The Nature of Virtue in a Politics of Consent: John Locke on Education

John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education emphasizes the need to develop the habit of rationally judging which desires should be fulfilled. While nurture plays an essential role in this development, nature provides the fundamental desire for self-preservation, the end in light of which reason makes its judgments. The significance of this natural element in Lockean virtue has generally been overlooked, but it becomes clear through a comparison to Aristotelian virtue. Locke rejects any virtue that would require changing our most basic desires, and he does so as part of his rejection of a political order designed for such education. Locke’s account of education is not purely transformative; rather, it is intended to prevent the transformation that would be part of an Aristotelian moral education.
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