SHADOWS ON THE SUN: THE IMPERFECTIONS OF PLATONIC POLITICAL THEORYby, Michael JinDecember 5, 2004Plato and Aristotle both reject the moral relativism of the sophists and address the question of how man can achieve absolute virtue. In The Republic, Plato constructs an existence proof, a kallipolis that produces philosopher-kings who grasp the eternal Good and rule benevolently. Aristotle discusses the kallipolis at length in The Politics, but much of his criticism concerns implementation. Still, Aristotle makes at least one worthy criticism of the theory, charging Plato with inappropriately misusing holism in assessing the happiness of the state. But Aristotle likewise fails to solve the underlying problem of ensuring complete happiness for all individuals; he ultimately constructs a political theory fundamentally similar to that of Plato.Plato postulates a tripartite soul with appetitive, spirited, and rational parts, corresponding to the producers, guardians, and rulers in the kallipolis (The Republic 435c-441c). Such a construction poses an apparent internal inconsistency. The guardian class, for instance, may represent only the spirited part, but individual guardians still possess all three soul parts. The inconsistency disappears if the kallipolis solely serves as a macrocosm of the soul, since a soul part only has that soul part. But a kallipolis qua polis needs to resolve the issue of how a spirited class can be composed of members that also possess desires and rationality.Plato defends his conception of the three classes by appealing to the idea of specialization of labor. He asks, “[D]oes one person do a better job if he practices many crafts or—since he’s one person himself—if he practices one?” (370b). He adopts this economic principle for his kallipolis, assigning each inhabitant that function he is most naturally suited for (423d). In other words, Plato asserts that the producers should accept toil and pursue physical desires without need of significant mental edification, while the most rational souls should live an ascetic life. Under this framework, it makes sense that Plato denies money, property, and even travel to the guardians (419). For guardians to achieve maximum bravery and glory as required by their spirited souls, they must specialize and avoid distractions.But implied in the idea of specialization of labor is that certain activities are practiced at the expense of others. If Plato selects and cultivates the soul part that will provide maximum benefit to the kallipolis, Adeimantus can argue that Plato practices relative suppression of the other two parts, if they exist. Guardians, for instance, must be weaned from the appetitive desires (419). Adeimantus worries that such inhibition causes unhappiness. After all, Plato discourages the guardians from deriving ordinary pleasures like ownership (416-17). Adeimantus essentially points out that human nature, as defined by Plato himself, contains innate needs for things. He questions Plato’s implicit assumption that a proper environment, expressed by societal laws, can overcome such innate inclinations and change these desires towards better, higher objectives.If Plato were to label the kallipolis as theoretical and not subject to pragmatic concerns, the issue of how tripartite souls give rise to city segments behaving according to only one soul part would disappear. Guardians, under the influence of law, would let go of physical desires, a change that would allow them to achieve the greatest degree of happiness possible. But Plato expresses his own practical concerns when he states, “We’ll say that it wouldn’t be surprising if these people were happiest just as they are, but that in establishing our city, we aren’t aiming to make any one group outstandingly happy but to make the whole city so, as far as possible” (420b). Plato concedes that guardians sacrifice at least a component of their happiness, since they are happiest in their original condition outside the kallipolis. He admits that the appetitive component of the soul cannot be excised without impacting happiness. But his reference to the happiness of the “whole city” seems vague. Plato means either that some holistic happiness exists even if no city part is happy, or that the decreased happiness of the guardians increases the happiness of the other classes and thus elevates the happiness of the entire city.Here Aristotle makes his major theoretical assault by interpreting Plato to have wrongly postulated a holistic happiness. Aristotle responds,”Again, though he denies to the Guardians even happiness, he maintains that it is the duty of a lawgiver to make the whole city happy. But it is impossible for the whole to be happy, unless the majority, if not actually all, or at any rate some, parts possess happiness. For happiness is a very different thing from evenness: two odd numbers added together make an even number, but two unhappy sections cannot add up to a happy state. And if the Guardians are not happy, who will be? Certainly not the skilled workers and the general run of the mechanics” (The Politics 1264b15).Aristotle here makes two points, which can be independently verified for fairness of treatment with regard to what Plato states. His first point contends that because happiness is an intrinsic quality, aggregating different souls of varying discontent cannot produce happiness. This point seems reasonable, but it only partly clashes with what Plato claims. Perhaps Aristotle was responding negatively to Plato for making the following analogy:Suppose, then, that someone came up to us while we were painting a statue and objected that, because we had painted the eyes (which are the most beautiful part) black rather than purple, we had not applied the most beautiful colors to the most beautiful parts of the statue. We’d think it reasonable to offer the following defense: “You mustn’t expect us to paint the eyes so beautifully that they no longer appear to be eyes at all, and the same with the other parts. Rather you must look to see whether by dealing with each part appropriately, we are making the whole statue beautiful.” (420c-d)Aristotle has a valid criticism of Plato insofar as the latter means that happiness of a city can be closely compared to the beauty of a statue. To be beautiful, the statue must be appreciated by the eye of a beholder. Purple eyes would ruin the effect; holistically viewing the statue makes sense. But happiness of cities must be judged by different criteria than that applied at art galleries. Whereas beauty may be an external state to be seen, happiness is an internal state to be experienced. As Aristotle suggests, happiness cannot be compared to evenness, which can result from odd numbers. Rather, happiness of the city is equal to the sum of the happiness of its parts. Plato, however, proceeds to defend the idea that having one section of the populace too happy would ruin the happiness of other sections. Aristotle, perhaps addressing this further Platonic idea, makes the second point: if the guardians are not happy, then the producers cannot be happy either. His assertion appears tangential and unsupported. In any case, he misses the real Platonic argument: “You mustn’t force us to give our guardians the kind of happiness that would make them something other than guardians…you surely see that they’ll destroy the city utterly, just as they alone have the opportunity to govern it well and make it happy” (420d-1a). Implicitly, Plato argues that guardians who regularly indulge in appetitive aims would not be guardians anymore, but among the common producers. He has a strict sense of what a guardian can permissibly do while remaining effective. Furthermore, Plato states that it is not so much a question of whether other classes will be happy if guardians are less than perfectly happy, as Aristotle charges, but of whether the city can exist at all if normal pleasures corrupt the guardians. Plato seems to envision an extremely slippery slope, with guardians as shepherds and normal people as sheep. If the shepherds were to lower their vigilance and enjoy materialistic pleasures, the sheep would certainly be taken by the wolves of anarchy. Aristotle does not directly refute Plato on whether such a complete deterioration would occur. But in supporting the kallipolis against objections on happiness, Plato takes the rather rigid position that even small deviances would destroy the city, and thus less than complete happiness should be tolerated, since a stable city is happier than total chaos. Thus, the result emerges that the happiest city cannot contain maximally happy individual. Though Aristotle does not treat Plato fairly, his critique points out individual souls cannot benefit from a mysterious holistic happiness. Without that condition, Plato must resort to his argument that he sacrifices some individual happiness for utilitarian reasons of preserving the state. Aristotle recognizes that unhappiness results from suppression of soul parts. He criticizes practices like sharing of women among guardians because he does object to pleasure to the same degree (1262a32). He does not see the Platonic slippery slope. But Aristotle, in the same breath, argues that a community of wives and children may be suitable for the agricultural class (1262a40). He argues that if producers have less affections, they will more likely to obey their rulers. Aristotle here uses the same logic as Plato: he sacrifices the lower forms of fulfillment for the interests of stability. In other words, he values lack of revolt more than individual happiness=2E Aristotle ultimately rejects communal sharing of wives and children for inclusion in his political theory; he observes that ownership and pleasure strengthen interpersonal bonds that bind the state (1262b3). Unlike Plato, he believes the maximally stable and good state can be achieved with less extreme measures. In addition to accepting a role for appetitive desires for citizens, Aristotle provides more room for them to realize their highest faculty, reason=2E He recognizes that the virtues of a good citizen and a good man are not the same, for the former possesses only correct opinions and obedience, while the latter has practical wisdom (1277b16). Aristotle emphasizes the role of rule, or employing practical wisdom, for human virtue and he extends the ability widely for certain constitutions, especially in the polity. Plato, on the other hand, sees rule as more of a necessity, not something fine (540b). As such, Aristotle pays more attention to human nature and sees cases when it may be beneficial to promote expression of higher faculties for more people. But it can be argued that Aristotle differs only quantitatively with his vision of man and the state, but not qualitatively. Aristotle does not recognize the full capacity to reason and rule in everyone, especially slaves (1255b4). Like Plato, Aristotle has an essentially elitist worldview, in that he believes most men should not rule (1277b33). First, most men need to toil for the prosperity and stability of the state and, as such, have no time to nurture higher virtues (1278a13). Second, if a “god among men” exists (1284a3), simply gifted men should not rule even if they could, because such rule would be less likely to produce a state that promotes living well (1280b29). For these two reasons, Aristotle would support a kingship over constitutions that distribute rule more widely among the more mediocre. But he still recognizes the essential compromise: “Is then the fifth alternative better, that one man, the most worthy, should rule? But this is yet more oligarchical, because it leaves still larger numbers without honour” (1281a28). In other words, Aristotle has not discovered a state that allows everyone to express all natural capacities while still promoting maximum stability and optimum rule.Despite this failure, Aristotle does a more practical version of governance, including the polity as more realistic alternative to the kingship or aristocracy. Applying a standard of implementability, Aristotle’s polity falls short. However, political theory arises from the constraints of reality and the difficulties of human nature. By such a standard, Aristotle often succeeds, even triumphs.
Aristotle notes two political communities that are âlessâ? than the polis: the household and the village. Of these two communities, the household receives far more discussion and is the foundation of much of Aristotleâs political theory. The origins of the household are found in the basic human partnership between a male and female for the sake of reproduction. The household arose from the male-female partnership and it is arranged to fill the basic needs of daily life. As well as supplying these basic needs, the most important task of the household is the education of women, children, and slaves in virtue that is conducive to living in the polis.In Book Two of the Politics, Aristotle rigorously defends the household and objects strongly to the communism of women and children found in Platoâs Republic. Plato believed that the household would create a conflict between the public and the private interests of the polis, and he responds to this problem by removing private interests such as wives, children, and private property entirely. Aristotle argues that these devices viewed by Plato as private interests are not the sources of dispute in the polis, but rather, that these disputes come about as a result of human wickedness (1263b20-7). Aristotle also feels that people will not extend to wives and children held in common the same care and affection that they would hold for members of their personal family (1261b32-1262a24).On the other hand, Aristotle does not totally reject Platoâs argument that the private interests of the household may clash with the interests of the polis as a whole. He writes that every household is a part of a polis and that the virtue of the part must be examined in relation to the virtue of the whole. Among the primary functions of the household is the education of the women and children with regard to their participation in the polis. Aristotle wisely notes, because women make up half of the adult population and children will grow up to participate in the constitution of the polis, that in order for the polis to be good as a whole, its women and children also must be good (1260b13-20).Within the household, there are three different types of relationship: husband/wife, father/child, and master/slave. The head of the household is the first figure in each of these relationships. In the relationship of a husband with his wife, Aristotle argues that the husband is to rule his wife in a political or statesmanlike manner. Elsewhere in the Politics, this kind of rule will be referred to as rule by and over free and equal persons (1255b18-20). Aristotle is critical of other societies that mismanage the role of women in the polis, and he is extremely critical of the Spartans in this regard. Aristotle argues that among the primary reasons for their downfall was their failure to educate their women (1269b12-1270a9).On the other hand, Aristotle would not argue that the education of women makes them the political equal of men. He would also reject arguments in favor of treating women as slaves. Aristotle contrasts the woman from the slave in claiming that while the woman has deliberative faculty, this faculty lacks authority in women (1260a13). Interestingly enough, Aristotleâs basis for rejecting the equality of men and women actually has to do with a particular role that Aristotle believes women have within the household. In rejecting an argument in favor of equality that compares man to beast, Aristotle notes that women (unlike beasts) have duties in the household (1264b4-6). Thus, his reasons for rejecting women as equal to men are twofold: the deliberative faculties of women lack authority and women have particulars duties in the household that preclude their participation in ruling.Women, however, are not to be treated in the same way as children. Rather than ruling his children politically (as the husband would rule his wife), the rule of the father over his children is monarchic (or kingly). The rule of a father over his children is similar to the rule of a king over his subjects because he is naturally superior to them. Like women, children are also distinguished from slaves because of their deliberative faculty. While slaves have no deliberative faculty and women lack authority, children possess a deliberative faculty that it immature or underdeveloped. Children are dependent upon their parents for their own well being (1260a14) and this well being would necessarily include an education about function and constitution of the polis.At this point, we have considered how the household functions as an educational body within the polis where the head-of-household teaches virtue to women and children who are similar to him insofar as they are capable of deliberation. The question of educating slaves leads us to consider Aristotleâs discussion of natural slavery. His definition of natural slavery brings us back to his discussion in the Nicomachean Ethics about the proper relationship between the body and the soul. In his short recapitulation of this discussion in the Politics, Aristotle reminds reads that the soul rules the body in the same way as a master rules a slave.A slave, for Aristotle, is “a possession of the animate sort,” meaning that he is an instrument of action and belongs completely to the master. A slave by nature is one who does not belong to himself by nature and who does not have the full use of his reason. Although the natural slave perceives reason, he does not possess it (1245b1). This person is as different from other men in the same way as the body is from the soul. For these reasons, the slave is ruled is a despotic fashion while women are ruled in a kingly fashion and women are ruled politically. The major difference between women, children, and slaves is that women and children either possess reason or are capable of possessing reason while slaves are not.Aristotle sharply criticizes the use of slaves as a means of production. Rather, he views slaves as the means by which the master secures his livelihood. In his Commentary on Book One Of Aristotleâs Politics, Trevor J. Saunders believes that this is the point of confining a slave to action rather than production. The aim of the master is to live well and the slave shares in the masterâs life (1260a39-40). Because Aristotle believes that the master ought to be concerned with action, rather than production, it would be a misuse of slaves to employ them for production. Saunders also believes that the argument of Aristotle against the use of slaves for production has to do with his more general criticism of unnatural acquisition. All too often, production becomes over-production and leads to the kind of excessive wealth that Aristotle condemns .We can see that there is also an element of education when it comes to the management of natural slaves in the household. It is the role of the master to give orders to the slave and it is the job of the slave to obey those orders. The will of the master and the slave are one because the slave has no reasoning of his own to exercise (1254b20-3). The virtue of the master in the master-slave relationship lies in knowing how to command the slave (in a way consistent with Saunderâs assessment above). The virtue of the slave is obedience to the orders of the master and the master educates him this virtue (1260b2-4). Thus, the household could also be said to exist for the education of the natural slave, who is a part of the household, by the master so that he (like the women and children) can achieve his proper end.Although there is much debate about whether or not there is such a thing as natural slavery, the focus of our discussion is the importance and the functions of the household in the polis. Returning to our thesis, we have now shown that not only is the function of the household in the polis for the education of women and children, but also for the education of natural slaves. Aristotle insists that virtue in the household is necessary if there is to be virtue in the polis, which is why the head-of-household has the task of educating those whom he rules. However, there is another element of the household that differs from education: the art of acquisition.The final essential function of the household in the polis is the acquisition of wealth in the form of private property. Although property is left in private hands, Aristotle still believes that the accumulation of property is of concern to the polis (1263a21-38). Aristotle seems to believe that the accumulation of wealth and means of acquisition affect the values of the polis as a whole, and thus, he devotes a good amount of Book One and Book Two to discussion how the head of household is to provide for his family. It comes as no surprise that Aristotle rejects the notion that the art of acquisition is identical to the art of household management, because as we have shown above, household management deals with significantly more than acquisition of wealth (1256b24-39).For Aristotle, the acquisition that is proper to the household is that which focuses on the accumulation of basic needs. . Aristotle examines acquisition by the head-of-household by distinguishing between natural and unnatural acquisition. Aristotle discusses four different ways of life that he finds synonymous with natural acquisition: the farmer, the hunter, the gatherer, and the pirate. This securing of food, shelter, and other necessities is called natural acquisition because it is an indispensable part of the management of a household. All of these things are necessary for the proper functioning of the household, and Aristotle certainly does not object to them being obtained.On the other hand, unnatural acquisition consists of accumulating wealth for its own sake. Aristotle observes that the types of goods that one would obtain through natural acquisition have both a âuse-valueâ? and an âexchange-valueâ?. Money does not have such value because it is useless except as a means of exchange (this is the same as saying that it has an âexchange valueâ? but no âuse value). Money is not intrinsically or naturally valuable, but derives its worth from convention. The aim of business acquisition is the accumulation of money and wealth rather than the natural acquisition of goods. He also disfavors unnatural acquisition (especially usury) because there is no limit to the amount of currency one can accumulate, leading people to indulge in an excess of enjoyment.With regard to the question as to why the household is not fully discussed in Book One, this likely has to do with the connection of the household to the polis. The household is dependent on the way of life of an established regime that ought to be based on proper household relationships such as those described earlier (husband-wife, father-child, master-slave). Therefore, before Aristotle can more fully discuss the household, he must consider the question of the best constitution. Once this question has undergone careful consideration, Aristotle will be able to more adequately describe the relationship between the household and the polis .In conclusion, we have shown through an examination of Book One and Book Two of Aristotleâs Politics what was stated earlier in our thesis. The household is important to the polis as a body where the head-of-household provides basic necessities to women, children, and slaves, and teaches them virtue conducive to life in the polis. However, although Aristotle has described the primary functions of the household, he has not described the primary functions of the polis. The question of the importance and the task of the household cannot be fully considered until the relationship between it and the polis is more adequately described.Works CitedDe Alvarez, Leo Paul. Aristotleâs Politics Lecture of 02-06-2003. The University of Dallas. Spring Semester of 2003, POL 3332-01.Saunders, Trevor J. Aristotleâs Politics Books I and II. (with commentary). Clarendon Press. Oxford. 1995
What is the best regime? Building from his discussion of happiness, virtue, and the good life in Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle answers this question elaborately in his later text, The Politics. In his elaboration, Aristotle investigates numerous regimes, looking particularly at what claims bring them about and what eventually leads to their downfall. Nonetheless, Aristotle’s analysis is consistent with his work in The Ethics, and so the highest focus, or aim, remains virtue. Unfortunately, a regime with such a pure focus has never existed; instead it has been stymied by factional conflicts among those who make up the city, and the differing views of justice and inequality that result. Thus Aristotle’s answer is twofold: his immediate answer points to those regimes that focus on virtue foremost; at a more practical level, however, he identifies the best regime as one that acknowledges other focuses, such as on wealth and freedom, in addition to the highest focus on virtue. This latter regime is still an aspiration though, and in fact Aristotle admits that it occurs only infrequently. To help realize the best regime in practice then, Aristotle also discusses by what means it may come into being, as well as what aids the rulers have in maintaining its existence.Aristotle begins his work in The Politics by looking at the city, and specifically how, as well as for what purposes, it is formed. Based on what he sees as a natural and human impulse towards some sort of sustaining and reproductive partnership, Aristotle notes that all cities, “while coming into being for the sake of living, (exist) for the sake of living well” (Lord, 37). Living well then, both individually and communally, requires a life in accordance with virtue since “the best way of life both separately for each individual and in common for cities is that accompanied by virtue” (198). Happiness will then be the result of such a virtuous life for the city according to Aristotle, as he further argues, “If anyone accepts that the individual [is happy] on account of virtue, he will also assert that the more excellent city is the one that is happier” (199). Aristotle sums up the importance of virtue, writing, “It is thus evident that virtue must be a care for every city,” especially since living well “is the end of the city” (98, 99).Not all regimes, unfortunately, care for virtue as Aristotle stresses that they should. Instead there are regimes that care alternatively for wealth, and others for freedom. In addition, there are correct and deviant forms of each of these regimes that Aristotle outlines. Most generally, Aristotle outlines six regime types, three of which are correct regimes “which look to the common advantage,” and three of which are their deviations, instead looking “only to the advantage of the rulers” (95). Aristotle then identifies kingship as the most correct regime above aristocracy and polity since kingship is a regime ruled by only one, and it becomes less likely for all to be “outstanding in virtue” when the regime is ruled by the many. Democracy, which is the deviant form of polity, then follows polity in preference and is followed in turn by oligarchy, which focuses on wealth, and finally tyranny, which is the deviation from kingship.Considering these possibilities, as well as their aims, it begins to become apparent as to which regimes are the best according to Aristotle. Based on his claim that virtue must be a care of every city, and that virtue can meet no upper limit in an individual, kingship and aristocracy then appear to be Aristotle’s top choice as such regimes would be ruled by the one or the few with nearly deific virtue. There are, nonetheless, arguments against the seeming excellence of these regimes – such as that a kingship would not facilitate ruling and being ruled, nor would it allow citizens to participate in politics as part of their leisure – and these eventually point more towards aristocracy as a better regime. Aristocracy has its own faults though, such as that the poor and the many often confuse it with oligarchy. It does, however, allow ruling and being ruled, especially if it contains a select group of citizens. What becomes most clear regarding the best theoretical regime, however, is that there are many factors that must be considered when matching a city with its best regime, and these factors become increasingly visible when addressing the best practical regime.Regimes such as kingship and aristocracy therefore, where the few – or even the single-most – virtuously elite rule, are nearly impossible in practice. What makes this an impossibility, according to Aristotle, is the perpetual occurrence of factional conflicts that arise due to competing claims of which inequality will determine the ruler. That is, while some claim that virtue should determine the rulers, others claim that it should be wealth, and still others freedom (130). Not surprisingly, such differing claims within the same city and regime can be detrimental, and eventually cause the demise of the regime. Aristotle thus notes “that all those who dispute about regimes speak of some part of justice,” which in turn is a debate around equality and inequality (99). Thus, whereas “justice is held to be equality, and it is, but for equals and not for all, inequality is held to be just and is indeed, but for unequals and not for all” (97). These factional conflicts then manifest themselves in alternative claims to power, which are in turn alternative views on justice, or what is equal and unequal within the regime. A common factional conflict then might result from individuals thinking that, “if they are unequal in a certain thing, such as goods, they are (also) unequal generally, while the others suppose that if they are equal in a certain thing, such as freedom, they are equal generally” (98). Thus because “justice is held by all to be a certain equality,” the factions that result always reflect this variation in interpreting equality that occurs between the few and the many, or the poor and the rich (103, emphasis added).Considering this tendency towards factional conflicts, as well as other variations, such as in population and climate, that distinguish each city from the next, Aristotle acknowledges that the best regime for one city may not be the best for all others. Noting this resulting diversity in regimes, Aristotle writes, “So the varieties of the regimes – how many there are and in how many ways they are combined – should not be overlooked” (119). In addition to this variety stemming from the diversity of circumstances that makes every city unique, Aristotle also points out that the best city is perhaps just an ideal, or “what one would pray for above all, with external things providing no impediment,” and thus there is a second range of regimes that the city must choose from (118). In this second range, it is then most practical for the city to choose the regime that “is [the best] possible” and not “only the one that is at the peak and requires much equipment” (119). Driving this aspiration for the best regime, as Aristotle recalls, is the search for the best life possible, and with the most happiness and thus virtue. Aristotle concludes, “For it is through hunting for this in a different manner and by means of different things that [groups of] individuals create ways of life and regimes that differ” (209).At this point the rulers’ task seems insurmountable as they must both select and enact a regime that molds best to their city. The rulers, however, are not alone in this task, and in fact Aristotle lists several aids that can help them theorize and implement the best regime. Among these aids are, the application of laws, the aid of citizens, the expansion of a middling element, or essentially a middle class, and finally, education.First, a ruler may use laws to counteract the passions and appetites of those who will participate in the regime. Aristotle discusses this benefit of laws, noting that it may be “bad for the authoritative element generally to be man instead of lawif he has the passions that result [from being human] in his soul” (100). Similarly, “Desire is a thing of this sort; and spiritedness perverts rulers and the best men. Hence law is intellect without appetite” (114). Law can also be useful in cities where “persons (are) similar by nature,” and thus equal in many respects, including matters of honor and virtue. Here, as Aristotle argues, “it is no more just [for equal persons] to rule than to be ruled, and it is therefore just [that they rule and be ruled] by turns. But this is already law, for the arrangement [of ruling and being ruled] is law” (113). Although law may then play a beneficiary role in the rulers’ task, it also has its shortcomings as specific laws cannot be written for every circumstance nor can they enforce themselves without human guardians. Thus Aristotle notes that individuals must be “established as law-guardians and as servants of the law,” or essentially to serve as judges.A second aid of the ruler or rulers may be a carefully defined citizenry that will include those interested in serving the regime, and exclude those who are incapable of participating in government due to natural slavish characteristics or a lack of leisure time. Primarily, as Aristotle notes, “although citizens are dissimilar, preservation of the partnership is their task, and the regime is [this] partnership” (90). Also, as with laws, “a citizen in the common sense is one who shares in ruling and being ruled,” since this is according to his virtue (106). A citizen, though, is not everyone who is not a ruler, and Aristotle reinforces this distinction since farmers, for example, would be incapable of fulfilling the duties of proper citizens. One notable absence in the farmer’s life is then leisure time, or time “both with a view to the creation of virtue and with a view to political activities” (211). Nonetheless, citizens – properly defined – can be a significant aid to the rulers of the regimes since they tend towards ruling and being ruled, while also having the time to cultivate their virtue and political involvement.A third aid, or perhaps strategy, that the ruler may employ is “to increase the middling element, for this dispels the factional conflicts that result from inequality” (164). The middling element accomplishes this in part by mediating reasonably between the extremes to either end, but also by avoiding the passions and desires of these extremes which often lead to their own demise. Thus, in the deviant regimes, where the middling element is often neglected, it is common to see the regime overrun by its own emphasis, such as in a democracy for example, where “many of the things that are held to be characteristically popular (eventually) overturn democracies” (166). The middling element also often represents the mean between competing claims, such as those between the rulers and the ruled. Thus it is the middling element that knows how to rule and be ruled, as well as how to avoid the tendency to “become arrogant and base on a grand scale, (or alternatively) malicious and base in petty ways” (134). As Aristotle therefore concludes, “it is the greatest good fortune for those who are engaged in politics to have a middling and sufficient property” since this element will most often yield “the most stable regimes” (135, 149).The fourth aid for the ruler, and perhaps the most useful in preserving the regime according to Aristotle, is education. There are several aims of such education, though chiefly it is aimed at preparing non-laborers and non-slaves for lives spent partly in leisure. Thus education for vulgar tasks is to be avoided since such acts are those that “bring the body into a worse state and wage-earning sorts of work, for they make the mind a thing abject and lacking in leisure” (230). Thus, since leisure is a time for cultivating virtue, among other things, education should primarily be aimed at preparing the young for such activity. “Essentially (then),” according to Aristotle, “there are four things they customarily educate in: letters, gymnastics, music, and fourth, some in expertise in drawing” (230). Before defining education in such a manner, however, Aristotle makes an important distinction between education that is of the sort that I have just described, and education that he characterizes as “relative to the regime.” As he describes, “But to be educated relative to the regime is not to do the things that oligarchs or those who want democracy enjoy, but rather the things by which the former will be able to run an oligarchy and the latter to have a regime that is run democratically” (167). There must them be some sort of moderation that is emphasized in education so that no longer do “the sons of the rulers live luxuriously, while those of the poor undergo exercise and exertion,” since this is often what has lead to revolution (167). Education must then also emphasize this moderation towards the middle of two extremes.Upon consideration of these four advantages of the ruler, as well as the existence and causes of the factional conflicts that all regimes tend to face, Aristotle’s work suggests that polity seems to be the best regime in a practical sense. Granted, it is not a kingship – the most “correct” regime – nor even an aristocracy which, like kingships, focuses on virtue as opposed to wealth or freedom. Further, polity isn’t really even its own regime, having its own unique essence; instead it “is a mixture of oligarchy and democracy” (130). Aristotle extends this definition of polity as a mixture by identifying the “three things disputing over equality in the regime, freedom, wealth, and virtue,” and noting that polity is a “mixture of the two – of the well off and the poor” (130-1).But what is the advantage of such mixture, and thus what makes polity a ‘best regime’? Aristotle would surely respond, in parallel with his work in The Ethics, that just as virtue is itself a mean – as well as the highest aim – polity, as a mixture, and essentially a mean between the dividing claims of the oligarchs and the democrats, also follows this pattern and is thus choice-worthy. In many ways then, the advantages of polity can be seen in the advantages of the middling element that Aristotle identifies since, “if it was correctly said in the [discourses of] ethics that the happy life is one in accordance with virtue and unimpeded, and that virtue is a mean, then the middling sort of life is best – the mean that is capable of being obtained by each sort of individual” (133). This characteristic of polity becomes especially present as Aristotle discusses how a polity comes into being. As Aristotle notes, “there are three defining principles of this combination or mixture,” which are: first, by taking “elements of the legislation of each” regime; second, by taking “the mean between the assessments;” and third, by “taking some from the oligarchic law and some from the democratic” (131). Polity, defined as a mean between oligarchy and democracy, thus becomes more apparent in each of these three mixture types since “the mean too is of this sort: each of the extremes is revealed in (the mixture)” (132).In concluding, however, it becomes increasingly apparent that, noticeably absent in this definition of polity as the most practical regime, is the almost pure pursuit of virtue that exists in theoretical kingships and aristocracies. This certainly goes uncontested, as virtue does not take the defining role in a polity as it does in the other two correct regimes. In a certain sense, however, such is reality: the competing claims of inequality of the poor, the rich, the virtuous, and the numerous to name a few, are what primarily prevent cities from achieving the best and most correct regimes. But a polity is not void of virtue by any means, and in fact polity is arguably defined in the same manner as is virtue – as a mean, and so it takes on a virtuous quality in this sense. Further, Aristotle would surely hope that the citizens of such a polity would engage both political activities as well as the cultivation of their own virtue – and this could certainly be achieved in a polity where leisure time was available.
Note: The copy of Politics used for this paper is not the standard copy. I have tried to be as specific about passages as possible.Aristotle and Machiavelli both extol the judgement of the masses on political affairs. Aristotle states that the “many…may surpass – collectively and as a body, though not individually – the quality of the few best” (1281a). Machiavelli believes similarly that “The populace is generally more prudent, more predictable, and has better judgement than a monarch” (156). The reasons for each man’s assertions on the lucidity and usefulness of the masses are grounded in different objectives. While Aristotle focuses a great deal on the importance of the masses and the middle class to a stable political organization, Machiavelli merely defends the collective wisdom of the populace, stating that “Everyone speaks ill of [the populace]…because they can do so without fear even when [the populace] are in power”. The contrasting ways of presenting the attributes of the masses strongly reflect the goals of each author. Politics is centered around Aristotle’s quest to find the “sort of Constitution which is possible for most cities to enjoy” (1295a). Machiavelli, however, makes it clear that his Prince and Discourses are meant more for the benefit and instruction of present and future rulers than for the enjoyment of cities, although he does not think the two are always mutually exclusive.Aristotle’s argument for the worth of the middle class has it’s roots in his belief that goodness is not necessarily an inherited characteristic. He states rather early on in Politics that men assume wrongly when they believe that “just as man is born of man, and animal of animal, so a good man is born of good men. It is often the case that nature wishes but fails to achieve this result” (1255a). By saying so Aristotle is blatantly stated that one can not pass goodness down through a hereditary line like one passes heirlooms, or, for that matter, leadership positions.The next pillar of argument that Aristotle uses to build up to his support of the middle class and the populace is his conviction that “those constitutions which consider the common interest are right constitutions, judged by a standard of absolute justice” (1279a). This statement reflects Aristotle’s goal to find a political situation in which “most people can live” and for most “cities to enjoy”. Since Aristotle believes that it is crucial for the city to be happy in order for the individual to be happy (1324a) it follows that in order for a city to be happy it must have a constitution that considers the common interest (which satisfies the greatest amount of people in a city, and thereby makes the city as happy as possible).1 It is important here to note that Aristotle’s goals for government are not necessarily the happiness of its citizens, but he strongly believes that the most stable governments will be comprised of at least some happy people. In his critique of Plato Aristotle questions the absence of happiness among Socrates’ guardian class.2 Aristotle argues that “If the guardians are not happy, who else is? Certainly not…the mass of the common people” (1264b).The importance placed by Aristotle on the happiness of the masses is explained best in Book IV of Politics wherein he explains the importance of the middle class in achieving a stable, desirable political organization. Like several other of Aristotle’s (and Plato’s) postulations on government, many of Aristotle’s beliefs and conclusions on the middle class are seeded in mathematics. He states, quite simply, “Since it is admitted that moderation and the mean are always the best it is clear that in the ownership of all gifts of fortune a middle condition will be the best” (1295a). Aristotle supports this assertion with arguing that the middle class neither arrogant like the rich nor criminal like the poor, and that the middle class is the class that embodies the ever-important rule of not seeking office nor refusing it (1295a), a quality that Socrates found equally, if not more important, than Aristotle.Another point that Aristotle makes in his praise of the middle class is that the rich never learn obedience while the poor never beget leadership skills. The result of the mixture of rich and poor is a slave/master relationship, which is not conducive to a political association which relies on friendship. Aristotle concludes that a city that is governed like a friendship, “composed of equals and peers, which is the condition of those in the middle” will be bound to have “the best constitution since it is composed of the elements which…naturally go to make up a city” (1295b).The reasons why Aristotle believes in the goodness of the middle class can be used to access what Aristotle sees as the main threats to political organizations in general. Aristotle states in his book on factions (Book V) that “Inferiors form factions in order to be equals and equals form factions in order to be superiors” (1302a). Where there exists a large middle class, however, Aristotle says that “there is less likelihood of faction and dissension than in any other constitution” (1296a). This improbability of faction combines with Aristotle’s belief that the middle class “enjoys a greater security than any other class” since they do not “desire the goods of others nor do others desire their possessions” (1295b) and yields Aristotle’s conclusion that “Where the middle class outweighs in numbers both the other classes it is possible for a constitution to be permanent” (1296b). In other words, the middle class can be used as a tool to obtain the ultimate self-sufficiency of a permanent, stable political organization in which the constitution best serves the majority, or common people.Machiavelli also recognizes the great importance of the masses; he states in The Prince that no ruler can be secure without the support of the masses, militarily or otherwise (32-33). Here it is important to make the distinction, however, between the masses and the middle class3, for they can be two very different groups. While Machiavelli does state that “A republic can only be established where there is considerable social equality or where men are made to be equal” (Discourses 153) he does not give the supreme importance that Aristotle does to the presence of a middle class. Like Aristotle, Machiavelli is writing for an audience of leaders, but Machiavelli is more concerned with political organizations from the leader’s point of view, more than any other. Since Machiavelli is writing more directly to leaders, he often suggests ruthless measures a leader must take to achieve a certain political goal, whether it be good for the many or not. For example, Machiavelli asserts that “anyone who wants to set up a republic in a place where there is a fair number of gentlemen can only do so if he begins by killing them all” (Discourses, 153).But even though Machiavelli is at least pretending to write toward an audience of present and future rulers, this does not mean that he writes in favor of leaders ruling over the common man. In fact he equates and even superiorizes the masses to the sole leader when he writes “The defect for which authors criticize the masses is a defect to be found in all men…above all in rulers” (Discourses, 154). In this sentiment he echoes Aristotle who wrote “When all meet together the people may this become something like a single person, who, as he has many feet…may also have many qualities of character and intelligence” (1281a). Machiavelli goes on to assert that the populace is no more fickle than the average ruler (Discourses, 156). Even more importantly, Machiavelli thinks that the difference in the behavior of the masses and the behavior of a ruler would not reflect a difference in character between the common man and the ruler (and if it did the common man would have the better character) but more likely reflect whether they had “respect for the laws under which both prince and populace are supposed to live (Discourses, 156). It is clear by these statements that Machiavelli believes that leaders should never brush off the voice of the populace for it will often give the leader the best advice on decisions.4 Machiavelli’s emphasis on the clear vision of the collective masses reflects his beliefs that not staying in tune with ones subjects can lead to the loss of one’s leadership position, and overconfidence is a principle threat to the survival of one’s republic (see The Prince, 9-11). It also illustrates an underlying idea throughout Machiavelli’s works that overconfidence in one’s actions or words most certainly leads to destruction (see Discourses, 210), and a leader who does not listen in some form to the word of the masses will never obtain success.Aristotle and Machiavelli’s both have a keen interest in the middle class and the masses which stems from their thoughts on how to create the ultimate self-sufficient government: the permanent political organization. While Aristotle thinks the middle class is the key to political equilibrium and stability, Machiavelli thinks it is enough for a leader to realize that the masses are usually right in their judgements.
Aristotle’s reasoning as to why he believed the Greek polis to be superior to other forms of associations can be found in Book 1.2 of his teachings in Politics. It contains an analysis of the individual components which make up a polis, the household and village, and why these associations on their own are unable to satisfy the needs of the individual. This has to do with Aristotle’s concept of happiness; since all human beings strive for happiness and the end goal of the polis is a “good life”, he considers the polis to be the “final and perfect association” (Aristotle 281). What is interesting, however, is that Aristotle teaches that all associations are based on unions between those who cannot exist without the other (Aristotle 280), yet his idea of a perfect association is one that is self-sufficient. In this paper, I will argue that Book 1.2 of Politics shows that the idea of a polis was unique at the time, because it was not dependent on kinship structure, but was instead based on the concepts of self-sufficiency and justice. It can also tell us about the major forms of government at the time, as well as Greek attitudes towards barbarians and the importance of the family unit. To do this, I will examine why Aristotle rejects other forms of political associations that are not based on the polis system. I will also examine why Aristotle believed the polis to be superior to the associations that form it.
The first form of political association Aristotle rejects is that with no naturally ruling element. At the beginning of this chapter, Aristotle states that “first of all, there must necessarily be a union or pairing of those who cannot exist without one another” (Aristotle 280). This “first of all” is important, because it tells us that this is what he deems to be the most basic principle of what makes up a polis, in his attempt to break apart and analyze its individual components. He also states that there needs to be a union between the naturally ruling element and the element which is naturally ruled (Aristotle 280). Therefore, we can assume that the polis is made up of unions of these two types. Aristotle uses barbarians as an example of people who are unable to form these two unions. Since he states that barbarians have no ruling order, this must mean that, at the very most, the only union they are capable of forming is the first kind. They are only able to follow the most basic principle of associations. We know that these barbarians must be able to achieve the first, most basic, union because it has to do with marriage, about which Aristotle states that, “among the barbarians…conjugal union thus comes to be a union of a female who is a slave with a male who is also a slave” (Aristotle 280). Therefore, the first method of political association that Aristotle rejects is that of the barbarians who have no naturally ruling element because everyone would be considered a slave without some sort of ruling order. From this, we can infer that the polis must be different from barbarian groups in that they have some sort of ruling order based on the formation of these two unions between male and female and between master and slave.
Not only does Aristotle reject associations with no ruling element, but he also rejects monarchies. To understand why he does this, it is important to examine what Aristotle considers as building blocks for the polis: the household or family, and the village. He states that “households are always monarchically governed… just as villages, when they are offshoots from the household, are similarly governed in virtue of the kinship between their members” (Aristotle 281). He describes this kinship as “primitive”, indicating his belief that the monarchical structures found in households and villages are insufficient forms of associations. Aristotle uses the example of barbarians again, this time stating that the peoples of the barbarian world are still ruled by kings (Aristotle 281). Earlier in the chapter, he wrote that the barbarians have “no ruling element” (Aristotle 280), but a king would certainly be considered a ruler. This shows that Aristotle considered both associations with no ruling order and those under a centralized ruler, even though they are vastly different in structure, as barbaric. Based on this, we can learn that the polis must have had some sort of ruling order without a monarchy, so individuals living in the polis can avoid following the path of the barbarians. His use of barbarians as an example on two separate occasions can also tell us something about Greek cultural attitudes during this time period. For Aristotle to make the argument that people should not do what the barbarians are doing (e.g. having no ruling element or being ruled by a king), they must have some sort of negative connotation associated with the barbarians. That way, when Aristotle uses them as examples, they will compel his audience not to follow the same path.
We can also learn a lot about Greek family structure from Aristotle’s discussion on kinship and associations. He states that the polis is based on an association of villages, and villages are offshoots from households (Aristotle 281). Since everything stems from the family, and the family is needed to satisfy “daily recurrent needs” (Aristotle 280), it can be inferred that there was a strong family structure at the time. In regards to the village, Aristotle notes that some have referred to the members of the village as “sucklings of the same milk” or “sons and the sons of sons” (Aristotle 280). This proves that, not only were there close ties between the family, but within the village as well. Since the village is based off the interaction between different family kinship structures, we can see that the family was a political unit in and of itself in ancient Greece and surrounding societies.
The idea of a polis is also very different from that of an empire. Aristotle argued that individuals are intended to live in a polis. Without it, they cannot achieve self-sufficiency (Aristotle 281). He states that “the man who is isolated – who is unable to share in the benefits of political association, or has no need to share because he is already self-sufficient – is not part of the polis, and must therefore be “either a beast or a god” (Aristotle 282). It is interesting that many individuals in association with each other form a self-sufficient polis, yet a single polis on its own is in isolation, much like the single individual. Like Aristotle states earlier, it is only natural for the smaller associations of households and villages to form monarchical structures through kinship. Since single individuals naturally form kinship ties, we can assume that individual poleis, which are made up of these same individuals, would naturally want to form ties with other poleis. We know that Aristotle believes that human associations lead to the formation of poleis, yet Aristotle never mentions what occurs if different self-sufficient poleis try to associate with one another. Since Aristotle claims that these poleis are already self-sufficient, it would not be necessary for them to interact with each other. This is contrary to the idea of an empire with a single ruler, which is made up of multiple regions, all part of a whole, under a centralized governing system.
Another concept that makes the idea of a polis unique is that it is based on the idea of what is just and unjust. According to Aristotle, humans are different from animals in that the human “alone possesses a perception of good and evil, of the just and the unjust, and of other similar qualities; and it is association in these things which makes a family and a polis” (Aristotle 282). He also states that “justice belongs to the polis” (Aristotle 282). This is significant because the word “belongs” indicates that justice is a crucial part of the polis – the two go hand and hand. Aristotle describes those living under monarchical rule or under no rule at all as barbaric. If everyone is under the rule of a single king, the concept of justice may be skewed in the king’s favor. If there is no ruling element at all, there would be no concept of justice at all, because everyone is a slave.
Aristotle’s idea of nature helps him explain why he considered the polis superior to its constituent elements, the household and village. He believed that “every polis exists by nature, having itself the same quality as the earlier associations”, which also exist by nature (Aristotle 281). It is important to note here exactly what Aristotle means by “nature”, otherwise there will be a contradiction between the statement that earlier associations exist by nature and a later statement that the polis is the nature of those same associations (Aristotle 281). This contradiction can be reconciled by taking the word “nature” to convey two different meanings. When he says that every polis exists by nature, he means that the polis forms through the natural association of humans into households, villages, and ultimately the polis. All of these associations exist by nature, so why does Aristotle consider the polis to be the best? This has to do with the second meaning of “nature”, which he refers to as the “nature of things”. He defines this as the “end or consummation” of a thing (Aristotle 281). Even though the polis grew from the smaller associations of households and villages, Aristotle considers it the nature, or “end”, of all forms of associations. He views self-sufficiency as the end goal of associations and it is the polis which achieves that goal. This is why Aristotle stresses the superiority of the polis over other forms of associations.
His audience, however, certainly needed convincing that the polis was superior. If they did not, Aristotle would not need to make arguments for the polis and against other types of associations. For example, he states that, “while [the polis] grows for the sake of mere life, it exists for the sake of a good life” (Aristotle 281). By “grow”, Aristotle is referring to the growth from the basic building blocks of the polis, beginning with unions between individuals, leading to the household, village, and finally, the polis. This growth is necessary to achieve self-sufficiency, and it is the existence of the polis which achieves that. Self-sufficiency is the “best” (Aristotle 281), and therefore, so is the polis. Aristotle considers self-sufficiency to be crucial for living a good life, and therefore, this becomes his most important point about the polis. The audience his teachings were intended for must not have all understood the superiority of the polis, which is why he emphasized the distinction between life and a “good” life as well as the notion of self-sufficiency to convince them.
Based on what Aristotle wrote in Book 1.2 of the Politics, we can see that the concept of a polis was unique at the time, due to its self-sufficient nature and the important role played by justice. In his argument, we can learn about the other forms of government that were popular at the time: those with no ruling element, monarchies, and empires. These are the ones that Aristotle devotes the most time arguing against. Everyone is essentially a slave in societies with no ruling element, which is why he rejects those types of barbarian societies. We can infer that the idea of a monarchy was popular because monarchies are based on natural kinship ties – there is a clear hierarchical structure – and, by nature, the most basic unions between humans are based on this same structure. Furthermore, the installation of a king fulfills Aristotle’s principle that a “naturally ruling element” must exist as one of the fundamental building blocks of associations. Finally, it is natural for individuals and groups to want to associate with each other, but an empire, which involves groups of people associating with each other, would go against Aristotle’s idea of self-sufficient city-states.
Aristotle contends that the good man is dissimilar to the good citizen in ways he goes a great length to illustrate. He distinguishes the two for the purpose of facilitating his later arguments concerning the appropriate allocation of sovereignty to the rightful ruler, who he subsequently claims is the good man who excels all others in each and every aspect. Aristotle’s distinction further prompts the notion that he advocates a monarchial form of constitution, for the rule of a single good man is equivalent to a constitution of kingship. This can be derived through the following reasoning. Aristotle is convinced that the good citizen can so be defined only in relation to the constitution he is an element of: ‘The excellence of the citizen must be an excellence relative to the constitution (1276b16).’ The good man on the other hand, ‘is a man so called in virtue of a single absolute excellence (1276b16).’ He further asserts that the good citizen ‘must possess the knowledge and capacity requisite for ruling as well as for being ruledÖa good man will also need both (1277b7~1277b16).’ From these conclusions of Aristotle, it is evident that the good man and the good citizen differ in the manner of their excellence, but not in their capacity for ruling or being ruled. It should therefore follow that there should not exist impediments to the ruling by the good citizen in the city as opposed to the ruling by the good man due to the fact that they are identical in their competence to rule. However, Aristotle in his later arguments, crowns the good man as ruler: ‘in the best constitutionÖthere is someone of outstanding excellence. What is to be done in that case? Nobody would say such a man ought to be banished and sent into exile. But neither would any one say that he ought to be subject to othersÖthe only alternative leftÖis for all others to pay a willing obedience to the man of outstanding goodness. Such men will be permanent kings in their cities (1284b22).’ This passage gives rise to several deductions. Aristotle assumes the existence of the good man in the best constitution which would implicate the fact that the city in context is composed entirely or mainly, of good citizens. Drawing from the earlier conclusion that according to Aristotle’s logic, there should be no preference for rule to be designated to either a good man or a good citizen, there is no explanation for Aristotle to award rule to the good man over countless good citizens. The flow of logic would therefore imply that Aristotle prefers the rule of the good man despite his earlier arguments and since the rule of a single good man is the same as the constitution of kingship, he advocates the monarchy as the best form of government. This fact is reiterated in the last sentence of the passage: ‘Such men will be permanent kings in their cities.’ Before arriving at the illation that the good man should rule in a city with a monarchial constitution, Aristotle lists the claims of various parts of the city that claim to merit ruling, and one by one states their faults and dismisses them. Through this process, he arrives at the rule of the good man as being the best form of rule, but he fails to consider in certain (not all) claims, various circumstances which would make his dismissal of those claims to rule, hasty and baseless, and therefore make his conclusions concerning the rule of the good man as being the best, doubtful. Aristotle considers the following parts of the city as those laying claim to rule on the basis of merit: the poor majority, the tyrant, the wealthy minority, the better sort of people, the single best man and also, not of the type of citizen but nevertheless, he examines the rule of law. The problem that arises with the rule of the poor majority, according to Aristotle, is that they would ‘proceed to divide among themselves the possessions of the wealthy (1281aII)’ justified by their notion of the virtue of them being the majority. This in his view is unjust. But the question can be asked, ‘what if the wealth of the rich was accumulated unjustly at the cost of the poor majority from the beginning?’ In this instance, would it still be unjust to redistribute the wealth amongst the poor majority? The answer would surely tend to the negative, though Aristotle fails to consider this aspect of the rule of the poor majority. Furthermore, with regard to his notion that the goal of the city is the common good for all, would it not be fairer if not absolutely fair (since the rich are disadvantaged) that the majority became wealthier? Aristotle claims that the tyrant’s claim would also be unjust ‘for he too uses coercion by virtue of superior power in just the same sort of way as the people coerce the wealthy (1281aII).’ In this case, the tyrant’s despotism cannot be classified as anything but unjust because he solely benefits himself and not, to even a close degree, the entirety of his subjects, the citizens. The notion of a just tyranny would be a contradiction in terms, for Aristotle claims that tyranny is the perversion of kingship, and any perversion cannot be just due to its virtue of being perverted. Therefore in this manner, Aristotle’s dismissal of tyranny as a good form of rule is unflawed. What of the claim of the wealthy minority that they should rule? Aristotle declines their claim on the basis that they would ‘plunder and confiscate the property of the people (1281aII)’ which would plainly be unjust for the identical reason as attributed to tyranny. This further consideration can be made which Aristotle neglects. He assumes that the wealthy minority will strive for greater prosperity whence given rule, but could it not be thought that they would simply be interested in maintaining their advantage over the majority and not increasing it? If so, their rule will bring about the virtue of stability. Stability would surely benefit the city as a whole for it erases factions and revolutions. In this case, would the rule of the wealthy minority still be unjust? It would not seem so. Next, Aristotle considers the rule of the better sort. He sees a problem with this type of rule because besides the rulers, ‘the rest of the citizens will necessarily be deprived of honor, since they will not enjoy the honor of holding civic office (1281aII).’ This dismissal of the claim for ruling is similar to his next consideration, the claim of the single best man. Aristotle believes that his rule would be unjust ‘because the number of those deprived of honor is even greater (than the rule of the better sort) (1281aII).’ Aristotle’s branding of both these claims as unjust is incorrect due to his following inaccurate (not necessarily always true) assumptions: first, that the citizens would seek rule for honor, and secondly, the honor of holding civic office is only obtained through supreme rule and not through other offices such as those involving administration and judiciary functions. Keeping in mind these inaccurate assumptions that Aristotle makes, it can be viewed that the claim for the rule of the best sort and the best single man is acceptable, if not rather difficult to assert one over the other (it is asserted that the former is better than the latter in the final analysis of this paper). This is true because only in the best form of city, which is not under consideration by Aristotle at this juncture, would citizens desire office for honor, and when they did, they would not be only be content with the honor gotten by supreme rule, rather they would be content with any form of civic office, regardless of its social significance. The last claim for rule that Aristotle considers is not one made by a part of the civic body, but that of the law. He claims that while the claim of the law may appear to be desirable because it excludes human deficiencies such as ‘the passions that beset their souls,’ it is ultimately not worthy due to the fact that it might ‘incline either towards oligarchy or towards democracy (1281aII),’ in which case it will be no better than all the previous claims discussed before. This notion reveals the fact that the claims dismissed by Aristotle thus far have been done so because of their nature being of democracy or oligarchy, both according to him, perversions of the pure forms of government (oligarchy being a perversion of aristocracy and democracy being a perversion of constitutional government) as no form of perversion can be just. The rule of law can be denounced in the following manner as well, which escapes Aristotle’s notice in this instance; because law is not set down for every possible situation, it is necessary to have a court of law to decide upon cases beyond its realm. These courts of law would invariably involve the participation of humans as judges and jury, in which case the passions that beset the human soul that is illustrated by Aristotle would come into play, and thus undermine the rule of law. Upon analysis of Aristotle’s various dismissals of claims for rule from various parts of the city, it can be seen that his dismissal of the claim of the poor majority, the wealthy minority, the better sort and the single best man may have been expeditious due to the stated avenues of consideration that Aristotle failed to examine, and therefore his claim that the good man should rule inferred from the initial scrutiny of his distinction between the good citizen and the good man, may be erroneous. At this point, it can be considered what alternatives there exist if as Aristotle conceived, a man of complete virtue (the good man) arose in the city. Aristotle gives thought to three possible courses of action that could be taken in this instance: first, this good man should be subject to ostracism and thus exiled from the city, second, this good man should be subject to the rule of others, and thirdly and in his opinion quite justly, the good man should be made ruler: ‘such men will accordingly be the permanent kings in their cities (1284b22).’ Aristotle definitively criticizes the policy of ostracism as he states that ‘nobody would say that such a man ought to be banished and sent into exile (1284b22).’ He also condemns the notion of subordinating the good man under any form of rule in no uncertain terms, ‘but neither would any one say that he ought to be subject to others (1284b22).’ Aristotle seems to be content with the justification that the good man, solely with the virtue of possessing a ‘single absolute excellence (1276b16),’ should rule over others in a manner similar to his notion that ‘if one man is stronger than all the rest, or if a group of more than one but fewer than the many, is stronger, these should be sovereign instead of the many (1283b13).’ However, several problems arise with Aristotle’s assertion that the good man should be made ruler. For example, it can be can be questioned how Aristotle defends and justifies the rule of this good man against the very faults he claimed would ascend in his dismissal of the claim of rule of the single best man, that being the problem of the civic body being deprived of honor from holding office? A possible explanation was suggested in discussion of the claim of the single good man, but it should be noted that that suggestion was not raised by Aristotle. Furthermore, he never directs his attention to the fact that the rule of a single good man would prompt widespread discontent due to the following reasoning. The best rule is one which looks out for the well being of all. Then the good man, since he is already absolutely excellent and superior to all others in the city, would look after the interests of his subjects and not his personal interests. But is a good man just when he rules over the citizens in the manner in which they wish to be ruled, in other words, in a manner in which they think is in their best interest, or is he just when he rules according to what he believes is in the best interest for the citizens, in a manner not dissimilar to that of a father ruling his young son? The answer will be found in the latter because surely the good man, by virtue of being superior to all the citizens, knows what is best for them better than they do. So if the good man were to rule in this paternal manner keeping in mind that he wishes to rule justly, would there not be discontentment among the citizens, much in the same manner as a son is discontent when his father forbids him to stay up late? If the city were to be ruled by the best of men (not a single good man), would there not be less faction and more integrity of rule in the city due to the fact that the citizens would not direct their anger toward one single ruler but to many? In this regard, wouldn’t the rule of the best of men be more advantageous than the rule of the single good man? It would seem from the previous reasoning that it would be so. In essence, Aristotle has a lot to answer for his belief that a good man should solely rule over the city. It seems that the good man, in accordance with Aristotle’s belief, should not be exiled from the city, for the excellence of his character is something that there is a lot to be learned from. A further alternative course of action when a good man should come into being in a city would be to make him the supreme educator of the city rather than ruler (for reasons presented as being problems of his ruling have already been discussed). The justification of the good man in becoming the supreme educator can be made in the following way. Since all absolutely excellent men (good men) arrive at their excellence through the process of education, that is, they are not innately excellent, their efforts should be directed toward the emulation of their excellence in the children of the city, for they are the ones who know best the process of becoming excellent. In this manner of education, the children (being future citizens) will grow up to become good men and good citizens, and thus the future city will comprise of many potential rulers. The good man through education, will contribute towards the ruling of the city indirectly in such an instance, and not directly as Aristotle claims he should do.
The leadership of the Leviathan, or, the ‘mortal god’, is a central theme in Thomas Hobbes’ theoretical masterpiece, The Leviathan. Literally, the word Leviathan comes from the Hebrew word livyathan, which etymologically denotes “to wind, turn, twist”. In biblical tradition, it refers to the “dragon, serpent, huge sea animal” in the book of Job. Leviathan, a text written in the 17th century CE, proposes a conceptual political structure designed to achieve an ideal authority that best fits human nature. Through his famous notion of the hypothetical human State of Nature, Hobbes rationally constructs that the best government rules like a mortal god. Other political theorists, such as Aristotle (4th century BCE) and Machiavelli (15th and 16th century CE), have developed their own conceptions of human nature and the ideal political realm suitable for it. Particularly, the views of Aristotle in Politics, and Machiavelli in The Prince and The Discourses compare and contrast with Hobbes’ proposed political project. Although there are some commonalities in their understandings of human nature and political authority, Machiavelli and Aristotle’s proposed authorities mainly conflict with Hobbes’ conceptual Leviathan, because of the differing goals each theorist means to achieve through their respective sovereigns. This comparative analysis will explore the views of Hobbes, Machiavelli and Aristotle on the human nature, the powers of the governing sovereign, the use of religion in politics, and the overall goals that each philosopher means to achieve.
In order to hypothetically establish the hegemonic leadership of one sovereign with unmatched power, Hobbes first discusses human nature in the Leviathan. The purpose of an all-powerful authority is attain “peace and common defence” (Leviathan, part 2, ch. 17), and only through understanding the desires and aggressions of man is the establishment of peace possible. An aspect of human nature that is essential to Hobbes in establishing a Leviathan is equality – humans are, more or less, equally vulnerable and equally dangerous – as he explains, “Nature hath made men so equal in the faculties of body and mind as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind than another… the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by confederacy with others that are in the same danger with himself” (Leviathan, part 1, ch. 13). Thus, humans are roughly equal in their potential danger to one another, rendering characteristics such as age, gender, and race irrelevant in Hobbes’ State of Nature.
Later in the Leviathan, Hobbes argues that because of this equality, all men in the hypothetical State of Nature must unvaryingly submit to the conditions of peace with each other, as he concludes, “If nature therefore have made men equal, that equality is to be acknowledged: or if nature have made men unequal, yet because men that think themselves equal will not enter into conditions of peace, but upon equal terms, such equality must be admitted … every man acknowledge another for his equal by nature” (Leviathan, part 1, ch. 15). Only through entering on peaceful terms equally can a community exit the relentless State of Nature and move towards the establishment of a Leviathan. Therefore, through this reasoning, Hobbes believes that the equality of man in nature is vital in establishing the sovereign.
Aristotle, however, does not believe that mankind is equal by nature. Initially, it is important to understand that Aristotle views humans as political creatures intended for city life, but there is a difference in status in the Aristotelian conception of society. Instead of deducing his argument through the vulnerabilities of man on the communal scale like Hobbes’ State of Nature, Aristotle in Politics establishes a system of authority within the most basic societal unit: the household. The household is a fundamental component of the polis, as Aristotle explains, “we must consider the management of the household; for every city is composed of household” (Politics, Book 1, Part B, 1253b1). Without insuring the proper management of animate and inanimate property, a man’s active participation in the political life is not possible, because a man’s household must first be in relative order. Here, Aristotle creates the hierarchy of the complete household, which “consists of slaves and freemen” (Politics, Book 1, Part B, 1253b1), each of which naturally incline towards slavery or mastery. Politics argues that nature selects one or the other into slavery, “It is nature’s intention also to erect a physical difference between the bodies of freemen and those of the slaves, giving the latter strength for the menial duties of life, but making the former upright in carriage and… useful for the various purposes of civic life” (Politics, Book 1, Part B, 1254b27). Consequently, Aristotle believes that nature pushes slaves to pursue physical tasks in maintenance of the household’s property, and freeborn masters are naturally inclined to have a political life and manage their affairs affectively.
Moreover, he views freeborn males as superior to freeborn females, as he states, “the relation of male to female is naturally that of the superior to the inferior, of the ruling to the ruled. This general principle must similarly hold good of all human beings generally” (Politics, Book 1, Part B, 1254b13). His reasoning behind the inferiority of females is their alleged natural lack of forethought and prudence, making women unable to enter the political life, despite their mental faculty of deliberation (Politics, Book 1, Part B, 1260a12). In this process, however, Aristotle erects a female freeborn master in the household to rule over children and slaves when the freeborn male is not present. Therefore, it is correct to say that Aristotle views humans in a hierarchy that nature intends and inclines mankind towards, and disagrees with Hobbes’ simple equality of all humanity.
Interestingly, Hobbes responds in disagreement to Aristotle’s separation of freeborn men and slaves. He writes, “Aristotle in the first book of his Politics, for a foundation of his doctrine, maketh men by nature, some worthy to command… others to serve… as master and servant were not introduced by consent of men, but by difference of wit, which is not only against reason, but also against experience. For there are very few so foolish that had not rather govern themselves than be governed by others” (Leviathan, part 1, chapter 15). Here, Hobbes explains that though Aristotle argues that freeborn men and slaves are different by nature, the idea that slaves would submit to masters by their own consent is “foolish” and unrealistic. The Leviathan contends that humans are self-interested, and thus, would naturally fight to serve themselves rather than succumb to other men.
Machiavelli’s views on human nature somewhat agree with Hobbes’, but they still have unique differences. Machiavelli, too, argues in the Prince that humans are self-interested creatures, by stating “For one can generally say this about men: that they are ungrateful, fickle, simulators and deceivers, avoiders of danger, greedy for gain… when it [danger] comes nearer to you, they turn away.” (The Prince, ch. 17, pp. 131) Here, he explains that although it is ideal for a Prince to be loved and feared by his subjects, men are ultimately selfish and self-interested, and will go against the Prince when he is endangered. However, Machiavelli views human civilizations as one that is constantly in a cycle, where societies ultimately change and evolve throughout time, both positively or negatively (The Discourses, ch. 2, pp. 179) – thus, human society is capable of progressing or degrading as the cycle continues, and is not permanently frozen, nor completely open-ended.
A vital keystone, moreover, in Machiavellian theory is the role of Fortune (sometimes translated as ‘Fortuna’) in one’s political life. Fortune is a hypothetical goddess Machiavelli introduces in the Prince who has the ability cause the rise and fall of leaders by her will. She favours young, aggressive risk-takers in the political realm, as the Prince explains “she more often allows herself to be taken over by men who are impetuous than by those who make cold advances; and then, being a woman, she is always the friend of young men, for they are less cautious, more aggressive” (The Prince, chapter 25, pp. 162). Accordingly, Fortune gives power to those who interest her through hasty, bold courage. Her power over men is inordinate, as she “is the arbiter of one half of our actions” (The Prince, chapter 25, pp. 159); but her actions are not wholly random, as she allows men to beat her into submission and command her with audacity if she allows it (The Prince, chapter 25, pp. 162). An extensive example Machiavelli gives to demonstrate the power of Fortune is found in the life of Castruccio Castracani of Lucca, who was guided to become a conqueror and achieve glory in a great military project. By chance (or Fortune), Castruccio’s life was saved several times and his success grew, until Fortune chose to cause him to fail at the end of his life. “But Fortune, hostile to his glory, took his life away from him instead of giving it to him – it interrupted those plans that Castruccio had intended to carry out for a long time, plans that only death could have prevented him from carrying out” (The Life of Castruccio Castracani, pp. 539). Swiftly, Castruccio was killed by a cold chill and high fever at the height of his military success, rendering his plans only to dismay. This element, therefore, demonstrates that Fortune plays a major role in Machiavelli’s human nature and the rise and fall of leaders; an element that is nonexistent in the works of Hobbes.
By establishing a standard for human nature and the general equality of man, Hobbes is able to launch his Leviathan: a single sovereign that rules like a mortal god. Because of the relentlessness of the State of Nature, Hobbes explains, the only way for a community to end the war of all against all is by mutual consent – through disarming weapons and erecting natural laws – to not harm one another. They do this out of “foresight of their own preservation” (The Leviathan, part 2, ch. 17), because without common accord, the State of Nature would simply continue never endingly. Thus, the people surrender some of their liberties to a sovereign to insure mutual peace for the greater good, as Hobbes explains “The only way to erect such a common power, as may be able to defend them from the invasion of foreigners, and the injuries of one another… to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men, that may reduce all their wills, by plurality of voices, unto one will” (The Leviathan, part 2, ch. 17). This excerpt is significant, because it demonstrates how men are to give their liberties to one sovereign, preferably one man, to protect a community from itself and others. Like so, Hobbes’ mortal god is created, as equitably precarious men equally confer powers to establish the Leviathan naturally, for the purpose of creating order. The manufactured strength of this sovereign is unchallenged, as Hobbes continues, “one person, of whose acts a great multitude… to the end he may use the strength and means of them all as he shall think expedient for their peace and common defence” (The Leviathan, part 2, ch. 17). Therefore, the sovereign focuses the power of all into a singular authority responsible for maintaining peace.
The concept of a sovereign as one man, or a body of men, is not peculiar to Aristotle in his Politics. In his famous typology, Aristotle identifies that a constitutional polis can be ruled by either three valid authorities, or the corrupted versions these three respectively. “The civic body in every city is the sovereign; and the sovereign must necessarily be either One, or Few, or Many … [if they] rule with a view to the common interest, the constitutions under which they do so must necessarily be right constitutions” (Politics, Book 3, Part 7, 1279a25). Here, he argues that a polis can be governed either by an individual, a group of individuals, or the many – either way, if the sovereign governs in the interest of the community, then the city’s constitution is inherently good. In this respect, Aristotle agrees with The Leviathan’s mortal god, as the Hobbesian authority rules by the consent of the many for the sake of peace; a quality that is in the community’s best self-interest for safety and longevity. A Leviathan, then, is not a tyrant, but rather, he is a king. Aristotle goes on to say that although a singular monarchy, which The Leviathan inclines towards but does not necessitate, can be an ideal form of governance, it is not the most suitable form of government in a densely populated city; “it is possible for one man, or a few, to be of outstanding excellence; but when it comes to a large number, we can hardly expect precision in all the varieties of excellence.” (Politics, Book 3, Part 7, 1279a25) In context, Aristotle purports that it is difficult for one or few men to be outstanding in all qualities in the midst of a large group of men. Aristotle also argues that a singular monarchy is a primitive power not found in modern politics, as he says, “Kingships do not occur nowadays and any government of that type which emerges today is a personal government or tyranny.” (Politics, Book 5, Part 11, 1312b38). Therefore, he views kingship as a governmental form best fit for smaller or pre-modern societies, while Hobbes’ State of Nature does not specify a size for that community, nor time period, and thus, a singular sovereign is preferred for all communities in Hobbesian theory.
Aristotle does present his own models of epitome authorities for the polis described in his Politics. The best form of government, he says, is an aristocracy, “among forms of government by a few people (but more than one) it is called Aristocracy – the name being given to this species either because the best are the rulers, or because its object is what is best for the city and its members” (Politics, Book 3, Part 7, 1279a25). Hence, as Aristotle exclaims, aristocracy is best when ruled by those with freedom, property, and merit (Politics, Book 3, Part 9, 12781a2), as it is the governance of the best (aristoi). The most applicable authority, though, according to Aristotle, is polity, also known as the mixed regime, as it the most practical system. Polity is the rule of the middle class of citizens, who ideally would form the majority of a large polis, as Aristotle explains, “the best form of political association is one where power is vested in the middle class, and, secondly, that good government is attainable in those cities where there is a large middle class … enough to be stronger than either of them singly… [it] will prevent either of the opposing extremes from becoming dominant.” (Politics, Book 4, 1295b34) Meaning, the middle class’ judgment would be the least extreme in comparison to the contentious rich and poor, while still including a majority or significant minority of the polis in the ruling process. This superiority of the middle class is preferred by Aristotle, because of his belief that the “over-wealthy” and “over-poor” are arrogant and petty respectively (Politics, Book 4, 1294a34).
This is relevant to consider when comparing Aristotle to Hobbes on the subject of authoritarian rule, because Aristotle’s theory contains both a societal hierarchy and a division of classes, while in Hobbes’ State of Nature, these dissections do not exist. A complete parallel, then, between the two concepts of authority is not possible. However, as it has been established above, the sovereign in Aristotle’s polis (whether it be a king, aristocracy, or polity) has complete authority when serving the common good, much like Hobbes’ mortal god. Therefore, the two theorists have points of similarity and points of contrast. Machiavelli, on the other hand, believes that a single Prince is best for a nation in need of unity and direction. He argues that all political authorities can be divided into two major categories: principalities, which entail the leadership of a single sovereign, and republics, which entails rule by citizens.
The Prince is dedicated to Prince Lorenzo, and thus, the focus of the work is on principalities, and how they are to succeed (The Prince, ch. 2 pp. 79). At a period of friction between a nation’s peoples, like Italy at Machiavelli’s time, or at a time of foreign domination, a Prince is necessary in seizing power and establishing a principality, as per the examples of Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, and Theseus throughout the Prince, who, if they had been unarmed, they “could not have made their institutions long respected” (The Prince, ch. 6, pp. 95). Specifically, a Prince must be proficient in the use of violence, as Machiavelli explains, “if they are forced to beg or are able to use power in conducting affairs… In the first case, they always end up badly and never accomplish anything; but when they lean on their own resources and can use power, then only seldom do they find themselves in peril. From this comes the fact that all armed prophets were victorious and the unarmed came to ruin” (The Prince, ch. 6, pp. 94-95). Meaning, all who try to seize authority through solely peaceful means and prayer have failed, and therefore, a Prince must use violence when it is necessary.
In relation to Hobbes, Machiavelli’s Prince has supreme authority (like a mortal god) once he seizes it, but there is a difference in how the sovereign attains this power. It is not at the peaceful consent of the people, but instead, through coercion and good Fortune. However, principality for Machiavelli is a means for the eventual establishment of a republic, and he expands on this idea in The Discourses. The singular Prince is successful only if he plans to fulfill the political project of creating law-abiding and law-creating citizens, and therefore, a republic: “one man alone… a prudent founder of a republic, one whose intention it is to govern for the common good and not in his own interest, not for his heirs but for the sake of the fatherland, should try to have the authority all to himself; nor will a wise mind ever reproach anyone for some extraordinary action performed in order to found a kingdom or to institute a republic.” (The Discourses, ch. 9, pp. 200) This vital passage elucidates that although the Prince is an individual with extraordinary power, the ideal purpose of his rule is to found a republic, for the good of his nation, rather than be succeeded hereditarily. In the same chapter, Hobbes cites Romulus’ killing of his brother Remus, and his ally Tatius, and justifies, “It is, indeed, fitting that while the action accuses him, the result excuses him; and when this result is good, as it was with Romulus, it will always excuse him” (The Discourses, ch. 9, pp. 200-201). Thus, the killing off of other leaders in the principalities was necessary in the establishment of one sovereign, and later, the Roman republic. Therefore, although the Prince and the Leviathan both hold unmatched authority and rule like mortal gods, the purpose of the Prince’s power in Machiavelli is to establish republican rule, while Hobbes’ Leviathan exists to insure peace.
In establishing his Leviathan, Hobbes extensively addresses the issues revolving religion, its difficulties, and its usages, as he argues that religion can be a vital pawn of a sovereign. Hobbes sees religion as something unique to mankind, and believes that an eminent degree of religiosity cannot be found in other creatures (The Leviathan, part 1, ch. 7). Firstly, he is clear in saying that one does not, in full actuality, know what the true religion is, as he writes “men not knowing that such apparitions are nothing else but creatures of the fancy, think to be real and external substances, and therefore call them ghosts… the opinion that such spirits were incorporeal, or immaterial, could never enter into the mind of any man by nature” (The Leviathan, part 1, ch. 7). Thus, Hobbes explains that communication with the spiritual realm is contradictory, because spirits themselves (such as God) are infinite, and therefore, incomprehensible to one’s understanding.
Secondly, the Leviathan argues that religion has been used to mobilize leadership and perpetuate loyalties. He says, “But both sorts have done it with a purpose to make those men that relied on them the more apt to obedience, laws, peace, charity, and civil society. So that the religion of the former sort is a part of human politics; and teacheth part of the duty which earthly kings require of their subjects.” (The Leviathan, part 1, ch. 7) Meaning, both “true” and “false” religions have made men more submissive to a human spiritual authority believed to be a representative of gods, nymphs, or spirits. Finally, Hobbes argues that the use of religion had been vital in the creation of Commonwealths, as he contends, “And by these, and such other institutions, they obtained in order to their end, which was the peace of the Commonwealth, that the common … were the less apt to mutiny against their governors”. Therefore, through the institutions of religion, that Hobbes says Numa, the founder of Peru, and Mahomet had used, peace had been achieved, and threat of rebellion against religious sovereigns had been minimized.
Consequently, Hobbes believes that while religion has its dangers and superstitions, it can be a vital keystone in the creation of a Leviathan with solid authority through religious institution. Aristotle’s view on religion is not an instrumental element to his political theory, but nonetheless, he recognizes the role of religion in the city, as well as its misuse as a political tool. In Book 6 of his Politics, Aristotle produces a list of six essential offices required for a functional city, and they include “the functions connected with public worship, military matters, revenue and expenditure, the market-place, the city centre, the harbours, and the countryside” (Politics, Book 6, Part 8, 1322b29). The religion of the city, then, becomes one of its vital offices set up for the spiritual life of the citizens. He repeats the relevancy of establishing a religious body in the polis again in Book 7, as he writes, “The fifth (but really first) is an establishment for the service of the gods, or, as it is called, public worship.” (Politics, Book 7, Part 8, 1328b2) However, contrary to Hobbes, Aristotle does not necessitate the use of religion for the sovereign body of the polis in Politics, despite its function in the city. Instead, he famously identifies the use of religion as a means for tyrants to maintain power, “He should always show a particular zeal in the cult of the gods. People are less afraid of being treated unjustly by those of this sort, that is if they think that the ruler is god-fearing and pays some regard to the gods; and they are less ready to conspire against him, if they feel that the gods themselves are his friends.” (Politics, Book 5, Part 11, 1314b35) Hence, in tyranny, Aristotle’s negative form of singular rule, religion is used as a tool for the sovereign to appear godly, and prevent insurrection against his corrupt rule. Therefore, both Aristotle and Hobbes are in agreement that religion can be used to mould communal loyalty to a sovereign, but disagree on the legitimacy of this tactic.
In Machiavelli’s Prince and Discourses, a sovereign’s use of religion is vital for the success of his community. Of Machiavelli’s four most excellent men, Moses was the first mentioned, as the lawgiver in Judeo-Christian canon. He explains, “It was necessary, therefore, to Moses that he should find the people of Israel in Egypt enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians, in order that they should be disposed to follow him and escape this servitude… These opportunities, therefore, made these men successful, and their outstanding ingenuity made that opportunity known to them, whereby their nations were ennobled and became prosperous” (The Prince, ch. 6, pp. 93) The biblical Moses had led the Israelite exodus from Egypt, created a system of laws and rituals, and sown the seeds of a free people, all in the name of religion, and Machiavelli here acknowledges that. Contrary to priestly religious figures, Moses had utilized violence and coercion, and successfully built a nation and religion – such are vital qualities for Machiavelli’s Prince. Moreover, in his Discourses, Machiavelli gives the example of Numa Pompilius, the successor to Romulus, selected by the Roman republic. Interestingly, Numa was also the founder of the Roman republic’s religion, one with glaring similarities to Greek mythology. The Discourses continue, “Numa found the Roman people most undisciplined, and since he wanted to bring them to civil obedience by means of the arts of peace, he turned to religion as an absolutely necessary institution for the maintenance of a civic government… for many centuries never was there more fear of God than in that republic” (The Discourses, ch. 11, pp. 207). Accordingly, Machiavelli praises Numa for taming the unruly (and potentially dangerous, pp.208) behaviour of his people through the institution of religion, and for that reason, he argued that Rome was more indebted to Numa (The Discourses, ch. 11, pp. 208). Even in the Prince, Machiavelli argues that a sovereign must appear to be religious rather than against religion (The Prince, ch. 18, pp. 135). Therefore, Machiavelli is in agreement with the Hobbesian perspective that the sovereign mortal god would use religion to control and guide the people into order.
Finally, the differing goals Hobbes, Aristotle, and Machiavelli impose on their sovereigns are important to consider, as they shed their arguments analyzed above. For Hobbes, the underlying purpose of his Leviathan is the establishment of peace. Through the equal and common consent of all humans in the State of Nature, a Leviathan is created, as Hobbes famously states, “This is the generation of that great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently, of that mortal god to which we owe, under the immortal God, our peace and defence” (The Leviathan, part 2, ch. 17). Thus, a human mortal, who is empowered by the people, rules with the power of a divine god, for their protection and the maintenance of peace. As soon as the Leviathan’s interest secedes from that of the Commonwealth, he is to be replaced. On the other hand, the purpose of Aristotle’s ideal government, whether it is the preferred aristocracy or the practical polity, is to accentuate and maximize the human potential (telos). He argues that just as an acorn has the telos to become an oak tree, human beings, who are naturally political creatures, can live the good life as citizens. “The purpose of the city is the good life, and these institutions are means to that end. A city is constituted by the association of families and villages in a perfect and self-sufficing existence; and such an existence, on our definition, consists in living a happy and truly valuable life.” (Politics, Book 3, Part 9, 1280b29) Therefore, the purpose of the city and the leadership thereof is to progress citizens and rule in their best interest.
Lastly, the goal of Machiavelli’s Prince is to achieve political immortality and glory. It is the job of future generations to bestow glory on a Prince, and therefore, slaves must become citizens, and principalities must become republics, as Machiavelli explains, to achieve immortality: “God does not wish to do everything, in order not to take from us our free will and that part of the glory which is ours” (The Prince, ch. 26, pp. 163). Henceforth, the differing goal of each political theorist creates differing views on the sovereign and his purpose: Hobbes vouches for peace, Aristotle for the good life, and Machiavelli for glory. In conclusion, it has become apparent that through their respective views on human nature, the power of the sovereign, the use of religion, and the goals intended for each authority, Aristotle and Machiavelli would both respectively agree with some of Hobbes’ conclusions, and disagree with others. Overall, the leadership of Hobbes’ Leviathan, a man or assembly of men the rules like a mortal god, is one that is unique to The Leviathan, as the three political theorists write with their own intentions, interests, and in their own eras. Although they all agree on the proposed existence of a powerful sovereign, there is disagreement on the means, ends, and goals. Surely, the quest to find the most ideal society is one that has been pursued for centuries in the past, and this quest is very likely to continue for many more years to come.
 Online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=leviathan  Ibid
It has been said that the success of any democracy is incumbent upon the participation of its citizenry. Indeed, our governmental, economic, and social institutions (explicit or otherwise) require the cognizant and informed participation of us all. We are the juries for our peers. We vote for our political representatives. We celebrate our communities and mourn the fallen. Our lives are rife with situations that call upon us to deliver our opinions, feelings, and best judgments. Therein lies the need for rhetoric, a means with which we might offer those things and gain an understanding of what those things require of us in the first place. Given the “need” for rhetoric, which author – Plato, Aristotle, Burke – seems to provide the most valuable understanding of it? In other words, if our citizenship necessitates the use of rhetoric in the normal course of our lives, which view of rhetoric might prove the most useful?The activity central to rhetoric, of course, is the physical act of offering our opinions and best judgments: speech with the intent to persuade. The basic concept of rhetorical study, then, is an inspection of the means by which one will persuade their audience. In my estimation, the most important aspect of any of our authors’ concepts of rhetoric is that of the “audience” (where an audience is the collective recipient of the speaker’s machinations). In fact, it is through each author’s consideration of this concept–of the audience’s centrality to a working concept of rhetoric–that I will proceed with contrasting the three major views of rhetoric and deciding which view is most valuable. I consider the author’s treatment and understanding of the audience to be the best indicator of the value of his concept of rhetoric. In this vein, the Burkean concept of rhetoric seems to be the most valuable. It does not wholly abandon the Aristotelian or Platonic views of rhetoric but, rather, redefines those views with the audience as its central consideration. To support this, I will briefly explain the Platonic and Aristotelian concepts of rhetoric and point out how these views consider the role of the audience. Then, I will contrast these views with the Burkean ideal, showing why this view is, in my judgment, the most valuable.The Platonic concept of rhetoric grows out of (or, rather, is inhabited by) Plato’s distain for the group of Greek rhetoricians known as the Sophists. This animosity is a result of Plato’s belief that the Sophists evolved into educators more interested in winning their arguments and advancing their personal interests than defining and teaching rhetoric as a practical and useful skill (Boyd). In Gorgias, Plato takes the Sophists to task, and he constructs a dialogue that indicts rhetoric as a false skill, one that does not better its audience but simply exercises flattery. This dialogue takes the form of an argument between Gorgias and Socrates, as Socrates asks Gorgias to define rhetoric. Gorgias purports that rhetoric is “responsible for freedom for a man himself, and at the same time for rule over others in his own city” (452d6-7). This, coincidentally, is a valuable point about the importance of rhetoric in democracy; if we are to govern ourselves, we must utilize rhetoric to rule. Rhetoric’s concern is “persuasion, and that its whole business and the sum of it results in this” (453a3-4). Gorgias, then, conceives the practice of rhetoric as something of substantial benefit.Socrates, however, questions the validity of Gorgias’ notions. He asks, “Can you mention any broader power of rhetoric than to produce persuasion in the soul of the hearers?” (453a4-5). For Socrates, rhetoric’s aim is to instill beliefs and persuade only; in other words, it does not produce understanding or knowledge in the hearer and is, thus, an ignoble skill (455a1-2). He argues that the speaker’s ultimate goal is that of flattery, not the conviction of an honest truth in his audience. The production of an argument of truth, Socrates says, belongs to the philosophers–not the rhetoricians. It is in Gorgias’ defense of rhetoric that the Platonic notion of the audience begins to emerge. Gorgias claims that rhetoric is a powerful craft, and the rhetorician is entrusted with a great power for “speaking against anyone about anything, so as to be more persuasive among masses of people about, in short, whatever he wants” (457a6-8). Gorgias claims that the rhetorician is well aware of justice and truth, but Socrates refutes this notion, saying instead that the rhetor simply “appears to know, rather than the man who knows” (459e7). In light of these conceptions, the Platonic view of the rhetorician’s audience is like that of a blank canvas, onto which the rhetorician is able to paint his own opinions. In all of the dialogue of Gorgias, no character refutes the perception that the audience is somewhat vulnerable, unable to distinguish flattery from substance. In fact, much of Gorgias and Sophocles’ interaction is spurred by Gorgias’ promises that rhetoricians will use their seemingly all-powerful skills for good, not malice. Moreover, the interests of Plato’s audience are discounted; the audience seems to be composed of reluctant spectators demanding to be persuaded by kind flattery rather than sound and skillfully executed argument. Indeed, this reaction to flattery seems to be the only obligation of the Platonic audience.Unlike this view of the speaker-audience dynamic as mostly one-way (save the audience’s approval of their being flattered), the Aristotelian concept of rhetoric requires the rhetor to establish a measure of credibility with his audience and, thus, grants the audience agency. In On Rhetoric, Aristotle outlines his theory of rhetoric–rhetoric, again, being concerned with persuasion–as a technical craft relying on three “modes” of persuasion. The first, ethos, depends upon the character of the speaker; the second, pathos, on moving the audience into a certain condition of mind; the third, logos, on logical proof. Ethos is achieved when the speaker establishes his credibility; the person we perceive as “good” is more believable than the person we deem “bad.” Pathos relies on the fact that our emotions have great impact on our decision-making. An audience put into a friendly or happy disposition by a speaker is likely to be much more receptive than if they are angry or disinterested. Logos relies on the effective irrefutability of logic. If, for example, we argue that 2 – 1 = 1 and are able to prove that 1 + 1 = 2, it follows that our argument, 2 – 1 = 1, must be true. If persuasion is the aim of rhetoric, Aristotle argues, these three modes are the means by which we might achieve that persuasion. “It is clear,” Aristotle says, “that to grasp an understanding of them is the function of one who can reason logically and be observant about characters and virtues and, third, emotions” (1356a). Aristotle’s approach to defining rhetoric values the audience in a way the Platonic concept does not. This is illustrated in Aristotle’s ethos mode, the first element of a rhetoric view, thus far, that deals principally with the audience. The audience becomes, to at least a minimal degree, mobilized, participating in the formation of the rhetorician’s argument by assigning credibility and value to the speaker’s personal character. For Aristotle, the power to effectively persuade does not rest solely with the speaker (as Gorgias says). The audience, too, holds power in their mandate to judge the speaker’s character before they open themselves to the speaker’s arguments. In fact, ethos is the first of the three modes of Aristotelian rhetoric because it is the mode that acts as a requisite for the others; without credibility, the speaker’s efforts at pathos and logos fall on deaf ears. The pathos mode might be viewed as more or less similar to Socrates’ (of Gorgias) belief that rhetoric relies on flattery. But the key difference in that belief and the Aristotelian concept is a difference of the degree to which the audience is given credence to choose their disposition for themselves. The Platonic audience’s pathos seems to be basic; flatter, and they will meet one’s argument with acceptance. Aristotle approaches the audience’s disposition recognizing that there is more to temperament than being happy or sad (such as invoking sympathy or attempting to spur the audience’s interest in the topic to begin with).The Burkean concept of rhetoric places even greater emphasis on the audience. Burke defines rhetoric as “the use of words by human agents to form attitudes or to induce actions in other human agents” (41). In fact, understanding one’s audience (“human agents”) is central to Burke’s concept of rhetoric, described in terms of “identification” and “consubstantiality:”A is not identical with his colleague, B. But insofar as their interests are joined, A is identified with B. Or he may identify himself with B even when their interests are not joined, if he assumes that they are, or is persuaded to believe so. […] In being identified with B, A is ‘substantially one’ with a person other than himself. Yet at the same time he remains unique, an individual locus of motives. Thus, he is both joined and separate, at once a distinct substance and consubstantial with another. (20-1)In other words, the idea of consubstantiality is that we share the substances of our personal lives–our careers, friends, beliefs, hobbies, even property–with other people. It is in that sharing that we become consubstantial. To identify “A” with “B” is to “make A ‘consubstantial’ with B” (21). Thus, establishing an idea of consubstantiality helps establish a more accurate idea of an audience: a group of individuals sharing in particular substances. The idea of identification is the method by which consubstantiality is established; one identifies the substances shared with others and comes to terms with the absence of other substances. Burke says, “Identification is compensatory to division. If men were not apart from one another, there would be no need for the rhetorician to proclaim their unity” (22). For Burke, identification is what rhetorical action should be based on. “You persuade a man only insofar as you can talk his language by speech, gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea, identifying your ways with his,” he says (55). For Burke, identification is more than an element of persuasion; it is persuasion. Since identification is a transaction between the speaker and his or her audience (as the speaker reads an audience to identify their respective substances), it is clear that the Burkean concept of rhetoric is the most audience-centered, for its thesis–that identification should be the central action of the rhetor–is an argument for the audience. In the Burkean model of rhetoric, the audience is not restricted in its agency as it is in the Platonic model. Burke does establish a similarity, however, when he invokes Plato’s concern for flattery, saying, “Flattery is [not authentic persuasion] but a special case of persuasion in general. But flattery can safely serve as our paradigm if we systematically widen its meaning” (55). In other words, moving from the Platonic concept to the Burkean means understanding that if flattery works, then a sincere attempt at establishing meaningful consubstantiality would prove immeasurably more effective. The Aristotelian concept is considerably closer to the Burkean than the Platonic, especially given Aristotle’s emphasis on ethos, but it still lacks an account of the audience’s substance. To move from the Aristotelian model of rhetoric to the Burkean (moving closer, still, to placing absolute value on the audience), one might combine the notions of ethos and pathos (discarding logos altogether) and attempt to “see behind it the conditions” that warrant utilizing ethos and pathos in the first place (Burke 55). No modification of Platonic views or combination of Aristotelian principles is necessary, however. The Burkean concepts of identification and consubstantiality adequately communicate the importance of the audience, elevating the Burkean concept to most useful among the three. Why, personally, do I consider the importance of the audience to be the best measure of a rhetorical concept’s usefulness? When scientists finished mapping the human genome in 2000, they discovered something remarkable: all human beings are incredibly similar in their genetic makeup, only varying less than one-tenth of one percent. This means that all of the differences among humanity are rooted in less than one-tenth of one percent of our genetic makeup. Yet, the history of humanity hangs on a timeline of conflicts bore from that tiny percentage of what makes us different. Wars are fought over that one-tenth of one percent. People die. And more often than not, the violence and strife that ends up claiming lives begins as the spoken word. Bonaparte said that the pen is mightier than the sword; he was right. There is no greater barrier to our advancement as a civilization than the simple idea that our differences matter more than our common humanity. If we dedicate ourselves to rhetorical methods that focus on what we share rather than resorting to carving out divisions amongst us, our most serious disagreements will cease to injure us as lastingly as they might otherwise. Indeed, it may be that the highest aim of rhetoric is to persuade us toward peace and reconcile our differences.
In “The Politics” Aristotle made an explicit rationale for subordination. He suggested that some human beings may possess an innate fitness for either slavery or rule, and that those who are enslaved deserve to be so entirely because they have been dominated by a stronger power. Aristotle’s justification rests in part on the example of the perceived properness of the inanimate soul’s rule over the body and the mind’s rule over the appetite. Since these are beneficial ordinations, he argued, it follows that parallel ordinations, such as a statesman leading a populace and a slave obeying a master, are beneficial as well. Moreover, distinct classes in society, particularly rulers and manual laborers, are understood to possess different skill sets — one for governance, another for labor. Good rulers (i.e., rulers who possess the appropriate skills and qualities for leadership, such as prudence and experience) ought to be obeyed because they are best suited in society to give orders. Since Aristotle believed that such civic arrangements had the end of common happiness (reaping the benefits of communality and the good life) and safety, it follows that monarchs and masters ought to be obeyed in order to reach this end; in other words, if this is indeed an ideal system and a true conception of the nature of man, as Aristotle argued, then obedience to it promotes stability.In a similar fashion, St. Augustine conceived peace as a basic end, albeit in an early Christian context. St. Augustine viewed the world as composed of two Cities, one secular and caused by the love of self, the other heavenly and caused by the love of God. The former is best represented by the Roman Empire, the latter by the Christian Church. Both cities are concerned with politics as a means to peace, described by St. Augustine as contentment, security, and joy. Yet for the earthly city, “peace” does not involve the end of war, but rather a sort of equilibrium of power, an ideal state of relations between one and one’s neighbors that is desired “for the sake of enjoying earthly goods.” For the heavenly city, peace and joy are desirable, yet the ultimate aim is to reach Heaven in the afterlife through the love of God and the avoidance of sin.Both cities involve similar structures of governance with rulers and subjects, yet in the earthly city, princes and nations “are ruled by the love of ruling,” and in the heavenly city, princes and obedient subjects “serve one another in love.” In worshiping God, the heavenly city is capable of living in peace. Members of the worldly city, meanwhile, achieve peace through wars and conquest with the aim of reaching some comfortable state of ownership such that they can enjoy worldly goods, a similar end to which Aristotle argued. Inevitably it comes to pass that godly people are dominated by ungodly rulers. St. Augustine stated explicitly that the “dominion of bad men harms themselves” in committing immoral and unfaithful deeds while those subjugated by bad men “are not hurt except by their own iniquities.” By this reason, the good slave can be considered free while the bad master can be considered enslaved by his vices; one stands to inherit Heaven, the other Hell. St. Augustine arguments lead to the notion that a Christian is obligated totally to the worship of God, whose laws, and not the laws of an ungodly ruler, dictate proper action. St. Augustine suggested that ungodly people, as in the Roman republic, are incapable of acting with (God’s) justice, and that this lack of justice de-legitimizes rule. In other words, there is no right without justice and no justice without God. Therefore, obedient members of the godly city do not owe obedience to such rule, particularly if it violates God’s laws.Thomas Aquinas, writing nearly a millennium after St. Augustine, referred to the human expression of God’s divine law as natural law. This law is imbued in human beings from their Creator and reaches where man-made law cannot; that is, into the inner motivations of humans, with the intention of having citizens be good. Natural law is “a dictate of a superior [i.e., God] over his subjects [i.e., humanity],” but Aquinas cautioned that such obedience “is a good that is not absolute, but only relative.” This is the law of St. Augustine’s city of heaven. By contrast, secular, human law has no affect on one’s salvation, and exists entirely to make society function properly; thus, Aquinas’ basis for human law is analogous to Aristotle’s basis for social obedience. While human law restricts much of what natural law restricts (such as murder), human law is not a mirror image of natural law because individual humans exist at differing levels of virtue, and “many things are allowed to men who are not advanced in virtue that would not be tolerated in a virtuous man.” Aquinas wrote that human law can be safely ignored if it is unjust, if it is made by a ruler for reasons besides the benefit of the community, or if it places unequal burdens on the community, or if it is contrary to divine law. Aquinas thus agreed with Augustine that the rule of Augustine’s city of earth over the righteous did not extend to unjust laws. However, Aquinas quoted Matthew in arguing that one must follow even unjust laws in order to “avoid scandal or disorder” — yet under no circumstances can a Christian violate divine law. In a situation such as this (e.g. institutional pagan worship), a Christian may not obey such a law, even if disorder would be caused.
In book two of Aristotle’s Politics, Aristotle defines his ideal state by criticizing the values put forward in Plato’s The Republic. In doing so, Aristotle censures Plato’s idea of state unification through sharing as much as possible, including wives, children, and property. Aristotle counters that Plato’s concept is detrimental to the state’s unity because it prevents the individual citizen from achieving his or her maximum role in society and being as happy as possible. In critiquing Plato’s constitution, Aristotle provides solutions of his own that promote the diversity of function within the state and allow for each citizen to achieve his maximum role in society. Throughout book two of Politics, Aristotle’s discrepancies with Plato’s ideal state revolve around the idea of communal sharing. Aristotle first attacks Plato’s suggestion that men must share the women of the city and that their children be taken from their mothers at birth and raised in state nurseries. Aristotle argues that Plato’s reasoning behind his claim (to unify the state) is illogical because, in time, all citizens will become the same, which is detrimental. Instead, Aristotle contends that diversity in terms of experience and specialty is essential. He believes that as a state moves toward total unification, it loses its identity as a nation, making the analogy of the unified state as a household rather than a nation. Second, Aristotle argues that the practicality of Plato’s concept would inevitably lead to a weakened sense of attachment by the citizen. This diluted sense of attachment would without doubt prohibit the citizen from feeling any responsibility toward his fellow citizen or the state and would lead to harmful results. Aristotle is of the opinion that since man is naturally selfish, it would be unlikely for man to innately respect his fellow citizen, as it is not directly beneficial to him. Furthermore, Aristotle combats Plato’s concept by affirming the fact that the greater number of owners, the less likely one is to respect the common property. This idea relates back to man’s natural selfishness, as Aristotle says, “[people] exercise care over common property only in so far as they are personally affected.” (p. 108) Finally, Aristotle refutes Plato’s idea of communal property, as he believes that this principle not only leads lack of responsibility with regard to property, but also abandons the virtues of generosity and mutual respect. Although Aristotle finds many flaws in the policies of Plato’s Republic, he is able to propose logical solutions that are built around the principle of allowing the each within the nation’s population to achieve his maximum function as a citizen. Aristotle first addresses the issue of the overwhelming similarity between citizens, stating that a nation must consist of different types of citizens in order to function and be unified. He validates this by stating that different citizens’ duties compliment the other citizens of the state. By saying, “It is reciprocal equivalence that keeps a state in being,” Aristotle is showing that for each and every citizen’s duty, there is an opposite and complimentary duty. The succeeding solution applied to the placement of the communal wives and children, but does not offer an outright solution. Instead, Aristotle claims that a community of wives and children should be in place for the agricultural class rather than the Guardian class. This, he argues, would be supremely more beneficial to the state because this concept undoubtedly leads to a lack of attachment within the society. Aristotle states that “A lack of strong affection among the ruled is necessary in the interests of obedience and absence of revolt.” (p. 110) Finally, Aristotle immediately responds to Plato’s communist-like theory on property by insisting that property should be owned privately but its yield shared amongst the community. Aristotle adds to this concept by proposing a different work theory in which land is worked on by others, and since the produce of the work is divided equally, it prevents animosity. Aristotle justifies privatizing property by claiming that it promotes individual work efficiency by creating individual responsibility. Moreover, Aristotle relates back to man’s natural selfishness and asserts that owning private property offers immense pleasure and oftentimes leads to benevolence. Aristotle’s criticisms of Plato’s ideal state lay waste to the proposed constitution of the Republic by effectively pointing out impossibilities that are a result of natural human behavior. Plato’s Republic outlines a Utopian society that is the result of the government’s suppression of functional growth. The society does not allow any fragment of freedom, as people are assigned jobs based on their specialty. Furthermore, all ambition is restricted by the noble lie, in which citizens are organized by their presumed potential, which is determined in early youth. In addition, property and family is communal, which essentially transforms the state into one single entity that prevents citizens from associating with one another. On the other hand, Aristotle takes a more modern approach that allows for individual happiness while promoting that of the state simultaneously. Aristotle’s solutions accommodate human behavior by promoting the citizen’s ability and encouraging him to achieve his utmost function in society. Plato’s Republic would seem to be the most logical form of government, as it proposes an incorruptible ruling class and an obedient labor class, but it fails when taking into account ambition, the desire for happiness, and greed. The overall flaw in The Republic is that Plato assumes that if the state is happy, its citizens must be happy, and this is certainly not true. Aristotle reverses this structure and focuses on satisfying the citizens in order to create a happy and unified state. Politics’ solutions to the overall flaws in The Republic allow for a healthy, satisfied government while concurrently advocating the happiness of the citizen. Works CitedAristotle., and Trevor J. Saunders. The Politics (Penguin Classics). New York: Penguin Classics, 1981.