Habit, Moral Character and Politics

According to Moore and Bruder (2005), our unique and distinctive capacity to reason was termed by Aristotle as virtue. There are two kinds of virtue – when we study or exercise our reasoning abilities, we are said to be intellectually virtuous. When we use our reasoning to moderate our impulses and appetites, we are said to be morally virtuous. According to Aristotle, virtue (whether intellectual or moral) is a matter of habit. Meaning, your moral character (or moral virtuousness) is based on your habits.

What you do always (habit) will mold your character. For example, ever since I was young, my mother always taught us to give to the less fortunate (not necessarily money, food and neglected toys will do). Honestly, I was really not into it but I’d rather be forced to give something than look at the stern face of my mom. Hehe! Thus, giving eventually became a habit to me. And I must say, that habit help built the generous and helpful character that I have today. As for moral character and politics, we must first talk about moral judgments.

Moore and Bruder said that many moral judgments are also political judgments. For example: “Is it justifiable for a government to restrict its citizens’ liberty? ” or “When, if ever, is fine and imprisonment legitimate? ” Thus, to make right political judgments, a politician must have a strong moral character from which to draw his decision that will affect the state’s citizens. Both Plato and Aristotle believed that the state is a living being that has a purpose. To Aristotle, its purpose is to promote good life (happiness) for humans.

A state politician must then have a strong moral character (or the political will) to do what is morally right to uphold the good life for the state’s citizens. Aristotle also said that a good politician or lawmaker will seek a political order where the citizens will develop the morally right (best) habits from which they will develop their own moral characters. All told, if you want a leader to advocate what is morally right for the citizens, then that leader should have a good moral character.


Moore B. & Bruder, K. (2005). Philosophy: The Power of Ideas. USA: The McGraw-Hills


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