
Yet the current disputes about the relation between the right and
the good, and the nature of civic education, have shown that liberalism
itself cannot be absolved from addressing questions about its authori-
tative claims with respect to the good, the character and extent of its
moral education, and the relation between the good liberal citizen and
the good human being. These questions call for investigation at several
levels. Most simply, however much we may strive to circumscribe the
virtues within an instrumental or political frame “ and to insist that the
ideas of the good be political ideas “ the inculcation of these virtues
inevitably raises the question of the good simply. Even as he recom-
mends a political or instrumental conception of virtue, for instance,
Berkowitz concedes that “insofar as the link between the lesser virtues,
which are exercised as a means to various ends, and the higher virtues
or the virtues of human excellence, which are exercised for their own
sake, is severed, virtue threatens to become a mercenary undertak-
ing.”94 Indeed, it is not even clear, prior to examination, whether any
virtue can be presented as merely instrumental or whether it makes a
claim, implicit or explicit, to belong to individual excellence: Courage
may be required for the preservation of the political community but,
especially in light of its risks, it is inevitably honored as a noble quality
worthy of possession in its own right; toleration may be necessary for
the peaceful coexistence of religious sects, but it belongs also to the
person whom Galston approvingly calls a “self-aware pluralist,” that is,
to the wisest or most self-aware human being.95 However much liberal-
ism wishes to abide by the separation of public and private, it invariably
makes claims concerning the human good that it must acknowledge
and defend.
Indeed, it is impossible to establish with the requisite certainty Gal-
ston™s premise in justifying liberalism as the best political order “
the existence of a diversity of rationally defensible comprehensive


94 Berkowitz, Virtue and the Making of Modern Liberalism, p. 152. See also Galston™s remark
concerning “the instrumental view of virtue” in Justice and the Human Good, p. 54.
95 Galston, Liberal Pluralism, pp. 53, 62
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics
38

views “ in the absence of an examination of these views. In an early
treatment of this question, Galston observes, “It seems ridiculous to be
asked to choose among Jesus, Da Vinci, Caesar, and Socrates; without
doing so, we can respect each for having fully developed an important
kind of human possibility.”96 But can we? Three of these possibilities “
Jesus, Caesar, and Socrates “ represent ways of life that reject one
another™s fundamental claims. These lives themselves, that is, ask us
to choose among them, and how are we to decide the matter without
examining the speci¬c claims of each? In fact, a liberal political order
invariably makes such choices for us. For it cannot accommodate every
possibility, a Caesar, for example, and perhaps not even the highest or
most fully developed ones. Yet, in admitting some possibilities and
excluding others, is a liberal order to decide among ways of life and
then to deny its own citizens the right, not to say the very hope, of
investigating the matter?
As the disputes that inform the current rediscovery of citizenship
suggest, however, we cannot justify liberal political principles merely
by asserting the fact of reasonable pluralism; nor can we achieve clar-
ity about liberalism™s own comprehensive claims by falling back on the
public“private distinction. An investigation of citizenship that begins
from liberal presuppositions is a partial investigation. Even Galston™s
self-aware defense of liberalism rests in the ¬nal analysis on a liberal
presumption against coercion and in favor of going one™s own way,
but this is a presumption not shared by doctrines that start from the
fundamental authority of the law. As such, Galston™s argument does
not confront these doctrines on their own grounds. He does not, in
fact, wholly account for his own claims concerning the right of a polit-
ical order to preserve itself and its constitution when threatened with
destruction “ a right that exists, apparently, even when its exercise may
involve the killing of innocents.97 Are there no limits or bounds to such
a right? Is every political community and its constitution simply sacro-
sanct in this regard? As Galston himself points out, “the traditional
task of political philosophy “ de¬ning and defending the difference

96 Galston, Justice and the Human Good, p. 68.
97 Galston goes very far: “if the Israelis were faced with imminent defeat and proba-
bly genocide at the hands of Arab military forces, they would be justi¬ed in using
atomic weapons against Damascus and Baghdad if there were no other way of averting
catastrophe” (Liberal Pluralism, pp. 76“7).
The Limits of Liberal Citizenship 39

between better and worse forms of political organization “ remains rel-
evant today.”98 If we are to undertake such a task, we must investigate
also dimensions of politics that liberal thought neglects or obscures.
To avoid what Galston calls “a kind of democratic dogmatism,” the cur-
rent debate about citizenship must enlarge the horizon within which
it examines the question “What is a citizen?”
In this regard, however, scholars of liberalism are typically limited
by their concern, on the one hand, to establish supports for liberal
principles and, on the other, to preserve room for individual freedom
and diverse pursuits of the good. In seeking to accommodate these
dual aims, some, such as Martha Nussbaum, have formulated a view
of “cosmopolitan citizenship” that makes room for plural and local
attachments but locates our most fundamental allegiance in the lib-
eral (and universal) principle of equal human dignity.99 Others, such
as Rorty, have emphasized the primacy of local and national commu-
nities in forming civic identity while nonetheless assigning the highest
priority to individual liberation.100 Others, such as Gutmann, have
sought to de¬ne a distinctively “democratic identity” that supports
a deliberative democracy and yet leaves room for other identities or
allegiances.101 And still others, such as Galston, have laid out a range
of possibilities “short of full citizenship” that accommodate groups
who obey the basic laws of the land but do not make full claims on the
community or participate fully in its institutions and practices. These
formulations certainly do not exhaust the ¬eld, but they exemplify
the common effort within the current rediscovery of citizenship to
support and justify liberal political principles while sustaining the
traditional liberal distinction between public and private.102 The

98 Ibid., p. 45.
99 Martha Nussbaum, For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism (Boston:
Beacon Press, 1996).
100 Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope (London: Penguin Books, 1999). See espe-
cially the essays “Globalization, the Politics of Identity, and Social Hope” and “The
Unpatriotic Academy.”
101 Amy Gutmann, Identity in Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
2003).
102 The literature on citizenship ranges widely; for example, compare Walter Berns,
Making Patriots (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2001); Diane Ravitch and Joseph
P. Viteritti, eds., Making Good Citizens: Education and Civil Society (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 2001); Thomas Janoski, Citizenship and Civil Society (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1998); Will Kymlicka, Politics in the Vernacular:
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics
40

consequence of this effort, however, is that the questions raised by the
disputes between Rawls and Sandel, and between Macedo and Galston,
are never addressed comprehensively. To understand the nature of
citizenship with the requisite fullness, we require greater clarity than
is now available about the relation between the right and the good,
and about the connection between the education of a citizen and the
“comprehensive good” that makes human life truly worthwhile and
good.
But how is one to address these questions? In this matter, the
distinctiveness of Aristotle™s political philosophy “ the fact that it
does not begin from liberal premises or assumptions “ proves crucial.
For Aristotle undertakes his investigation ¬rst by acknowledging
the political community™s authoritative and architectonic power as
educator. His acknowledgment of this power, moreover, is intended
as a statement of fact: Whether it does so well or badly, every political
community educates its citizens (NE 1103b3“6). He also shows that
the highest pedagogic aim of civic education is not simply good
citizens but morally serious human beings and that, from this point
of view, the human good is properly understood as the possession
and activity of moral virtue “ in current terms, the comprehensive
doctrine of values or beliefs that gives life its deepest meaning.
Because Aristotle suggests that the human good in this sense is
fundamentally tied to the political community, his political thought
is frequently classi¬ed as “perfectionist.”103 Yet, this classi¬cation
obscures the fact that the point from which Aristotle begins is not the
point at which he ends. Although he begins by acknowledging that the
political community is the ¬rst and most authoritative educator with


Nationalism, Multiculturalism, and Citizenship (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2001); David Miller, Citizenship and National Identity (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000); Ruth
Lister, Citizenship: Feminist Perspectives (New York: New York University Press, 2003);
and Dana Villa, Socratic Citizenship (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).
Most recently, Jill Frank has sought to articulate and defend the idea of a “democracy
of distinction,” in which she brings out the “democratic possibilities” of Aristotle™s
thought and argues that the “work” of citizens individually and together is “to unify
the polity in a way that preserves its essential plurality.” See Jill Frank, A Democracy
of Distinction: Aristotle and the Work of Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
2005), pp. 8, 52.
103 See, for example, Rawls, Political Liberalism, p. 195; Sandel, Democracy™s Discontent,
pp. 7“8; and Berkowitz, Virtue and the Making of Modern Liberalism, pp. 7“14.
Law, Education, and Moral Virtue 41

regard to the good, his investigation in the Nicomachean Ethics seeks also
to establish this community™s true authority in this regard. By starting
from the broadest view of the political community, however, Aristotle
is able to explore its scope and the nature of its pedagogic aims, and to
address fully the two fundamental questions that the current debate
raises but does not adequately confront: the relation between the right
and the good, and the connection between the education of a citizen
and that of a good human being simply. To address these questions,
Aristotle indicates, we ¬rst must investigate the life that the political
community, as educator, presents as best: the life of moral virtue.


aristotle on law, education, and moral virtue
A summary statement of Aristotle™s view of the signi¬cance of moral
virtue is that moral virtue is a matter of intense concern for both the
political community and the individual because the happiness of each
is at stake. Aristotle™s opening presentation of the relation between
action and happiness in the Nicomachean Ethics can be most obviously
contrasted with the argument of Kant. For inasmuch as Kant and Aris-
totle would agree that moral or virtuous action involves an orientation
“toward another,” and is connected with duty and law, their accounts
of ethics ¬nd a point of agreement. Yet, by separating moral action
from the longing of a human being to achieve the good “ by under-
standing it in terms of duty alone “ Kant does more than divorce it
from happiness as its end. By Aristotle™s account, such a separation also
severs the morally serious human being™s pursuit of happiness from
its moral and political content, that is, from “noble and just” action
(NE 1094b9“10, 14“19, 1099a22“31; Pol. 1253a14“21, 35“9).104
According to Aristotle, good action is understood ¬rst in connec-
tion with the end that is “nobler and more divine” to secure and pre-
serve than that of any individual “ the good of the community or
nation (NE 1094b9“10). In suggesting that such noble and just action
is the highest end in the realm of action (praxis), however, Aristotle
does not take his bearings from the requirements of politics or the

104 Citations of the Nicomachean Ethics and Politics are to the Oxford Classical Text edi-
tions; they will be indicated by the Bekker numbers in parentheses. Translations are
my own.
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics
42

common good simply. Rather, this action is understood, by the politi-
cal community itself, as good also for the one who performs it: as good
in itself and as grounded in good character. The inculcation of good
character requires the education supplied by the law (nomos), which,
as the most authoritative voice of command in the political commu-
nity, invariably shapes human action. Since no action proceeds in the
absence of desire, and since choice (prohairesis), the “starting point”
(arch¯ ) of action, is either intelligence operating through longing
e
(orektikos nous) or longing operating through thought (orexis
diano¯tik¯ ) (NE 1139a31, 1139b4“5), we choose and act well or badly
ee
in accordance with the disposition of our desires.105 Neither perfectly
rational nor wholly irrational, the desires are amenable to and require
habituation, which proceeds through command and a certain force
and, in the best case, aims at making desire obedient to “right rea-
son” (orthos logos) (NE 1103b31“4).106 Through habituation, then, we
acquire the moral virtues, and the law is the most authoritative voice
of command and so the arbiter of right reason in the education to
virtue. The investigation of the good is “a kind of political investiga-
tion” because the highest or most authoritative good, moral virtue,
is the same for both the political community and the individual (NE
1094b10“11).
In addition to its contrast with the approach of Kant, Aristotle™s ini-
tial presentation of virtue and the good stands in signi¬cant contrast
with that of his current students. Most present-day Aristotelians begin
by establishing either the political principles in accord with which they

105 The usual translation of prohairesis is “choice,” but the English word perhaps does
not fully capture the sense of the Greek, which connotes “deliberate choice”: a
decision preceded by prior deliberation, such that one™s choosing it has purpose
and resolution. On the other hand, the choice that issues from the characteristic
(hexis) formed by habit is not necessarily preceded by deliberation: As Aristotle
suggests in the discussion of courage, we more readily see the character of a person
who must act or react quickly, for in seeing something coming, a person is able to
choose on the basis of calculation and reason (1117a17“22; see also 1105a27“b5).
106 As Aristotle™s etymological note in Book II suggests, the Greek terms for moral virtue,
¯thik¯ aret¯, point to this link between habit (ethos) and the virtue (aret¯ ) that is the seat
ee e e
of good action (NE 1103a17“18). This is true also of the Latin root (mos, pl. mor¯s) e
of our English word “moral.” On the etymological derivation of ¯thik¯ aret¯, see John
ee e
Burnet, ed. (with commentary), The “Ethics” of Aristotle (London: Methuen & Co.
[reprinted ed. Salem, NH: Ayer Co. Publishers, 1988],), p. 74 and G. Ramsauer, ed.
(with commentary), Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, vol. 2 of Greek and Roman Philosophy
(New York: Garland, 1987), pp. 77“8.
Law, Education, and Moral Virtue 43

de¬ne the virtues of a good citizen or the overarching principle of the
good from which they derive the virtues of human “¬‚ourishing.”107
Aristotle, by contrast, does not derive the virtues from overarching
principles. In this kind of matter, he points out, it is impossible to start
from what is “known unquali¬edly” (NE 1095a30“b7).108 Rather, we
must start from what is “known to us,” which are the opinions of the
community “ what it praises as noble and just, and blames as shameful
and unjust (NE 1129b11“19, 1134a26“31, 1180a14“24; Pol. 1253a14“
21, 35“9). In questions of ethics, of course, we do not seek out just any
old opinion; we do not survey, for example, the local prison popula-
tion. We turn to those we trust as decent and serious role models. On
these grounds, the most competent student of matters pertaining to
“the noble and the just, and politics generally,” is someone who already
has the proper habits since, in possessing these habits, this person is
already in possession of the right principles (archas, “starting points”)
(NE 1095b3“6). In the education to virtue, therefore, the community
looks to those exemplars of the law who hold the correct opinions.
To be most precise, the good in the realm of action is given ¬rst in
the principles held by the morally serious (spoudaios) and prudent
(phronimos) human being: the person who, having been “nobly raised,”
identi¬es the good life with noble and just action, and so with moral

107 See, for example, MacIntyre, After Virtue, pp. 219“20; Galston, Justice and the Human
Good, pp. 56“8 and Liberal Purposes, ch. 8; Nussbaum, “Non-Relative Virtues,”
pp. 32“6 and “Aristotle on Human Functioning and Social Justice,” pp. 214“33;
Salkever, Finding the Mean, p. 264, and “˜Lopp™d and Bound™,” p. 192.
108 Richard Kraut, in Aristotle and the Human Good (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1989), offers a somewhat different view, calling the argument concerning
human function (ergon) in ch. 7 of Book I “the most important single argument in
[Aristotle™s] treatment of happiness” (p. 237). For Kraut™s full defense of this view, as
well as the use he makes of the function argument, see especially ch. 6. In the course
of establishing the signi¬cance of the function argument, however, Kraut makes an
important quali¬cation concerning the moral virtues. After noting that “not a word
is said in the function argument about the particular virtues that occupy so much
of Aristotle™s attention in later portions of the NE,” he observes a little later, “I agree
that the function argument does not by itself show that temperance (for example),
as Aristotle conceives of it, is a virtue. But we would be impatient students of the NE if
we expected it to present the whole of its argument at once. Instead of regarding the
function argument as a complete but defective argument on behalf of the ethical
virtues, we should treat it as the foundation for a defense that Aristotle continues to
develop throughout the rest of his work. Obviously, the function argument cannot
by itself show why temperance and other particular virtues are important; to do that,
one must ¬rst have a proper understanding of these virtues” (pp. 322“3).
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics
44

virtue (NE 1094b14“19, 1098a14“18, 1099a22“31, 1103a31“b25,
1105b2“9, 1105b28“1106a2, 1106a6“9, 1106b24“7, 1106b36“1107a2,
1113a25“33).
In contrast to his students today, then, Aristotle begins by de¬n-
ing the human good in terms of moral virtue, and not the reverse.109
More particularly, he offers a provisional de¬nition of the good as an
activity of the soul in accord with reason, and action in conformity
with this, and he adopts the morally serious perspective in identifying
moral virtue as the rational perfection of that part of the soul “ the
desiring and longing part “ from which action issues (NE 1098a13“
18). Proceeding on this supposition, Aristotle offers also a provisional
de¬nition of moral virtue: Concerning the passions and actions, moral
virtue is a “mean” (meson) with respect to two vices, which are the excess
and de¬ciency in relation to what is necessary (deon), and a mean
that accords with the rational principle (logos) de¬ned by the prudent
human being (NE 1106b36“1107a6). Aristotle™s de¬nition remains
provisional since he postpones the investigation of the rational prin-
ciple or right reason that underlies moral virtue until his account of
intellectual virtue in Book VI (NE 1103b31“4). In taking up the discus-
sion of the morally serious life, Aristotle simply accepts the law™s claim
to be the voice of right reason, and, indeed, he powerfully reiterates
this claim in his discussion of justice (NE 1138a5“11).
According to Aristotle, then, the law strives not only to guard the
common good, but also to make citizens “noble and good,” kalos
k™agathos, the two terms often used in Greek to describe the exem-
plar of virtue. In this regard, the virtue inculcated by the authoritative

109 Peter Simpson™s criticism of contemporary Aristotelianism sums up the dif¬culty:
“Flourishing is the prior notion and the virtues are to be understood in terms of
it. But Aristotle™s understanding of the relation between ¬‚ourishing and the virtues
is the opposite of this. Aristotle does not argue to the virtues from some prior
notion of ¬‚ourishing, nor does he even attempt to do this. The virtues fall into
the de¬nition of eudaimonia but eudaimonia does not fall into the de¬nition of the
virtues. . . . So the notion of virtue must be prior to the notion of eudaimonia and
must be understood before eudaimonia can be understood” (“Contemporary Virtue
Ethics and Aristotle,” p. 507). See also John Cooper™s criticism of those who would
designate Aristotle™s ethics as “teleological”: “although [Aristotle] does hold that
virtuous action is a means to eudaimonia, or human good, eudaimonia is itself not
speci¬ed independently of virtuous action; on the contrary, eudaimonia is conceived
as identical with a lifetime of morally serious action” ( John M. Cooper, Reason and
Human Good in Aristotle [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975], p. 88).
Law, Education, and Moral Virtue 45

education of the political community is presented as both
instrumentally and intrinsically good. Or to put this in terms that Aris-
totle uses, the education provided by the law necessarily authorizes two
ends for virtuous action that it also seeks to reconcile: the common
good, on the one hand, and moral virtue or moral perfection in its
own right, on the other.
Having accepted at face value the political community™s claim to
be the architect of the human good, Aristotle undertakes an investiga-
tion of the complex end at which the law aims in his discussion of the
eleven moral virtues in the Nicomachean Ethics. These virtues belong to
the morally serious life, at the peaks of which are two complete virtues,
magnanimity and justice. By illuminating the peaks of the moral life,
Aristotle both clari¬es the highest possibilities of the education sup-
plied by the law and reveals, on the basis of the law™s own standards,
the limits of its education.
Aristotle™s examination of the particular moral virtues is the focus
of the next two chapters. Chapter 2 follows his treatment of the noble
as the end or telos of virtue, beginning with the ¬rst virtue, courage,
through the ¬rst complete virtue, magnanimity. I show that it is virtue™s
connection with the noble that elevates it as an end and good in its own
right. At its height in magnanimity, however, this elevation of virtue
proves to entail an abstraction from justice or the common good, the
other end to which the law demands the devotion of morally seri-
ous human beings.110 Chapter 3 thus examines Aristotle™s account of

110 As for the logic of the discussion, I take my bearings from Aristotle™s several explicit
textual indications (NE 1117b23“4, 1119b22“3, 1122a18“24, 1125b1“8) and the
description of the virtues. Aristotle™s dialectical or pedagogical strategy in the Ethics
has been addressed most recently by Richard Bod´ us, The Political Dimensions of

Aristotle™s “Ethics,” trans. Jan Edward Garrett (Albany: State University of New York
Press, 1993); Aristide Tessitore, Reading Aristotle™s “Ethics”: Virtue, Rhetoric, and Polit-
ical Philosophy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996); Thomas Smith,
Revaluing Ethics: Aristotle™s Dialectical Pedagogy (Albany: State University of New York
Press, 2001); and Jacob Howland, “Aristotle™s Great-Souled Man,” Review of Politics
64 (Winter 2002): 27“56. While these scholars agree that Aristotle seeks to educate
his readers concerning the best life, they diverge on important questions, some
of which my discussion will address. See also Salkever, Finding the Mean, ch. 4; R.
´
A. Gauthier and J. Y. Jolif, L™Ethique a Nicomaque, 2nd ed. (Louvain, FR: Publica-
`
tions Universitaires de Louvain, 1970), p. 155; H. H. Joachim, Aristotle: The “Nico-
machean Ethics” (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951), pp. 111, 144; Alexander Grant, The
“Ethics” of Aristotle, 2 vols. (New York: Arno Press, 1973), II.55“6; J. A. Stewart, Notes
on the “Nicomachean Ethics” of Aristotle™s, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1892),
Liberal Citizenship and Aristotle™s Ethics
46

justice as the more complete virtue that promises to reconcile devo-
tion to the common good with the dedication to moral virtue simply.
Yet this discussion of the virtue central to citizenship fails ultimately to
resolve the tension between virtue™s orientation toward the common
good and its independence as an end in its own right.
By elucidating the grounds of this failure, Aristotle™s treatment of
justice reveals the fundamental limits of the political community as
educator, clari¬es the deepest problem of civic education, and raises
the dif¬cult question of the standard to which the law and the good
human being must look in choosing between the two ends of a morally
serious life. Of course, this dif¬culty, and its signi¬cance for the human
good, disappear from view if we simply begin from a denial of a highest
good and from the conclusions of modern realism that human action
is motivated by desire and guided by calculation and self-interest. By
contrast, Aristotle indicates that it is only in grappling with the problem
presented by moral virtue, and with the need for wisdom in the face of
it, that we see the question of the good emerge in its full dimensions.
Chapters 4 and 5 continue the exploration of this question in the
context of the demands and inherent limits of the law and the political
community. In particular, Aristotle™s investigation of the de¬nition of
citizenship, the nature of the regime, and the dispute over distributive
justice at the heart of every regime clari¬es both our necessary obedi-
ence to law as citizens and the grounds of our freedom from it. This
important dimension of Aristotle™s treatment of citizenship becomes
the theme of Chapter 6.

I.213; W. F. R. Hardie, Aristotle™s Ethical Theory (London: Oxford University Press,
1968), pp. 116“20; Harry V. Jaffa, Thomism and Aristotelianism: A Study of the Commen-
tary by Thomas Aquinas on the “Nicomachean Ethics” (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1953), ch. 4; David Ross, Aristotle, 6th ed. (London: Routledge Press, 1995),
pp. 209“11.
2

Citizen Virtue and the Longing for the Noble




Understanding the complexity of moral virtue and the perspective
that informs it requires attention to the substance and order of Aris-
totle™s discussion of the particular virtues in the Nicomachean Ethics. It
is necessary, before turning to this discussion, to address a couple of
objections to this claim, objections represented by the strong state-
ment of Sir David Ross and largely responsible for a general neglect
of the virtues:

This part of the Ethics presents a lively and often amusing account of the
qualities admired or disliked by cultivated Greeks of Aristotle™s time . . . no
attempt is made at an exhaustive logical division of either feelings or actions.
The order is haphazard; two of the cardinal virtues are treated ¬rst and in
considerable detail (the other two being reserved for treatment in Books V
and VI); the other virtues are taken up just as they occur to Aristotle™s mind,
one no doubt suggesting another as he proceeds.1

Such a view would supply a good reason for the neglect of the particular
virtues, and while students of Aristotle rarely subscribe to the whole of
Ross™s view, many assume the validity of some part of it.2 The full case

1 David Ross, Aristotle, 6th ed. (London: Routledge Press, 1995), pp. 209 and 211.
2 Having observed that “the order in which Aristotle discusses the moral virtues in Books
III and IV seems to depend on some kind of psychological theory,” H. H. Joachim then
asserts that “this portion of the Nicomachean Ethics contains Aristotle™s analysis of the
˜best life™ as it was lived in his time “ as it was manifested in the speculative and political
(social and moral) ideals and achievements of the Greeks” (Aristotle: The “Nicomachean
Ethics” [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951], pp. 111, 144). Alexander Grant, rejecting

47
Citizen Virtue and the Longing for the Noble
48

against this position requires the substantive examination of the virtues
(cf. NE 1107b14“16, 20“1, 1108a1“2), yet it is possible to address the
main propositions in a prefatory way by speaking ¬rst to the question
of the organization and order of the list and then to the connection
of the virtues to Greek convention.
If we take our bearings by textual indications alone, Aristotle clearly
indicates an order to his discussion as he takes up the examination of
each virtue. After treating courage “¬rst,” he suggests that moderation
follows “after this one” since the two “seem to belong to the irrational
parts” (NE 1117b23“4). “Next in order,” he notes, is liberality, and then
“it would seem to follow next to speak of magni¬cence,” the other,
“greater” virtue concerned with money (NE 1119b22“3, 1122a18“24).
He then connects the discussion of the two subsequent virtues, mag-
nanimity and ambition, with the preceding two by noting that they
stand in relation to one another as do magni¬cence and liberality,
but in the sphere of honor (NE 1125b1“8). Accordingly, he discusses
¬rst magnanimity, which pertains to great honor, and then ambition,
which concerns lesser honors. In what constitutes roughly the ¬rst


the notion that the Ethics is “composed upon a psychological system,” then interprets
the list as a loosely organized enumeration of common opinion: “[Aristotle] seems to
have taken up ¬rst the most prominent and striking qualities, according to the com-
mon notions of Greece “ Courage, Temperance, and Liberality. Liberality suggested
to him Magni¬cence “ Magni¬cence, Great-souledness; and from this he proceeded
to distinguish the more ordinary quality of Ambition. He then added, what had hith-
erto been omitted, the virtue of regulation of the temper; and pointed out that in
social intercourse three excellent qualities are produced by bringing the demeanour
under the control of the law of balance” (The “Ethics” of Aristotle, 2 vols. [New York:
Arno Press], I.55“6). See also J. A. Stewart, Notes on the “Nicomachean Ethics” of Aristotle,
2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1892), I.213, who sides generally with Grant; R. A.
´
Gauthier and J. Y. Jolif, “L™Ethique a Nicomaque,” 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Louvain, FR: Publi-
`
cations Universitaires de Louvain, 1970), p. 153; and W. F. R. Hardie, Aristotle™s Ethical
Theory (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 116“20, who takes up several of
the arguments regarding the order and exhaustiveness of the list of the virtues and
who ¬nally sides with Ross. The most systematic treatment of the virtues has been
offered by the traditional commentators, and especially by Aquinas, who contends
that Aristotle discusses ¬rst the virtues and vices pertaining to internal passions, then
those pertaining to external goods, and ¬nally those pertaining to external actions.
Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the “Nicomachean Ethics,” trans. C. I. Litzinger, 2 vols.
(Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1964), par. 333“57. For a discussion of Aquinas™s
innovations on Aristotle, see especially Harry V. Jaffa, Thomism and Aristotelianism: A
Study of the Commentary by Thomas Aquinas on the “Nicomachean Ethics” (Chicago: Univer-
sity of Chicago Press, 1952), and Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Vol. II:
Mediaeval Philosophy: Augustine to Scotus (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1950).
Citizen Virtue and the Longing for the Noble 49

half of his list of virtues, therefore, Aristotle offers undeniable indi-
cations that he is proceeding according to a certain logic. When he
discusses the second half of the list, moreover, he also makes explicit
statements indicating the relation of each virtue to what has preceded
or follows (NE 1127a13“14, 17“20, 1127b33“1128a1, 1128b4“9, 35,
1138b13“14), and these statements are supplemented by arguments
for studying these virtues. In moving into what proves to be uncharted
territory “ most of the virtues on the second half of the list are name-
less “ he insists that it is necessary to coin names for these virtues
“for the sake of clarity and understanding” (NE 1108a16“19). After
ambition, then, he examines the virtue pertaining to anger, which he
calls “gentleness,” and, subsequently, three virtues having to do with
action and speech in our associations (“friendliness,” “truthfulness,”
and “wittiness”). Each of these we must include in order to see whether
the virtues are truly means (cf. NE 1108a14“16, 1127a14“17). Even as
he chooses to innovate, then, Aristotle indicates that the movement of
the discussion is guided by its own dynamic; indeed, he predicts, the
discussion will make clear not just what the virtues are, what they per-
tain to, and in what manner, but also how many there are (NE 1115a4“5;
cf. 1098a16“18). On the basis of Aristotle™s own indications, therefore,
there would seem to be no ¬rm justi¬cation for dismissing the list as
haphazard and good reason for examining the order of the virtues.
Yet if we provisionally allow that there is a certain order to Aristo-
tle™s list of the virtues, what of the claim that it represents merely the
conventions of his time or, at best, the ¬nest distillation of speci¬cally
Greek wisdom?3 Since Aristotle maintains that the moral virtues con-
stitute the habits of one who has been well raised and even that, in

3 See again Joachim, Aristotle, p. 111; also Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral
Theory (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), p. 148. In discussing
Aristotle™s treatment of slavery in the Politics, Malcolm Scho¬eld takes up the question
of whether the “endoxic” method “ beginning from the “principles” contained in
opinion “ (a method which Aristotle would appear to employ in the discussion of the
virtues) is inherently conservative or ideological. Scho¬eld suggests that at the very
least, the method “can offer little resistance to popular ideology” and therefore must
be supplemented by reasoned analysis “ the method suggested at the beginning of
the Politics, for example (Scho¬eld, Saving the City: Philosopher-Kings and Other Classical
Paradigms ([New York: Routledge, 1999], pp. 118“22). Although Scho¬eld may be
correct in the case of natural slavery, his suggestion does not address the movement
of Aristotle™s investigation of the virtues to the “nameless” virtues and vices of the
latter half of the list.
Citizen Virtue and the Longing for the Noble
50

an important respect, it is this very upbringing that makes possible
the identi¬cation of the virtues as virtues (NE 1103a31“b25, 1095b3“
8), it seems fair to assume that his account is bound in some way
to the conventions of his Greece. To evaluate this assumption, how-
ever, one ought also to consider the many signs of his freedom in this
regard, beginning with his opening discussion of the cardinal virtue
of courage.
To the heirs of Homer, of course, it would come as no surprise that
Aristotle should single out courage or “manliness” (andreia) as the ¬rst
virtue to be discussed, devote more time to a discussion of courage than
to any other virtue outside of justice, and de¬ne courage as noble death
in battle. Nevertheless, far from then following Homer™s lead, Aristotle
¬rst refers to Homeric heroes in a discussion of “political courage,”
which he dubs a mere appearance of courage, and even here, he men-
tions not the great hero of the Greeks, Achilles, but Hector, the Greeks™
Trojan antagonist (NE 1116a15“23) “ in fact, Aristotle never breathes
the name of Achilles. More signi¬cantly, the length of Aristotle™s
account of courage is governed less by the virtue™s conventional impor-
tance than by the need to sort out its many confusions (see, for
example, NE 1108b23“6, 1115b24“30, 1116a15“29, 1116b23“1117a9,
1117a29“b16), and in the end, his attention to courage turns out to
have been in an important respect in the service of its demotion. When
Aristotle concludes his account, he does so with the strange admission
that the truly courageous “ those who possess the virtue connected with
war and battle “ do not actually make the best soldiers (NE 1117b17“
20), and in then classifying courage and moderation together as virtues
of the “irrational parts,” he indicates that with moderation, courage is
of a lower rank than those virtues to come (NE 1117b23“4). The treat-
ment of courage, moreover, is a harbinger of the later virtues and espe-
cially Aristotle™s innovations when he begins to do no less than to coin
new names.4 Aristotle™s own self-imposed boundary “ the perspective


4 As Gauthier and Jolif observe, Aristotle himself points out that the existing lan-
guage is insuf¬cient, making it necessary for him to invent his own vocabulary (NE
´
1107b30, 1108a16“19; Gauthier and Jolif, L™Ethique a Nicomaque, p. 155). Salkever
`
likewise remarks, “Aristotle™s pointing to certain names suggests some clear criticisms
of Periclean morality: there is no name for excessive virility, no good vocabulary for
articulating the virtue of gentleness, and no name for the virtue of everyday honor.
These gaps in the language are not surprising for a people not inclined to think of
Citizen Virtue and the Longing for the Noble 51

of the morally serious human being “ does not prove to be simply
coherent with the conventions of his Greece.5 How far he moves from
these conventions, as well as the grounds of both his restraint and his
freedom in this regard, become clearer with his account of the morally
serious life.6

gentleness as a virtue, or of the possibility that there might be an excess of virility”
(Finding the Mean: Theory and Practice in Aristotelian Political Philosophy [Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1990], p. 241). See also Kraut, Aristotle and the Human Good
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), pp. 342“3, n. 27.
5 The absence in his discussion of the cardinal virtue piety is another noteworthy break
with the conventional view.
6 Aristotle™s treatments of courage (andreia, lit. “manliness”), ambition, and anger also
raise the question of whether moral virtue as a whole is speci¬cally male. In all three
cases, that is, the manly aspect of the virtue is made clear but treated with some
ambivalence. Nussbaum thus argues that in the very speci¬cation of the virtues, we
witness a certain “progress in ethics”: “We ¬nd argument against Platonic asceticism,
as the proper speci¬cation of moderation (appropriate choice and response vis-` -vis a
the bodily appetites) and the consequent proneness to anger over slights, that was
prevalent in Greek ideals of maleness and in Greek behavior, together with a defense
of a more limited and controlled expression of anger, as the proper speci¬cation of the
virtue that Aristotle calls “mildness of temper.” . . . And so on for all the virtues” (“Non-
Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach,” in Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Vol. XIII:
Ethical Theory, Character, and Virtue, ed. Peter A. French, Theodore E. Uehling, Jr., and
Howard K. Wettstein [Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988], p. 37).
Salkever™s ch. 4, “Gendered Virtue: Plato and Aristotle on the Politics of Virility,” of
Finding the Mean lays out what he suggests is the Aristotelian“Platonic critique of the
conventional and prephilosophic “politics of virility” and thus ties Aristotle™s criticism
of such a politics to his criticism more generally of convention. As for the virtues dis-
cussed in the Ethics, there is clearly a movement away from the kinds of virtues that
would be associated with the heroic tradition of Homer, and it could be argued that
Aristotle is ultimately concerned with speci¬cally human as opposed to male or female
virtue. In the Ethics generally, however, he is not immediately concerned with settling
the status of sexual differences. An investigation of this question would require a much
broader consideration of his works, and projects of this kind include, in addition to
Salkever™s, Arlene Saxonhouse, Fear of Diversity: The Birth of Political Science in Ancient
Greek Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992) and Women in the His-
tory of Political Thought (New York: Praeger, 1985); Nussbaum, “Shame, Separateness,
and Political Unity: Aristotle™s Criticism of Plato,” in Essays on Aristotle™s “Ethics,” ed.
Am´ lie Oksenberg Rorty (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987); Jean Bethke
e
Elshtain, Public Man, Private Woman (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981);
Judith Swanson, “Aristotle on Nature, Human Nature, and Justice: A Consideration
of the Natural Functions of Men and Women in the City,” in Action and Contemplation:
Studies in the Moral and Political Thought of Aristotle, eds. Robert C. Bartlett and Susan
D. Collins (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999), pp. 225“47; Darrell
Dobbs, “Family Matters: Aristotle™s Appreciation of Women and the Plural Structure
of Society,” American Political Science Review 90 (March 1996): 74“89; Harold Levy,
“Does Aristotle Exclude Women from Politics?” Review of Politics 52 (Summer 1990):
397“416; Thomas K. Lindsay, “Was Aristotle Racist, Sexist, and Anti-Democratic?: A
Citizen Virtue and the Longing for the Noble
52

The discussion of courage is the portal through which we enter
into Aristotle™s investigation of this life. As he proceeds from courage
through the ¬rst complete virtue, magnanimity, he elucidates the com-
plex longing behind virtuous action and the elevation of virtue to its
status as an independent end and good. This view of virtue as worthy
of pursuit for its own sake is re¬‚ected in the law™s concern to make
citizens not only “obedient” but also “noble and good.” In his account
of courage, Aristotle quickly con¬rms the horizon of his investigation
by explicitly identifying the end (telos) of virtue not with happiness
but with “the noble” (NE 1102a5“7, 1115a4“5, 1115b11“13) “ a for-
mulation that recurs frequently throughout the discussion of the ¬rst
¬ve virtues.7 This link between virtue and the longing for the noble
is frequently overlooked by students of the Ethics, yet it is crucial in
understanding both the elevation of virtue to its place as an indepen-
dent end and the tensions within the moral life that result.

courage as noble sacri¬ce and self-concern
Courage is the virtue that pertains to fear and con¬dence. Since fear
is aroused by and de¬ned as the “expectation of evil,” Aristotle ¬rst
identi¬es the evil that courage in particular concerns. After eliminat-
ing four contenders “ disrepute, poverty, illness, and friendlessness “
he establishes that death is the greatest evil, for “death is an end, and,
furthermore, for the dead there seems to be nothing, neither good
nor evil” (NE 1115a26“7). In pertaining to the “greatest of the fearful
things,” then, courage is concerned with death. Nevertheless, just as
it does not pertain to every kind of fear, neither is it concerned with
every kind of death. Rather, the hope or con¬dence speci¬c to courage
is aroused only when the courageous human being is able “to act
like a man” (andrizesthai) and “to show his prowess” or when “to die is
noble” (NE 1115b4“6). Only in the case of these “noblest” of deaths is

Review Essay,” Review of Politics 56 (Winter 1994): 127“51, which contains a review of
the treatment of this question in Salkever™s discussion, as well in Judith Swanson™s
The Public and the Private in Aristotle™s Political Philosophy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press, 1992) and in Mary P. Nichols™s Citizens and Statesmen: A Study of Aristotle™s “Politics”
(Savage, MA: Rowman & Little¬eld, 1992).
7 For Aristotle™s many references to the noble in this section of the Ethics, see NE
1116a27“9, b2“3; 1117a7“9, 16“17, b7“9, 13“15; 1119a16“18, b16“17; 1120a13“15,
23“5, b3“4; 1121a1“4; 1122b6“7, 15“18; 1123a6“9.
Courage as Noble Sacri¬ce and Self-Concern 53

the con¬dence proper to courage aroused, and such deaths occur pri-
marily in war because war contains “the greatest and noblest danger”
(or risk, kindunos; NE 1115a30“1). By referring in passing to the hon-
ors that cities and monarchs pay to the courageous, Aristotle indi-
cates the perspective from which he speaks (NE 1115a31“2). In war,
the welfare of the entire city or nation is at risk, and this welfare is
a good that is “nobler and more divine” than that of any individual
(NE 1094b24“32).8 When Aristotle concludes that “strictly speaking,
one would call courageous the one who is fearless with respect to a
noble death and any situations that bring death suddenly to hand, and
these sorts are especially the ones that occur in war” (NE 1115a32“5),
we are prepared to think that the nobility of courage is connected with
its bene¬t to the political community.
Indeed, an important, though strangely overlooked, fact is that the
noble in the case of courage points ¬rst to sacri¬ce and self-forgetting
as the essential aspect of good action.9 It is nobility in this sense “ as
manifest in action in behalf of a higher end or good “ that ¬rst elevates
virtuous action as an end worthy of our dedication. At ¬rst blush, that is,
the nobility of the courageous action is constituted by its sel¬‚essness,
namely, by the courageous man™s service to a good greater than his
own: the good of the city or nation. Yet Aristotle elucidates the full
complexity of moral motivation and of the longing for the noble by
also insisting that the truly courageous individual acts not for the sake
of the political community alone or for the honors it bestows. Rather,
in showing his prowess as a man or dying nobly, if it is necessary to die,
such an individual is willing to suffer death only in an action in which
he exercises his own virtue (NE 1115a35“1115b6). The courageous

8 Aspasius comes to the same conclusion (Commentaria in Aristotelem graeca: Vol. 19,
Aspasii in Ethica Nicomachea, ed. Gustavus Heylbut [Berlin: G. Reimeri, 1889], sec. 18).
9 Recent commentators have even been critical of the noble as it is presented in the
account of courage, either as encouraging a dangerous “illusion of self-suf¬ciency”
(Lee Ward, “Nobility and Necessity: The Problem of Courage in Aristotle™s Nicomachean
Ethics,” American Political Science Review 95 [March 2001], pp. 78“80) or as involving
an excessive attachment to manliness and honor (Thomas Smith, Revaluing Ethics:
Aristotle™s Dialectical Pedagogy [Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001], pp. 85“
91). Jacob Howland suggests that the “love of the noble” is philosophical, a suggestion
he does not elucidate (“Aristotle™s Great-Souled Man,” Review of Politics 64 [Winter
2002], p. 30). Grant and Stewart stress the “moral beauty” of the courageous action
without explaining the sense in which it is “beautiful” (see Grant, The “Ethics” of Aristotle,
II.35“6; Stewart, Notes on the “Nicomachean Ethics” of Aristotle, I.288).
Citizen Virtue and the Longing for the Noble
54

man is thus distinguished neither by simple altruism nor by the hope
of some good extrinsic to the act, but by the dedication to virtue itself.
As Aristotle ¬nally observes:

The end [telos] of every activity is the one in accord with the characteristic.
Furthermore, to the courageous man, courage is noble. Such a sort also, then,
is the end, for each thing is de¬ned by its end. For the sake of the noble,
therefore, the courageous man endures and does the things that are in accord
with courage. (NE 1115b20“4)

To the courageous man, it is the deed itself, as well as the characteristic
from which it issues, that is noble, and those who act for the sake of
any other end possess a courage that is a mere appearance of the true
thing (NE 1115a32“5, b20“4, 1116a17“21).
This view is not only acknowledged but cultivated by the political
community: While the political community may seek its own security
through the honors it confers upon courage, these same honors point
to courage as the noblest and best aim for a human being.10 Aristotle
treats more fully the relation between honor and true courage in his
account of political courage “ the characteristic of a citizen soldier “
which is the ¬rst of ¬ve appearances of courage he seeks to dismiss.
Political courage is “most like true courage” because the citizen soldier
endures dangers “on account of the penalties of the laws and
reproaches, and on account of honors” (NE 1116a17“19). Both true
courage and its political counterpart are products of the education
provided by the laws, which punish vice and reward virtue. The sim-
ilarity between true and political courage re¬‚ects the link between
virtue and honor Aristotle noted in Book I (NE 1095a22“9), a link he
reiterates in his opening discussion of fear and courage by saying that
the one who fears disrepute is “equitable and modest,” whereas the
one who does not is “shameless” (NE 1115a12“14).
Thus, honor and shame, as well as the penalties or punishments
of the law, are the vehicles by which the law educates citizens to
virtue. For this reason, it is not surprising, as Aristotle observes, that
the most courageous men are found among those peoples who espe-
cially honor courage and dishonor cowardice. Citing depictions of the

10 Compare Ward, who draws something of the opposite conclusion (“Nobility and
Necessity,” pp. 75“6, 78“80).
Courage as Noble Sacri¬ce and Self-Concern 55

heroes Hector and Diomedes in the Iliad, Aristotle argues that politi-
cal courage “arises on account of virtue” because it is grounded in the
love of honor, which is a “noble thing” (NE 1116a27“8). In this sense,
citizen soldiers endure in the face of dangers for the sake of the noble,
and true courage and its political counterpart are most alike because
they share the noble as an end.
There is, nonetheless, an important difference between the partic-
ular ends to which the truly courageous man and the citizen soldier
attach nobility. For the truly courageous man™s end is not ¬nally the
honor that redounds to the deed, but the deed itself. In Aristotle™s
Homeric examples, we begin to see the signi¬cance of this distinction.
For the same heroes whom he identi¬es as representative of political
courage “ of the love of honor and fear of shame “ exempli¬ed to the
Greeks the dedication to courage as an end that distinguishes the truly
courageous man. Indeed, Aristotle refers to Hector later in the Ethics
as one who represents a virtue that is “heroic and divine” “ a virtue of
a higher order than moral virtue itself (NE 1145a18“22). Moreover,
the passages Aristotle cites as illustrations of political courage do not
perfectly bear out his claim. It is true that Hector fears the reproach
of Polydamas, but he fears reproach precisely because, prompted by
his own courage and in opposition to Polydamas™s prudent advice, he
had led the Trojans into the disastrous battle against Achilles (Iliad
XXII, 98“110). Fearing not the reproaches of his fellow citizens who
are ¬‚eeing the Trojan onslaught but the mock of cowardice by Hector,
his enemy, Diomedes is barely restrained from a similarly disastrous
attack by his compatriot Nestor (Iliad VIII, 137“56). In their dedica-
tion to their own virtue, these men of political courage are hard to
distinguish from those of true courage.
The similarity and link between the two forms of courage is
inevitable because the very honors the city establishes with a view to
encouraging its defense point to courage itself as noblest and best
for a human being. Indeed, although there is a difference between
those who act for the sake of honor and those who act for the sake of
virtue, there is a very ¬ne line between men who ¬ght and die for the
sake of being honored for their courage and those who do so for the
sake of the virtue alone. The precise coordinates of this line become
clearer when Aristotle observes that one might classify men who pos-
sess the courage of a citizen with those who are forced to ¬ght by their
Citizen Virtue and the Longing for the Noble
56

leaders, though the latter are worse inasmuch as they act out of fear
and ¬‚ee pain rather than shame (NE 1116a29“32). Such reluctant
soldiers clearly have no particular hankering for the honors the city
bestows, and in whipping them to their posts, their commanders treat
them with slightly less harshness than they do the enemy. Yet one might
classify these soldiers and their citizen counterparts together because
the motivation for both is connected directly to the city, to what it can
do for or to them (cf. NE 1116b2“3). Citizen soldiers are willing to
¬ght and die if they must because they aspire to the honors of the city
and fear its reproach; the worse types are afraid of the punishment the
city can in¬‚ict. Strictly speaking, therefore, neither aspires to courage
for its own sake, and neither attributes to courage a status of its own.11
By contrast, although the honor that accrues to courage is originally
established by the city with a view to its own security, courageous action
ultimately becomes the noble end for the sake of which a virtuous
person acts. From the city™s point of view, this love of virtue is both
honorable and problematic: The courageous man may seek to prove
his virtue in less than politically prudent ways “ he may wish for “chilling
war” among his people (see NE 1177b6“12, Pol. 1253a1“7) “ and he
may care more about what his enemies think than about what is best
for his city. But no political community would wish for an army that it
must whip to its post, even if, in honoring those who ¬ght and die on
its behalf, it points to virtue and not itself as the noblest and best end
for a human being.
As the portal through which we enter into his inquiry into the
morally serious life, then, Aristotle™s discussion of courage locates the
nobility and goodness of this life in its dedication to virtue in its own
right. This discussion thereby preserves the noble as virtue™s aim and
af¬rms Aristotle™s claim in his introduction to moral virtue that an
action is virtuous only if, among other things, it is chosen for its own
sake (NE 1105a30“4). Indeed, this aspect of the virtue distinguishes it
not only from the several appearances of courage Aristotle discusses,
including the “natural” courage of thumos or spiritedness, but also from

11 Grant and Stewart both observe that there are two kinds of political courage, one
that depends on honor and another that depends on fear. Nevertheless, in classifying
these two together, Aristotle underscores their similarity: neither type of courage
aspires to the deed as a good in its own right (cf. Grant, The “Ethics” of Aristotle, II.39;
Stewart, Notes on the “Nicomachean Ethics” of Aristotle, I.293).
Courage as Noble Sacri¬ce and Self-Concern 57

the vice with which it might be mistaken, rashness. As the mean per-
taining to fear and con¬dence, true courage must be confused neither
with the complete absence of fear, which Aristotle dismisses as a human
possibility, nor with an excess of con¬dence, which he identi¬es with
those “rash cowards” who boast of their courage, only to turn tail at
the ¬rst sign of danger (NE 1115b32). Because death is the greatest
evil, the courageous man reasonably experiences fear; in the face of
this fear, however, he remains steadfast, and his con¬dence is aroused
by the prospect of his own noble action. Compared to rash cowards,
who appear most willing in advance of the danger but beat a quick
retreat when it arrives, the truly courageous “are keen in the deeds but
calm beforehand” (NE 1116a7“9). The con¬dence or hope speci¬c to
courage can ¬nd its ful¬llment only in the action of the virtue itself “
in an action that, as Aristotle has insisted, offers no reward after death.
Indeed, for all its nobility, courageous action involves a dif¬culty,
the resolution of which will inform the discussion of the virtues that
follow. In performing a noble deed, the courageous human being is
shown to perform a deed that is at once sel¬‚ess, in being for the sake of
a higher end, and self-regarding, in being for the sake of his own virtue.
But in the case of courage, this same action is problematic precisely
because it entails the cessation of the activity and life that its presence
as virtue makes choiceworthy: “the more a man possesses complete
virtue and is happy, the more death will be painful to him, because
especially to this sort of man, to live is worthwhile” (NE 1117b9“12).12
As one who is dedicated to virtue above all, nevertheless, the man
of true courage will “choose the noble thing in war” instead of his
own “greatest goods,” and he does this in awareness of his sacri¬ce
and so with pain (NE 1117b7“13, 1117a33“4). In contrast to his great
medieval interpreter Aquinas, who allows for a courage that ¬nds its
reward in the afterlife, Aristotle underscores the sacri¬ce involved in


12 This tension between courage and happiness prompts Grant to observe that “the
most moral of the virtues here named, from a modern point of view, is courage,
on account of the self-sacri¬ce, the endurance of danger, pain, and death, which it
implies” (Grant, Aristotle [London: William Blackwood & Sons, 1877], pp. 107“8).
But compare Stewart: “Aristotle thus gives due prominence in his account of andreia
to the struggle which some have represented as essential to morality. But we must not
allow ourselves to be misled by his remarks here. He is not one of those who make a
struggle essential to morality” (Notes on the “Nicomachean Ethics” of Aristotle, I.303).
Citizen Virtue and the Longing for the Noble
58

the act by his denial in the discussion of courage of this very possibility
(NE 1115a27).13 The same loss that ennobles courage thus makes its
action deeply problematic. Its action is so problematic that Aristotle
will conclude ¬nally that courageous men, strictly speaking, do not
make the best soldiers. The best soldiers, rather, are those willing to
exchange their lives “for small pro¬t” (NE 1117b19“20). That courage
is itself noble, and in this respect a virtue, Aristotle leaves no doubt,
but its action raises the question of whether there is a kind of noble
action more consistent with self-concern. The concern for our self-
preservation and well-being comes so much to the fore in the next
virtue, moderation, that the noble as an end almost recedes from view.
Yet moderation, which has no action of its own, proves instrumental to
the virtue that follows it, liberality, whose noble giving clearly entails a
loss, but not a fatal one (NE 1121b1“12).

noble deeds and the ascent of virtue
Aristotle presents in liberality a noble deed consistent with a certain
self-concern. Like courage, liberality is hard because it entails a loss for
the giver, who gives of his own material goods (chr¯mata) or money. The
e
liberal person gives with pleasure, nevertheless, because he achieves
his end, and he acts entirely in accord with his choice or preference
since he prefers noble action to money (NE 1120a23“5, 30“3). While
the courageous man acts with pain and is even “unwilling,” then, the
liberal person remains cheerful in the face of his loss (cf. 1117b7“9
with 1115a20“2). He so much loves to give, in fact, that he has a ten-
dency toward prodigality, one of the virtue™s associated vices, and he
is so easygoing with money that he is vulnerable to being cheated (NE
1119b34“1120a4, 1120b4“6, 1121a4“6).
But while the liberal person™s noble activity is consistent with self-
concern, it raises a new question with respect to virtue: the question of
the means needed for its action. The problem in the case of liberality is
that in the absence of a lucky inheritance or a winning lottery ticket, a
person who seems otherwise unconcerned about money must acquire

13 Compare Aquinas, Commentary, I:590: “We must consider, however, that to some
virtuous men death is desirable on account of the hope of a future life. But the Stoics
did not discuss this, nor did it pertain to the Philosopher in this work to speak of
those things that belong to the condition of another life.”
Noble Deeds and the Ascent of Virtue 59

and preserve it if he is to have goods to give. Yet, as Aristotle is quick to
note, acquisition is governed not by liberality as a virtue but by justice.
In observing that liberality pertains to the good use of wealth, he insists
that the use of wealth involves giving and spending as opposed to
taking and preserving, which have more to do with its acquisition,
and his precision is prompted by the fact that justice too pertains to
material goods or money and speci¬cally their acquisition (NE 1120a4“
11, 18“23).14 The action of giving is governed by liberality, then, but
constrained by justice, and the problem of this constraint underlies
the abstraction from the requirements and concerns of justice that
begins in the discussion of liberality.
Aristotle indicates the problem this constraint presents in a wry
digression: “We do not call tyrants prodigal,” he observes, “for it does
not seem to be easy to exceed in gifts and expenses the amount they
possess” (NE 1120b25“7). The means of liberal action, that is, are most
amply at the disposal of a tyrant, who may be said to own the entire city
(cf. Pol. 1276a6“16, 1287a1“3). From the point of view of the person
who loves to bene¬t others by giving, and whose speci¬c action and
pleasure can be fully indulged only with the requisite means, the tyrant
is the most fortunate of men. Liberality is possible, of course, for those
of modest means, and Aristotle indicates that a liberal person, who
is disposed to give, is not likely to “take from the wrong source” (NE
1120a32“3, b28“35). But, as he reiterates at the end of his account
of liberality, because the actions associated with acquisition fall under
the government of justice, the clearest constraint on a virtuous per-
son who loves noble giving yet has limited means is that obtaining
the resources for giving on a grand scale would entail actions that are
“wicked, impious, and unjust” (NE 1122a3“7). In the case of magnif-
icence and magnanimity “ the virtues that follow liberality and that
involve great actions “ the problem of this constraint will necessarily
become more acute, but Aristotle™s presentation of these virtues will
completely abstract from the activity of acquisition and so from the
consideration of justice.


14 That Aristotle is choosing to discuss liberality instead of justice is suggested also by
his opening statement in which, as Burnet says, “Aristotle speaks as if dikaiosyn¯ had
e
already been treated in its natural place along with andreia and s¯phrosyn¯ ” (Burnet,
o e
“Ethics” of Aristotle [London: Metheun & Co., 1900]; cf. NE 1119b22“26).
Citizen Virtue and the Longing for the Noble
60

In the longing for the noble, there is a natural directedness toward
great acts that the movement from liberality to magni¬cence captures:
To bene¬t one person is good, to be sure, but to be the “cause of
the greatest good” by bene¬ting the city as a whole is nobler and
even divine (NE 1094b7“10; Pol. 1253a3031).15 Like liberality, mag-
ni¬cence pertains to money, but more precisely to giving and spending
“on a grand scale” (NE 1122a21“3). The one who acts in accord with
magni¬cence longs to produce a noble and great work (ergon), and
he seeks especially to undertake the “most honorable” works, those
of public or common (koina) concern (NE 1122b19“23, 1122b33“
1123a5). In both his private and public expenditures, the one who
possesses magni¬cence acts with pleasure and “for the sake of the
noble,” which is “common to the virtues,” and he possesses a kind
of knowledge in doing what is ¬tting both to the occasion and to his
own virtue (NE 1122a6“9, b6“8, 34“5). The products of magni¬cence,
therefore, are not only noblest and most honorable, but also the “orna-
ment” (kosmos) of their patron™s own great virtue (NE 1122a6“9).
Because it pertains to great works, however, magni¬cence is clearly
beyond the reach of all but the wealthy. In fact, magni¬cence is typ-
ically contingent on “birth,” not least for the money it requires (NE
1122b26“35). The problem is that the longing for the noble that ties
magni¬cence to the other virtues is not itself a function of birth, so that
the question of acquisition must be addressed. Yet this question has
been completely dropped: The virtue of magni¬cence pertains only
to expenditures and not to acquisition on a grand scale. Of the vices
associated with such grand acquisitiveness “ namely, wickedness, impi-
ety, and injustice “ none are extremes associated with magni¬cence.

15 Kraut makes a similar argument regarding Aristotle™s defense of the political life as
better than a “private life in which one exercises the virtues by devoting oneself to
the well-being of a small circle of friends and family” (Aristotle and the Human Good,
pp. 345“7). Aristotle indicates that the movement of the virtues to magnanimity
as a peak belongs naturally to virtue. Consider Joseph Cropsey™s remark: “The Nico-
machean Ethics is probably the most famous moral treatise that claims no debt to revela-
tion” (Political Philosophy and the Issues of Politics [Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1977], p. 252). See also Larry Arnhart for a discussion of the virtue of magnanimity
in the context of the “Christian challenge to ancient naturalism” (“Statesmanship
as Magnanimity: Classical, Christian, and Modern,” Polity 16 [Winter 1983], p. 271),
as well as Jaffa™s analysis of the Thomistic transformation of Aristotle (Thomism and
Aristotelianism).
Magnanimity and Virtue as the Highest Good 61

Aristotle presents magni¬cence, then, in abstraction from the activity
on which it depends, and so from the virtue that pertains to this activity,
justice. It may be said that as a part of complete virtue, magni¬cence is
necessarily perfected or “completed” by justice, but this suggestion is
forestalled by the movement of Aristotle™s discussion to magnanimity
(megalopsuchia, lit. “greatness of soul”), the ¬rst peak and completion
of the virtues.


magnanimity and virtue as the highest good
As a peak and completion of virtue, magnanimity occupies a central
place in Aristotle™s treatment of the morally serious life. While recent
commentators have rightly drawn attention to the ambiguities of Aris-
totle™s account of this virtue, and particularly to its “ironic” or critical
aspects, they have tended to ignore the important sense in which mag-
nanimity is indeed a completion of moral virtue.16 Magnanimity as a
virtue is said to pertain to “great things,” and especially to great honor,
but we quickly learn that magnanimity™s relation to honor is mediated
by its connection with virtue. Because the magnanimous man possesses
“what is great in each virtue,” according to Aristotle, he “is worthy of
great things” and “regards himself as worthy of great things,” espe-
cially of “the greatest of the external goods,” honor (NE 1123b29“30,
20“1, 34“5). Such an individual represents a peak and completion of
virtue, then, both in possessing each of the virtues and in assigning
to virtue the “prize” of honor as its proper desert (NE 1123b16“20).
Like the great works of magni¬cence, the honor that the magnan-
imous man assigns to his own nobility and goodness (kalokagathia)
makes magnanimity the ornament (or crown, kosmos) of the virtues
(NE 1123b34“1124a5).

16 Aristide Tessitore (Reading Aristotle™s “Ethics”: Virtue, Rhetoric, and Political Philosophy
[Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996]), Howland (“Aristotle™s Great-
Souled Man”), and Smith (Revaluing Ethics) in particular draw attention to this aspect
of magnanimity in relation to its defects; more recently, Ryan Hanley has opposed
such views by arguing that magnanimity is a civic virtue (“Aristotle on the Greatness
of the Greatness of Soul,” History of Political Thought 23 [Spring 2002]: 1“20). See
also Stewart, Notes on the “Nicomachean Ethics” of Aristotle, I.355: “The picture of the
megalopsuchos given in this chapter is a creation of art, intended to present a great
philosophical truth with concrete evidence to the imagination.”
Citizen Virtue and the Longing for the Noble
62

As virtue™s exemplar and champion, moreover, the magnanimous
man identi¬es it not only as his highest end, but also as his greatest
good. Even honor, the greatest of the external goods, pales by com-
parison, for “no honor could be commensurate with perfect virtue”
(NE 1124a5“9; cf. 1134b6“7). The magnanimous man™s singular devo-
tion to virtue is especially manifest in his sense of self-suf¬ciency and
admirable bene¬cence.17 He is moderately disposed with respect to

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