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“… but the soul of the hearer must be prepared by good habits to rejoice in the good and hate the evil, just as the soil must be well tilled to nourish the seed. “ Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics

For parents, it’s all about the children. Aristotle speaks of preparing a soul to ‘hear’ moral teachings. He is well aware that many young adults become in a sense beyond reaching–because of their bad habits. In his moral philosophy Aristotle never lost sight of the youth, and all that is needed to empower them to hear, and live, the truth.

His moral views are bracing. In an age of confusion, blur, false distinctions, and redefinitions, his clarion vision cuts through the mist.

To rejoice in the good and hate the evil; that is the object. There is a real distinction between good and evil, and the human soul’s responses should be patterned accordingly. Therein, alone, is real happiness: when the soul moves in affective harmony with the reality of good and evil. When this is accomplished—and it can be; we have seen it done—it is a masterpiece beyond compare.

Yet the soul is like soil. Earth calls out for the seed: it was made for it. But really to receive it, to nourish it, it must be tilled. Tilling brings out the latent power of soil.

What a power lies in the human soul, especially of children. Like warm, dark earth.

The formation of children is an art. Arts have specific means and ends. They must be learned, and practiced. Over generations. The art of ‘education’—the Latin word means a drawing-out, and it originally referred to the whole realm of forming the young—is fundamentally a tilling of the soul. So that it learns…to rejoice in the good and hate the evil. And thus to come alive, with its own true life.

From the very beginning of their children’s lives, parents can be molding those souls, ever so gently, carefully, lovingingly. Long before children can ‘hear’ moral teachings, they are hearing much; and their affections are being formed.

What art is more important? With what else should we be concerned? For the sake of the children.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher.

Image: Winslow Homer

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