Emulation and the use of role models in moral education

Kristján Kristjánsson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article is about (1) the ancient (Aristotelian) emotional virtue of emulation, (2) some current character-education inspired accounts of the use of role models in moral education and, most importantly, (3) the potential relevance of (1) for (2). The author argues that the strategy of role-modelling, as explicated by the character-education movement, is beset with three unsolved problems: an empirical problem of why this method is needed; a methodological problem of how students are to be inspired to emulation; and a substantive moral problem of what precisely should be taught. While the first of these three problems may perhaps be overlooked with impunity, the second and third problems stand in urgent need of rectification if role-modelling is to retain its moral and educational import. After exploring Aristotle's notion of emulation, the author suggests that this rich and nuanced notion may hold the key to the solution of both problems. Such Aristotelian solutions are then spelled out and defended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-49
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Moral Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


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