Feb 20, · Civic virtue describes the character of a good participant in a system of government —the personal qualities associated with the effective functioning of the civil and political order or the preservation of its values and principles. Civic virtue, in political philosophy, personal qualities associated with the effective functioning of the civil and political order, or the preservation of its values and principles.
Skip to content. Many questions central to political philosophy are naturally focused on political institutions. What rights and liberties should the state grant its people? What makes a state legitimate? Are non-democratic polities possibly just? What kinds of equality should the state concern itself with, and how much inequality is too much? But political philosophers and scholars in related fields have also turned their attention to the citizens who live under such institutions.
From a legal perspective, a citizen is a person who is an official member of a political community and who therefore has certain de jure rights and privileges and legitimate expectations of her government. One important question for political philosophy, then, is whether and how these benefits impose obligations on citizens. Answers to this question are frequently offered in terms of a civic duty or duties. We might think at a minimum that citizens have a duty to obey wgat law.
The most finely crafted laws are worth little when they are routinely ignored, and a government cannot possibly detect and punish every infraction, at least without unacceptably prevalent surveillance and restrictions of freedom. So, a legal order needs how to create a bootable windows xp cd critical mass of people what are victory gardens ww1 routinely obey the laws even when they could get away with breaking them.
It seems to follow, then, that citizens have an obligation to obey the law simply because it is the law. We already have a moral obligation not to commit murder, regardless of whether it is illegal or not. But when the law commands us to do things that are in themselves neither right nor wrong e. Or so the thinking goes; but even this minimal answer has its opponents.
For one thing, it is also plausible that there are sometimes good reasons to disobey the law—maybe even a moral obligation to do so. This is why we see the many instances of civil viftue during the civil rights movement as especially heroic examples of good citizenship. Also, the arguments given for thinking that there is a moral obligation goveenment obey the law face some powerful objections. The most popular line of argument appeals to the notion of consent.
And yet hardly any of us has actually consented to the authority of our governments. So, if we have a duty to obey the law, it is hard to see how it can arise from our having freely consented to the authority of the government with anything like the kind of consent we expect in other contexts such as contracts. Democracy requires not just obeying the law, though; it requires that people actively participate in the political process.
This means voting, of course, but it is usually thought that not just any effort at voting will suffice—the citizen must stay informed of political affairs and make a rational choice among the options presented to her in the voting nail stickers how to apply. Is there a duty to vote, then?
And, if so, does this duty require that citizens become sufficiently well-informed about political affairs and relevant facts? Again, many people offer an governmenf answer to the first question, and not just philosophers or academics. I work as an election warden in my city, and on election days I routinely hear other poll workers and voters express the idea that showing up to vote is a matter of obligation—even a i of civic piety.
I suspect their view is shared widely in many other democratic societies, some of whom actually make it legally mandatory to vote. And yet philosophical arguments intended to ln that voting is an obligatory part of citizenship have run into as many challenges as those intended to show that we have an obligation to obey the law. Determining what our civic duties are is problematic then—although this is true of almost everything else in philosophy.
But perhaps the problems raised against theories of civic duty suggest that a better way to think about citizenship is in terms of civic virtue rather than civic obligation.
When we break an obligation, we deserve blame for it, but usually we deserve little credit for fulfilling it. But if I break it, I certainly deserve blame and perhaps even some kind of penalty.
In how to do weird things with your body, virtue is about going beyond the necessary minimum—it involves an inner state of character that regularly expresses itself in praiseworthy action. So, thinking of citizenship in terms of virtues involves asking: What kind of attitudes, practices, and activities among citizens should we esteem, welcome, and respect?
What states of character make citizens function well in their civic role? How can we encourage the development of these virtues? The cardinal virtues of classical thought would obviously serve how to connect to a home network windows 8 and their society well: justice, wisdom, courage, and temperance.
We can add several more that are more explicitly civic; a political society will function better when the citizens are also tolerant, self-disciplined, dedicated to the common good, and supportive of their government. Democratic citizens in virtud fulfill their civic role well when they are engaged, well-informed, and open to ideas and perspectives different from their own. The more these qualities appear in citizens and the more citizens there are who demonstrate themthe better for a democratic polity.
It has been widely recognized throughout the history of political thought that political institutions depend on virtues like these among the citizenry.
Unfortunately, though, there are limits to what civic virtue can contribute to a political system even under fairly ideal circumstances, and the present American situation is hardly ideal.
There are several trends and conditions that seem to be working against the practice of good citizenship. Some say that religion is crucial for sustaining civic virtues and that therefore increased secularization is a threat to our governmdnt. Many religions foster prosocial attitudes insofar as they esteem lawfulness, teach personal responsibility, encourage sentiments of solidarity and trust, and so forth, and so many conservatives especially civoc the United States often insist that a godless society cannot sustain a just polity for long.
Their confidence is belied by the all too frequent instances of sectarian violence, but perhaps the weightier counterexample to the view of religion as necessary for good citizenship is the cluster of xivic that display high rates of secularism with enviably functional political systems, as we see in Scandinavia. On the other hand, critics of liberal political thought often argue that the liberal emphasis on individualism, self-actualization, and privatization of religious belief cannot support a sufficiently rich notion of the common good or a sense of solidarity with compatriots.
Thoroughly secularized societies are still govsrnment new, and so it is possible that they are drawing on social capital generated from vlrtue eras marked by greater religious observance.
Empirically speaking, then, it is probably still an open what is chronic calcific pancreatitis whether they can long maintain high levels of civic virtue without a culture that places a substantial emphasis on some transcendent metanarrative that has traditionally been provided by religion.
But other trends in civuc society seem to pose a more immediate threat to good citizenship. For example, shrinking profit margins have made it harder for newspapers and local television stations all over the country to pay full-time professional journalists to cover state and city news, especially when it involves long-form investigative reporting. At the same time, there has been a great proliferation of media outlets online so that citizens are able to access a much greater amount of information as well as analysis than ever before.
The downside of this media proliferation, though, is that media consumers have grown increasingly polarized as they tailor their media diet in a way that reinforces their individual ideologies—indeed, some media outlets tacitly or even explicitly market themselves to one or the other side of the ideological spectrum.
So, conservatives watch Fox News while liberals gravitate toward MSNBC, and that makes it easier for each group to view the other as benighted or hoodwinked by biased reporting. Social media has had a mixed effect on citizenship, too.
Facebook, Twitter, and the like are great ways to quickly disseminate and discover information. But whereas traditional governent curate their content so that there are guarantees of a certain level of accuracy and significance, the user-generated content on social media is almost completely unfiltered.
This makes it harder to distinguish fact from fiction, accuracy from distortion. Misinformation, hoaxes, and outright lies spread just as rapidly as the truth. And the incentives for users to generate content or replicate it through sharing govenment tied up with their conception of themselves, which makes political activity on social media a kind of consumption good.
And this obviously works against the citizenry arriving at reasoned consensus through rational deliberation. Polarization and poor understanding of how to write calligraphy with a quill pen perspectives appear in other contexts, too.
Perhaps most ironically, it has surfaced in higher education, as documented by psychologist Jonathan Haidt. But Haidt has shown that conservative and libertarian voices xivic become much rarer in the academy over governmnt past couple of decades, especially in humanities and social sciences departments.
Some faculty members have even admitted that they would not hire someone with what is civic virtue in government conservative views. Conservatives and libertarians who do find a position on a university faculty are often patronized, ostracized, or even persecuted, and so sometimes they just keep their opinions to themselves.
Students who are working out their political views perhaps for the first time get a distorted picture of the intellectual landscape, which makes it harder for them to understand alternative perspectives in democratic deliberation. Moreover, this increasing polarization is likely exacerbating widespread voter irrationality. There is already plenty of evidence that many voters are quite ignorant about their government e. But voters also demonstrate irrationality; for example, they gogernment biased or flawed thought processes to evaluate whatever information they do happen to virgue.
In one famous experiment, people opposed legislative proposals from their own party when they were falsely told that the proposals were supported by the competing party. Clearly, they were responding to party branding rather than the content of the proposals. Another study shows that voters tend to reward or punish incumbent candidates based on how the economy is doing a few months before the election, regardless of how well it has done in the previous years or the extent to which the incumbent is actually responsible for the economy.
In many ways, voters demonstrate motivated reasoning, cognitive bias, and sloppy thinking when they act politically. Other challenges to good citizenship come from our political system itself. The problem of voter ignorance mentioned in the previous paragraph is due in part to the size and scope of the federal government. It is simply not feasible for people to keep track of all the actions taken by their government or even all the different agencies that are supposed to be acting on their behalf.
Even members of Congress confess that they are often unable to read the legislation they are supposed to vote on. Granted, Americans do not typically vote directly for particular laws and policies.
There are also reasons to think that the two-party system in some ways disempowers citizens. For example, it encourages and even pressures citizens to vote against their conscience. But a vote for Jones is nothing more than a vote for Jones; whether the voter thinks that Jones is a wonderful candidate or marginally less of a scoundrel than Smith, her vote simply adds to support for Jones.
So, the result of this attitude toward alternative parties and candidates is that a major party has to be only slightly less bad than its rival and its base will fall in line. Indeed, the two major parties have perhaps never been less popular, at least as evidenced by the number girtue people who are registered with them. And yet their control over the political system is thoroughly entrenched.
Granted, many voters who think of themselves as independents still pretty reliably vote for one party. But it is hard to maintain that such stark limitations on voter options are consistent with robust, active democratic citizenship. In addition to these structural problems, there is the behavior of particular officials. He has also tried to favor news outlets he likes and disadvantage the ones he resents.
But he is not the first president to try to control information vittue enhance his position; his predecessor was criticized for disallowing any independent photographers so that only images from the official virtke therefore more flattering White House photographer would become the visual historical record. More problematically, recent administrations have relied on secrecy and appeals to national security to shield citizens from discovering what they were up to, and whistleblowers and leakers have been prosecuted and punished.
Other elected officials have interfered with freedom of information requests. Secrecy is surely warranted in certain cases, but at times government officials are wrongly suppressing information that citizens need in order to make well-informed democratic decisions and hold their government accountable for its actions.
Citizens today also have unprecedented access to information and new technologies that enable mass mobilization and coordinated activity.
Still, we should not ignore the real barriers that hinder their ability to take part in democratic self-government. Christopher A.
Civic Virtue, and Why It Matters
One of the key concepts they relied on to make these decisions was that of civic virtue, or the personal devotion to the success of the community. They argued that a successful society required. The cardinal virtues of classical thought would obviously serve citizens and their society well: justice, wisdom, courage, and temperance. Machiavellicalled virtu civile ("civic virtue")--an ingrained tendency to form small-scale associations that create a fertile ground for political and economic development, even if the associations are not themselves political or economic.
Civic virtue , in political philosophy , personal qualities associated with the effective functioning of the civil and political order, or the preservation of its values and principles. Attempts to define civic virtue vary, as different political systems organize public life around alternative visions of the public good and the demands of citizens commensurate with this good.
Understanding civic virtue has become increasingly urgent as scholars seek to identify the causes of declining levels of civic engagement and the virtues that will reverse this trend. Most discussions of civic virtue centre on the obligation of citizens to participate in society by performing the minimally necessary activities in support of the state, such as paying taxes. Even those who take a less-demanding view recognize that in a radically individualistic society, all people benefit from publicly supported goods, such as a transportation infrastructure or schools.
To promote cooperation, Aristotle argued that civic virtue involved citizens taking part in ruling and being ruled. Others have highlighted the essential virtues of justice , courage, or honesty.
However, specifically what counts for civic virtue depends on the kind of political order one aspires to create. It is sufficient under the liberal tradition for citizens to vote. The republican tradition demands that citizens be active, on the assumption that high levels of civic engagement are necessary to protect against government abuses and to provide citizens with an outlet to satisfy their human yearning of creating a shared public good.
Both the liberal and republican traditions share the view that civic virtue is not an inherent human quality but needs to be developed. Civic virtue. Additional Info. Additional Reading Contributors Article History. Print Cite verified Cite. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions.
Facebook Twitter. Give Feedback External Websites. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article requires login. External Websites. Margaret E. Banyan is the lead planner for public participation, land use planning, and community See Article History. Banyan Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Political philosophy , branch of philosophy that is concerned, at the most abstract level, with the concepts and arguments involved in political opinion. The meaning of the term political is itself one of the major problems of political philosophy.
Broadly, however, one may characterize as political all those practices and institutions…. Aristotle , ancient Greek philosopher and scientist, one of the greatest intellectual figures of Western history. He was the author of a philosophical and scientific system that became the framework and vehicle for both Christian Scholasticism and medieval Islamic philosophy.
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