Good students: intellectual virtues in higher education

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University of New Brunswick


What does it mean to be a good student? To answer this analysis draws on Aristotle’s articulation of intellectual virtues, which begins with the idea that “we praise not only the just, but also the intelligent and the wise,”1 and that “intellectual excellence in the main owes both its birth and its growth to teaching […] of all the things that come by us by nature we first acquire the potentiality and later exhibit the activity […] excellences we get first by exercising them.”2 Despite their intimate relationship with education, it is a small group of scholars led by Battaly, Kotzee, and Baehr who are breaking ground in applying intellectual virtues theory to education in the 21st century. Further, at a time when higher education is thrust toward the Internet and massive open online courses (MOOCs), the impacts of technology and economics in the field of intellectual virtues is largely overlooked. This dissertation provides a detailed history of virtue epistemology, defense of the research question, literature review, methodology justification, and problems identification to reveal (a) 11 student intellectual virtues are salient in the 21st century and why, (b) how these virtues can be fostered by seeing students embodying a practice, (c) how they fit in our learning environments, and (d) how they serve students and society. Using philosophical reconstruction, I conclude that intellectually virtuous students in higher education embody: impartiality, courage, open-mindedness, attention, care, honesty, humility, autonomy, perseverance, patience, and industry. 1 Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics, II.1.1220a5–13. 2 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1103a14; 1103a26–31.