Aristotle's Notion of Teaching and Its Role in His Theory of Moral Education

Aristotle says that intellectual virtues are “generated and developed mostly by teaching,” yet no substantive work has been done to figure out what, on Aristotle’s view, such ‘teaching’ consists of. My dissertation fills this gap. First, I defend my interpretation: for Aristotle, teaching is the activity of instilling true accounts, grounded in explanatorily basic principles, in students ready to receive them. I then use this reading to argue, against some prevailing views in Aristotle’s ethics, that (1) habituation does not require teaching, and (2) Aristotle’s practically wise person possesses a philosophical conception of the human good. Finally, I use my interpretation to solve a problem for Aristotelian educational theory. I argue that Aristotle's educational program, contrary to what critics have claimed, does not rob students of their autonomy.

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  • (2022) Review of Aristotle on the Concept of Shared Life by Sara Brill, Oxford University Press, 2020 in Polis 39 (2): 422-424.

  • (2019) "Dewey, Aristotle, & Education as Completion" Philosophy of Education 74: 669-682

    • I enlist Dewey’s help to reveal the philosophical conceptions of education that underlie traditionalism and progressivism—the two models of education that have governed pedagogical thinking for nearly a century. Dewey ties traditionalism to education as formation and progressivism to education as development. I argue that Dewey’s division establishes a false dichotomy and that Aristotle’s program of education, which I call education as completion, combines aspects of both models to provide a path for educational theory to avoid the pitfalls of both traditionalism and progressivism. I then defend my interpretation of Aristotle's paradigm against Dewey's objections to education as unfolding—a similar model of education that Dewey criticizes.

Works in Progress

  • "Teaching Eudaimonia: How Aristotle's Notion of Teaching Supports the Grand End View"

    • According to the Grand End View, Aristotle’s practically wise person (phronimos) possesses a philosophical conception of happiness (eudaimonia), which he uses as a lodestar in his decision making. Broadie (1991) argues that the Grand End View saddles Aristotle with an implausible account and supplies her own ‘ground-level’ interpretation. I supply a reading of Aristotle’s notion of teaching (didaskalia) to help settle this long-standing debate. Since practical wisdom (phronēsis) is an intellectual virtue, and intellectual virtues are cultivated mostly by teaching (NE 2.1 1103a15-16), we can determine what the phronimos knows by examining how Aristotle thinks one develops practical wisdom by being taught. I argue that the goal of teaching is to instill scientific knowledge (epistēmē) in a student's soul, and I show how this interpretation is compatible with Aristotle's account of phronēsis

  • "Plato's Prologues as Measures: Starting with the Statesman"

    • Burnyeat argues persuasively that Plato’s prologues pre-figure important philosophical content to come later in the dialogue, much like an overture pre-figures important themes in the opera to come. But he does not discuss why Plato’s dialogues have these overture-like notes. I propose that the prologues function as measures that, when able to be explained in light of a dialogue’s subsequent philosophy, signal to the reader that she has properly apprehended a dialogue’s primary philosophical theme(s). I then contrast my view with a competing approach, which argues that the prologues set parameters for interpreting the ensuring philosophical discussion. I show how my approach compares favorably against this alternative through an examination of the opening scene of the Statesman—one of Plato’s most notoriously difficult works.

  • "Educating for Moral Agency in a Technology Ethics Course" (with Kate Allman)

    • ​The rapid pace of technological development, accelerated by the pandemic, often outstrips the ability of legislators and regulators to establish proper guardrails. While technological advancement furnishes many new goods and services, it can also produce negative outcomes if left unchecked. A solution is for those who develop, deploy, and use emerging technologies to develop themselves as moral agents. This paper provides a course design overview for a course on technology ethics that aims to educate students for moral agency with respect to emerging technologies. It also shares and discusses a subset of data collected from a mixed-methods study using a pre-post design that examined the effectiveness of the course design in developing students’ moral agency. 

  • "In Search of a Third Myth about A.I."

    • This paper ​examines two prevalent, competing narratives about how we should relate to A.I. The first tells us that A.I. is coming to steal our jobs and threaten our privacy. The second tries to counter-act the first by telling us that A.I. should not be viewed as a competitor, but rather as a partner that can help us expand our humanity with tools and insights we never thought imaginable. Neither narrative, I argue, is sufficient; we need a new narrative that charts a middle path between the two. This third narrative should make us aware of A.I.’s dangers yet alive to its possibilities. 

  • "Enhancing Excellence: Aristotle & the Objection from Human Nature" 

    • ​This project aims to intervene in a debate in enhancement ethics by clarifying Aristotle’s position on the relationship between human nature and our species-specific good. Contrary to what both sides of the debate claim about his position, I argue that Aristotle would condone and even encourage enhancements, so long as they do not diminish the active exercise of our rational capacities.