Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Volume 13, Issue 2, Fall 2006

Dialogue with Ancient Philosophy

Audrey L. Anton
Pages 58-66

Breaking the Habit
Aristotle on Recidivism and How a Thoroughly Vicious Person Might Begin to Improve

Aristotle’s virtue ethics can teach us about the relationship between our habits and our actions. Throughout his works, Aristotle explains much about how one may develop a virtuous character, and little about how one might change from one character type to another. In recent years criminal law has been concerned with the issue of recidivism and how our system might reform the criminals we return to society more effectively. This paper considers how Aristotle might say a vicious person could change and what a penal system could do to facilitate such a transformation. It discusses how previous attempts to rehabilitate criminals may have failed because they do not address habit in the way that Aristotle advocates. This paper concludes that a rehabilitative model that addresses habit more aggressively than previous methods might be required to soften the hardest criminals.

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