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EDUC 17 Reading Assignment # 1

Politics
Frederick Copleston, SJ
The State (and by State, Aristotle is thinking of the Greek City State), like every community, exists for an end. In the case of the State this end is the supreme good of man, his moral and intellectual life. The family is the primitive community that exists for the sake of life, of the supply of men‟s everyday wants, and when several families join together and something more than the mere supply of daily needs is aimed at, the village comes into existence. When, however, several villages are joined together to form a larger community that is “nearly or quite self-sufficing,” there comes into existence for the bare ends of life, but it continues in existence for the sake of the good life in any full sense, and Aristotle insists that the State differs from family and village, not merely quantitatively but qualitatively and specifically. It is only in the State that man can live the good life in any full sense, and since the good life is man‟s natural end, the State must be called a natural society. (The Sophist were therefore wrong in thinking that the State is simply the creation of convention.) “It is evident that the State is a creature of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature, and not by mere accident is without a State, is either above humanity or below it.” Man‟s gift of speech shows clearly that nature destined him for social life, and social life in its specifically complete form is, in Aristotle‟s view, that the State is a self -sufficing whole, neither the individual nor the family are self-sufficient. “He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.” The Platonic-Aristotelian view if the State as exercising the positive function of serving the end of man, the leading of the good life or the acquisition of happiness, and as being natural prior (to be distinguished from tempore prior) to the individual and the family, has been of great influence in subsequent philosophy. Among Christian mediaeval philosophers, it was naturally tempered by the importance they rightly attached to individual and family, and by the fact that they accepted another “perfect society,” the Church, whose end is higher than that of the State (also by the fact that the nation-State was comparatively undeveloped in the Middle Ages); but we have only to think of Hegel in Germany and of Bradley and Bosanquet in England, to realize that the Greek conception of the State did not perish along with Greek freedom. Moreover, though it is a conception that can be and has been, exaggerated (especially where Christian truth has been absent and so unable to act as a corrective to one-sided exaggeration), it is a richer and truer conception of the State than of, e.g. Herbert Spencer. For the State exists for the temporal well-being of its citizens, i.e., for a positive and not merely for a negative end, and this positive conception of the State can quite well be maintained without contaminating it with the exaggeration of Totalitarian State mysticism. Aristotle horizon was more or less bounded by the confines of the Greek City-State (in spite of his contracts with Alexander), and he had little idea of nations and empires; but all the same his mind penetrated to the essence and function of the State better than did laissez-faire theorists and the British School from Locke to Spencer. In the Politics, as we have it, Aristotle‟s treatment of the family is practically confined to discussion of the master-slave relationship and to the acquisition of wealth. Slavery (the slave, according to Aristotle, is a living instrument of action, i.e., the aid to his master‟s life) is founded on nature. “From the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.” “It is clear that some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and that for these slavery is both expedient and right.” This view may well seem to us monstrous, but it must be remembered that the essence of Aristotle‟s doctrine is that men differ in
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iii. a thing is used apart from its “proper use. in general. However. Better to real cousin than a Platonic son! Similarly. or usurers in our sense. In general. not so much of equalizing all property P a g e 2|4 Developmental Reading .. but money has no such natural increase: it is meant to be a means of exchange and nothing else. Cows and sheep have a natural increase. etc. credulous and ignorant though he certainly found a rationalization of his attitude in his doctrine about the “natural” purposes of money. we cannot say how he would react to our financial system. literally taken. on the ground that he who is a child of all is a child of none. For instance. he admitted that the child of a natural slave need not himself be a natural slave. i. The second. would condemn all taking of interest on money. and agriculture. In fact. he criticized the notion of communism. who make victims of the needy. and an intermediate mode. Man‟s needs set a natural limit to such accumulation. hunting. Plato aimed at excessive unification. Nevertheless. If he were alive today. and then proceeded to give a philosophic rationalization and justification of slavery! There are. refused to allow himself to be carried away by Plato‟s picture of the ideal State.” This. The enjoyment of property is a source of pleasure. as one might expect. Aristotle rejected the legitimacy of the historical origin of slavery (conquest). Stripped of its historic and contemporary accidentals. and whether he would reject. since the interests of master and slave are the same.‟ the breeding of money out of money. barter may be called a natural mode of acquiring mode. Moreover. It seems very odd to us that Aristotle should condemn retail trade. but the over-rigid dichotomy drawn between two types of men and the tendency to regard the “sla venature” as something almost less than human. while on the other hand the war may not be just a war. inefficiency. as have fruits -trees. Aristotle had no sympathy for the accumulation of wealth as such. for happiness is either enjoyed by individuals or it is not enjoyed at all. and it is of no use for Plato to say that the State would be made happy if the Guardians were deprived of this source of happiness. but Aristotle was probably thinking of the practice of money-lenders. but his prejudice is largely determined by the ordinary Greek attitude towards commerce. he rejected the Platonic notion of the crèche for the children of the Guardian-class. Of importance is Aristotle‟s condemnation of „usury. modify or find a way round his former views. without any exchange of goods for money and without any labour on the part of the lender. Aristotle tempered his acceptance and rationalization of slavery by insisting that the master should not abuse his authority. We regret that Aristotle canonized the contemporary institution of slavery. grazing. nor did he think that they would all. “Money was intended to be used in exchange. The intermediate mode is that of barter.g. In barter. then it is being used in an unnatural way. Aristotle. Aristotle did not envisage modern finance. The “natural” mode consists in the accumulation of things needed for life by.intellectual and physical capacities and are thereby fitted for different positions in society.” mode of acquiring wealth is the use of money as means of exchange for goods. this rationalization of slavery is regrettable and betrays a limited outlook on the part of the philosopher. but this canonization is largely a historical accident. but he saw that there is a need. ii. and rejected slavery by right of conquest on the ground that superior power and superior excellence are not equivalent. in itself. To serve as a means of exchange is its natural purpose and if it is used to get more wealth merely by a process of lending it. Needless to say. He did not think that such radical changes as Plato proposed were necessary. two distinct modes of acquiring wealth. and “unnatural. be desirable. but not to increase at interest. if feasible. on the ground that this would lead to disputes.” but insofar as it is employed for the acquisition of the needs of life. e. and by saying that all slaves should have the hope of emancipation. as he calls it. which was regarded as illiberal and unfit for the free man. what is censurable in it is not so much the recognition that men differ in ability and adaptability (the truth of this is too obvious to need elaboration).

The State exists for the good life. led him to exclude the class of mechanics and artisans from the citizenship. that culture is impracticable) nor yet so large that luxury is encouraged. but not so large that order and good government are rendered impracticable. Education is therefore. and will not consider the games of the children and the stories that are told them as things too insignificant for them to attend to. in their preoccupation with the fostering of a truly cultural political life. it must be large enough to fulfil the end of State and not so large that it can no longer do so. Another reason is that manual toil deliberalizes the soul and makes it unfit for true virtue. Similarly with the territorial extent of the State. Education must begin with the body. Aristotle. In other words. Both Plato and Aristotle. that of the warriors. first a good soldier. Agricultural labourers and artisans are necessary. but they will not enjoy citizens rights. since the body and its appetites develop earlier than the soul and its faculties. for they had not got the necessary leisure. In Books Seven and Eight of the Politics.as of training citizens not to desire excessive wealth and.. only the third class. Aristotle discusses his positive view of what a State should be.e. like Plato. P a g e 3|4 Developmental Reading . they rust away like iron and fall. but at importing her need and exporting her surplus.” Reason and history both show that the legislator should direct all his military and other measures to the establishment of peace. iii. and then a good ruler magistrate. End - *Kindly submit a reflection paper (maximum of 2 pages) on Thursday (morning session). set their faces against imperialist dreams of military aggrandizement. These will be warriors in youth. The number citizen requisite for this purpose cannot of course be arithmetically determined a priori. again like Plato. attached great importance to education and. then of preventing them acquiring it. i. if any are incapable of being trained. This emphasis on moral education shows itself in Aristotle‟s views concerning pre-natal care and the games of the children. this should not be small that a leisured life is impossible (i. but the body is trained for the sake of the soul and the appetites for the sake of reason. The Directors of Education will take all these matters very seriously. The qualifications of citizenship are taken by Aristotle from the practice of the Athenian democracy which was not the same as the modern democracy with its representative system. he considered it to be the work of the State. ii. all the citizens should take their share in ruling and being ruled by turn. Military States are safe only in war time: once they have acquired their empire. will be citizens in the full sense. and it is subject to the same code if morality as the individual. Each citizen will possess a plot of land near the frontier (so that all may have an interest in the defense of the State). The city should aim at mere wealth. “the same things are best for individuals and states. This land will be worked by non-citizen labourers. The fact that Aristotle considered it essential for the citizen to sit in the Assembly and in Law Courts. iv. rulers or magistrates in middle-age and priests in old age. but will be trained to be. As he puts it. a moral education – the more so because the citizen will never have to earn his living by work as husbandman or artisan. and the minimum of citizen-rights is the right to participate in the Assembly and the administration of justice. The State must be large enough to be self-sufficing. In his view. first and foremost.

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