The State As The Upholder Of Virtue

Written by Aaron Davis on August 26th, 2009

It may seem inappropriate to credit the state as the source of virtue among its citizens, that credit seeming more rightly given to other sources: be they societal/cultural; religious; or the merit of ones own character.

However, it seems imprudent to deny credit to the state, who has provided means for anything that causes her people to embrace virtue. For example, the very existence of  a particular culture can be appropriately credited to the state as a defender from alien conquest and assimilation. Likewise relating to individual merit, individuals are free to pursue their vision of moral and intellectual virtue solely because a state cultivates an environment in which personal liberty is preserved. Without the states protection of a societal environment favorable for moral uprightness, the achievement of moral and intellectual virtue would be hindered.

I would argue that moral virtue is and should be dependent on the state, and that a state should be judged by it’s ability to allow its citizens to ‘direct their lives toward an honourable end’. In her role the state should follow Aristotles doctrine of the mean; acting upon her citizens in neither excess nor deficiency.

This verdict does not absolve one from personal responsibility, deflecting such responsibility to the state. Rather it reinforces personal virtue. The environment created by the state to promote virtue should be harnessed by the citizenry. Those citizens being the keepers of a virtuous condition and being culpable should their posterity not inherit the same virtuous heritage.

– A Davis


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