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Aristotle and Democracy

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  1. Aristotle and Democracy

  2. Overview • Aristotle • The Polis • Virtue • Natural Slavery • Good Government

  3. Aristotle • Biographical Overview • 384-322 B.C.E. • Born in Macedonia, to wealthy parents connected to the royal household • Studied with Plato for 17 years • Tutor to Alexander the Great 343-335 B.C.E. • 335/4 returned to Athens and founded own school – the Lyceum

  4. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman • The Politics is an attempt to understand the essence of political life • Aristotle grounds that understanding on the facts of “real world” political life

  5. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman “Since we see that every city is some sort of partnership, and that every partnership is constituted for the sake of some good (for everyone does everything for the sake of what is held to be good), it is clear that all partnerships aim at some good, and that the partnership that is most authoritative of all and embraces all the others does so particularly, and aims at the most authoritative good of all. This is what is called the city or the political partnership” (Book I, chapter 1).

  6. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman • “Since we see that every city is some sort of partnership…” • City => association that aims at highest good • Politics => activity that happens in a city

  7. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman Two ideas we need to develop here: • Authoritative Association • Authoritative Good

  8. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman • Authoritative Association • Every association aimed at some end • Family (Book I, chp. 2, 1252b) • Town (Book I, chp. 2, 1252b) • City/Polis (Book I chp. 2, 1253a)

  9. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman • The Family • Structure • Two associations: Male/Female Ruler/Ruled End of Family? Reproduction (1st association) “needs of daily life” (2nd association)

  10. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman • The Village • Structure • Groupings of families • End of the village? Reproduction “needs of daily life”

  11. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman The City • SStructure • Ggroupings of villages (Book 1, chp. 2) • EEnd of the city? • RReproduction? • “needs of daily life”? • Eend of the city = not just life or living, but living the “good life.”

  12. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman • The Polis: “The partnership arising from several villages that is complete is the city. It reaches a level of full self-sufficiency, so to speak; and while coming into being for the sake of living, it exists for the sake of living well” (Book 1, chp. 2. 1252b).

  13. Authoritative Association • Authoritative Association • The authoritative or sovereign association is one that decides the aims of other (smaller or constitutive) associations • Thus the polis exists prior to the individual

  14. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman • Authoritative Association “The city is thus prior by nature to the household and to each of us. For the whole must of necessity be prior to the part; for if the whole is destroyed there will not be a foot or a hand…For if the individual when separated is not self sufficient, he will be in a condition similar to that of the other parts in relation to the whole” (Book 1, chp. 2, 1253b). Back

  15. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman “One who is incapable of participating or who is in need of nothing through being self-sufficient is no part of a city, and so is either a beast or a god” (Book 1, chap. 2, 1253b).

  16. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman • Two ideas we need to develop here: • Authoritative Association • Authoritative Good

  17. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman • Authoritative Good • Three Classes of Good • Good Consequences • Good Consequences & Good in Themselves • Authoritative/Sovereign Good

  18. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman Good Consequences Nothing intrinsically good about surgery. It’s good only because of its consequences

  19. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman • Good Consequences & Good in Themselves • For example: vision • They have good results and they’re good • Would rather have vision than not have it (unlike surgery) and the consequences of its possession are also good

  20. Authoritative Good • Authoritative/Sovereign Good • Supreme Goods • Things just good in and of themselves • Not a means to any other good • For example: happiness • Happiness is that state where we have all that we should have. Back

  21. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman • Virtue is that aspect of something that enables it to develop itself and to achieve its final end. • Virtuous person is one with properties that enable him/her to develop fully human capacities. • Good polis, then, is one which fosters virtue. • Polis is the authoritative good since it allows for the development of our fully human capacities.

  22. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman “From these things it is evident, then, that the city belongs among the things that exist by nature, and that man is by nature a political animal” (Book 1, chp. 2, 1253a)

  23. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman • Aristotle’s View of the Polisvs. Modern Conceptions • Today we view politics as a means of insuring private good • We use politics for selfish ends • For Aristotle, man is a political animal, political life is part of the individual

  24. I. The Polis and the Political Stature of Man/Woman • Politics means getting together in public and deciding what we ought to do • this activity allows for development of virtue where virtue is a public activity • How do we know the essence of human species? “Everything is defined by its task and its power…” (Book 1, chp. 2) Need to develop this idea more fully

  25. II. Teleology • Everything in nature is ordered, exists for a purpose • Everything has a nature, and built into each nature is an end (telos) • Acorn example, again • How to know end? • Observation • How to know what to observe?

  26. II. Teleology “It is in things whose condition is according to nature that one ought particularly to investigate what is by nature, not in things that are defective. Thus the human being to be studied is one whose state is best both in body and in soul…” (Book 1, chp. 5, 1254a)

  27. II. Teleology • Man -- in right sort of polis -- can grow to be “full” human where “full” means achieving full human potential • Contrast with contemporary conceptions where politics is private; a means to secure private interest • For Aristotle, the private is simply a means to sustain politics. Politics is what is really important, so need to subordinate private life to public life

  28. II. Teleology Politics is a public activity indeed it is the activity which distinguishes us from other social animals What is politics? Why is it special?

  29. II. Teleology • Politics is: • Activity where people decide and then act on the decision • Based on rational persuasion, not coercion • (logos =speaking = only possible with other humans) • Our humanity is only attainable in political setting

  30. II. Teleology “One who is incapable of participating or who is in need of nothing through being self-sufficient is no part of a city, and so is either a beast or a god” (Book 1, chp. 2, 1253a). • Conducted only between equals

  31. II. Teleology Our humanity is attainable only in the polis Raises question: who should be included in politics?

  32. III. Natural Slavery • Recall Point II.1: Nature has an order • Order is hierarchical

  33. The Scale of Being pond scum

  34. The Scale of Being insects pond scum

  35. The Scale of Being reptiles insects pond scum

  36. The Scale of Being mammals reptiles insects pond scum

  37. The Scale of Being human beings mammals reptiles insects pond scum

  38. III. Natural Slavery • Why should we suddenly become standardless as we cross human threshold? • No reason for egalitarianism • Not everybody is able to take care of themselves so ...

  39. III. Natural Slavery • Slavery, under the right conditions, is natural • Slavery is just insofar as some people are slaves by nature • Slavery indispensable to good polis • Politics is a leisure activity

  40. III. Natural Slavery • Unless we have one class permanently engaged in producing the sustenance necessary for life, nobody is able to attain the good life and thus to achieve the proper end of the species. • Question of how to distribute burdens of labor and leisure • Slaves do all the manual work, masters develop into “full” human beings • Good polis needs slaves

  41. The Good Polis • What is the good polis? • How would we determine the nature of the good polis?

  42. Aristotle’s Regime Types “End” of Regime Public Good Private Gain Size Of Regime back

  43. Aristotle’s Regime Types “End” of Regime Public Good Private Gain Size Of Regime

  44. Aristotle’s Regime Types “End” of Regime Public Good Private Gain Size Of Regime

  45. Aristotle’s Regime Types “End” of Regime Public Good Private Gain Size Of Regime

  46. Aristotle’s Regime Types “End” of Regime Public Good Private Gain Size Of Regime

  47. Aristotle’s Regime Types “End” of Regime Public Good Private Gain Size Of Regime

  48. Aristotle’s Regime Types “End” of Regime Public Good Private Gain Size Of Regime

  49. Aristotle’s Polity • Monarchy? • No: we want the highest level of communal activity possible. Monarchy won’t allow that

  50. Aristotle’s Polity • Democracy? • No: remember our inegalitarian understanding of nature; therefore unlikely that the virtues will be distributed evenly through the population