Aristotle And Politics

Aristotle (b. 384 - d. 322 BC), was a Greek philosopher, logician,
and scientist. Along with his teacher Plato, Aristotle is generally
regarded as one of the most influential ancient thinkers in a number
of philosophical fields, including political theory. Aristotle was
born in Stagira in northern Greece, and his father was a court
physician to the king of Macedon. As a young man he studied in

Plato's Academy in Athens. After Plato's death he left Athens to
conduct philosophical and biological research in Asia Minor and

Lesbos, and he was then invited by King Philip II of Macedon to tutor
his young son, Alexander the Great. Soon after Alexander succeeded
his father, consolidated the conquest of the Greek city-states, and
launched the invasion of the Persian Empire. It was in this
environment that Aristotle's' views and ideas of politics developed.

As Alexander's teacher, Aristotle had a close tie to the political
powers of Athens. Because of this tie Aristotle wrote Politics as a
guide to rulers as to how to govern a country. In Politics Aristotle
lays out his ideal form of Government. It contains thought provoking
discussions on the role of human nature in politics, the relation of
the individual to the state, the place of morality in politics, the
theory of political justice, the rule of law, the analysis and
evaluation of constitutions, the relevance of ideals to practical
politics, the causes and cures of political change and revolution,
and the importance of a morally educated citizenry. He stressed that
the ideal citizen and ruler must possess certain virtues, such as
wisdom, temperance and courage. And the work as a whole echoes

Aristotle's dominant theme of moderation. Politics is an excellent
historical source because of the close tie Aristotle had to the
everyday business of government in Athens. It reflects the idealized
values of the people and the influence of Aristotle's teacher Plato.

The importance of wisdom and justice also directly parallel the
classical Greek ideology. Aristotle believed that nature formed
politics and the need for city-states (government) formed out of
nature. Aristotle lays the foundations for his political theory in

Politics by arguing that the city-state and political rule are
"natural." The argument begins with a historical account of the
development of the city-state out of simpler communities. First,
individual human beings combined in pairs because they could not
exist apart. The male and female joined in order to reproduce, and
the master and slave came together for self-preservation. The master
uses his intellect to rule, and the natural slave uses his body to
labor. Second, the household arose naturally from these primitive
communities in order to serve everyday needs. Third, when several
households combined for other needs a village emerged also according
to nature. Finally, "the complete community, formed from several
villages, is a city-state, which can attain the limit of
self-sufficiency. It comes to be for the sake of life, and exists for
the sake of the good life." (I.2.1252b27-30). Aristotle backs up
four claims about the city-state: First, the city-state exists by
nature, because it comes to be out of the more primitive natural
associations and it serves as their end, because only it attains
self-sufficiency (1252b30-1253a1). Second, human beings are by nature
political animals, because nature, which does nothing in vain, has
equipped them with speech, which enables them to communicate moral
concepts such as justice, which are formative of the household and
city-state (1253a1-18). Third, the city-state is naturally prior to
the individuals, because individuals cannot perform their natural
functions apart from the city-state, since they are not
self-sufficient (1253a18-29). However, these three claims are
immediately followed by a fourth: the city-state is a creation of
human intelligence. "Therefore, everyone naturally has the impulse
for such a [political] community, but the person who first
established [it] is the cause of very great benefits." This great
benefit may be the laws of the city-state. Aristotle points out that
the legal system alone saves them from their own savagery.

It's interesting to see that Aristotle's view of nature transcends in
his view of the human character and what the humans should be. In

Aristotle's Ethics he points out the popular view of what happiness
was (and maybe still is). Honor, pleasure and wealth are the things
he believed the Greek people wanted to be happy.