GREEK PHILOSOPHY - II.
Man as a being that is subject to desire limited by reason and
leading to choice and action, is termed practical. The philosophy of man
as such a being is Practical Philosophy, to which we now naturally come.
Method of Practical Philosophy
In accordance with his idea that the highest activity of the soul is
that of reason, or the theoretic faculty, Aristotle affirms that the
highest and best life for man is a life of contemplation, the life of
the speculative philosopher. But this proposition, instead of being
assumed at the beginning as a starting-point for a deductive and
scientific treatment of the subject of man's practical activity, appears
as the conclusion, or, rather, as a conclusion, of an investigation that
is only quasi-scientific. Aristotle, in other words, after
stating in very general terms(1) what the end (for every art and every
methodical procedure must be governed by the conception of the final
cause) of the science dealing with man as a practical being is, premises
that different subjects require to be differently treated, some, e.g.,
mathematics, with strictness of method, others with greater freedom of
Political science (for
such is the name given by Aristotle to the science in question)
is of the latter class; human affairs are especially uncertain,
and here especially we must proceed from things better known to
us to things better known (or knowable) in themselves, i.e.,
from facts to principles. Hence, also, the student in political
science should have been "well and morally educated": the
inexperienced, ill-educated, or morally deficient (whether old
or young) are unprepared for the study of this science because
they have not the completeness and excellence of character and
information that afford to the student the materials that must
form the content of the science(2).
End of Practical Philosophy, or "Political Science"
Now the end of Political
Science is the (conception of the) good of man, and
the good of man may be considered as the good of the individual and that of the
state, though these are in essence the same. Political Science has, then, two
natural branches: Ethics, treating of the good of the individual man, and
Politics, treating of the good of the state66. But what is the "good of the man"? Following
a practice common with him, Aristotle discusses current opinions on the subject of the good, and pays particular
attention to Plato's doctrine of the Good as Idea. This doctrine he rejects as
being false, chiefly on the grounds that it presupposes a real unity among
things that are one in name only, and that it is too abstract for application
to the matters in hand (since human good is found only in what is practicable
for man)(3) ; and limits the idea of the Good to that of the "good for man". Now the good generally, is that which is an end, and the good of man is simply
the realized end of man as man. The end of man, his peculiar function, or work
(έργον), is the energizing of the soul according to reason; or, since in reason
lies man's characteristic quality, we may say an "energy of the soul according
to virtue" (άρετή); or, if there be more than one virtue, the "best and most
perfect virtue"; and, further, "in the most fortunate life since, as neither
one swallow nor one day makes a spring, so neither does one day nor a short time
make blessed and happy"(4). This realization of the soul's peculiar excellence we may can happiness. Complete happiness, however, does not exist without
the presence of certain external conditions, such as the possession of friends
and of wealth; nor without the element of pleasure, since no one can be called
truly just who takes no pleasure in acting justly, or truly liberal, who takes
no pleasure in being liberal(5).
Psychological Basis of Ethics (and Politics)
The student of political science
must, it is obvious, study the soul (though not necessarily with scientific
exactness and completeness); he must know what its functions, which are the virtues, are.
Now the vegetative soul is not capable of any virtue or the want of any virtue
that we need consider here. The appetitive soul, though rebellious, yet
participates in and submits to reason, and has, therefore, a certain capacity
for real virtue. For present purposes, then, the soul is two-fold, one part
being reason itself, the other, obedient to reason; and virtues are accordingly
of two kinds: ethical (ήθικαί) and intellectual or
and Conditions of Virtue
Virtue has two sources, the intellectual virtues,
resulting chiefly from instruction, the ethical, from habitual action, or habit.
Virtue is, then, not innate and necessary, not a natural phenomenon (like, for
example, the falling of a stone), which is no result of habit but of natural
necessity ; nor is it, as Socrates thought, identical with knowledge ; but the
result of habit and teaching as affecting a natural capacity(7). This natural
capacity, however, is not such a capacity as is, e.g., sight, which requires
only to be exerted to be an "energy". This natural capacity for virtue is also a
capacity for its opposite. Right instruction and right habit are required to
render it a real capacity for virtue, i.e., a capacity for virtue only. Men
become just and temperate and brave by performing actions that are just and
temperate and brave. In this case, Aristotle remarks, the "energy" precedes the
"capacity" instead of following it. Virtue, being a result of habit, is by
Aristotle termed a
habit(8). That it is a habit and not a mere feeling nor a mere natural capacity is
evident from the circumstance that men are not called good and bad merely
because of their feelings or their capacities as such. Inherently, i.e., without
relation to deliberate intent or choice (which, as we are about to see, is a
condition of virtuous action), the feelings are morally indifferent. Moreover,
by our feelings we are said to be "moved," by our habits to be of a certain
disposition. Again, our capacities are ours by nature, but men are not good and
bad by nature(9). Now the actions that give rise to habits constituting virtues
are of a certain definite nature. Acts leading to (established) virtue must, in
the first place, be distinguished from those resulting in works of art. The
latter class have for their end the production of what is excellent in itself,
without reference to the character or mental condition of the doer; but actions
are just and temperate, not if they have a certain result, but if the doer does
them in a certain condition of mind; viz., if, first, he does them wittingly; if,
secondly, with deliberate choice, and choice of the things done for their own
sakes; and if, thirdly, he does them from firm and settled purpose or
principle. Just acts and temperate acts are such as a just or temperate man does
or would do. The artist is an artist by virtue of the possession of a certain
kind of knowledge and skill; the conditions just mentioned as conditions
necessary to the rendering an act virtuous are not conditions of his action. On the other hand, knowledge or
skill is only of
secondary importance among the conditions of virtuous action(10). But it is
necessary to show by what sort of habit virtue is constituted. Habits, regarded
as quantities, may, as dependent upon the passions or emotions, be in the mean
or may be in either extreme, and, this, either as regards other habits or
ourselves. Virtue must be the habit that is in the mean, because virtue, like
nature, is more "accurate" and excellent than any art, and every art as well as
every science realizes its end by aiming at the mean. The ethical mean, however,
is, of course, not identical with arithmetical, but is determined by an
investigation involving the application of certain categories,—"the
time when, the cases in which, the persons towards whom, the motive for which,
the manner in which" actions are performed(11). Certain convenient rules for hitting
the mean as regards ourselves are the following: one must avoid the worse of two
extremes; one must avoid especially that extreme to which he is more inclined; one must be on his guard in matters pertaining to pleasure and the pleasant(12).
Definition of Virtue
The foregoing discussion of virtue leads to the
following definition of virtue: "Virtue is habit characterized by deliberate
choice, in the mean relative to ourselves, which is fixed or determined by
reason, and as the prudent man would determine it". There are involved in this
definition two points that require elucidation, and are, accordingly, (by Aristotle
or some faithful disciple of his (13)) further developed in later chapters of the
Nicomachean Ethics:(14) viz., What,
precisely, is deliberate choice? and What is reason as
exercised by the prudent man (φρόνιμος)?
Deliberate choice must be distinguished from voluntary
choice. That is voluntary choice or action which is made or done wittingly and
willingly, the origin or cause of which, whether the consequence be or not, is
in the person making the choice or doing the deed. (That is involuntary choice
or action which is made or done through constraint, or through ignorance, not of
general and commonly known facts or laws, but of certain particular
circumstances(15).) Deliberate choice is calculating choice exercised in regard to
things contingent and within our power to do(16). About that which is eternal, or
necessary, or in the ordinary course of external nature, or irrational, or
impossible, or purely accidental, there is no deliberate choice: it is beyond
our sphere. We deliberate about means oftener than about ends, for they are more
uncertain. Deliberate choice, as appears from the definition, is narrower in
range than voluntary choice, which is not necessarily calculating, nor exercised
with regard to things within our power. Children, fools, and madmen often
exercise voluntary, but not deliberate choice. All deliberate choice is
voluntary, but not all voluntary choice is deliberate. Now, by the definition, a
virtuous act or habit is an act or a habit dependent upon deliberate choice, but
Aristotle maintains, of course, that so far as acts are voluntary, they are of
an ethical character and are classifiable as virtuous or the opposite.
The Ethical Virtues
The determination of the nature of "right reason"
as exercised by the prudent man requires an examination of the intellectual or dianoetic virtues. It is necessary, however, before undertaking that, to give an
account of the ethical virtues. These, together with the corresponding extremes
in "excess" and "defect," are assumed (not demonstrated) by Aristotle to be the
following: Courage (the mean), rashness (the excess), cowardice (the defect);
temperance, intemperance, want of susceptibility to feelings of bodily
pleasure and pain; liberality, or moderateness in the ordinary giving and
receiving of riches, prodigality, illiberality; munificence, or right measure in
large expenditures of money, vulgar ostentation in expenditure of money, "smallness" in this regard; magnanimity or high-mindedness, vanity, excessive
humbleness; moderate ambition, or love of honor, inordinate ambition, spiritlessness, or want of ambition; mildness of temper, irascibility,
insusceptibility to anger; civility, obsequiousness, incivility; candor,
arrogance, assumed self-depreciation; cleverness of wit, buffoonishness,
clownishness; susceptibility to the feeling of shame, shamelessness,
bashfulness; just indignation, envy, malice [!]; justice, equity, and injustice(17).
Special attention may, for illustration's sake, be paid here to courage (άνδρεία),
high-mindedness (μεγαλοψυχί), and justice (δικαιοσύνη).
Courage is the virtue possessed by any one who
feels confidence with regard to what he ought to feel confidence with regard to,
from the right motive, in the right manner, and at the right time; and fears in
like manner. He whose seeming courage is a result of anxiety to appear worthy
of distinction, of experience in matters demanding courage, of anger, of hope, or
of ignorance, is not truly courageous. True courage springs only from the love
of the honorable, and the suggestions of reason(18). "Magnanimity" (high-mindedness)
is the ornament of the virtues, making them greater and existing only
where they exist. The "magnanimous" person is a person of conscious dignity and
worth. He esteems honor, or the regard of good men, above all things else
(though he does not "go in search of it"); he does not overrate worldly success,
is courageous, liberal, independent, not resentful, above flattery, dignified in
bearing(19). Justice may be divided into universal justice and particular justice.
Universal justice is the habit of obedience to law and of dealing with men
fairly, i.e., according to the principle of the mean. And since there are laws
relating to all matters, universal justice in a manner comprehends all other
virtues, and is therefore perfect virtue,—more admirable than "the evening or
the morning star". It is greater in perfection than the other virtues also,
because the exercise of it constitutes a reference of the individual to others
as well as himself. It is not a kind, or division, of virtue; it is
the whole of virtue(20). Particular justice, which is one of the virtues and not
the whole of virtue, is the mean relative to the distribution of wealth, honor,
or whatever else can be distributed among the members of a political community,
and to the correction of errors in transactions between men. The first-mentioned
kind of particular justice is termed distributive, the second-mentioned,
corrective justice. Distributive justice takes account merely of the
character and merits of individuals; corrective justice, of the equalities and
inequalities of transactions. Distributive justice is based upon the geometrical
mean,—as is a man's deserts so is that which he receives in the distribution:
corrective justice is based upon the arithmetical mean,—the losses of one must
be compensated for by the gains of another. Mere reciprocity is not justice(21).
Justice may be also divided into natural and legal. Natural justice is that
which is "everywhere equally valid and depends not upon being or not being
received". Legal justice is that which rests on enactments(22). Supplementing and
perfecting legal justice is equity, which is defined as the "correction of law
wherever it is defective owing to its universality". Through inadvertence or
through lack of knowledge, on the part of the legislator, the law may fail of
being sufficiently specific. Its defect is supplied by the equitable man, who, feeling bound by the law of sympathy, and preferring arbitration to strict
judicial procedure, takes due account of human failings, of the intention of the
law-maker rather than the letter of the law, of the character and general
the person accused, of the differences in faults and crimes(23).
"Right Reason," Prudence, and the Intellectual Virtues Generally
What, now, is the exact character of reason as exercised by the
"prudent man" in determining the practical mean? The answer to this
question will be brought out in the discussion of the intellectual
virtues, which have now to be treated. The understanding has as object
either that which is necessary and absolutely knowable or that which is
contingent and only relatively knowable. Things of the first-mentioned kind are either principles or consequents of these; things of
the second-mentioned class are particular objects of experience. Principles are
known by intuition (νοΰς), their consequents by demonstration
(έπιστήμη). Intuition and demonstrative thought, considered as habits, are
virtues, and together constitute wisdom (σοφία), the highest of the
intellectual virtues,—the highest because having reference to the noblest
things(24). The intellectual powers or habits the objects of which are contingent
are art (τέχνη), and prudence, or practical
wisdom (φρόνησις), which differ
in that the principle of the one class (as related to persons) lies in the
objects themselves, of the other in the doer(25). Art is a certain "habit" of "making"
governed by true reason; the absence of art, the "habit" of "making" governed
by false reason. The nature of prudence, or practical wisdom, may be further
explained by a consideration of the prudent, or practically wise, man. The mark
of such a man is the ability to deliberate successfully respecting the good and expedient in relation to living well. Now, as we
have seen, no one deliberates about things that cannot be otherwise than they
are, nor about things that are beyond their power to do. Prudence, or practical
wisdom, then, is not that wisdom in which intuition and demonstration are
embraced, but a certain rational habit having practical reference to human good.
Wisdom has to do with ends, prudence with means. But prudence is more than mere
sagacity or shrewdness or fair-mindedness or intelligence, though these may be
contained in it; it is the moral insight and the tendency to right action that
are begotten of experience in acting justly, temperately, etc(26). Until prudence is
attained, virtue or, rather, what appears to be such, is but "natural" virtue,
the virtue of those "who do what they ought and what a good man ought to do"
only half-consciously and half-voluntarily. Virtue proper, as distinguished
from natural virtue, is habit not merely in accordance with, but in union
with, "right reason," or the perception of the true mean. Again, such are the
unity and force of prudence that, whereas the natural virtues may exist
separately, the true virtues exist in conjunction.
Self-Control and its Opposite
With regard to the question, discussed and
answered in the negative by Socrates(27), whether knowledge is "dragged about," or
overcome, by passion, Aristotle holds that when scientific knowledge is present
to the mind, passion cannot arise, though it may do so "when that opinion which
is the result of sensation" is present; and that one who virtually possesses
knowledge may, nevertheless, do wrong
if he fails to use the knowledge he possesses(28). The habit of yielding wrongly to
feelings of pleasure and pain through the influence of passion is "incontinence," or
want of self-control. It differs from intemperance in
not being characterized by deliberate choice or preference. The "mean" habit
corresponding to "incontinence" is
self-control. The incontinent man is less blameworthy (not more blameworthy,
as Socrates had held) than the intemperate man.
Closely related to virtue, if indeed it be not a kind of virtue,
is friendship. It is certainly a condition to virtue and is, besides, most
necessary, honorable, and pleasant. It unites individuals and states, and is a
prime condition of the existence of society: it is eminently a subject for the
consideration of the political philosopher(29). Friendship exists when there is
among men a common desire to do good one to another for that other's sake. It is
"good-will mutually felt". No true friendship is based on a love of the merely
expedient or agreeable; true friendship is consonant only with a love of the
good, and exists among those who are themselves good. True friendship, however,
is both expedient and pleasant. Perfect friendship is not merely a habit but an
energy, and implies intercourse; it is active rather than passive, and consists
more in conferring than in receiving benefits. Friendship as implying community
interest) is closely related to justice as a bond of union among men(30). By the
good man friendship is greatly valued, because through it he acquires a second
self (in others); he can contemplate virtue and the good in
others better than in himself alone,—and existence is desirable for the sake of the perception of the good(31). Friendship, that is to say, is practically
a species of self-contemplation.
Pleasure and Happiness
Human good has been defined as happiness, which
includes, besides virtue, a second ingredient,—pleasure; for pleasure is the
agreeable consciousness that regularly attends the "energy," or perfect
activity, of any power, an activity that is nothing more nor less than perfect
virtue. Pleasure differs as "energies" differ, the highest pleasures attending
noblest energies. True pleasure is what appears such to the good man. Pleasure
is not a good in itself; it is good only as a concomitant of virtue and a
condition to absolute perfection(32). Happiness, we have seen, is the energy of the
soul according to the law of virtue, the highest happiness corresponding to the
highest virtue. But the highest virtue is wisdom, the virtue of the
speculative, or theoretic, faculty. The energy of this faculty is the noblest,
most constant, most pleasant, the most self-sufficient, the most divine of all.
It seems to be, in each man, his true self, the "ruling and the better part". In
comparison with this, ethical energies are of secondary importance. Absurd,
indeed, it would be were each man not to strive his utmost to live in accordance
with the conception of this,—to be his true self!
Theoretical ethics is not the whole of ethics; men must
be virtuous, not merely theorize about virtue. Something more than theory is
for the making of men virtuous, for the majority of mankind are guided not by
knowledge but by passion; they must be educated to virtue. And it is the
business of the state so to legislate that its citizens may be provided with all
necessary practical conditions to virtue. Even should the state neglect the
education of its citizens, it is the duty of every individual to "contribute to
the virtue of his children and friends". This he will best be able to do if he
make himself fit to be a legislator(33). This brings us to Politics proper, the
second part of the general science of human good.
Origin of the State(34)
The state is a growth the germ of which is the sexual
relation, based on that desire of "leaving an offspring like oneself" which is
"natural to man as to the whole animal and vegetable world," and those organic
and inborn differences among human beings whereby some are naturally rulers,
others subjects. Historically prior to the state are the individual, the family,
or household, and the village, or community, the state being an association
"composed of several villages," "the village" the simplest association of several
households, etc. But the state is in idea prior to all these, for man is
by nature a "political animal"; were he not, he would have to be a god or a
brute. He is by nature fitted for the realization of the idea of law and
justice, of which the state is but the embodiment and organ(35).
The elementary relations existing in the family, or household,
are, according to Aristotle, those between husband and wife, parent and child,
master and slave; and the science of the household has, therefore, three
branches. Slavery is a natural and beneficent institution, owing to the natural
differences in the intellectual and moral natures of men. The function of the
slave is mere physical service; he is a tool, or instrument, of his master, the
power of the latter over him being despotic. The slave is a kind of property.
The head of the family rules wife and children not as a despot but as a
constitutional ruler. Wife and children possess the same virtues as the head of
the family, but possess some of those virtues in a lower degree than he. One
part of the soul is natural ruler, the other natural subject; a corresponding
difference exists among persons in society. In every part of the household and
of the state there is a reference to the whole. In the household the whole is
contained (ideally) in the head of the family; and the virtue of the child, the
wife, the slave, has reference to that of the head of the family(36). One branch of
the science of the household is the art of acquisition, which has its foundation
in the wealth realized from the products of the earth. This is natural finance;
unnatural finance is the art of money-getting and trading in money. It is greatly
subject to abuse(37).
Criticism of Certain Theories and Forms of the State; Plato and Others
theory propounded by "Socrates" in Plato's Republic has,
Aristotle thinks, three cardinal defects(38); it aims at too great unity; the means proposed for the
accomplishment of the end proposed are inadequate; the theory is vague, does not
lay down proper limitations. (I) A state, as an organic whole, consists of a
number of different kinds of individuals; the idea proposed in the Republic
as the end to be realized is the idea of a household or an individual rather
than of a state. The Platonic theory in its principle of rotation in office
seems to assume that the actual personalities of the individuals who alternately
rule and submit to authority are alternately changed, since different
personalities naturally belong to those who are fitted to rule and those who
should be ruled. The theory is thus false and self-contradictory. Again, the
theory is false in the doctrine of unity, because independence is the object to
be obtained by society, and a real state is more independent than a household or
an individual(39). (2) The proposition that all individuals in such a state can with
equal right "call the same thing mine and thine" is a mere quibble. All
collectively, not distributively "call the same thing mine". Again, people owning
things in common care less for their possessions than those who individually
have property. Community of wives and children would fail to conceal the
parentage of children, and it would, besides, lead to endless mistakes, to crime
and family pollution. Such community would be more appropriate among the
husbandmen than among the guardians, because it diminishes, not increases,
mutual affection, and so weakens the class in which it is practised. The greatest
blessing in the state is mutual affection: this is the only real source of the
unity so eulogized by "Socrates". The transference of children from one class
to another would be impossible, and, even if possible, would be an additional
source of outrage, sensual love, and homicide. Community of property is also
impossible,—at least in the Platonic sense,—as is evident from so simple a
fact as that of the invariable quarrelling of persons keeping a common purse
while travelling together. Community in the use of property is perhaps
desirable, but not community in the tenure of it. The legislation proposed in
the Republic has a "specious and philanthropic appearance," but is plainly
impracticable. The only "community" practicable is that produceable by moral
discipline, intellectual culture, and education(40). (3) About the main body of the
state—all, indeed, but the guardians—little or nothing is determined by the Republic. If there be community
of wives and children and property among them,
how will they differ from the guardians; and what will induce them to be ruled
by the guardians? There will be two mutually hostile states in one. If the
husbandmen are given ownership of land on condition of their paying a fixed rent
to the guardians, they will soon become arrogant and intractable. There are
also certain minor defects in the Republic(41). To the Laws of Plato nearly the
same objections are applicable, since, with the exception of the community of
wives, children, and property, the regulations are the same in the Laws as in
the Republic(42). Polities advocated by Phaleas, Hippodamus, Solon, and
others, and the institutions of the Spartans, Cretans, and Carthaginians are
also reviewed by Aristotle.
The End of the State
Man, it has been affirmed, is a "political
animal," and men would naturally unite in a social organization without the
motive of a supposed or perceived common advantage to be realized in so doing.
The true view of the state undoubtedly is that it is an association the real end
of which is not the prevention of mutual injury or promotion of commercial
exchange, though these are secondary objects of its being, but a "complete and
independent existence, a life of felicity and nobleness"—not a life in
merely, but a noble life; the true state is devoted chiefly to virtue(43).
The Nature of the Citizen
As the state is a composite entity the elements of
which are citizens, we have to determine the conception of the citizen. Not
residence, nor the mere right to appear as plaintiff or defendant in a judicial
action, nor the possession of freedom, nor the being indispensable to the
existence of the state, as, for example, artisans and children are, nor all of
these together, but a "participation in judicial power and public office" is the
absolute mark of citizenship (in a democracy) (44). Now there is a question as to
what is the virtue of a good citizen. Is it or is it not identical with that of
the good man? The answer must be, in general terms, that the virtue of the
citizen differs with different forms of government (for we may assume that there
are several kinds of polity, or government), whereas the virtue of the good man
is everywhere the same. And even in the same form of government, there
are different functions to be performed, and hence different virtues in the
citizens as such. The good ruler possesses the virtue of prudence (i.e., the
virtue of the good man), which is not indispensable in the subject.
polity, however, in which the subject may become ruler, and ruler subject, there
is doubtless an identity between the virtue of a good citizen and that of a good
man; and "the virtue of a good citizen may be defined as a practical acquaintance
both as ruler and subject with the rule characteristic of a free community".
Virtue approximating that of the good man is, then, necessary to the citizen;
and it is just because of this fact that artisans and children are not citizens
A Polity and its Kinds
"A polity is an order of the state in respect of
its offices generally, and especially of the supreme office". Polities are of two
kinds, according as they have for their end public or private interest. "When the
rule of the individual or the Few or the Many is exercised for the benefit of
the community at large, the polities are normal, whereas polities which subserve
the selfish "interest either of the individual or the Few or the Masses are
perversions"(46). Polities may also be divided in accordance with differences as
regards the governing power, which may be an individual or a few persons or
many. A normal polity of the first sort is termed a Kingship, of the second, an
Aristocracy (a government by the best, οί άριστον, or else for the best interests
of the community, τό άριστον),
of the third, a Polity Proper. The corresponding corrupt polities are the
Tyranny, Oligarchy, and Democracy. The real difference between an oligarchy and a democracy is a difference
as regards wealth,—wealth characterizing the former, poverty the latter(47).
Who should be Rulers
If it should be asked, Who ought to rule; one, few,
or the many? the answer in general terms is, Whatever class embraces in itself
the largest number of conditions to the good man, i.e., virtues and external
goods such as wealth, birth, etc. Collectively viewed, the masses or the many
would, on this ground, generally have the supremacy; but if there are a few men,
or if there is even one man sufficiently preeminent in virtue above the masses,
to them or to him "all should render willing obedience"(48). From this it follows
that the democratic form of polity (not, however, pure democracy but
constitutional democracy) must generally be best, though there is a sufficient
reason for the different kinds of polity in the fact that different kinds of
populace demand different classes of rulers. "The populace which is suited to
kingship is such as is naturally qualified to submit to a family whose
superiority in virtue entitles them to political command; an aristocratical
populace is one that is capable of yielding the obedience of free men to those
whose virtue fits them for command as political rulers; and a constitutional
populace, one that is capable of rule and subjection in conformity to a law
which distributes the offices of state to the rich according to a principle of
desert"(49). The kingship is unstable; for the king cannot, unsupported, rule the
masses, and, if he have assistants, they may become his peers, and he is no
longer king. In fact,
the tendency of a polity not already constitutional is towards a constitutional
polity, i.e., a polity resting not on the will of one or a few, but on
the state as in the individual, the universal element rules the particular, the
intellect (law is the creation of intellect) the passions(50).
The Best Polity
What, now, is the best polity? In general, it is that
which furnishes the highest conditions to an independent and intelligent, i.e.,
a virtuous, life for individuals and state alike. The state should comprise the
largest number of persons consistent with a comprehensive knowledge, on the part
of the citizens, of one another and the affairs of the state. The country should
also be of such size and character in other respects that it can be "readily
comprehended in a single view," i.e., "allow of military succour being brought
to any point at a short notice". The city should be so located with reference to
land and sea that it will possess independence and security, and yet sufficient
facilities for intercourse with other cities. It must have a suitable naval
force. The citizens should be "spirited" and "independent". There must be food,
mechanical arts, supply of money, religious ritual, means of administering
justice. There must be a proper line of division between citizens and those who
are not citizens,—the citizens comprising the soldiery and the deliberative
class, those not citizens comprising the husbandmen, artisans, and hired
laborers. The lands must be partly public, partly private,—public lands
defraying the expenses of religious worship, and common meals, and private lands
being so divided that owners (who must be citizens) possess portions on the
frontier as well as in the city. The cultivators of the soil should be slaves.
The city must be favorably situated with regard to conditions for health and
political and military action. The city should be walled and arranged,
internally, with reference to the convenience of the citizens, buildings
appropriated to religious services (with certain exceptions), common meals, "supreme
magisterial boards" being in the same locality, etc. Education(51) must be the
same for all citizens, and must be provided by the state, since training in the
public business should be public, and every individual is but a subject member
of the state. The education provided should be suited to leisure and peace
rather than business and war, for the virtues relative to the former are higher
than those relative to the latter. It should begin with the physical and ethical
natures of the child and advance to the purely rational, since the natural order
of development is from the "habits" to reason. Marriage and the begetting of
children must be regulated by the state. Infancy and early youth must be
carefully surrounded with the purest influences as regards speech and manners
and scenes. Reading and writing should be taught, because of their general
utility; the art of design or painting, for its usefulness as a means to forming
right judgment of works of art; gymnastics, because it promotes health and
vigor; music, because it is a source of rational enjoyment. Since the education
of the body precedes that of the intellect, the first training of children must
be in gymnastics. Before the age of puberty this should not be severe; for, as the
experience of the Lacedemonians proves, severe gymnastics renders youths brutal
in their feelings, and, besides, unfits them for intellectual occupations.
Three years following puberty may be given to other studies, then severe
gymnastics may be taken up. Music comes later, because its chief use is the
purification of the passions or emotions and the affording enjoyment to the
rational nature. The Dorian and Lydian airs, which are intellectual and
emotional, may be employed, but not so frequently the Phrygian, which is largely
physical in its effects. Flute-playing and "professional" musicians are hardly
to be encouraged. The education provided by the state should, in a word, be not
that which is indispensable or practically useful merely, but that which is,
also, liberal and noble.
Characteristics of Different Polities
The true states-man must possess a
knowledge of all possible forms of polity and the laws appropriate to each.
Differences in polities arise from differences in the combination of the
elements or parts of a polity; the husbandmen or agricultural class, the
mechanical class, the commercial class, the hired laborers, the military class,
the rich, or the leisured, class, and the public officials, or the deliberative
and judicial classes. Two or more of these may practically unite in one. Now
there are two principal forms of polity, viz., Democracy and Oligarchy. "A democracy exists when the authority is in the hands of the free poor, who are in
a majority; and an oligarchy when it is in the hands of the propertied, or
noble, class who are in a minority". In a democracy either the laws or popular
decrees may be supreme. If the laws are
supreme, the democracy is constitutional. In a democracy in which popular
decrees are supreme there is large scope for demagogues. When eligibility to
office depends upon a property qualification or birth, or on the actual possession of citizenship, the democracy becomes practically constitutional,
i.e., is governed by fixed legislation, because, for want of means and of leisure
for self-indulgence, the citizens are content with holding merely such meetings
of the assembly as are indispensable. Constitutional democracy may then be of three kinds. Of oligarchy there are four species: one in which a moderate
qualification for eligibility to office obtains, the poor being in the majority,
and every one who has sufficient property enjoying full political privileges;
another in which there is a high property qualification and "officers elect to
the vacancies"; another in which office-holding is hereditary; a fourth, similar
to the last-mentioned but placing the supreme authority in the executive and not
in the law. In the first-mentioned form of oligarchy, naturally, the law is
supreme; in the second, owing to the power of the rich, the law is "accommodated"
to the "general principle of the polity"; the third form is ostensibly constitutional, but naturally verges
towards the fourth, which is monarchical(52). Other forms of polity are
Aristocracy, Tyranny, and Polity Proper. Strictly speaking, an aristocracy is a
polity in which the good man and the good citizen are identical. But any polity
in which regard is had to wealth, virtue, and numbers, or to any two of these,
is termed aristocratical. In a strict tyranny there is an "irresponsible rule over subjects, all of whom are equals or superiors of the
rulers, for the personal advantage of the ruler and not of the subjects". A
polity proper is, in general terms, a kind of mean between oligarchy and
democracy —inclining, however, towards the latter. A "criterion of a good fusion
is the possibility of calling the same polity a democracy or an oligarchy,"
and, further, the known existence in the state of no element anxious for a
change of polity(53). The best polity must be that which appears best when judged
by the standard of a virtue not beyond the attainment of ordinary human beings,
since the happy life is the mean life; and the best state will, accordingly, be
that in which the middle classes (as regards wealth) are in the majority, or
at least hold the balance of power, and laws are enacted that aim at the
satisfaction of the middle classes. The reason why so many existing polities are
either oligarchical or democratical is that the middle class is generally small
in them(54). Every good polity has three departments: the deliberative, the
political, the executive. In democratical polities the function of deliberation
is performed wholly or chiefly by the people, either collectively or by
alternation; in oligarchical, by a few or comparatively few persons; in a
polity proper, in some cases, by persons appointed partly by suffrage, and in
others by persons appointed by lot, or in all cases by persons appointed partly
by lot, partly by suffrage. "The deliberative body is supreme upon all questions
of war and peace, the formation and dissolution of alliances, the enactment of
laws, sentences of
death, exile, and confiscation; to it belongs the election of officers of state,
and to it they are responsible at the expiration of their term of office". As regards the executive department, some offices are common to the various forms
of polity, others are peculiar: a council is a democratic institution, a
preliminary council is oligarchical. The modes of appointment are different in
different forms of polity. In a democratical polity "all" appoint "from all by
suffrage, or by lot, or by a combination of the two"; in an oligarchical
polity, appointment is made of some "from some by suffrage, or some from some by
lot, or some from some by a combination of me two, though the appointment by
suffrage is more strictly oligarchical than that by lot or by a combination of
the two"; in a polity proper the "appointment is not vested in all the
citizens collectively, but all are eligible, and the appointment is made either
by lot, or by suffrage, or both, or in which the persons eligible are in some
cases all the citizens, in others some of them, and the appointment is made
either by lot or suffrage or both"; in a polity of the aristocratic sort the "appointment is made by some partly from all and partly from some, either by lot
or suffrage, or partly by suffrage and partly by lot". The courts of
law—constituting the judiciary—are eight in number: a court of scrutiny, a court
to try offences committed against the state, a court to try constitutional
questions, a court to try cases between officers and individuals respecting
fines, a court to try important cases of private contract, a court of homicide,
a court of aliens, a court for the trial of petty contracts. The forms of
the courts in which universal eligibility and universal jurisdiction are
combined are democratical; those in which limited eligibility and universal
jurisdiction are combined are oligarchical; those in which there is a
combination of universal and limited eligibility are "characteristic of
aristocracy and a polity"(55).
Methods of Establishing and Maintaining the Various Forms of Government
We have seen that differences in democracies
arise from differences in the character of the population. Differences may also
spring from differences in the combination of features that are peculiarly
democratic. But there are two primary principles of all democracies: equality
and the rule of the majority, and the liberty to live according to one's
pleasure. Characteristic of popular government are the following-named features:
"the eligibility of all citizens to the offices of state and their appointment
by all; the rule of all over each individual and of each individual in his turn
over all; the use of the lot in the appointment either to all the offices of state or to all that do not require experience or special skill; the absence of
property qualification or the requirement of the lowest possible qualification
for office; the regulation that the same person shall never hold any office
twice, or shall not hold it much oftener than once, or shall do so only in a few
cases, with the exception of military offices; a system of short tenure of
offices either in all cases, or in all cases where it is possible; the power of all or of a body chosen from all to sit as judges in all or almost all, or at
least the greatest and
most important cases, such as cases arising out of the audit of the officer's
accounts, constitutional cases, and cases of private contract; the supreme
authority of the public assembly in all questions, or at least the most
important, and of no individual office over any question, or only the smallest
number possible". "The most characteristic feature is the council, except where
all the citizens receive a large fee for attendance in the Assembly". Another characteristic feature is the payment
of the members of the
departments, as far as possible. Others are low birth, poverty, intellectual
degradation, the not holding office for life, the decision of the majority of both
rich and poor, if they agree, and if they disagree, of the absolute majority, or
in other words of those whose collective property assessment is higher. There
are four forms of democracy: the agricultural, the pastoral, the mechanical or
commercial, and the extreme, in which "the popular leaders usually enroll the
largest possible number of persons in the rank of the citizens, conferring
political rights not only upon all the legitimate children of citizens, but upon
their bastards, and upon children who are descended from citizens upon the side
of one parent only, whether the fathers or the mothers". Of these, the first is
the best, the last the worst(56). It is the business of the legislator not only to
establish democracies, but to provide for their security. Such laws should be
enacted as will cause the poor to be satisfied with their condition. They should
be subsidized, should be directed to industrial pursuits, given a share in the
enjoyment of the
property of the rich(57).The best form of oligarchy, we have seen, approaches the
polity, so-called. In it there are two degrees of property qualification, a
a lower: all persons admitted to citizenship are from the better elements of the
commons. In an oligarchy the military class rules. This has four divisions: cavalry,
heavy-armed troops, light-armed troops, marines.
Only the rich can support cavalry and heavy-armed troops, and hence these are
peculiarly oligarchical, the others being democratical. In a country suited to
cavalry, that division of the military class may be supreme; in a country
suited to heavy-armed troops that division may rule. Oligarchies are preserved by
putting upon the rich the burden of heavy expenses for sacrifices, public
buildings, etc., and relieving the poor of all such(58). The offices of government
must be properly constituted. Executive offices are: the superintendence of the market,
the superintendence of all public and private property in the city,
the superintendence of such property in the country and the suburbs of the city,
the receiving and holding and distributing public revenues, the recording of
public accounts, the levying and collecting of fines, the superintendence of
military affairs, and marine affairs, the auditing of public accounts, the giving
of preliminary consideration to bills to be presented to the public assembly,
this last being the supreme office. Religious offices are the superintendencies
of divine worship, and of the public sacrifices that are not assigned by the law
to the priesthood, but are solemnly celebrated upon the hearth of the state.
Other offices are the censorship of boys and women, presidencies of gymnastic
exercises, and Dionysiac Contests. The Guardianship of the Laws is an
aristocratical institution, the Preliminary Council oligarchical, and the
Causes of Political Revolutions, etc.
It remains to consider the "nature,
number, and character of the circumstances which produce political revolutions,
the agencies destructive of the several polities, the general sequence of
polities in a revolutionary age, and, lastly, the preservatives of polities both
generally and individually"(59). Generally speaking, the cause of sedition is "inequality". The common people are seditious when they think they have
a smaller share of political advantages than others have, and the oligarchs when
they think they have not a greater share than others have. In the one case it is
from a position of inferiority that the people are encouraged to sedition by the
hope of equality; and in the other, from the position of equality by a hope of predominance. The predisposing causes of sedition and revolution are: desire of
gain and honor; envy and indignation at the gain and honors of others; the
possession of too great power; fear of punishment or of becoming victims of
crime; contempt of the oligarchs for the masses, or vice versa; the
disproportionate increase of one class in the state; party-spirit; gradual
change in government; diversity of race; the localities of states ("when the
country is not naturally adapted to the existence of a single state"); the
accession of persons of high repute or influence to some peculiar office or
in the state; an even balance of antagonistic classes in the state. Political
disturbances may be brought about either by force or by fraud(60). "The main cause of
revolution in Democracies is the intemperate conduct of the demagogues,
who force the propertied class to combine, partly by instituting malicious
prosecutions against individuals, and partly by exciting the masses against them as a body".
Democracies are transformed by revolution into democracies of a different type
and into tyrannies. Revolutions in oligarchies are principally of two kinds:
the oppression of the masses by the oligarchs, and sedition among the oligarchs
themselves. Sometimes sedition in oligarchies is due to demagogues paying court
to members of the oligarchical party or to the masses. Revolutions occur when
the oligarchs, having wasted their means in riotous living, are eager for
innovation and strive to establish a tyranny; and when some of the oligarchs
suffer a repulse at the hands of others. Over-despotism in oligarchies, exciting
indignation in members of the governing class, is a cause of sedition.
Oligarchies are destroyed by the creation within them of oligarchies.
Revolutions may be the result of accidental circumstances. In aristocracies
one cause of revolution is the limitation of the number of persons admitted to
honors of state. Another cause is the putting of a stigma upon persons of consequence.
Another is the exclusion of an individual of strong character from
honors of state. Another, the existence of excessive poverty on one side or
excessive wealth on the other in the state. Finally, the existence already of a
sedition headed by a powerful individual able to extend his authority. The main
cause of sedition in polities and aristocracies is a "deviation from their
proper principle of justice in the constitution of the polity itself". Generally
revolutions are from polities of a given kind into others of a similar kind, not
into their opposites. Polities are liable to dissolution both from external and
internal causes. Polities are preserved by watchfulness against
illegality and gradual changes, against the beginnings of revolution, and artifices to impose upon the masses; by officials(61)
keeping on good terms with citizens enjoying political privileges; by the
limitation of the tenure of office to short periods; by proximity to destructive
agencies which excite alarm and put the people on their guard; by legal
regulations for restraining frauds and rivalries among the upper classes; by
reduction of assessments at the proper time; by not investing any individual
with disproportionate authority;
by the creation of officers to exercise supervision over all whose life or
conduct is detrimental in its influence upon me polity; by taking precautions
with regard to those enjoying remarkable prosperity; by abstaining from
confiscating the estates and profits of the rich, and chiefly by so ordering
affairs that officers of the state find no opportunity for merely personal gain. "There are three qualifications requisite in all who are to hold the supreme
office of state, viz.: firstly, loyalty to the established polity; secondly,
the greatest capacity for the duties of their office; and, thirdly, the virtue
and justice appropriate to the polity, whatever it may
be. All legislation beneficial to polities tends to preserve them in a fixed
condition, but most especially that which is guided by the principle of the
mean. The strongest preservative of polities is education in the spirit of those
polities(62). The causes predisposing to insurrection in monarchies are injustice,
fear, and contempt,
—the injustice consisting principally in insolence, sometimes
in the spoliation of private property. "Insurrection may take the form of an
attack either upon the person or upon the authority of the rulers". Attacks of
the first form are occasioned by insolence, by personal affronts, by degrading
corporal punishment. Ambition may cause insurrection. Tyrannies are destroyed by influences from
without or within(63). The preservatives of monarchy are, in general terms, the
following: meanness of spirit in the subjects, distrust among them of one
another, incapacity for affairs, affecting of good will on the part of the
monarch towards his subjects, not exciting the indignation of the masses by
lavish expenditures, the seeming to collect taxes and impose public burdens only
for economical purposes, the preserving an address of dignity without sternness,
the avoiding of insults to his subjects, moderation in sensual pleasure,
enriching of the city by edifices and decorations in the assumed spirit of the
guardian of the public interests, display of religious zeal, inflicting punishments through personal agents, the depriving officers of their places not
suddenly and harshly, but gradually and mildly, avoiding oppression,—in short, "wearing the appearance not of a tyrant, but of a householder or
king; not of a self-seeker, but of a guardian of public interests"(64).
The Most Permanent Polities
The most permanent polities are the
kingship and the polity proper; the least
permanent, oligarchy and tyranny.
Plato's Theory of Revolution
The theory of revolution advanced in the
is defective at many points(65).
(1) Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. I. ch. 2.
(2) Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. I. chs. 2 and 3. We hear much of Empirical
Psychology at the present day. But this must be of little value if the souls
empirically studied are poor in quality and attainment.
Perhaps Economics should be included among the Political Sciences. "Eudemus
(Ethics, I. 8, 12, 18, b. 13) distinguishes between
and φρόνηςις as the three parts of a philosophy of action; but Aristotle
himself nowhere puts the matter so definitely. Cf. however, Nic. Eth.,VI. 8.
1141, b. 30, where a similar distinction is implied"
(Wallace, p. 23).
Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. I. ch. 6.
(5) Ibid., Bk. I. chs. 7 and 9.
(6) Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. I. ch. 13.
(7) This is Aristotle's answer to the question, argued by the Sophists and by
Socrates, whether virtue could be taught. See above, p. 57.
(8) Habit (έξις is from
έχειν, to have, and etymologically
=habit) fairly means in
Aristotle's usage, a fixed and definite power and tendency in the soul (i.e., a
faculty, almost), not merely a customary mode of action.
(9) Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. II. ch. 5
(10) Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. II. ch. 4.
(11) Ibid., Bk. II. ch. 6.
(12) Ibid. Bk. II. ch. 9; also Bk. VI. en. 1.
It is a common opinion among critics that Bks. V.-VII. of the Nicomachean
Ethics were not written by A. but by a close follower named Eudemus.
(14) Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. III. chs. 1-5; Bk. VI. chs. I-13.
Ibid., Bk. III. ch. 1. See, also, Rhet., Bk. I. ch. 4.
(16) Ibid., Bk. III. chs. 2, 3.
(17) Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. II. ch. 6; Bk. III. ch. 6; Bk. V. Shame and
indignation are not, A. says, strictly virtues and vices, but are mentioned as
illustrations of the doctrine of the mean.
(18) Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. III. chs. 7, 8.
(19) Ibid., Bk. IV. ch. 3.
Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. V. ch. I.
Ibid., Bk. V. chs. 2, 3, 4, 5.
(22) Ibid., Bk. V. ch.6.
Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. V. ch. 10; Rhetoric, Bk. I. ch. 13.
Ibid., Bk. VI. chs. 3, 6, 7.
Ibid., Bk. VI. ch. 4.
Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. VI. chs. 10, 11, 13.
(27) See above, p. 57.
Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. VII. chs. 3 and 4.
Ibid., Bk. VIII. ch. 1.
(30) Ibid., Bk. VIII, chs. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
(31) Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. IX. ch. 9.
(32) Ibid., Bk. X. chs. 1, 4, 5.
(33) Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. X. ch. 9.
The following outline follows the translation of the Politics made by J. E. C. Welldon, M.A. (1883).
(35) Politics, Bk. I. chs. 1 and 2.
(36) Politics, Bk. I. chs. 12 and 13.
Ibid., Bk. I. chs. 8-11.
Politics, Bk. II. chs. 2-6.
(39) Ibid., Bk., II. ch. 1-2.
Politics, Bk. II. chs. 3-5.
Ibid., Bk. II. chs. 5 and 6.
(42) Ibid., Bk. II. ch. 6.
Politics, Bk. III. chs. 6
(44) Ibid., Bk. III. chs. 1 and 5.
Politics, Bk. III. chs. 4 and 5.
(46) Ibid., Bk. III. ch. 7.
(47) Politics, Bk. III. chs 6-9.
(48) Ibid., Bk. III. chs. 11-13.
(49) Ibid., Bk. III. ch. 17.
(50) Politics, Bk. III. ch. 14-17. The state must have a true psychological
(51) Politics, Bks. IV and V.
(52) Politics, Bk. VII. chs. 1-6.
(53) Politics, Bk. VI. chs. 7-10.
Ibid., Bk. VI. chs, 11-13.
Politics, Bk. VI. chs. 14-16.
(56) Politics, Bk. VII, chs. I-14.
(57) Politics, Bk. VII. ch. 5.
(58) Ibid., Bk. VII. chs. 6, 7.
Politics, Bk. VII. ch. 8.
Politics, Bk. VIII. chs. 1-4.
Politics, Bk. VIII. chs. 5-7.
Politics, Bk. VIII. chs. 8, 9.
(63) Ibid., Bk. VIII. chs. 8, 9.
Politics, Bk, VIII. ch. 2.
(65) Ibid., Bk. VIII. ch. 12.