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Aristotle, "Politics"

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Aristoteles Louvre
"Politics" by Aristotle, notes

Book I

§                     “all communities aim at some good”, and state, being a community, should aim at the highest good. No, that’s the purpose of a revolutionary party.

§                     The family is the association established by nature for the supply of men’s everyday wants, and the members of it are called by Charondas ‘companions of the cupboard,’ and by Epimenides the Cretan, ‘companions of the manger.’ But when several families are united, and the association aims at something more than the supply of daily needs, the first society to be formed is the village.

§                     When several villages are united in a single complete community, large enough to be nearly or quite self-sufficing, the state comes into existence, originating in the bare needs of life, and continuing in existence for the sake of a good life.

§                     what each thing is when fully developed, we call its nature, whether we are speaking of a man, a horse, or a family” – hence, to consider “nature of the transitional states is to consider them primarily today.

§                     justice is the bond of men in states, for the administration of justice, which is the determination of what is just, is the principle of order in political society – that’s one way to put why the former USSR is breaking up: because it is “unjust”, ruled by criminals.

§                     if every instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the will of others, like the statues of Daedalus, or the tripods of Hephaestus, which, says the poet, of their own accord entered the assembly of the Gods; if, in like manner, the shuttle would weave and the plectrum touch the lyre without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not want servants, nor masters slaves – automation is the solution to the slavery of work. Hence, all progressive workers should be interested in promoting automation. But, automation also puts the workers out of work, in a system of hired labor. Hence, a need to overthrow this social system.

§                     that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule. – and this is the very thing the communism calls in question.

§                     A’s logic: tame animals are better off when they are ruled by man; for then they are preserved

§                     Different kinds of “professions” in ancient Greece: The laziest are shepherds, who lead an idle life, and get their subsistence without trouble from tame animals; their flocks having to wander from place to place in search of pasture, they are compelled to follow them, cultivating a sort of living farm. Others support themselves by hunting, which is of different kinds. Some, for example, are brigands, others, who dwell near lakes or marshes or rivers or a sea in which there are fish, are fishermen, and others live by the pursuit of birds or wild beasts. The greater number obtain a living from the cultivated fruits of the soil. Such are the modes of subsistence which prevail among those whose industry springs up of itself, and whose food is not acquired by exchange and retail trade — there is the shepherd, the husbandman, the brigand, the fisherman, the hunter. + the farmer

Book II

§                     the citizens might conceivably have wives and children and property in common, as Socrates proposes in the Republic of Plato – this gives the community the greatest unity.

§                     People have their meals in common, as in Sparta

Book III

§                     In all sciences and arts the end is a good, and the greatest good and in the highest degree a good in the most authoritative of all — this is the political science of which the good is justice, in other words, the common interest. All men think justice to be a sort of equality; and to a certain extent they agree in the philosophical distinctions which have been laid down by us about Ethics. For they admit that justice is a thing and has a relation to persons, and that equals ought to have equality. But there still remains a question: equality or inequality of what? – increase in income inequality implies an increase in injustice.

Book IV

§                     of governments there are said to be only two forms — democracy and oligarchy (Aristotle sees the state composed of the middle-class citizens as the best.)

Book V:

§                     Causes of revolutions: “The universal and chief cause of this revolutionary feeling has been already mentioned; viz., the desire of equality, when men think that they are equal to others who have more than themselves; or, again, the desire of inequality and superiority, when conceiving themselves to be superior they think that they have not more but the same or less than their inferiors; pretensions which may and may not be just. Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior. Such is the state of mind which creates revolutions”.

§                     We have next to consider what means there are of preserving constitutions in general, and in particular cases. In the first place it is evident that if we know the causes which destroy constitutions, we also know the causes which preserve them; for opposites produce opposites, and destruction is the opposite of preservation. In all well-attempered governments there is nothing which should be more jealously maintained than the spirit of obedience to law, more especially in small matters; for transgression creeps in unperceived and at last ruins the state, just as the constant recurrence of small expenses in time eats up a fortune. – that’s how corruption proceeds.

§                     But above all every state should be so administered and so regulated by law that its magistrates cannot possibly make money. In oligarchies special precautions should be used against this evil. For the people do not take any great offense at being kept out of the government — indeed they are rather pleased than otherwise at having leisure for their private business — but what irritates them is to think that their rulers are stealing the public money; then they are doubly annoyed

§                     of all the things which I have mentioned that which most contributes to the permanence of constitutions is the adaptation of education to the form of government, and yet in our own day this principle is universally neglected. The best laws, though sanctioned by every citizen of the state, will be of no avail unless the young are trained by habit and education in the spirit of the constitution

Book VII

§                     each one has just so much of happiness as he has of virtue and wisdom, and of virtuous and wise action

§                     Let us assume then that the best life, both for individuals and states, is the life of virtue, when virtue has external goods enough for the performance of good actions.


§                     The customary branches of education are in number four; they are —(1) reading and writing, (2) gymnastic exercises, (3) music, to which is sometimes added (4) drawing.

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