Document Type


Publication Date



Do we teach virtue? Can we teach it? Must we teach it? How do we teach it? Asking these questions from the perspectives of law and philosophy, in which I have trained and taught, I realize that they are not new questions, but rather are a perennial problem of education. The question, "Can virtue be taught?" has presented a problem for Western education since its inception in Socrates, who wandered the streets of Athens, asking his troublesome questions and pursuing them without stint to his death.

Here I pursue a more modest goal. Of course I mean to recall Plato's presentation in the Protagoras of Socrates' inquiry into the nature of virtue and its teachability. But, as my tide suggests, I am displacing the traditional Socratic-Platonic question somewhat: I am claiming that the issue of the teachability of virtue is misrepresented by our traditional understanding of Plato's and Socrates' inquiry. In its place, I am suggesting not only that virtue can be taught, and that it is taught, but that it must be taught. It must be taught by us, to our children and students, for better or worse. How I come to this conclusion, and what it means, are at the heart of this article.