Would Aristotle have seen Socrates's actions to call out people as unwise unvirtuous?

It is unlikely that Aristotle would have seen Socrates's actions to call out people as unwise unvirtuous. This is because, in challenging people's preconceptions, Socrates was showing courage, which for Aristotle was one of the most important virtues.

Expert Answers

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On the face of it, it may not seem that going around and challenging people's preconceptions, as Socrates frequently did, is an especially courageous thing to do. But we should remind ourselves that Socrates ultimately paid for his life for these actions, as he was put to death by the Athenian authorities for corrupting youth and encouraging the worship of false gods.

That being the case, we can safely say that Aristotle would not have found Socrates to be lacking in virtue for exposing others' unwisdom. On the contrary, he would've seen it as a prime example of courage, as most people don't take kindly to having their deepest convictions challenged and exposed as false, least of all in public.

At the same time, someone using Aristotle's moral theory could well have a case for saying that perhaps Socrates went a little too far in challenging the citizens of Athens over their beliefs. They could say that, at times, Socrates showed rashness, which for Aristotle is an excess of courage and therefore unvirtuous. But Aristotle would be unlikely to agree with such an estimation, not least because Socrates's questioning method was not in any way impulsive but the product of reasoned reflection.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 5, 2020
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