Politics | Aristotle

Summary of: Politics
By: Aristotle

Final Recap

Aristotle’s ‘Politics’ takes us deep into the philosophy of governance, human nature and the quest for the good life. As we have seen, Aristotle believed that the best form of society is achieved when its members work together for the common good, guided by reason and practical wisdom. He argues that the polis, or city-state, is the natural habitat of humans, and that living in a well-ordered society is the highest form of human life. In the end, Aristotle concluded that the middle class is the most likely to safeguard the interests of the polis, as their desires and interests align with those of the community as a whole. The principles of his ideas continue to inspire and shape political thinking, even in modern times. So, explore the depths of Aristotle’s thoughts in ‘Politics’ and let his wisdom guide your understanding of the complex world of governance and human life.

Introduction

Dive into the world of Aristotle’s ‘Politics’ as we explore timeless questions about the ideal state, government, and human nature. This book summary delves into Aristotle’s observations of the world around him and his ideas on how a society should be arranged for the common good. As we venture through the various forms of government, we’ll discuss the crux of Aristotle’s thinking: humans as social animals, possessing logos (reason and speech) that allows us to make moral judgments and live a life based on our beliefs. By the end of this journey, you’ll gain valuable insights into Aristotle’s theories on the virtuous life, the role of the middle class, and the importance of law in maintaining a balanced society.

Aristotle’s View on Human Nature

Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, sought to answer fundamental questions about the best form of government. Before tackling this issue, he explored human nature, with the belief that humans possess reasoning and speech abilities, making us moral creatures. Through observation of bees and their division of labor, Aristotle likened the functioning of societies to that of hives. However, humans surpass bees in their ability to discuss and reflect on the organization of society using logos, the Greek word for speech and reason. This gift of speech enables us to make moral judgments and cooperate with others to live according to our moral ideas.

The Nature of Political Animals

In his political treatise, Aristotle debunks the argument that humans are born free and cities and laws are artificial constructs that restrain us. Instead, he argues that the polis, or city-state, is our natural habitat and fulfills our freedom rather than negating it. Humans are political animals, as living in a community based on reason and speech creates a shared moral language that reveals the common interest of all. Aristotle believes that the highest part of our natures can only be satisfied within a polis, making us political animals by nature.

Aristotle’s Ultimate Argument on Virtuous City-States

Aristotle believed that the purpose of polis was to pursue virtue, and city-states that didn’t adopt this principle were poorly governed. His principle that everything consists of a ruling and ruled element also applies to humans. Aristotle argued that cities ruled by their lowest elements pursue the basest aspects of human nature while those ruled by their highest elements pursue virtue. In his opinion, the cultivation of virtue in city-states is necessary for leading virtuous lives.

The Justification of Slavery by Aristotle

The concept of slavery in ancient Greece was viewed as just as it was vital for the city-states to function due to the large labor requirements. Aristotle’s conventional defense of slavery was based on “natural” grounds, claiming that some individuals were “by nature” slaves and needed a master to reason on their behalf. This shocking statement meant that natural slaves were incapable of reasoning for themselves and only had a bodily existence suitable for laboring. The relationship with a master allowed them to participate indirectly in the life of reason. Aristotle believes that many slaves are not natural slaves and should be released, but wholesale abolition was not an argument considered due to the importance of slavery to his overall argument.

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