Aristotle’s views on education

Aristotle, the son of Nicomachus, was one of the most acknowledged and greatest philosophers of all time. As a philosopher, writer, and polymath, he made breakthrough discoveries in various fields including physics, metaphysics, poetry, biology, zoology, ethics, politics, and rhetoric. Out of his huge and extremely abundant oeuvre, not all his works have reached us in perfect shape. Be that as it may, Aristotle is one of those philosophers whose ideas never grow old, and more than two thousand years after his death, they are still relevant. Aristotle’s most powerful sphere of influence was in education philosophy and practice. As the founder of a school of his own, Aristotle had a great influence on Plato and on Alexander the Great, who was his student. Thus he had an eye for educational ideals. While his work has not survived, his pedagogical theory and practice still affect educational thought and practice in general.

Aristotle’s Education

The Greek Education system is quite impressive and well-known, because, Greek education always focuses on the Individual and the development of Society. There are many philosophers, who made great contributions to Education, like Plato and Aristotle. Plato as well as Aristotle also believes in Education for the development of the Individual and society. Both Plato’s Education theory and Aristotle’s Education are not the same. both of them have their theory and drawbacks. but Their theories are quite significant and impressive.

Central Role of Education

Aristotle firmly believed that education was central to human fulfilment. A truly fulfilled person, in his eyes, was an educated individual. This perspective underscores the significance of education in shaping character, knowledge, and overall well-being. For Aristotle, education was essential for developing virtue and living an excellent life. He argued that human excellence stems from habit and practice rather than innate factors.
It is through the repetition of doing good deeds that a person can obtain virtue. Education becomes the ground of established virtuous behaviour. It is the very foundation of character building, and, at the same time, it gives students the necessary tools and information to be able to be more rational. Aristotle did not only underline that education shaped citizens, but also the citizenship itself. It gives a person a chance to develop his or her ethical and political sides. An effective education system distinguishes different stages of life and takes into account the fact that education is not a one-time but a lifelong process. Aristotle believed that education had to focus on the complete development of the person, and so he proposed programs that would address the intellect, the morals, the social aspect, and the physical aspect of the person. The main idea behind this approach is about fulfilling human potential and creating active citizenship. Aristotle, in general, treated education as the centre of human blossoming. For him, it is not only important, because it provides opportunities to develop virtues, to empower the citizenry, but it is also a pathway to the attainment of excellence and a good life. Education does not only enhance the intellectual ability of each individual but it also gives them the potential to be able to maximize their capabilities. For Aristotle, education is the fundamental process through which human beings become fully ennobled.

Philosophy of Life

Aristotle emphasized that educators must infuse their thinking and practice with a clear philosophy of life. This involves deep consideration of ethical and political matters. The fundamental question is: What contributes to human flourishing?
Aristotle held the belief that ethics and politics were entwined with education. The purpose of education is not only about developing the virtues of citizens but also about helping them participate in society and experience fulfilment. Educators must contemplate questions such as: What is the end of life? How should we develop these virtues like wisdom, courage, justice, and moderation in the students? What is the best way the state should be participating in the education development? For Aristotle, ethics did not mean just the rote memorization of rules. It implied the application of a dialectic kind of thinking, which would prompt the decision as to what to do in a particular situation. He viewed politics as more than just institutions and legal systems. It involved enabling citizens to develop their capabilities and share in self-governance. Education plays a key role in this process.
Rather than merely doing what is “correct,” Aristotle felt educators should strive for what is good or right in a larger sense. This demands moving beyond technical concerns to engage with deeper issues of value, justice, and human potential. It is a lifelong endeavour requiring reflection, experience, and an ethical commitment to the growth of students.

Balanced Development

Aristotle was concerned with the concept of all-around and even development. He advocated for a holistic approach that included various aspects of life: He advocated for a holistic approach that included various aspects of life:

  • Play
  • Physical training
  • Music
  • Debate
  • Science and Philosophy
    These factors were the most crucial for the formation of the person, body, mind, and soul. Aristotle acknowledged that learning is a continuum process, and the focus will change as you grow. He did not consider education just as intellectual training, rather than a process of developing a person as a whole.
    Aristotle suggests that excellent education cultivates physical power, musical skills, dexterity of reasoning, and morality together. By cultivating these diverse faculties, an individual can achieve well-rounded excellence. Aristotle warned against overemphasizing one aspect at the expense of others. His vision was that education should produce citizens capable of fully participating in the life of the Greek city-state. This demonstrates his comprehensive outlook on human flourishing.

Education Through Reason and Habit

Aristotle advocated that both reason and habit are within the education process. Education through habit is all about learning by doing – that is to say, becoming just by practicing justice, becoming temperate by practicing temperance and becoming brave through practicing courageous actions. The practical learning is doubled by using reason to find out the causes and explanations behind things. Aristotle defined a learner as someone who connects theory with practical experience. The student can perform acts of courage while the teacher at the same time reveals to the student the philosophical underpinnings of bravery.
The parallelism of the two concepts: habit and reason, is compatible to the modern educational theories, which draw attention to the role of experience, reflection, and connecting theory to practice. Aristotle emphasized that practicality and contemplation are both essential for the attainment of true knowledge.

Categorization of Disciplines

Aristotle has developed an important categorization of academic disciplines, classified basically, that remains substantial. He divided fields of study into three broad categories: He divided fields of study into three broad categories:

  • Theoretical – These disciplines are focused on truth and knowledge for its own sake, not for any practical advantage. These include philosophy, mathematics, and natural sciences. The pondering and contemplation of the meaning of life is fundamental.
  • Practical** disciplines – Ethics and politics are dealt with by the practical ones. They provide a moral compass for human behaviour and serve the goal of human fulfilment. For Aristotle, practical wisdom was the key aspect, and that was why the subjects were so important.
  • Technical/Productive – In a similar vein, “useful” arts are the ones that are based on techniques and skills. They can be seen in medicine, architecture, as well as crafts like metalworking. Aristotle considered these types of occupations as just being the lower parts of the more theoretical and practical activities.

Therefore, this classification supports his opinion that education ought to cover the different aspects of life – mental, moral, and also technical. Contemplative inquiry, which was then considered supreme, was also acknowledged by him as a valuable complement to both pure and applied knowledge. This division is still an essential element of discipline structure and curriculum thinking.

Education and Virtue

For Aristotle, education was deeply intertwined with the pursuit of virtue and human excellence. He believed that the ultimate aim of education should be to produce good and virtuous citizens. Through proper habituation and reason, education can shape character and in still ethical dispositions. Aristotle saw the development of moral virtue as a core component of education. Moral virtues are character traits like courage, temperance, justice, and prudence. By performing virtuous acts repeatedly, one forms habits and develops virtue. Reason also plays a key role, as it allows people to understand the reasons behind virtuous actions.
The purpose is not merely to do the right thing, but to become good. Education should transform the student at a fundamental level. By cultivating virtues, students can fulfil their potential and contribute positively to society. For Aristotle, the well-educated individual is also the ethically mature and fulfilled individual. Overall, Aristotle’s perspective connects the development of virtue to the purpose of education. Rather than mere technical training, the educational process should aim at ethical, intellectual, and practical excellence. This classical view continues to influence educational philosophy today.

What is the difference between Aristotle and Plato’s theories of education?
View on Forms/IdeasBelieved in the theory of Forms, where abstract, perfect Forms exist beyond the physical world and are the true reality.Rejected the theory of Forms and believed that knowledge arises from empirical observation of the physical world.
EpistemologyEmphasized rationalism, arguing that true knowledge is innate and can be accessed through dialectic and contemplation.Advocated for empiricism, asserting that knowledge is acquired through sensory experience and observation.
Educational MethodFavored a top-down approach, where students are led to discover universal truths through guided questioning and dialogue (Socratic method).Promoted a more practical approach, emphasizing hands-on learning and the study of natural phenomena to understand the world.
Goal of EducationAimed to lead individuals out of the cave of ignorance and toward the contemplation of the Forms, seeking the highest truths and ideals.Strived to cultivate practical wisdom (phronesis) in individuals, enabling them to live virtuous and fulfilling lives within the context of the natural world.
Focus of EducationPrioritized the intellectual and moral development of individuals, aiming to produce philosopher-kings who govern with wisdom and justice.Stressed the importance of a well-rounded education that includes physical, intellectual, and moral development, preparing individuals to contribute positively to society.
Role of TeacherViewed the teacher as a guide and facilitator, leading students toward the discovery of truth through dialogue and questioning.Saw the teacher as a mentor and expert in their field, imparting knowledge and practical skills to students through instruction and demonstration.

Education Through Reason vs Habit

While Plato emphasized education through reason and contemplation, Aristotle proposed both education through reason and habit. Education through habit involves learning by doing – becoming just by performing just acts, temperate through practice, and brave by courageous actions. For Aristotle, reason complements this practical learning by teaching the causes of things.

Impact and Analysis

Aristotle’s ideas on education have had a remarkable and enduring impact, shaping educational philosophy for over two millennia. His balanced vision of learning as encompassing intellectual, moral, and practical dimensions set a powerful precedent. The notion of education as central to human flourishing became deeply ingrained. At the same time, Aristotle’s perspective was not without limitations. His view of education was elitist, aimed at creating “superior” individuals rather than universal schooling. Women were excluded from his vision. Aristotle also emphasized contemplation as the highest form of human activity, downplaying the value of technical skills. Some critics argue this contributed to the low status of manual labour. However, Aristotle’s categorization of knowledge into theoretical, practical, and productive remains insightful. So too, is his recognition that education is a gradual, lifelong process combining reason and experience. Aristotle profoundly understood education’s role in developing ethical character and the pursuit of the good life. For over 2000 years, his writings have challenged educators to clarify their philosophy and fuse intellectual growth with moral and practical wisdom.

Aristotle on education quotes

Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, had many insights into education. Here are some quotes attributed to him regarding education:

1.”Education is the best provision for old age.”
2.”The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”
3.”It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
4.”Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.”
5.”Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.”
6.”The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.”
7.”All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.”
8.”The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.”
9.”The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.”
10.”Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”


The opinions Aristotle had on education are still valid today. Although not much of his writing has come down to us, the underlying principles that he presented have shown themselves to be of timeless value. Education as the key to actualization is hence stressed by him through this lifelong pursuit of learning.
The complete training that Aristotle talked about is still relevant now, from physical exercise to music, debate, and philosophy. He uses a threefold formula, making the body, mind, and spirit well-balanced through reason, habit, and practice. Although he lived ages ago, Aristotle’s division of theoretical, practical, and technical disciplines is still the one that is the most widely used today.
In the first place, Aristotle stressed that education had the purpose of making humans virtuous and good. He is concerned with living truly, rather than with just correctly, making the ethical dimensions of learning more advanced. While diverging from Plato in certain aspects, Aristotle brought forth concepts that eventually became fundamental educational values to which we still apply today. Critical thinking and wisdom of practical use are what he is known for and that is what helps people and societies to achieve their best.