2000 NewFoundations

The Educational Theory of Aristotle

Analyst: Elizabeth Mays


edited 11/19/18

I. Theory of Value

What knowledge and skills are worthwhile learning? The purpose of the state is to educate the people -- to make them virtuous. Virtue is the life principle of the state. The goal of the state is to educate with a view toward its own institutions (to preserve them) - political education of all citizens (179, Davidson).

[Virtue is the perfection of reason. Reason is the source of the first principles of knowledge. Reason deals with the abstract and ideal aspects. Active reason makes the world intelligible ("Aristotle" 384-322 BC).

What are the goals of education? Education is a function of the State, and is conducted, primarily at least, for the ends of the State. State - highest social institution which secures the highest goal or happiness of man. Education is preparation for some worthy activity (169, Davidson). Education should be guided by legislation to make it correspond with the results of psychological analysis, and follow the gradual development of the bodily and mental faculties ("Aristotle" 384-322 BC).

Specifically, technical Skills - play, physical activity, moral and physical education - gymnastic training or physical ed; music; Liberal ed. - reading and writing; ages 15 to 21 -mathematics, geometry, astronomy, grammar, literature, poetry, rhetoric, ethics, and politics; age 21 - theoretical subjects - physics, cosmology, biology, psychology, logic, and metaphysics (112, Ornstein)

Il. Theory of Knowledge

What is knowledge? Knowledge is always about an object - is conceptual - it is based on the form of the object - concepts are the generalized classes of objects (112, Ornstein) An intellectual virtue -- knowledge is always about an object - intellectual virtue -comprehension/ intuition - wisdom, scientific wisdom (206 Barnes) understanding (episteme) science an organized body of systematically arranged information -deduction, demonstrative argument (109, Barnes) Aristotle disdains men of working class - talks to members of landholding class (206, Barnes)

How is it different from belief? an opinion - the beginning of dialectic reasoning

What is a mistake? People make mistakes when judgment is not founded on reason - cannot error if have knowledge of something - Know your own weakness to know the directions in which you make mistakes "we must drag ourselves away to contrary extreme" (218, Barnes) A lie? If you know the truth, why pick a he? know what is good

III. Theory of Human Nature

What is a human being? Man is a rational animal ... it is the soul or form or psyche that informs and animates all of these (chemical, anatomical, neurological features of the human body) and orders them according to their distinctively human functions in a human being (95, Veath). capacities which are distinctive of human life, specifically the capacities for practical and theoretical rationality (234, Barnes) How does it differ from other species? Other species do not have rational capabilities. While animals are able to express pleasure and pain by their cries, humans and only humans possess, speech which enables them to make judgments of what is beneficial and harmful, right and wrong (238, Barnes). human capacity for practical judgment

What are the limits of human potential?... developed practical wisdom of the patriarch over slaves, females, and children, all types of human beings who, in Aristotle's view, lack that developed wisdom Lack wisdom for proper organization of their own lives (245, Barnes)

"Man is by nature a political animal " slogan supports claim by interesting application of his principal "'Nature does nothing in vain." (238, Barnes)

an individual incapable of membership of a polis (city-state) is not, strictly speaking, a human being, but rather a (non-human) animal (239, Barnes)

IV. Theory of Learning

What is learning? How are skills and knowledge acquired? Education and teaching are always about an object and should have content. In the Aristotelian teaching act, the teacher instructs a learner about some object, some body of knowledge, or some discipline. Teaching and learning never represent merely an interpersonal relationship or the expression of feelings. They are always about disciplined inquiry into some aspect of reality. ... the school should cultivate and develop each person's rationality (112-113, Ornstein)

V. Theory of Transmission

Who is to teach? the state is a university which arranges the entire scheme of education and is itself the highest grade (174, Davidson) The state is both teacher and pupil (173, Davidson)

By what methods? observation

What will the curriculum be? theoretical and practical (technical skills, liberal education, subjects, theoretical subjects) -

VI. Theory of Society

What is society? Society is the state. two classes of people -ruling and ruled. The ruled are to be Greeks; barbarians are to be slaves (176, Davidson) The government is entirely in the hands of free citizens (178, Davidson) moral society - do what is right for all

What institutions are involved in the educational process? Family (some influence) the state (community)

VII. Theory of Opportunity

Who is to be educated? Who is to be schooled? the citizen of the state (a politician) (175, Davidson) There would be no state composed of slaves. The inhabitants fitness for political functions determine the size of the state (He is an elitist.) (175, Davidson) Aristotle concerned exclusively with the education of boys. Following the conventional mores of Athens, he believed women to be intellectually inferior to me (112, Ornstein) Their (women) sphere is the family. (175, Davidson)

VIII. Theory of Consensus

Why do people disagree? How is consensus achieved? Whose opinion takes precedence? Lack of wisdom (not for the good of self or the state) -- Consensus through reason - Most perfect exercise of phronesis is the application of that virtue to the common good of a community (241, Barnes) good life requires participation in the government of a self-governing community (242, Barnes) promotion of good life for the whole community

A citizen is defined as one who is able to participate in the deliberative and judicial areas of government. Non-representational government Elitist


(1996). "Aristotle (384-322 BC)." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
(On-line). Available http: / / www. utm. edu/ research/ iep/ a/ aristotl. htm.

Barnes, Jonathan (Ed.). (1995). The Cambridge companion to Aristotle. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Davidson, Thomas. (1900). Aristotle and the ancient education ideals. New York: Charles Scribner's.

Ornstein, Allan C. & Levine, Daniel U. (1981). An introduction to the foundations of education ( 2nd ed.) (pp. 112-113). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Veath, Henry B. (1974). Aristotle. (pp. 94-95). Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP.

FURTHER informaton relating to Aristotle can be found at
The Aristotelian Precedents of Islamic Moral Education: A Reformist Perspective.