In the current debate over the status of moral virtue in ethical and political theory, Aristotle is an imposing and controversial figure. Both champions and critics of the ancient conception of virtue identify Aristotle as its most important proponent, but commentators often obscure the complexity of his treatment of moral virtue. His account of courage reveals this complexity. Aristotle believes that courage, and indeed virtue generally, must be understood as both an end in itself and a means to a more comprehensive good. In this way Aristotle’s political science offers a middle course that corrects and embraces the claims of nobility and necessity in political life. Honor is central to this political science. It acts as a bridge between the desires of the individual and the needs of the political community and reduces the dangers posed by the excessive pursuit of nobility and the complete acquiescence to necessity.
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