Can a Child be Virtuous? In this paper I will argue against Aristotle and his idea that children cannot be virtuous, as we discussed in class. I will do this by giving concrete examples that a certain widespread religion believes in this virtuosity of a child. I will also use a more common example that occurs all the time in America. Aristotle says that children cannot be virtuous because virtues are something that, to be acquired must be practiced over and over again.
A child has not had enough practice, time or understanding of what he is doing to be considered virtuous. However, I think that there are virtuous children, and that not only “Athenian gentlemen” are virtuous, but some other people also, these including children. For my first example let us consider the religion of Tibet. These people elect a child, in fact a newborn to be in charge of their entire religion, this child is the Dali Lama. They think that this child is holy, and pure. Obviously they think that he is good, and virtuous.
He has the most power in their entire religious system of beliefs. There are many many people who believe in this religion, and have done so for centuries. This child is trained from avery young age on and is selected to lead a virtuous life. He practices things that Aristotle would view as virtuous, for example, courage, pride, justice, and temperance. This child could easily get in more “practice time” of virtuous activity than the average person, even more than a person who is on their way to being virtuous who is an adult. According to Aristotle’s own beliefs, there is a certain amount of virtuous activity that must be done to become a virtuous person.
This child could easily do as many virtuous activities by the age of 10 as say someone who is 20 in another situation. That is one problem with Aristotle’s theory, when does the virtuous activity start adding up so that one may become a virtuous person? How long is someone considered a child? Do his activities not count until he reaches a certain age, and then suddenly there is a breakthrough and they start to count? I think not. A good act is a good act no matter what the age, if the intent is correct. Those who wish to support Aristotle could in a certain context use the Christian religion to counter the Dali Lama example. Christians believe that all “men” are born sinful and not good. There is no way that a child is any better than anyone else.
The Dali Lama would be considered just like any other child, not virtuous. They also believe that there is no way to become, by Aristotle’s definition totally virtuous. It is an impossibility. This is where there view would stop counteracting the Dali Lama, and start to contradict Aristotle himself.
They think that all men a reborn sinful and die sinful, whereas Aristotle thinks that its possible to achieve perfect virtuosity and then be happy and never lose this state of being. He thinks it is possible to achieve perfection. Another example that is a little more common here in America is the child that dials 911 to save their parents ” life. This child may only be 4 or 5 years old, yet we seethe shows on TV about this little heroes all the time.
Their parents may have practiced dialing 911 over and over again with them so that when an emergency occurred they would know what to do. They know what is right, and display an amazing amount of courage. They are proving that they have actually learned what they have been taught, and took action in a crisis. An Aristotelian supporter would say that this child did not fully understand what they were doing, this one act does not make them virtuous! The child is still going to be scared sometimes (non courageous) They are going to show a lot of non-temperance, also a non virtuous activity, and they were just acting out of a certain repetitive task that they have been taught. (kind of like a pet learning a trick) Ask their parents though if this is they way that they view the child, ask society if they think that this child is virtuous. They will will yes he is, not all 4 year olds dial 911 in a crisis, some just sit down and cry when the time comes, not all children, even if they know what to do, actually do it.
In conclusion I would like to say that I think that there are virtuous people, and virtuous children who grow into virtuous adults or not so virtuous adults or vice versa. I would also like to say that although these people may exhibit a certain amount of good, that they would not achieve Aristotle’s view of becoming virtuous because this is impossible. These people may once be good and then turn bad, it happens all the time, or they may have a lapse. Humans are not perfect, and therefore cannot become perfect at anything. Sure there are people out there who will achieve happiness, but no one is happy in the sense that Aristotle means it, at least not 100% of the time.