On the old saw that dialogue is a Socratic but not an Aristotelian method of moral education

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Kristján Kristjánsson's aim in this article is to bury the old saw that dialogue is exclusively a Socratic but not an Aristotelian method of education for moral character. Although the truncated discussion in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics of the character development of the young may indicate that it is merely the result of a mindless process of behavioral conditioning, Nancy Sherman has argued convincingly that such a process would never yield the end result that Aristotle deems all‐important — a precondition for the ascription of virtue — namely, reason‐infused phronesis. Rather than having to rely on impressionistic Aristotelian reconstructions here, Kristjánsson observes, considerable enlightenment can be gleaned by studying Aristotle's account of friendship, especially his account of how character friends reciprocally construct each other's selfhoods through sustained, dialectical engagement. It is clear from this description that ideal character building essentially involves dialogue. If that is correct, however, in the case of character friendship, new light can be shed on other Aristotelian staples of character education, such as role modeling and the use of literature and music, as those will then also, by parity of reasoning, involve sustained use of a dialogical method.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-348
Number of pages16
JournalEducational Theory
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2014