The Politics, by Aristotle
Classical Wisdom Weekly edition
Aristotle, author of The Politics
“Evidently, then, it is better if we own possesions privately but make them common by our use of them…Further, it is unbelievably more pleasant to regard something as one’s own. For each persons love of himself is not pointless, but a natural tendency.” –Aristotle (Politics, Book II)
“Clearly, then, the political community that is in the hands of the intermediate people is best and the cities capable of having a good system are those in which the intermediate part is numerous and superior…” –Aristotle (Politics, Book IV)
“…an oligarchy or a democracy may be in good enough condition even though it has lapsed form its best order; but if someone takes either system to further extremes, he will make the political system worse and finally make it cease to be a political system at all.” –Aristotle (Politics, Book V)
“…we ought to think that living in the way that fits the political system is not slavery, but preservation.” –Aristotle (Politics Book V)
Aristotle continues by telling us that there are essentially three types of friendships. For just as causes differ, so do the types of living and types of friendship. The first two types of friendships are based on utility or pleasure.
This seems obvious enough to us. Those who love for either utility or pleasure do not love the person for their character or virtue. Rather, they love the person based on what is either good or pleasant for them.
That might be difficult for some of us to swallow, but there it is. Some beliefs are better than others.
Martha Nussbaum uses the example of thunder in her paper “Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach”. When examining thunder, we might wonder what it is that exactly causes it. One man might come forward and say that thunder is the result of the rapid expansion of
air that occurs when lighting strikes. Another man might come forward and say that Zeus and his friends are up on Mount Olympus doing some bowling.
“The customs of former times might be said to be too simple and barbaric. For Greeks used to go around armed with swords; and they used to buy wives from one another; and there are surely other ancient customs that are extremely stupid.” -Aristotle (Politics)
“…not seek the way of our ancestors, but the way of the Good.” -Aristotle (Politics)
|1. Fear of danger, especially death||Courage|
|2. Bodily appetites and their pleasures||Moderation|
|3. Distribution of limited resources||Justice|
|4. Attitudes and actions regarding one’s self worth||Greatness of Soul|
|5. The planning of one’s life and conduct||Practical Wisdom|
“The point is that everyone makes some choices and acts somehow or other in these spheres: if not properly, then improperly.” -Martha Nussbaum (Non-Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach)
Undoubtedly, people will disagree on exactly which actions within these various spheres makes a person virtuous or base. However, the Aristotelian has scored a small victory here. For if the relativist is arguing between which actions are best within these spheres, then they are no longer arguing for the nonexistence of objective virtue. Instead, we are grappling for a proper definition.
“Our present inquiry does not aim, as our others do, at study; for the purpose of our examination is not to know what virtue is, but to become good, since otherwise the inquiry would be of no benefit to us.” -Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics Book II)
We might be happy to call it quits right here. However, Aristotle aims at making us good people, so the topic of virtue must be explored a bit more.
“In this way every scientific expert avoids excess and deficiency and seeks and chooses what is intermediate-but intermediate relative to us, not in the object.” -Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics, Book II)
Known primarily through the ancient plays of the Athenian, Sophocles, Oedipus is a mythical Greek King
who, despite his attempts to avoid it, is destined to kill his father, marry his mother, and bring disaster and shame upon himself and his city. A classic Greek tale, the story of Oedipus deals with the themes of fate, moral ambiguity, and the miseralbe outcomes that sometimes faces those who oppose their destiny.
At first glance, we might think that Aristotle’s De Interpretation, also known as On Interpretation, deals primarily with the philosophy of language.
How does language relate to the truth of an idea? Can an idea exist if there is no word that represents it? Are words arbitrarily created or do they have any significant relationship to the idea or object which it is meant to represent?
These types of questions are considered by Aristotle early within the text. And while this all is rather interesting, we will only briefly discuss Aristotle’s ideas on words, sentences and their relation to truth.
The implications of this argument are rather staggering. This would seem to suggest that everything we do is predetermined, that we have no control over what we do or what happens to us. It would seem to suggest that our idea of free will is merely an illusion.
“Hence there would be no need to deliberate or to take trouble, thinking that if we do this, that will be, and if we do not, it will not be; for it might be that ten thousand years ago one person said that this would be and another denied it, so that which it was true to affirm at that time will be so from necessity.” -Aristotle (De Interpretatione)
When we consider the two generals, one who claimed that there would be a sea battle while the other claimed there would not be, we see that both of their statements have the potentiality to be either true or false. That isn’t to say that both of their statements are wrong or both are right, instead we must understand that both statements have the potentiality to be either.