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Aristotle and Cicero

Aristotle and Cicero

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Aristotle and Cicero

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  1. Aristotle and Cicero 30 July 2008

  2. Regimes where the ruler rules in the common interest Monarchy Aristocracy Polity Regimes where the ruler rules in the interest of a part Tyranny Oligarchy Rule of the wealthy Democracy Rule of the poor Original view of regimes Six Basic Types

  3. A revised view of regimes • The best regime one can hope for (books VII and VIII), ruled by many good men • Absolute kingship/aristocracy of one or many virtuous men (book III) • Mixtures: polity, moderate democracy, moderate aristocracy (books IV-VI) • Tyrannies: of one person, of the many poor, of the few rich

  4. A revised view of regimes Knowledge of the common good Rule by godlike beings (impossible) Partial regimes Genuine kingships or aristocracies Best human regime Tyrannies Polity Possibility

  5. The best regime • A regime of citizens who are all good people, and which allows good people to flourish

  6. Seven steps to the perfect (human) regime • Start with sufficient colonists who are already good people • People who share a correct understanding of the common good • The common good = justice • So good people = just people

  7. Seven steps to the perfect (human) regime • Choose a suitable site • Close to trading networks • Easily defensible with small numbers of people

  8. Seven steps to the perfect (human) regime • Make them free from necessity • Need to have sufficient numbers of slaves or machines to make each materially independent of other people and capable of learning the virtues

  9. Seven steps to the perfect (human) regime • Make sure the distribution of wealth does not lead to divergent material interests • The citizens must be wealthy but not too wealthy: wealth is only a means to an end • There must be relative equality of wealth

  10. Seven steps to the perfect (human) regime • Make sure the citizens are all able to monitor each other’s character, and to meet together to deliberate about their common good • The best regime must therefore be very small • In the best regime, everyone has an opportunity to participate in politics; a good life is a life which involves doing good with and to others

  11. Seven steps to the perfect (human) regime • Implement a comprehensive policy of public education, including education in virtue

  12. Seven steps to the perfect (human) regime • Implement an adequate “eugenics” policy

  13. What would life look like in the best human regime? • All would participate in deliberating about the common good in good spirit • Citizens would be just, moderate, courageous, etc. • The citizens would use their leisure in activities which are good for their own sake: art, science, religion, etc. • But also: private life would be tightly regulated, including “personal” decisions

  14. How would such a regime act in the world? • It would not pursue war for its own sake: participation in politics is not about the pursuit of power • But it might assume leadership over other free poleis, and it would be fit to rule over natural slaves

  15. Is Aristotle’s view of politics convincing? • Some potential objections • There is no single or objectively correct view of the common good and the good life • Aristotle’s view of the common good and the good life is mistaken • Politics should be about matters about which we can agree – protection against obvious harms – not about the good life

  16. Aristotle’s model of political community • The community develops from natural needs for the sake of the good life, which includes political activity • In its best form it is a quite small community so as to ensure a flourishing existence for a few • Assumes that there are natural differences among people regarding their suitability for full political life • Well adapted to the 5th and 4th centuries BC

  17. Rome

  18. The Stoics The stoa poikile, or painted colonnade, in Athens

  19. Some teachings of the Stoics • “Natural law” • The identity of happiness and virtue • Universal equality under natural law

  20. Cosmopolitanism Diogenes the Cynic

  21. Cicero

  22. Cicero’s model of the political community • The community develops from natural needs for the sake of a good life that includes sociality • Citizens are those who agree on a common conception of law and interest • Does not assume that there are special natural differences among people • Only one among many communities which must be given their due under natural law

  23. Cicero’s model of the political community • Res publica res populi: the republic is the concern of the people • The community composes • a people • a set of institutions for deliberation and decision (the consilium) • a patria or cultural form of life tied to a territory and history

  24. Cicero’s model of the political community • The best regime is a mixed regime, in fact a regime much like the Rome of Scipio’s generation (before Cicero’s birth)

  25. The concentric circles of society Parents, immediate family Shares: natural affection and duty Kinsmen, non-immediate family Cultural group Where should we put our political community? All of humanity Shares: common reason

  26. Duties • We share less with our co-citizens than with our family, for example • But we owe the republic (the common concern) more than to other communities • Nevertheless, justice implies giving each natural community its due, including humanity • There is a natural law to which we must conform if we are to be happy

  27. Critique and justification of empire • War can be just or unjust, but justice does not depend on the natural inferiority of others • It depends on whether the war is justified by the need for peace and whether it’s been properly declared • Many of the peoples defeated by Rome went on to become its citizens; such wars were just, and the empire is justified • Nevertheless, Cicero argues that some of the conquests after Scipio’s time was unjust • Caesar’s actions involved taking the property of other and engaging in conquest for gain, not for peace