Rights And Responsibilities

Written by Richard Christensen on August 25th, 2009

Our intellectual and moral virtue is not dependent upon the government. Aristotle states that individuals must choose virtue for its own sake. If this is true, then that power can not even be turned over to nor held by the government because, as many have already expressed, the “punishments or rewards” would turn true virtue into a false one.

In addition, Aristotle spends a great deal of time explaining where the virtuous act is “located,” i.e. the mean. Then he delves further into an explanation of what the “mean” is, and comes to the conclusion that “every knowledgeable person avoids excess and deficiency, but looks for the mean and chooses it – not the mean of the thing, but the mean relative to us” (40). Therefore, if the virtuous act is the mean, and the mean is relative to “us” or to the individual (Milo in Aristotle’s example), then how can the government prescribe or teach what is virtuous and what isn’t? If it’s different for every individual, then the amount of laws and instruction that would have to be put in place by the state would utterly overwhelm the system.

Our moral and intellectual virtue is not the responsibility of the government. It is also not the right of the government to define what virtue is. There are certain subject that government does not have a right to alter or define, according to John Locke. And virtue is one of those subjects.

-Richard Christensen


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