Civic virtue is the formation of habits of personal living that are claimed to be important for the success of the community. This term was important to Aristotle’s theories on politics. He felt that all humans should take pleasure in civic virtue and that it was essential for living “the good life”. Today, our democratic government is well-suited to promote civic virtue and participation of all people in the country. Although times have changed since Aristotle’s days, this ideology can be seen actively in our society. One of the main ideas in Aristotle’s philosophy was teleos, or the purpose or goal of something.
To fully understand something, we must also understand its teleos. For example, I have an apple. I know that it is red, kind of round, and grows on a tree, but the real purpose or teleos of that apple to me is food. As far as humans go, Aristotle says that humans are meant to be happy. To be happy, humans must live a life of virtue, which means they always choose what is morally good. Humans have the abilities to think and speak, and therefore decide what is good and bad, right and wrong, etc. People that may think they are living a good life but are not making moral decisions are not truly happy in Aristotle’s eyes.
Politics provides a place for people to interact with each other, talk about what is right and wrong, just or unjust, and to make laws reflecting these things. It allows people to participate in their lives, make ethical decisions, and fulfill their happiness potential. Politics is dynamic, unlike math or science that are concrete and unchanging. People can work with each other in politics and work for the greater good. The development of civic virtue allows for a person to relate to their community. It helps them understand their ties to the community and responsibility within it.
It helps them see beyond their own personal interests. Some examples of civic virtue would be voting, volunteering, or going to a town meeting. Today, anyone can participate in these things, but Aristotle believed differently. He held that women and slaves were not eligible to participate in politics, and very young men were not ready to participate because they did not understand how the society worked yet. Because of this, a small number of people in his time actually participated in politics compared to today. The American democratic government is well suited for civic virtue.
The first reason is that everyone can participate, which means that everyone has the opportunity to become happy people living their life to the fullest. Anyone, provided they are 18 and a citizen, can vote. They can vote for the candidate they feel will represent their moral views and put them into action. People can run for office and put their views to work. Another reason is freedom of speech. Americans have the opportunity to speak freely about issues and share their opinions with others. This helps them create those habits of morality that become a part of their civic virtue.
A third reason is the freedom to assemble. Any person can start a club or a group to meet with others. Active participation in public life is essential to civic virtue. A group may be a philanthropy group aimed at helping others. Reciprocity or giving back to the community is another key element of civic virtue. Virtue is closely related to free will. Through active participation, people develop their moral compass and they develop their ideas of what is right and wrong, and their habits of how to react in situations accordingly.
People develop their own morality. How can one legislate free will? You cannot. But the legal system can shape morality. By setting laws in certain ways, people will develop their moral views around them. Laws can shape habits by reducing the frequency of certain acts. Giving prison time, fines, probation, and so on can help people learn that they do not want to do the things that caused those punishments. Laws can shape morality as well because people naturally draw influence from other sources.
Some may create their moral background on the basis of religion or their family, but the law can be one of those influences as well. The legal system is important for developing morality in society and promoting civic virtue. Civic virtue is important in society. By actively participating in the community, Aristotle believes that people will be ultimately happy. The true purpose of humans is to be happy, and civic virtue is the pathway to this happiness. The American government gives many opportunities for people to participate in both politics and the community, which promotes civic virtue.