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That is, happiness depends on the cultivation of virtue , though his virtues are somewhat more individualistic than the essentially social virtues of the Confucians. Yet as we shall see, Aristotle was convinced that a genuinely happy life required the fulfillment of a broad range of conditions, including physical as well as mental well-being. Essentially, Aristotle argues that virtue is achieved by maintaining the Mean, which is the balance between two excesses.

For Aristotle the mean was a method of achieving virtue, but for Buddha the Middle Path referred to a peaceful way of life which negotiated the extremes of harsh asceticism and sensual pleasure seeking. The Middle Path was a minimal requirement for the meditative life, and not the source of virtue in itself. Aristotle is one of the greatest thinkers in the history of western science and philosophy, making contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre.

He was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. Aristotle was the first to classify areas of human knowledge into distinct disciplines such as mathematics, biology, and ethics.


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Some of these classifications are still used today, such as the species-genus system taught in biology classes. He was the first to devise a formal system for reasoning, whereby the validity of an argument is determined by its structure rather than its content. Consider the following syllogism: All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is mortal.

Here we can see that as long as the premises are true, the conclusion must also be true, no matter what we substitute for "men or "is mortal. Aristotle was the founder of the Lyceum, the first scientific institute, based in Athens, Greece. Along with his teacher Plato, he was one of the strongest advocates of a liberal arts education, which stresses the education of the whole person, including one's moral character, rather than merely learning a set of skills.

According to Aristotle, this view of education is necessary if we are to produce a society of happy as well as productive individuals. One of Aristotle's most influential works is the Nicomachean Ethics , where he presents a theory of happiness that is still relevant today, over 2, years later. The key question Aristotle seeks to answer in these lectures is "What is the ultimate purpose of human existence? Everywhere we see people seeking pleasure, wealth, and a good reputation. But while each of these has some value, none of them can occupy the place of the chief good for which humanity should aim.

To be an ultimate end, an act must be self-sufficient and final, "that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else" Nicomachean Ethics, a , and it must be attainable by man. Aristotle claims that nearly everyone would agree that happiness is the end which meets all these requirements. It is easy enough to see that we desire money, pleasure, and honor only because we believe that these goods will make us happy.

It seems that all other goods are a means towards obtaining happiness, while happiness is always an end in itself. The Greek word that usually gets translated as "happiness" is eudaimonia , and like most translations from ancient languages, this can be misleading. The main trouble is that happiness especially in modern America is often conceived of as a subjective state of mind, as when one says one is happy when one is enjoying a cool beer on a hot day, or is out "having fun" with one's friends. For Aristotle, however, happiness is a final end or goal that encompasses the totality of one's life.

It is not something that can be gained or lost in a few hours, like pleasurable sensations. It is more like the ultimate value of your life as lived up to this moment, measuring how well you have lived up to your full potential as a human being. For this reason, one cannot really make any pronouncements about whether one has lived a happy life until it is over, just as we would not say of a football game that it was a "great game" at halftime indeed we know of many such games that turn out to be blowouts or duds.

For the same reason we cannot say that children are happy, any more than we can say that an acorn is a tree, for the potential for a flourishing human life has not yet been realized. As Aristotle says, "for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy. In order to explain human happiness, Aristotle draws on a view of nature he derived from his biological investigations. If we look at nature, we notice that there are four different kinds of things that exist in the world, each one defined by a different purpose:.

Mineral: rocks, metals and other lifeless things. The only goal which these things seek is to come to a rest. They are "beyond stupid" since they are inanimate objects with no soul. Vegetative: plants and other wildlife.

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Here we see a new kind of thing emerge,something which is alive. Because plants seek nourishment and growth, they have souls and can be even said to be satisfied when they attain these goals. Animal: all the creatures we study as belonging to the animal kingdom. Here we see a higher level of life emerge: animals seek pleasure and reproduction, and we can talk about a happy or sad dog, for example, to the extent that they are healthy and lead a pleasant life.

Human: what is it that makes human beings different from the rest of the animal kingdom? Aristotle answers: Reason. Only humans are capable of acting according to principles, and in so doing taking responsibility for their choices. We can blame Johnny for stealing the candy since he knows it is wrong, but we wouldn't blame an animal since it doesn't know any better. It seems that our unique function is to reason: by reasoning things out we attain our ends, solve our problems, and hence live a life that is qualitatively different in kind from plants or animals. The good for a human is different from the good for an animal because we have different capacities or potentialities.

We have a rational capacity and the exercising of this capacity is thus the perfecting of our natures as human beings. For this reason, pleasure alone cannot constitute human happiness, for pleasure is what animals seek and human beings have higher capacities than animals. The goal is not to annihilate our physical urges, however, but rather to channel them in ways that are appropriate to our natures as rational animals.

Nicomachean Ethics , a In this last quote we can see another important feature of Aristotle's theory: the link between the concepts of happiness and virtue. Aristotle tells us that the most important factor in the effort to achieve happiness is to have a good moral character — what he calls "complete virtue. Nor is it enough to have a few virtues; rather one must strive to possess all of them.

As Aristotle writes,. He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life. Nicomachean Ethics, a According to Aristotle, happiness consists in achieving, through the course of a whole lifetime, all the goods — health, wealth, knowledge, friends, etc. This requires us to make choices, some of which may be very difficult. Often the lesser good promises immediate pleasure and is more tempting, while the greater good is painful and requires some sort of sacrifice.

For example, it may be easier and more enjoyable to spend the night watching television, but you know that you will be better off if you spend it researching for your term paper. Developing a good character requires a strong effort of will to do the right thing, even in difficult situations. Another example is the taking of drugs, which is becoming more and more of a problem in our society today.

Yet, inevitably, this short-term pleasure will lead to longer term pain. A few hours later you may feel miserable and so need to take the drug again, which leads to a never-ending spiral of need and relief. Addiction inevitably drains your funds and provides a burden to your friends and family.

All of those virtues — generosity, temperance, friendship, courage, etc. Aristotle would be strongly critical of the culture of "instant gratification" which seems to predominate in our society today. In order to achieve the life of complete virtue, we need to make the right choices, and this involves keeping our eye on the future, on the ultimate result we want for our lives as a whole. We will not achieve happiness simply by enjoying the pleasures of the moment.

Unfortunately, this is something most people are not able to overcome in themselves. As he laments, "the mass of mankind are evidently quite slavish in their tastes, preferring a life suitable to beasts" Nicomachean Ethics, b Later in the Ethics Aristotle draws attention to the concept of akrasia , or weakness of the will. In many cases the overwhelming prospect of some great pleasure obscures one's perception of what is truly good.

A manner of bearing constitutes a kind of expertise or responsiveness. The roles identified indicate three kinds of expertise or mutual relations: mastery, marital relations and rule over children. Aristotle observes that his language lacks a precise word for the relationship between a man and a woman, implying that their union in marriage does not itself convey a dynamic, or respective manners of bearing. Although paternal rule is consistent with his identification of the role of father to the exclusion of that of mother, Aristotle notes again that his language lacks a precise term for the kind of rule he means, lending support to a notion of parental rule, since the word for paternal rule, patrike, was available.

Yet Aristotle says that mastery too needs discussion, thus perhaps that evoked sense is misleading. In any case, he says that he will determine what each of the three household relationships ought to be. That determination requires consideration of another obvious part of household management: the art of acquisition, or business expertise for without possessions it is impossible either to live or live well, Aristotle notes. Who should provide for the household, and to what end?

Aristotle thus sets the stage for his substantial discussion of slavery. Because the latter, concentrated mostly in chapter 5, are central not only to his conception of the master—slave relationship but also to his conception of other forms of rule discussed throughout the Politics, they are the focus of the following commentary.

In chapter 5, Aristotle begins to explain why certain human beings do not belong to themselves by nature. He says — in one of the most important and scientifically prescient paragraphs of the Politics — that the answer is not difficult to discern, either philosophically or empirically. Better natures and conduct elicit better rule. This is true Aristotle says, in a sentence that anticipates modern physics, whether the ruling and the ruled either constitute a whole or are discrete parts, and whether they are either animate or inanimate.

While the phenomenon of rule is easiest to observe among discrete animate beings — that is, among animals and human beings, it is intrinsic to such inanimate wholes as musical harmonies. That is, notes create music by ruling over and being ruled by other notes. Aristotle stops this line of argument to stay focused, but mentions another sort of inquiry that would extend it, suggesting perhaps a science that explores other inanimate wholes — such as rocks — held together by some form of rule, or forces.

Having discussed rule between separate beings and within an inanimate whole, Aristotle turns to rule within an animate whole — within one living being. He does so apparently because a single living being most obviously manifests rule according to nature, or the difference between good rule and bad rule. A living being in the best state exemplifies a naturally good relationship between its superior and inferior parts when its soul rules its body.

By contrast, a depraved state reflects bad and unnatural rule, the body ruling the soul. These claims, advanced and associated with happiness by Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, are central to his political philosophy because they establish criteria for superiority and inferiority, the justification for all kinds of rule. Aristotle foreshadows as much in this context by noting again that the manner of ruling reflects the nature or quality of the ruled: the soul rules a body with the rule characteristic of a master, while the intellect or part of the soul having reason rules over the passionate part with political and kingly rule.

We have yet to learn about all the forms of rule, but Aristotle underscores that superior should rule inferior in every case — human beings should rule animals, males, females and generally better human beings should rule lesser human beings — because nature establishes that norm.

Read e-book Aristotles Politics: A Readers Guide (Readers Guides)

The political relevance of nature is incontrovertible. That is, if the best work that can come from them is physical labour, then they are slaves by nature and should be treated as such — for their own good. Making explicit his earlier suggestion that a slave belongs to another human being because he is capable of belonging to another — or is in other words incapable of self-direction, Aristotle adds that a natural slave can follow but does not himself have, reason.

Indeed, he notes that the need for slaves scarcely differs from the need for domesticated animals: both can do physical work. Scholars debate whether or not Aristotle has now contradicted himself, since chapter 2 identified speech or reason logos as a defining attribute of man.

A thorough resolution of the debate might derive from an analysis of the kinds or dimensions of reason as well as of states of soul that Aristotle identifies in his many treatises. Nonetheless, a perhaps satisfactory present resolution focuses on the correction of popular views Aristotle apparently wants to accomplish: natural slaves ought to be treated humanely, whether or not they are technically, or politically, human beings.

That is, they ought to be treated like human beings insofar as their slavish qualities allow or, more precisely, because of their slavish qualities: to direct them is to answer their need to be directed. Consistent with that interpretation, Aristotle says that the identification of natural slaves is not necessarily easy. Although human beings lacking reason or initiative may or may not be prevalent — Aristotle testifies only to their existence — they do not always appear different from other men. But by noting that the matter of who should be slaves and who masters would be easily solved if some men looked like Gods, he induces two compatible thoughts: no obligation to human beings inheres in nature, and the difficulties nature presents inspire human beings to oblige themselves.

Nature not only fails to fashion some men in the image of Gods, so that we can gladly serve them, but also fails to make the beauty of souls as obvious as the beauty of bodies, so that we can easily identify who is naturally superior. Yet evidence that some persons are naturally slavish and others naturally free encourages the latter to benefit the former and render them more useful by way of mastery.

In other words, the existence of natural slaves encourages the practice of slavery. Not all slavery is just however. Aristotle makes that clear in chapter 6, where he lays out three positions, two of which defend the practice of slavery and the third opposes it. One defence of slavery holds that spoils of war, including human captives, legally belong to the victors. Opponents of that convention argue that neither superior force nor anything else can justify enslavement, because justice consists in mutual kindness.

Aristotle points out truth in both views: might per se does not equal right but might backed by virtue, exerted over inferiors, does. Moreover, even proponents of the first view admit that the origin of war is not always just and that enemies in war can include men of the highest rank, not suited for slavery. Aristotle himself admits nonetheless that like does not always beget like; the respective offspring of slaves and masters do not necessarily merit the circumstances of their parents.

If nature does not predictably fulfil its apparent intention, then we must rely on human judgement to discern who deserves to be enslaved. If we judge well, then everyone will benefit; masters and slaves will even become friends of a sort. Slaves perform chores, some more necessary than others, such as cooking. Mastery is the ability to command slaves, not a dignified undertaking, Aristotle says, apparently because it oversees the merely necessary business of life.

If possible then a free man should hire an overseer for his slaves, so that he can engage in politics or philosophy. He should not however delegate the obligation to procure his slaves, because again that requires the perception of a free man. Hence if the welfare of natural slaves is the first, effective cause or justification of the institution of slavery, then politics and philosophy are its end or final cause.

Does household management include not only their use, but also their acquisition? Are there some modes of acquiring or generating wealth that are natural and others that are unnatural? Do answers to those questions hold lessons for the city? Aristotle argues over the next four chapters that acquisition of wealth is not the same as but is subordinate to household management, that some modes of acquisition are more natural than others, and that the natural or good material condition of the household is instructive for the city. In doing so he presents three more pairs of contrasts: Just as he differentiated natural slavery from conventional or unnatural slavery, he differentiates natural from unnatural ways of acquiring wealth, natural from 28 READING THE TEXT unnatural amounts of wealth, and even natural from unnatural uses of money.

Ultimately he suggests that both households and cities should be naturally wealthy, or self-sufficient. Aristotle sets out by arguing that the art of acquisition, as a means of bringing to the household the goods it needs to function, assists household management. But many forms of acquisition exist, and determine ways of life, such as farming and nomadism — the two most common — and hunting, piracy and fishing.

Because these forms either generate or gather goods, they are to be distinguished from barter and commerce, which merely give and receive them. If a single mode of acquisition from land or sea is inadequate for self-sufficiency, persons sometimes successfully combine two or more other modes to achieve it. Nature assists the goal of self-sufficiency by giving human beings animals for use and sustenance, and giving animals plants for their use and sustenance. By advising the free man to procure his own slaves, Aristotle already indicated in chapter 7 that this second kind of just war is part of household management.

The physical resources and hierarchies nature provides fulfil the needs of the household as well as needs of the city more generally.

If limited wealth or self-sufficiency characterizes the good life, then household managers and political rulers alike should not strive for material goods beyond that limit. By contradicting the poet Solon on this subject, Aristotle illustrates that poetry does not always convey wisdom or good advice.

Unlimited pursuit of wealth is a decidedly unpoetic way of life. Nonetheless, money and commerce were reasonable developments, Aristotle says. For they derive from barter or exchange which itself derives from need. While there is no need for exchange within a household because goods are used for specific purposes, there is such need among them to replenish or maintain those goods, reminding us of the rationale given earlier for the village, to meet non-daily needs.

Once foreigners began importing necessary goods and exporting surplus, money was devised and commerce replaced exchange. Apparently then money can circulate naturally or simply conventionally; money circulated for profit is worthless because it is useless for necessary things. A rich man, like Midas, can starve. Lots of money is not natural or true wealth. The utility of money and commerce for natural sufficiency is paradoxically the origin of their abuse.

We need them to bring goods into the city and to facilitate exchange among households, but they can be directed to the accumulation of money. Just as gluttony stems from the fact that we need some food and cannot abstain from eating, commerce for profit stems from the fact that we need some things to live and cannot abstain from commerce to obtain them.

But by way of an investigation of the arts Aristotle shows that, just as eating is not the cause of gluttony, commerce is not the cause of unnecessary accumulations of money. The cause of course is desire. For every art is limited by its end. Health limits the art of medicine; once a wound is healed or a cold cured, there is no further need to apply a poultice or drink an elixir. The same could be said of wealth and the art of commerce except that wealth, unlike health, has two forms, namely sufficiency and superfluity though a similar dichotomy with respect to health has emerged with the invention of cosmetic surgery.

Accordingly, there are two different arts, one productive of each end. Commercial or business expertise productive of natural wealth and that productive of money are again very close and often confused like eating and gluttony because money like food is a means common to both. Consequently some persons think that the art of household management is to increase money or even just to hold on to it. The purpose of money, however, is to use it for useful things. Desire unsatisfied by sufficiency misuses business expertise to circulate money for the sake of more money.

Aristotle: Politics

Money and business expertise are thus not themselves blameworthy or the root of all evil. Indeed, when desire for money takes over, those who fail to accumulate money through business expertise try other arts, corrupting them as well: some actors act, some writers write, some doctors practice medicine and some generals lead wars, in order to get rich. As if money were the end of life, they are serious about living, but not about living well. Since living well is the end of both households and cities, lessons about household management pertain to political rule. Like household managers, political rulers too should make use of business expertise.

The proper and natural use of money and commerce provides things that households and cities need to live well. By tailoring management of their respective economies to their obligation to promote living well, households and cities use money according to nature, as a means to an end. It appears nonetheless true that households and cities can live more, or less, according to nature.

Although the chapter focuses on the practical knowledge various modes of acquisition require, it complicates the naturalness of those modes — in part by introducing another one, and in part by ranking the sorts of work they involve. At the outset of the discussion in chapter 8, acquisition from the land is said to be the most natural mode of acquisition, and commerce the least natural.

The first requires knowledge about the cultivation of crops and the care of animals, the second knowledge about transporting and selling cargo, money-lending and wage labour — the last done by artisans and physical labourers. But chapter 11 introduces a third art of acquisition or business expertise and says that it falls in between agriculture and commerce on the spectrum of naturalness: namely, harvesting things from the earth, chiefly lumbering and mining.

Likewise the practical knowledge involved is partly similar to that needed in agriculture and partly to that needed in commerce. Although the way of life most natural to man still seems to be that closest to the land, Aristotle complicates that conclusion by characterizing the work involved in the three modes of acquisition. The best sort of work requires the most skill; it can afford least to leave matters to chance. The most vulgar sort damages the body most. The most slavish sort relies most on physical strength. And the most ignoble, sorts of work that are least in need of virtue or goodness.

Hence the sort of work that is best for man is that which most preserves his mind and his body. While farming, mining and lumberjacking require skill and minimizing hazards such as weather, they also require physical labour that risks injury. And while commerce or trafficking goods requires labour to transport cargo, it also calls on skill to manufacture goods and to manage money.

In fact, Aristotle notes that while plenty of handbooks about agriculture exist, more on business are needed. Furthermore, in addition to business smarts, does not the management of money in particular require considerable virtue or goodness, at least if it serves the end of sufficiency rather than superfluity?

As if to confirm that the management of money requires both intelligence and good character, including gumption or courage, Aristotle recounts an anecdote about Thales of Miletus, a man who, when he was chided for his poverty, made use of his scientific knowledge to make a lot of money, thereby proving that he could, but did not want to spend his life doing so. Knowing how to make a lot of money fast is useful — to households and even more so to cities, Aristotle says. Political rulers should have that sort of practical knowledge to raise revenues; some in government even appropriately concern themselves exclusively with it.

While the specifics of that knowledge are not germane to the immediate inquiry, the fact that it is necessary is germane. For it helps establish two points: money-making should not be a priority, but also, it should not be eschewed. If all households and cities did was to raise money, then presumably they would not have any need to know how to raise it fast. At the same time, the stark alternatives presented by the example of Thales, between a life devoted to the pursuit of knowledge lived in poverty, and one devoted to making a quick buck, make us wonder if they are the only alternatives.

Indeed Aristotle notes that although the business scheme Thales devised was attributed to his knowledge of astronomy enabling him to predict a good harvest and rent out all the available olive presses in advance , the principle of monopoly is business expertise that is universally available. If political rulers and household managers alike readily commanded such business expertise, then perhaps they could avoid the need to make money fast. In between he reveals that the question of what mode of acquisition is best or most natural for man requires consideration of his constitution as a whole and his proper end.

But before that he showed that not all human beings are identically constituted and thus have different ends or functions. Evidently then which mode of acquisition is best depends on the characteristics of the populace in question. Although between naturally free individuals, they are nonetheless also, like the master—slave relationship, characterized by rule, as are all relationships according to nature, as already argued. The question is, what sort of rule, in each case? Aristotle reasons that rule over children is kingly because kings, superior in some respect to but from the same people as their subjects, rule them benevolently.

Inasmuch as age establishes relative maturity or development, it marks inferiority and superiority. While seniority in age establishes the superiority of both mothers and fathers over their children, Aristotle again, as earlier, does not mention the former and moreover here speaks only of paternal rule and kings — not of maternal rule and queens. Aristotle declares that the male, unless constituted against nature, is better at leading than the female and should therefore lead in marriage, in a way consistent with political rule, in which ruler and ruled differ in presentation, formalities and privileges, regardless of whether or not they are equal by nature and alternate ruling and being ruled.

Moreover, the virtues of each member of the household differ from those of the others, a fact pivotal to its good management, Aristotle says. Hence he devotes chapter 13 to their enumeration and analysis. The virtues of men, women, slaves and children differ because the constitution of their souls differs.

Lacking a deliberative element, a slave displays virtue chiefly by way of discipline and dedication to his work. Similarly, the undeveloped deliberative capacity of a child allows only sporadic self-command. Hence Aristotle concludes that virtue in general is not best defined, as some have defined it, as a good condition of the soul or as acting correctly, but rather as a number of different virtues.

Household management therefore entails instilling various virtues in or eliciting them from, different members of the household. Stating that the master should instil virtue even in his slaves and not merely instruct them in their work, Aristotle rehabilitates the dignity of mastery somewhat from his earlier account. Most importantly he argues, mentioning education for the first time in the Politics, that the function of the household is education. Pointing out that women are half of the free persons in a city, and children are its future citizens, Aristotle perhaps suggests a role for mothers; while they do not lead their children in the way fathers do, their own unique virtues may help develop, if not the intellectual virtues of their children, then their moral virtues.

In any case, the excellence of a city depends on the excellence of its women and children. What requires investigation in order to understand the manner in which a city should be ruled?


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What does Aristotle mean by the claim that the city exists by nature? Why is man a political animal? Why does Aristotle begin his work with the argument that the city is natural? Why are there slaves and masters? Does Aristotle defend the practice of slavery? Why or why not?

What modes of acquisition are according to nature? How should a father relate to his children? How should a mother? How should husband and wife relate to one another? What definition of virtue does Aristotle prefer to what other definition? That regime cannot suit all people, but only those capable of living in the best way, the way that hope and prayer seeks. Consistent with the methodology he recommends in Book I, Aristotle considers features and arrangements — that is, parts or particulars — of various regimes, thereby suggesting that the best regime is not an epiphany — a whole or vision graspable all at once, but rather that elements of it are available for discovery.

Hope and prayer for the ideal way of life then should spur rational inquiry. Distinctive to Book II is inquiry into apparently model regimes: both imaginary ones proposed and existing ones praised, by a number of men — philosophers, rulers and private individuals. The philosopher Socrates, the ruler Phaleas and the urban planner Hippodamus all propose political arrangements that have never been tried, whereas the cities of Sparta, Crete and Carthage have long-established reputations. All of these regimes however, whether they exist or not, address the problems of political unity and harmony.

What unites a city and pre-empts factional conflict? All of the answers tend to focus on three matters: division of property, provisions for women and children and organization of political offices. Evidently Aristotle does not want to discuss intricacies of the dialogues but wants rather to consider the basic features of the hypothetical regimes described therein. Discourses of combined philosophical and practical worth begin with natural or evident questions. A search for the best regime might naturally begin then with the question, In what should citizens be partners?

At the very least they should be partners in a location, but in what else? Should they go so far as Socrates proposes and share, or own communally, women, children and property? Chapters 2—5 focus on those questions by discussing the regime The Republic describes. To make a multitude one destroys its character, turning it into a household or an individual. Moreover, a city is not a multitude of similar units, like a bushel of apples or even a nation of villages.

Although a city resembles a nation insofar as their respective parts provide mutual assistance, the characteristics of that assistance differ considerably, that of an alliance of villages being spontaneously responsive to contingencies and similar in kind, that of a multitude of individuals being continuous and differing in kind. That interdependence preserves cities, since no part can survive on its own. Even when individuals are free and equal, Aristotle observes, they adopt different roles — some rule while others submit to rule — albeit each group temporarily, on a rotational schedule.

Performance of reciprocal roles and functions generates self-sufficiency, the purpose of a city. If, as seems to be the case, Socrates argues for the latter, then four negative practical consequences are foreseeable. First, neglect of women, children and things, because human beings care less for what belongs in common than for what belongs to them exclusively. Second, a psychologically unsettling state of mind, presumably more acute among fathers than mothers, caused by a system designed to prevent confirmation of suspicions, aggravated by physical resemblances, about which children are theirs.

Far worse than neglect and distraction, ignorance of relatives, compared to knowledge of them, increases incidences of verbal abuse, assaults and even murder a claim challenged by modern crime statistics. In short and third, significant conflicts are likely. Fourth and finally, so is sexual attraction between relatives and thus incest, perverting the natural affection that would otherwise bond them.

It does so chiefly by weakening natural affections that spring from exclusive relationships. Focusing on arrangements concerning material property, chapter 5 asks if possession or just use be common, or both? For example, land can be owned privately and its produce shared, or the opposite, land can be held in common and its produce divided, or both farmland and its produce can be common.

But Aristotle expects complete communism as in The Republic to induce resentment among farmers who must provide for everyone else, such as the guardians, even though they equally own the land and are not slaves. Better Aristotle says for possessions to be held privately and voluntarily shared, which happens spontaneously among friends. Aristotle thus maintains regard for dispositions; not only do property arrangements affect the dispositions or emotions of human beings but also vice versa.

A viable system of property accommodates, rather than denies or contravenes, natural human inclinations. Even if generosity like other virtues requires or benefits from encouragement by laws and other means, its precondition is private property and its result, pleasure for the giver.

About Aristotle's 'Politics'

Hence communism precludes generosity and therewith a very pleasurable virtue. By robbing men of both the dignity afforded by selfcontrol and the pleasure of giving voluntarily, communism saps them of strength and initiative. If private property causes conflict, then why do those who own property in common also fight — and in fact fight more? According to Aristotle, character more than material conditions motivate human conduct.

Depravity causes disputes. Education is thus the key to societal harmony. A city should cultivate good conduct by means of families, schools and law; parents can induce habits, teachers can persuade and legislators can reward and punish acts. Lacking education, as well as government and laws, why would the farmers and artisans — the citizens of the regime — live peaceably and submit to the rulers? What sort of people the citizens are matters to the partnership of the guardians and the preservation of the whole regime.

Exacerbating the apparently radical split between the rulers and the ruled is the permanency of the membership of each: rule is not rotational. Moreover, the conditions under which the rulers live, by precluding their having any private lives at all, ensure their unhappiness. The notion that the best rulers are strictly public servants is inhumane.

How, he ultimately asks, can a whole city be happy unless most people in it are happy? Its huge military would require virtually limitless territory and moreover a guiding foreign policy. A city should defend itself as well as invade its enemies to remain formidable, but this city strangely lacks a stance on neighbouring countries. In addition, its fixed allocation of property without population control may generate widespread poverty — the surplus population would have no property, and poverty contributes to factional conflict and crime.

The government should be more mixed, more democratic. It should also be more aristocratic, paying more attention to excellence and less to wealth; and incorporate a monarchic element, leadership of an outstanding man. Overall the design of the city does not promote its goals of freedom and power. Like the city in The Republic, its expectations and requirements are unrealistic. Although put forth by men of various occupations, a good number of the proposals share the assumption that property causes all conflict.

Accordingly they advance only or chiefly designs for its proper distribution, as if that were a political panacea. Phaleas, from Chalcedon about whom nothing else is known , advanced an equal, though privately owned, distribution. While easy to accomplish in new settlements, equality of private wealth in existing cities entails redistributive measures, such as mandating dowries only from wealthy households to poor ones, and prohibiting the latter to give them to the former.

Aristotle makes two specific criticisms, each of which he quickly supplants by a general claim about human conduct. First, any effective means to equalize property must stipulate the number of offspring each household may have. But a concern far overriding relative demands on individual household wealth is the reaction of the rich, who are apt to be angered by a policy of redistribution that may make them poor.

Those who maintain that property causes conflict are indeed right — when it is taken away. Although Phaleas proposes equal education along with equal property, uniformity of education does not itself temper desires: by teaching how to become wealthy, powerful or hedonistic, education may even inflame desires or ambition. Failing to see that ambition as well as need induces commission of injustices, Phaleas thinks that only satisfaction of need precludes it.

That categorization reappears here when he adds that the sort of pleasure some seek is that unaccompanied by pains — a characterization of the activity of contemplation given in the Nicomachean Ethics, where he observes that all other pleasures besides thinking are preceded by some sort of physical pain, discomfort or lack: hunger before eating, fatigue before sleep, sexual urges before sex.

The desire for material wealth is similarly a felt need or absence. Accordingly Aristotle asks here, what satisfies desire for wealth, for power or recognition, and for pleasure-without-pain? He answers: for the first, a modicum of property and some sort of work; for the second, temperance; and for the third, philosophy. The answer is itself a rare activity inasmuch as it does not require other human beings. Whereas those who want material wealth commit relatively minor crimes, those who want power or transcendence from earthly pleasures may become tyrants or hermits — threats or burdens to a city.

It addresses only one form or objective of desire and also fails to see its insatiability; most human beings tend to want more than they have whatever amount they have. In chapter 8, Aristotle turns to other ideas about what makes for a good regime, specifically those of Hippodamus, an urban planner, who designed actual plans for an ideal regime but whose personal flamboyance and lack of political experience suggests motivation by artistic ambition rather than by civic obligation. Sporting long hair, flashy robes and jewelry, he dressed moreover without regard to the season, as if concerned only with appearance not utility.

Not politically involved, his interests inclined towards natural philosophy. His apparent propensities for extremes and abstractions manifested themselves in his work: he not only invented the division of cities, but proposed a city divided into three divisions each with three subdivisions. Its population, territory and laws to be divided respectively into artisans, farmers and protectors; sacred, public and private; and cases of abuse, injury and death.

Not surprisingly, Hippodamus also proposed honours for innovations benefiting the city. Regarding these proposals Aristotle predicts, first, that farmers and artisans without weapons would become slaves of an armed militia, and second, rewards for ways to improve a regime encourage gratuitous changes as well as blackmail: alleged discovery of misconduct by officials, exposure of which would improve a regime, might be better rewarded by the officials themselves. A civic honour for whistleblowers could thereby backfire by creating more dishonourable conduct.

But Aristotle worries above all about the introduction of change into a regime. Change introduced into arts and sciences such as medicine and gymnastic generally improves them: new cures and exercises supplant old ones. Patients regain health more quickly and athletes and soldiers in training become stronger and faster. Extrapolation suggests the same holds for the art of politics: new laws, institutions and policies are more effective than their predecessors.

In addition, the only way to compensate for the defect inherent to law, its universality, is to change laws that result in bad outcomes in particular circumstances. Yet if laws change frequently, then citizens stop obeying them. Imagine enrolling in a course in which the professor changes its requirements every week. You might become confused, frustrated, disorganized and resentful; refuse to meet expectations; regard him as untrustworthy; and sooner or later, fed up with its unpredictable demands, drop the course.

Hence although the points in the preceding paragraph recommend out-with-the-old-inwith-the-new — that at least some laws should be changed at some times — the observation that the authority of laws depends in part on their longevity leads to a modified conclusion, namely: if only a small improvement results from changing a law, then it should not be changed, the risk to compliance not worth the benefit. The art of politics does not then compare to other arts and sciences inasmuch as it tends not to benefit from continuous change.

Preservation of laws helps preserve the regime by preserving respect for law and in turn compliance. Therefore against the advice of Hippodamus, rulers and law-makers should resist new policies promising progress. Although whatever is traditional is not necessarily good, it expects the same today as it did yesterday. Moreover, adherence to traditional ways may reflect inclinations natural or reasonable to man, further cause for leaders to think twice before abandoning them, to say nothing of the disrespect to their ancestors that abandonment of their accomplishments would demonstrate.

He asks whether their features are suited to the best regime, and whether they are consistent with the principle of the current regime. The best regime requires leisure for its rulers, for example, so that necessary matters do not distract them, and Sparta and Crete have serfs to attend to such matters. Hence having a provision of the best regime does not guarantee that it serves a current regime; apparently such features can be integrated only with skill and judgement — the cooperation of Cretan serfs a case in point.

Similarly, the respect in which a regime treats women bears on its happiness. Spartan women live luxuriously and licentiously and dominate the regime while the men are away at war. Although the unfortunate results are not attributable to design and thus blameworthy, the mishandled circumstances manifest an inconsistency or contradiction in the regime: military discipline clashing with wanton rulers.

Aristotle identifies other failings of Sparta, centring on its increasing democratization which, by opening more offices to the uneducated poor, enables bribery and favouritism while nonetheless appeasing the people. The characteristic hallmark of the regime, its preoccupation with war, also ill serves it, by preventing the leisure needed for thoughtful rule. The Cretan regime resembles the Spartan because the latter imitated the former.

Carthage appears overall to be better ruled than either Sparta or Crete.


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Domestically peaceful, it elects its chief council, senate and kings on the basis of desert, characteristic of the best regime. Nonetheless, deviations from the underlying principle of desert, towards democracy and oligarchy, exist. On the one hand, a sort of separation of powers operates, inasmuch as the kings and senators must comply with the wishes of the people and, on the other hand, a select committee, albeit on the basis of desert, elects its chief council and for a long tenure.

Rulers should indeed be at leisure, but offices should not be for sale or for profit. Neither the rich nor poor should expect monetary gain from office; rather offices should furnish enough wealth to be at leisure while ruling. Nonetheless, those chance circumstances do not justify the principle of oligarchy, for if they change, citizens might revolt. Better to have aristocratic laws anchored by the principle of merit.

If the reader considers the entire book, the overriding arguments indicate that crafting laws — out of existing practices with a view to current circumstances — yields more viable, internally coherent regimes than does crafting regimes on the basis of policy or ideology: such as tripartite division of all features, or communism. Chapter 12 notes that the legislators Lycurgus and Solon did both.

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Lycurgus crafted the Spartan regime, which has already been discussed its chief problems — with its serfs, women and democratization — derive from its policy of imperialism. What did Solon do and how should we assess it? Although known for democratizing Athens, he is not a bringer of an entirely new order and thus a destroyer of existing modes; rather he established rule of the people by making the courts open to all. That in turn generated laws favourable to the people. Pericles instituted payment for jury duty which also, among other measures by other popular leaders, made current regimes more democratic.

When Athens became a superior naval power during the Persian wars due to the men who devoted their service — the people, from whose ranks the men came, in turn became more demanding of power. Solon actually granted minimum power to the people, allowing them only to elect to offices from select groups and to audit officials.

What justification does Aristotle give for analysing models of regimes that have not been put into practice? Why is the end or objective that Socrates posits for his ideal regime misguided? Will sharing women, and responsibility for children, work? Should property be communal? If so, in what respect? If not, why not? What does Phaleas propose and why? Does Phaleas accurately perceive human desires? What sort of desire does only philosophy satisfy? List his points and summarize his conclusion. Is the art of politics like the arts of medicine and physical conditioning?

Why might some traditions persist? Why does Aristotle discuss Sparta, Crete and Carthage? The third book also presents fundamental definitions: the definition of a city, the definition of a citizen in chapters 1, 2 and 5 and the definition of a good man. The general organization of the book moves from political definitions, to philosophical analysis in the middle, to political analysis informed by that philosophical analysis: thus, an ascent to a peak to a plateau.

Specifically, the first four chapters conclude definitions, the fifth concerns excellence, the sixth and seventh catalogue regime types, the eighth and ninth — the middle peak — analyse principles of justice, the tenth through thirteenth discuss pros and cons of rule by the multitude and criteria of desert, and fourteen through eighteen discuss kingship.

On one side of the debate, Aristotle observes, are those who believe that a city does perform actions, on the other side, those who think rather that its rulers act on its behalf. In addition to rulers, however, other, non-ruling citizens inhabit a city; a city is a multitude of citizens. Clearly, then, any further definition of a city requires definition of a citizen.

Thus the start of Book III — in seeming contradiction to the start of Book I — implies that the city is directed, and even defined, not by nature but by men. Accordingly Aristotle devotes the remainder of the first chapter of Book III to the topic of citizenship. There are a number of kinds of people in a city who might seem to be citizens but are not, or are not unqualifiedly.

As Aristotle says, 1 those who are given the designation honorifically; 2 foreigners, or nonnatives; 3 slaves; 4 parties to contracts who are thereby subject to the law, a category that may in some places include foreigners; that is, contractual agreements do not make the parties citizens, and indeed in some places presuppose citizenship; 5 children; and 6 the elderly. It is important to define the citizen in an unqualified sense, Aristotle points out, because such a definition is necessary to resolve cases in which individuals have been deprived of civic prerogatives or exiled.

He avers that citizenship is characterized chiefly by political participation: contributing to decisions in a formal capacity. That capacity may take a number of forms, including juror or member of the popular assembly. The term is indeed apt because those positions may have the most authority, or wield the greatest power, in a city. Nonetheless, citizenship is determined not by the amount of authority or power it bestows, but by its duration.

Yet, Aristotle goes on to observe, the definition is inadequate inasmuch as citizenship is necessarily, because a constituent element or conception of a regime, a function of regime type. Because regimes are qualitatively different, their respective conceptions of, or bases for, citizenship differ. Indeed, Aristotle notes, that definition is suited chiefly to a citizen in a democracy; some regimes do not recognize the people as political participants, or legally mandate a standing political assembly, but rather summon groups of people ad hoc to offer their advice about cases that are ultimately decided by officials.

Some regimes even assign types of cases exclusively to officials. Sparta and Carthage, for example, devote certain offices to specific types of judicial cases, such as contracts and murder, rather than turn such cases over to popular juries, as in Athens. The amended definition, unlike the original one, prepares the distinction — forthcoming in particular in chapter 4 — between ruler and citizen, or ruled; only in a democracy, Aristotle has implied, are citizens simultaneously rulers throughout their adult lives.

Aristotle concludes the first chapter of Book III by defining a city as the multitude of persons entitled to hold decision-making offices, adequate to the aim of achieving a self-sufficient life. With the second clause, Aristotle ties together the beginnings of Books I and III, and the claim that nature directs the city, with the claim that men direct it. A city cannot exist without citizens, but to constitute a city they must have the potential to achieve self-sufficiency — to fulfil themselves not simply qua citizens but qua human beings. Aristotle continues throughout the Politics to identify characteristics of citizens, and features of cities, which undermine that potential, as well as those that serve it, thereby indicating enduring political truths.

Moreover, by defining a city in terms of the potential of citizens, Aristotle encourages citizens to keep striving while acknowledging that the end may never be realized. In fact the first way is commonly incorporated into and thought to be the essence of the definition of citizen: a citizen is a person whose parents are both citizens. The appeal to ancestry though eventually reveals the inadequacy of the definition by failing to account for the first citizens of a polity. By recounting a sarcastic pun attributed to a man named Gorgias, Aristotle indicates the political significance of, and potentially heated controversy surrounding, the natural definition of citizen.

If citizens are made not born, then what is to prevent making everyone a citizen? That seems to be the rhetorical question implied by Gorgias. Aristotle neither answers Gorgias directly, nor dismisses explicitly the natural legitimization of citizens. Rather, he repeats that citizenship involves the function of sharing in the regime; what determines whether or not an ancestor or a contemporary is a legitimate citizen is simply whether he is allowed to participate in political decisionmaking.

Aristotle does not rule out the possibility that eligibility to participate may in any particular regime be determined by birth or heredity. Aristotle then addresses the matter of citizenship by decree or rule. Aristotle does so by describing the revolutionary change in the citizenship of Athens brought about by the rule of Cleisthenes.

He overthrew a tyranny in BC and granted citizenship to a number of foreigners and resident alien slaves. The issue raised by the example is not whether such people became citizens but whether they did so justly or unjustly. That issue raises in turn the question of whether or not a citizen correctly defined is a just citizen, which would mean that one who is not justly a citizen is not a citizen at all. Chapter 2 then does not simply affirm the definition of citizen arrived at in chapter 1.

Evidently, those two ways of entitlement may or may not coincide; entitlement by birth is in practice not necessarily either just or unjust; and unjust and just entitlement is in practice not necessarily linked to birth. Aristotle notes that whether citizens are so justly or unjustly relates to the earliermentioned dispute about whether a city can act or be held responsible for certain actions, or rather only its rulers. The outcome of that dispute is relevant to the obligations of new governments.

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If a democracy replaces an oligarchy or a tyranny, for example, is it obligated to fulfil agreements made by the earlier government? Some argue against, on the grounds that agreements made by unjust rulers are not legitimate because they are not to the common advantage. That would seem to be an obviously reasonable conclusion for all time, easily supported by consideration of the consequences of upholding agreements made by, for example, Caligula, the White Russians, Stalin, Hitler or Saddam Hussein.

Yet Aristotle points out that the same conclusion must be drawn with respect to a democracy that is not to the common advantage: a new government would not be obligated to carry out its agreements. If it is true that only rulers and not cities are accountable, it is equally true that the people, when they are empowered, are just as accountable as the heads of governments in other regimes. Nonetheless, the identity of a city does not appear to be reducible to its rulers.

On the one hand, a city seems to be a location and all the human beings inhabiting it. If merely a unified location defined a city, then building walls around even an entire continent such as the Peloponnese would establish a city. If that were so, then Babylon would qualify as a city.

Likewise, one stock of inhabitants is not requisite to a city, since a city spans many generations. The latter would suggest that the city is like a river, save that the inhabitants of a city, unlike the water in a river, can vary in character. A city is thus more like a chorus, which may be comic or tragic even while being composed of the same human beings.

That is, Aristotle explains, a compound of human beings, like a compound of musical notes, can take different forms, and the form is the key defining element of such a compound. Thus Aristotle maintains throughout chapter 3 the theme of accountability. The identity of a city and the source of its actions lie with those who are accountable.

To confirm or disconfirm that suggestion requires examination of the virtue of a citizen — the virtue of one who is entitled to participate in decision-making — the topic of chapter 4. Citizens, Aristotle observes, are like the crew on a boat: their individual tasks differ but they share a common responsibility — namely, the preservation of their vessel, or of their regime.

On one hand, then, the virtue of all citizens everywhere would seem to be the same. On the other hand, if regimes, like ships, differ in kind e. If that is the case, then excellence of a citizen depends on the nature of a regime and comes in many forms. If it is not a single virtue then it cannot be identical to the virtue of an excellent man. But can circumstances bring about their convergence?

For example, an excellent city?