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In this paper, I will be exploring the development of a moral character in the aim of education. Firstly, I will begin to discuss Aristotle’s theory of education, I will then lastly evaluate the contemporary significant of Aristotle philosophy of education, I will then determine if it has relevant in today’s society.
Plato was the first moral philosopher however, Aristotle was the first philosopher to write formal ethical treatises (Aristotle,1997). Plato and Aristotle are two of the most influential philosophers in history. Plato was greatly influenced by his teaching Socrates was Plato’s teacher. Later on, Plato became the teacher of Aristotle who, although a long-term pupil, was able to find many faults in Plato’s theories and in fact began to criticised a lot of his work (Owlcation, 2018). Despite his criticisms, Aristotle was influenced by Plato, making their works similar by targeting the same aspects of philosophy. Both Plato and Aristotle based their theories on four widely accepted beliefs which include the belief that knowledge must be of what is real, the world experienced via the senses is what is real, knowledge must be of what is fixed and unchanging, the world experienced through the senses is not fixed and unchanging (Owlcation, 2018). Like Plato, Aristotle recognised the importance of early childhood as a formative period of human development. He divided schooling into three stages: primary, secondary, and higher education (The Roots of Educational Theory, 2018). In the first stage the students are aged 7-14, and they would attend primary and this involves gymnastics, writing, reading, music, and drawing. In the second stage the students are aged 14-21, and they would attend secondary and would continue their primary studies while undertaking in literature, poetry, drama, choral music, and dancing. The last four years would be spent in military drill, tactics, and strategy. Higher studies would begin at age 21 and continue as long as the student was willing and able. Higher education was for males only as Aristotle believed women were not capable of such complex studies which I completely disagree everyone should be treated the same and giving the same chances in life (The Roots of Educational Theory, 2018). In Aristotle’s philosophy, he believed that many things were needed for ideal moral development, but one of the most important was a role model that one can mimic, cultivating morally appropriate habits that become moral virtues over time (Anon, 2018). Aristotle defines moral virtues as dispositions to feel and be moved by our desires or emotions neither too weakly nor too strongly, but in a way that moves us to act as reason would dictate, and to take pleasure in doing so (Curren, R, 2000). Intellectual virtues are defined as powers of understanding, judgment and reasoning that enable us to attain truth (Curren, R, 2000). Aristotle learned the value of observation and hands on experience. He also stated that we don’t live in a cave, he also told this to Plato emphasising that we live in the real world. (Herman, 2018). Instead of believing Plato’s theory he stated that our path to knowledge comes through logical, methodical discovery of the world around us and the facts that make it up (Herman, 2018).
Most importantly both Aristotle and Plato agreed with the concept of a moral education which is the main focus whiten this paper. Aristotle’s outlook about the aim of education was different from Socrates and Plato, he believed in the commitment of education. According to Socrates and Plato, the aim of education is to attain knowledge (University, 2018). One of the central concepts in Plato’s philosophy is the concept of the ideal. The ideal is the highest form of a person, moral society, education and wisdom (Grant, 2018). However, Aristotle stated that moral theory defines the ideal moral agent in terms of leading a good life that will allow him to flourish. According to Stan van Hooft, for Aristotle the issue was ‘How should we live well?’ rather than ‘What is the morally right thing to do? (Stan van Hooft, 2006). For example, doing well or living well depends on the function you fulfil. However, Plato and Aristotle did not fully agree with the true nature of reality. According to Aristotle, the development of a moral character is the aim of education (Tirian.com, 2018). For Aristotle, moral education is not designed to make people good, but rather to show and describe what is good? why it is good? And how we might construct societies and institutions that might instil or generate this goodness (Plato.stanford.edu, 2019). Education provides the essential exposure to and experience of virtue and nobility of the good life, which is required for the establishment of these concepts in mind. (Sgarbi, M. 2016). Aristotle believes that the education of the early childhood period should be the responsibility of the parents. However, further education is the responsibility of the state, but it does not mean that parents are free from the responsibility of their children. Aristotle emphasize that they are still responsibility for their moral education (Aristotle,1997). Aristotle’s view of education emphasises moralism rather than pragmatism, uniformity rather than pluralism. (Sgarbi, M. 2016). According to Aristotle he believed that education was central meaning that the satisfied person was an educated person. Aristotle stated that education should be designed in such a way that the body, the desire and the mind are all trained. The nature enables the living things to be born as human beings. As a result of habituation, people get equipped with certain qualities (Aristotle. 2000). Aristotle philosophy mainly focus on our thinking and practice as educators must be introduced with a clear philosophy of life. Therefore, has to be a deep concern for the ethical and political. He also observes education through reason and education through habit.
He believed that people learn better by doing this is similar to Maria Montessori’s philosophy. Aristotle states that “Anything that we have to learn to do we learn by the actual doing of it… We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate ones, brave by doing brave ones” (Aristotle Niconachean Ethics, Book II, p.91). I agree with statement because I strongly believe that we take more knowledge in by actually doing it. Such learning is complemented by reason and this involves teaching ‘the causes of things’. (Aristotle Niconachean Ethics, Book II, p.91). Aristotle’s conception of moral development is that the moral virtues are both a necessary step towards, and only completed by, the acquisition of the intellectual virtue of practical wisdom or good judgment (Curren, R. 2000 pp. 202–204). Aristotle also emphasises the importance of education both for citizens and for the state. The welfare of the state can be realised only if the citizens of that state are good, virtuous, having moral characters, leading the best life. The nature, habit and mind are the three factors that render people good and moral (Karadayı, Talip. 2013). Aristotle believed that it was important to educate someone which was to train and teach him so he acquires the moral and intellectual virtues, to develop good judgment needed for self-governance and participation in political rule, and learns to take pleasure in the excellent activities with which a good life is occupied. The aim of Aristotle’s ethics is to give us a reflected understanding of how we can achieve an ethical life within society. For Aristotle ethics is the formulation of the rules that establish good conduct (Baykent, U.O. 2016). Aristotle defines happiness as something for which everything else is desired. “Happiness in particular is believed to be complete without qualification, since we always choose it for itself and never for the sake of anything else” (Baykent, U.O. 2016). I agree because happiness is the highest goal of all. The activity of happiness takes place together with virtues, this is the linking point between education and ethics. Aristotle believed that men should be educated in such a way to take pleasure in virtuous acts. Aristotle claims that happiness is our highest goal (Baykent, U.O. 2016). He believes that the concept of happiness involves in living well and doing well. He also believed that “happiness” is the ultimate human good. He argues that “virtuous” helps to stabilise happiness so therefore we need to know what the relevant virtues are, in order to secure happiness. Aristotle also argues that true happiness requires virtues of character and thought. But overall Aristotle says that happiness is the understanding the characteristic function of a thing that one can understand its essence (Shaw, E. 2005).
Ten years after Plato’s death, Aristotle returned to Athens and opened up his own school which he named “Lyceum” (Shaw, E. 2005). Aristotle philosophy was divided discipline of philosophy into different categories which are: Science (Physics) which is the study of nature and all of the phenomena of the natural world. Metaphysics- this is the study of the nature of reality (god and the soul). Logic- the study of language and meaning, as well as the study of thought and argument. Ethics- moral and political theorising and sociological matters. Students were exposed to play, physical training, music, debate, and the study of science and philosophy. He also believed that education should include ethics and political philosophy. This is what is sometimes called a liberal arts education in modern society. Furthermore, Aristotle notes that education fulfils an important role in clarifying man’s view of his goals. He stated All men “aim at the good life and happiness,” but some “go wrong at the start in their search for happiness (Shaw, E. 2005). In my opinion means that education is important to everyone, and helps people realise what they want to do for the future and gain new concepts of learning which prepares them for their future. Additionally, Aristotle questions whether education is something that should be done privately or as a public duty. Aristotle mentions that education is an important and serious duty and should not be given up to individual people. It should be carried out by state and should be uniform for all people (Shaw, E. 2005) I disagree with this because everyone needs to have education and we shouldn’t discriminate anyone.
Second part of this paper I will evaluate the contemporary significance of Aristotle’s philosophy of education and determine if it still has great emphasise in today’s society.
In the past two decades Aristotle’s virtue ethics and his theory of moral education, have both received positive attention from the educational community (Curren, R. 2010). However, Curren stated that the strongest argument for public education is to be found in Aristotle’s Politics he believes that Aristotle argument for the equitable provision of education remains compelling to this day (Curren, R. 2010). By my research Jonas states that “what is surprising about this trend is that Plato and Aristotle have similar conception to moral education” (Jonas, M. 2015 pp 302). He states that both Plato and Aristotle believe in the following: the necessity of practicing the virtues if one is to live a happy, flourishing life. The necessity of habituation and practice if one is to embody the virtues. The need to have wise and virtuous ideals upon whom one can model one’s life and form whom one can learn to distinguish virtuous from vicious actions (Jonas, M. 2015, pp 302). Jonas states that Plato is not identical to Aristotle and examining the ways that he is different might prove useful for rethinking moral education. As it stands these ideas remain hidden by the aforementioned misconceptions. The rehabilitation of Plato’s reputation may enable future researches in moral education to discover new avenues for exploring how best cultivate virtues in students (Jonas, M. 2015 pp 303). It is clear to see that by formulating the supposed misconceptions in the first place, that Jonas himself could be casting a shadow over Plato’s philosophy.
By undertaking this paper we can see that educational theorist are interested in Socrates moral philosophy, therefore implies that they are in fact still interested in Plato’s dialogues. However, Jonas clearly emphasis that Plato’s philosophy should be interpreted carefully, so his theory of moral education does not become unnoticed by Aristotle’s theory of moral education (Jonas, M. 2015).
Aristotle developed rules that have been used from his time to the present in logical reasoning, a basic form of reaching conclusions that is constantly used in every mathematical, scientific and philosophical discipline. It is clear that Aristotle wanted education to be done through reason and for students to have an active role in their education. Like I stated before that Aristotle stated “Anything that we have to learn to do we learn by the actual doing of it… (Aristotle Niconachean Ethics, Book II, p.91) this also relates to Montessori from my studies it is clear that in Montessori environment children learn from doing by working with natural materials. Nel Noddings findings and theories are fairly modern compared to those such as Plato and Aristotle, and her work can be applied to the ethical reasoning in modern media. Nel Noddings (1993) stated that moral education is a community-wide enterprise and not a task exclusively reserved for home, church or school. Furthermore, it has for us a dual meaning. It refers to education which is moral in the sense that those planning and conducting education will strive to meet all those involved morally and it refers to and education that will enhance the ethical ideal of those being educated so that they will continue to meet others morally (Noddings, N. 1995) according to Noddings when moral education is discussed in modern day terms, its roots can always be traced to Aristotle. Nodding also states that “the great merit of Aristotle’s ethics is its connection to everyday, real life. Aristotle also addressed questions of concern to all human beings in the actual conduct of their lives (Noddings, N. 1993).
Plato’s theory of moral education is delivered in a dramatic, dialogue format which in terms of allegories and similes for example the cave, the sun and the divided line.
As I indicated before in this paper, Aristotle was the first philosopher to write a treatise on ethics as a discipline. Even though Socrates was the first moral philosopher, he never formulated, or wrote down, any of his ideas.
Overall it is clear that Aristotle’s philosophy and ethic has been very significant. Many theorists state that Aristotle created the definitive work on logic and there is no sense of even changing it, although this has not changed (Sgarbi, M. 2016). However, in today’s society his ideas of logic and ethics are now central to many philosophies. Modern philosopher, Kent seen Aristotle as a core foundation for his own thinking, particularly as it placed such emphasis on ethics and virtue and the tenants that are required to develop these (Sgarbi, M. 2016). Today, we design our methods, techniques, materials and content of the education according to the ages of the student. It is clear that today’s teachers are aware of the fact that different age groups require different forms of attentions. The early childhood education in Aristotle’s time was the responsibility of the parents. However, today, formal education is carried out for the children of those ages. Aristotle believed that education was designed for all the people except for the women and slaves. In today’s world, the focus of education is not to create a society of uniform people. Now, it is agreed that the students have different skills, tendencies or styles and most importantly women have a choice. (Baykent, U.O. 2016).
To conclude this paper, I agree with Aristotle philosophy, by my studies and experience of Montessori also referred to as “Self Education”. Dr. Maria Montessori believes like Aristotle that all education of the individual comes to each child through their senses, Resulting in learning by experience. Maria Montessori agreed with Aristotle’s philosophy that there is nothing in the intellect that does not first exist in the senses Aristotle stated, “There is nothing in the intellect that was not first developed in the senses.” (Aristotle, 2000).
Therefore, Aristotle philosophy is still used in today’s society especially in a Montessori environment Aristotle’s theory of education covers a range of areas which are reasoning, diversity, time management, enjoyment and the commutation approach (Curren, 2010). However, it is clear that Aristotle theory of education is very useful in today’s society, but it can be a lot harder to put in practice due to having a greater choice of education.
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