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Aristotle on habit and moral character formation

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The habitual action is not only undertaken on a regular basis but also is personalized which has moral significance when we evaluate action and personality. For Aristotle, inculcating virtues through habitual action could develop a moral character. The naturalistic or behaviouristic perspective and the non-naturalistic perspective are two ways to interpret this Aristotelian theoretical position. The naturalistic thesis maintains that habit and character formation is inherently present in the form of disposition in human beings and could be causally related to the neurophysiological function of the brain process. On the other hand, the non-naturalistic thesis upholds a teleological account of the formation of moral character which is grounded in the power of will. This paper, which delves into Aristotle’s notion of habit and its role in the formation of moral character, examines these two theoretical perspectives in order to substantiate the relationship between habits and moral character formation. It also analyses the logical relationship between habits and moral character to show how the moral character is developed by strengthening the power of will.

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  1. Aristotle mentioned in Nicomachean Ethics, Book II, (1103b20) that none of the moral virtues arises in us by nature; for nothing that exists by nature can form a habit contrary to its nature, that is in his words, “Neither by nature, then, nor contrary to nature do the virtues arise in us; rather we are adapted by nature to receive them and are made perfect by habit”. See, Aristotle, 1999a, b.

  2. See, the Archive Article, 2015. “Difference between Habit and Instinct”, N.D. Retrieved January 1, 2015 from

  3. See, the quote of John Dryden (fifteenth century English poet, literary critics) which is published in, Archive Healing Philosophy: Harness your inner strength, 2008.


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Correspondence to Manik Konch.

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Konch, M., Panda, R.K. Aristotle on habit and moral character formation. International Journal of Ethics Education 4, 31–41 (2019).

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