Moral Virtue and the Limits of the Political Community in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics


  • I am grateful to the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions, as well as to John Scott, Lorna Dawson, Robert Bartlett, and Aristide Tessitore for their comments on earlier drafts. I thank the University of Houston and the Olin Foundation for their generous support of my research.

Susan D. Collins is Assistant Professor of Political Science, 447 Hoffman Hall, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204-3011 (


The recovery of Aristotle's view of the political community as guardian of the common good and moral educator has fueled a continuing debate about civic education and virtue. In focusing on the relation of virtue to the common good and that of the individual, however, this debate has obscured Aristotle's insight into virtue's status as an independent end. I argue that by taking account of this dimension of virtue, Aristotle's discussion of the particular moral virtues in the Nicomachean Ethics clarifies the nature and limits of civic education and shows that the full question of the human good emerges only with an investigation of the political community's highest and noblest pedagogic aims.