Aristotle – Politics, Book 3

Aristotle – Politics, Book 3

Ch. 1

  • What is a state? Some say that a state does something but others say that it’s the tyrant or an oligarchy doing it.
    • The legislator or statesman is entirely concerned with the state.
    • The state is a composite of the citizens who compose it.
  • So, then… who’s a citizen?
    • It depends on the form of government – Democracy, Oligarchy, etc.
      • A citizen isn’t so because he lives somewhere, because there are resident aliens & slaves. Those who don’t have all legal rights also aren’t citizens. Resident aliens need a patron. Children are too young & the old are too old to participate in state duties.
      • Also there are deprived citizens & exiles who aren’t 100% invested in roles in the administration in state duties.
    • Ultimately, we will define a citizen as someone with no restrictions & has a role in administration of justice & in offices.
      • Some offices are discontinuous – they might be one-time jobs, have intermittent intervals. Others have no limits.
      • Some roles aren’t as magistrates & these roles don’t give them a share in the government.
    • There are different kinds of governments which means the meaning of citizenship changes in each one.
      • The above definition applies more to democracy than other governments.
        • In Sparta, the Ephors determine suits on contracts, the elders judge on homicide, & other matters have other magistrates.
        • Similar in Carthage.
          • In these forms, the holders of definite offices who legislate & judge reserving the right of deliberation & judging.

Ch. 2

  • In practice, citizens are defined by having both parents as citizens. Some will say all relatives must be citizens going back 2 or 3 generations.
    • But this leads to the question of how the 3rd or 4th generation back became a citizen.
      • Gorgias said mortars are made by mortar makers. The citizens are made by magistrates because it’s their trade to create citizens.
      • But ultimately being born to citizen parents can’t apply to the 1st
    • Sometimes people become citizens after a revolution like Cleisthenes in Athens after the expulsion of tyrants, enrolling foreigners & slaves into metics.
      • Now 2 questions arise: Who should be a citizen? & who shouldn’t be one?
    • Some people hold office who ought not hold office because they rule unjustly.
      • Now a citizen is defined by holding rule or office.

Ch. 3

  • A parallel question is: whether a certain act is or isn’t an act of state.
    • When a government shifts from an oligarchy or tyranny to democracy.
    • People may refuse to fulfil contracts because they claim the contract was with the oligarchs or tyrant not with the democratic government.
      • They’ll say some constitutions are established by force & not for the common good
    • But democracies can be founded on violence & their acts are no more or less acts of the state.
      • Another question: How can we say the state is the same or different?
        • We can say the place & the people are the same.
      • When would you say people live in the same city? Where’s the limit?
        • A wall doesn’t really cut it because the wall in the Peloponnese doesn’t make everything behind it a single city.
        • Babylon’s wall is so big that the city is really its own country.
          • Statesmen must consider the size & if it should hold more than one nation.
        • But to speak of the race of the inhabitants, old citizens are dying & new ones are being born. It’s always changing.
          • Likewise with government. But since the state is a partnership between the citizens & the constitution, when the government changes, it’s safe to say the state is no longer the same.
            • Any union or composition changing makes this true.
            • Sameness of state is sameness of constitution.

Ch. 4

  • Another question: Is the virtue of a good man & good citizen the same? Or not?
    • Must get a general notion of a citizen’s virtue
      • The citizen is a member of a community & each one has different functions. The virtues of each function are different. While they all have the same overall goal, the welfare of the community, the roles & therefore the virtues, are different.
      • The community is the constitution & each citizen’s virtue is relative to the constitution of which he’s a member.
        • Different forms of government show a member will have different roles. These will not necessarily reflect perfect virtue, but will have virtues that guide his behavior in his role.
      • If the state can’t be made of good men entirely, but each citizen is expected to perform his duty well & have some virtue, the virtue of the citizen & of the good man, can’t be the same thing.
        • All must have the virtue of a good citizen & only in this way can a state be perfect – but the individuals won’t have the same expectations to fulfill.
        • Because the state is composed of unlikes, it can be compared to a living being.
          • Its first elements are the body & the soul.
          • The soul has a rational side & an appetite side.
        • In this comparison, you can’t expect the parts to work the same.
      • But will there be a case where the virtue of the good citizen & the good man coincide?
        • A good ruler is a good & wise man.
        • Some say a ruler’s education should be special.
          • It may also be said that men are praised for knowing both how to rule & how to obey. We may conclude that in ruling & obeying that they aren’t equal since these are different, & therefore can’t be the same. But the citizen must know that & have a share in both.
            • The rule of a master isn’t concerned with menial offices & so doesn’t need to know how to perform these tasks but only how to get others to do them.
            • Often craftsmen were kept from politics & the politics were left to the superiors.
          • Another kind of rule over freemen & equals by birth. This rule has the ruler knowing how to rule by learning how to command & serving under another commander making him have to obey. This teaches him the virtues of a ruler & a citizen.
        • The ruler’s temperance & justice are distinct from those of the subject. But the virtue of a good man will include both, to qualify him to rule & to obey, just as women’s & men’s virtues will be different.
          • A man who behaves like a virtuous woman will be seen as a coward & a woman who behaves like a virtuous man would be out of line as well.
        • Practical wisdom is the only virtue of a ruler. All other virtues belong both to ruler & subject.
        • The virtue of a subject isn’t wisdom but true opinion.

Ch. 5

  • Is only a person who holds office a citizen? Do those who don’t hold office not count as citizens?
    • Not every citizen can have the virtue of ruling & obeying. If none of the lower classes would count even if they weren’t foreigners or resident aliens.
    • Not everyone necessary to the existence of a state is a citizen. Children aren’t the equals to grown men.
    • In ancient times, artisans were slaves.
      • The necessary people are either slaves who minister to the individual wants & mechanics & laborers were servants of the community.
    • Many forms of government have many varieties of citizens & under some governments, the mechanics & artisans will be citizens, in others they won’t be.
    • In aristocracies, government of the best, honors are given according to virtue & merit. No man can practice virtue living the life of a laborer or mechanic.
      • In oligarchies, laborers won’t be citizens but mechanics might be because they are mostly rich.
      • In Thebes, you have to have been retired for at least 10 years to hold office.
    • There are different kinds of citizens. Citizens share in the honors of the state. & those excluded are treated like foreigners.
      • In some cases, a good man is a good citizen. It is the statesman in this case who should conduct public affairs.

Ch. 6

  • Is there only 1 form of government? Or many? If many, what are the differences?
    • A constitution is an arrangement of magistrates in a state.
    • The government is sovereign everywhere in a state.
    • The government is the constitution of the state.
      • g. In a democracy, the people are supreme. In an oligarchy, the few are. This is why we say the 2 forms are different.
    • What is purpose of a state & how many forms of government are there that regulate human society?
      • Men desire to live with one another because of common interests to attain any measure of well-being.
        • The chief goal of individuals & the state.
      • There’s no difficulty in distinguishing the different types of authority.
        • We’ve talked about the authority of a master over a slave. If the slave dies, the authority is over.
        • Government over wife & children, as well as the household. There is a way to rule for the sake of all members of the household for the governed. In a similar way that a doctor, trainer or captain rules for the sake of the patient, athlete & the ship’s crew.
        • When the state is based on equality & likeness in politics, citizens think they ought to hold office in terms.
          • It used to be they looked out for others in their terms of office.
          • Nowadays, men always want to be in office to use the state to their personal advantage.
            • Governments that look to the common interest are constituted in strict principles of justice à the true forms.
            • Those that only look out for the interest of the rulers are defective & perverted & despotic.

Ch. 7

  • Regarding how many forms of government.
    • Focus on the true forms & it’s easy to see when the perversions arise.
      • Constitution & government have the same meaning, where the supreme authority in states, which must be in the hands of one & few or the many.
      • The true forms govern with a view to the common interest.
      • Governments that govern for private interests are perversions.
        • Members of a state ought to participate in its advantages.
          • One ruler – kingship/royalty.
          • Aristocracy – the few & best men rule in people’s best interest.
          • Many – when the citizens administer the state for the common interest, the government is the constitution.
        • One man or a few may be virtuous. But as the number increases, it’s more difficult to become perfect.
          • In a constitutional government, the fighting men have supreme power & those who are armed are the citizens.
        • Perversions:
          • Royalty à Tyranny
          • Aristocracy à Oligarchy
          • Constitutional government à Democracy
            • None of these are for the common good.

Ch. 8

  • Tyranny is monarchy exercising the rule of a master over political society.
    • Oligarchy is when propertied men have the government in their hands.
    • Democracy is said to be the government in the hands of the indigent who are the rulers.
      • But what if the many have property & the few are poor?
      • What if there are fewer poor than rich?
      • What if we give wealth to the poor & poverty to the few?
        • The argument is more about where the poverty & the wealth lie.
          • When men rule based on wealth, the rich rulers are oligarchs & poor rulers are democrats.
        • What’s more important is that whether poor or rich, if freedom is enjoyed by all, wealth & freedom are independent of each other.

Ch. 9

  • Let’s look at the common definitions of oligarchy & democracy, & what justice looks like under each system. People want justice but they don’t have a perfect idea of what it is.
    • Just is often thought to be equality but only for equals & not for all.
    • Inequality is thought to be justice for unequals.
      • Leaving people out of these definitions leads to errors.
      • In these case, people are making a judgment on themselves & most people are terrible at doing that.
      • Justice implies a relation to people things. & a just distribution implies (as was mentioned in Nicomachean Ethics, Book 4), that the same ratio between people & things. People often agree on the things but disagree about people because they are often bad judges & they have limited & partial justice in mind – even though they think they’re talking about perfect justice.
        • Some people think if 2 people are unequal in some aspect, they are unequal in all aspects. WRONG.
        • Others will say if 2 people are equal in some aspect, they are equal in all other aspects. WRONG.
        • These ideas leave out one important point. If men only considered wealth to be the basis of association, their share in the state would be proportional to their property. In this case, the oligarchical form would be the normal form of government.
      • The state exists to provide a good life – not just life. If it were just for life, slaves & animals could form their own state. But that’s not possible because they have no share in the happiness or free choice.
      • A state is not purely for alliance either. The Tyrrhenians & Carthaginians would be of the same city if that were the case. But they don’t have common magistracies to enforce agreements.
      • Those who take care & consideration for virtue & vice in the state are members of the state. Without this as the goal, a state is merely an alliance. Law is only a convention & has no power to make people good or just.
        • Megara & Corinth are distinct cities. Even if their city walls touched & even if their people were allowed to intermarry.
        • If people live really far away from each other & laws prevented them from harming each other, they still would be a state. When people live close to each other, they don’t automatically form a state.
          • Their alliance is not with one another but against evil-doers.
          • If their intercourse with each other doesn’t affect their relationship with each other, then they’re still not a state.
        • Society isn’t just an agreement to prevent crime, although a state can’t exist without this agreement.
          • A state is a community of families for the sake of a perfect & self-sufficient life. This community must be in the same place & be allowed to intermarry. In cities, family connections, common sacrifices & amusements draw people together.
          • The goal of the state is the good life. & the state is the union of families & villages in a perfect & self-sufficient life à a happy & honorable life.
          • Political society exists for the sake of noble actions, not companionship.

Ch. 10

  • Q: What is to be the supreme power in the state?
    • The multitude? The wealthy? The good? One best man? A tyrant?
    • Any of these answers has disagreeable consequences.
      • If it’s the poor, they’ll take the property of the rich & divide it amongst themselves. That’s unjust.
      • Won’t the majority taking from the minority ruin the state?
      • Virtue doesn’t entail destroying the state. Confiscation is not justice. If it were, all acts of a tyrant would be just because he coerces men through power in the same way the poor majority coerce the rich, plundering them.
    • Then the good are to rule & have supreme power. But in that case everyone else will be excluded from power & dishonored. Since state offices are an honor, depriving people of them is effectively dishonoring them.
      • It’s oligarchical to increase the number of dishonored. You can say it’s bad for any man to have supreme power rather than the law.

Ch. 11

  • There seems to be a fair amount of truth in the principle that the many should be the supreme power. But there are some problems in that.
    • The many are just a body of individuals, who in their collective nature may be better than the few good. Each individuals had his share of virtue that can be aggregated into “one body” with one set of hands, feet & eyes, senses.
      • The many may have better judgment than a single man. Some may understand one thing & others another thing. All together, they may understand the whole. The scattered intelligence is combined.
        • If this can apply to every democracy isn’t clear. The application may not work for brutes.
        • The question remains, what power should be assigned to the mass of freemen & citizens who aren’t rich & have no personal merit?
        • There’s a danger in giving them offices because their folly can lead to error & their dishonesty can lead to crime. But there’s also a danger in not giving them a share because being excluded will cause them to be enemies of the state.
          • The best way to go about things is to give them deliberative & judicial functions – giving them power to elect offices & holding magistrates to account. But these individuals should not hold power. Their perceptions work best with the better class in office.
            • Since the individual has imperfect judgment
          • Popular government has certain problems.
            • 1 – Those who can solve problems have a very special skill but have to be held to account by their peers.
            • 2 – An election can only be made by those with knowledge.
              • If the people aren’t utterly degraded as a body, they are good as electors. Some things aren’t meant to be judged by the artists/authors themselves.
            • For those actually called to be officers of the state, a higher qualification is needed.
              • But in a democracy, the power resides in a court, senate & assemble but where the many can contribute their collective wisdom.

Ch. 12

  • In all arts & sciences, the goal is a good & the highest good is the most authoritative. In political science, this good is justice – the common interest.
    • All men think just is a sort of equality. Equals ought to have equality But the question remains: Equality of what?
      • Some might say offices should be distributed by excellence of the citizen. But this also the case for giving offices to taller people or by some other arbitrary basis of giving a great share of political rights.
      • If A is taller than B, does that mean that A is more virtuous than B & deserve a greater share of goods on this basis? That’s an example that not all bases of equality & inequality are useful in politics.
        • If excellence is the basis, then noble & free men are more likely to hold office. If wealth & freedom are necessary, justice & valor are also so because a state can’t exist without the former set & not well without the latter.

Ch. 13

  • If the good life is to be aimed for, then education & virtue are important too.
    • All men have a claim to a share in government but all don’t have an absolute claim.
      • The rich have a claim because they have a share in the land & land is the common of the state. They are also more trustworthy in contracts.
      • The free claim under the same title as the noble. The noble are in a truer sense citizens than the ignoble. Good birth has a higher value. They sprung from better ancestors & are more likely to be virtuous.
      • The many claim against the few – when taken collectively, they are stronger, richer & better.
        • What if all the rich, good & noble live together? Who would rule?
      • States characterized by differences in governing bodies – one will be a government of the rich, one of the virtuous, etc. What happens when these qualities coexist? How do we decide which one to have?
        • If the virtuous are few, we may ask them to administer the state.
        • Some might say that political aspirants are objectionable & those who base claim on wealth or family have no basis in justice.
          • If any one person were richer than the rest, he’d have a better claim on power. In this way, one extremely distinguished by birth can be thought to have superiority over the free born.
          • In an aristocracy a difficulty appears about virtue. If one citizen appears better than another, he should rule over them. It leads to rule of the richest or best.
            • Shows none of the principles men use to claim to rule & hold others to subjection are strictly correct.
            • Those claiming to be masters based on virtue may establish that they are better & richer than others but only collectively so.
            • Some people wonder if the legislator wishing to make the best laws would do so for the many or the higher classes. Often “what is just” is equated with “what is equal” because the advantage of justice is for the citizens, who are the ones sharing in the government as well as being governed. In a state of the best, the ones governing & to be governed would do so with respect to virtue.
          • However, if there happens to be one person in a state whose virtue is so preeminent that it dwarfs that of everyone else, then it’s clear he’s their superior & should rule over the rest. He is like a god amongst men.
          • Legislation is necessary with men of equal birth & equal capacity. Men of preeminent virtue need no laws as they are a law unto themselves.
            • Democratic states have an institution of ostracism & banishment from the state, so that preeminent citizens (usually via wealth, friends or influence) are removed to eliminate their power.
            • Ostracism is a means to disable & banish those with the interest pervert the government.
            • Monarchs ruling in their own interest are really only tyrants. But if needed, perhaps a problem so pervasive in a state could be solved by instituting a tyranny.
            • This principle of using ostracism is almost never used for actual political justice but for perversion of justice & true government. When done to a man of preeminent virtue, it is truly bad because this man should not be a subject at all but a king instead.

Ch. 14

  • We’ll have to consider royalty. Let’s see under what circumstances a state would be best served by a monarchy or another form of government instead.
    • A – One form is the Spartan form. The power is not absolute, except when the kings are on a military campaign. Religious matters are also in their domain.
      • The king’s role is like that of a general. The king doesn’t have power over life & death, except in specific cases. The best example is that of Agamemnon who had complete control of the army but submitted to an assembly for other things.
    • B – Another is common among Barbarians. This resembles tyranny. It is both legal & hereditary. Barbarians are more servile than the Greeks. Royalties like this are where the people are like slaves & there’s no danger of them overthrowing the king. The king’s guards guard him against the people instead of guarding the people against him.
    • C – Another form is a dictatorship, also known as an elective tyranny. It is not hereditary but is held for life or for a term of years. This form is usually like a tyranny because of its despotic power but is more kingly because it is elective & acquiesced to by the people.
    • D – The 4th form goes back to the heroic era. The chiefs were benefactors to the people, procured land to them & so became kings of voluntary subjects. The power was inherited by descendants. They held command in war & presided over sacrifices. Eventually, the powers & privileges were taken from them & given to others until nothing was left but the sacrifices & command in war.
      • E – a 5th kind is “kingly” rule over the household.

Ch. 15

  • Let’s only consider the Spartan style & the absolute royalty because the other forms lie somewhere in the middle of the 2 extremes.
    • There’s an advantage to the state to have a perpetual general but should it be confined to one family or be open to the public?
    • Is it a good idea to give on man supreme power over everything?
      • The 1st question is more about the law than the constitution, since a perpetual generalship is not really in question, rather just who it should be.
      • The 2nd question is more about the constitution.
        • Should we be ruled by the best men or the best laws?
        • Advocates for royalty say laws can only be general & don’t provide for specific circumstances. To abide religiously to written rules would be absurd.
      • But rulers can’t dispense with the principles written into law & a better ruler is free from passion that sways the heart of every man.
      • The best man will legislate but the laws will have no authority when they miss the mark – but they retain authority otherwise.
      • But if the law can’t determine a point, should the best man or the many decide?
        • Currently assemblies meet, sit in judgment, deliberate & decide. Their judgments relate to individual cases.
        • Assembly members individually are inferior to a wise man. The state is made of many individuals. Assemblies are best served by many than a single man.
        • The many are more incorruptible than the few. The individual is liable to be overcome by passion & then his judgment is perverted.
        • Let’s assume the individuals are freemen & that they never act in violation of the law but fill in the gaps the laws are obliged to leave.
          • If virtue is scarcely attainable by the many, we need only suppose that the majority are good men & good citizens, & then ask who will be more incorruptible – one good ruler or the many who are all good? The many.
          • Some might say that the many have factions while a man can’t be divided against himself. But their character is as good as his.
        • The first governments were kingships. This is because when cities were small, men of eminent virtue were few. These kings were benefactors & benefits can only be bestowed by good men.
          • When more men of merit rose to prominence, a ruling class was established. But this ruling class deteriorated & raided the public treasury. Riches were the path to honor & oligarchies sprung up as a result. These became tyrannies & the tyrannies turned into democracies. The love of gain causes the people & their masters to turn on each other. Democracies resulted. Larger cities have led to the dominance of democracies.
        • Even if we suppose kingly power is best, can we assume that the king’s family is good too? It’s unlikely that a king would not pass on his power to his children.
      • A lawful king will have to have some force to maintain the law. He will have a great amount of force but not as much as the people will have collectively. The other way around is a tyranny or a dictatorship.

Ch. 16

  • Limited monarchy is not a distinct form of government because there can be a general holding office for life, like in Epidamnus.
    • Absolute monarchy or arbitrary rule over all citizens is thought to be contrary to nature. Some might argue that those who are equals by nature must have the same natural right, & unequals having an equal share in the offices of the state is as bad for bodily constitutions to have the same food & clothing.
    • Others will say it would be just among equals everyone should rule & then have their turn to rule.
    • We arrive at law because an order of succession implies law. The rule of law is preferable to that of any individual.
      • Likewise, even if it were better for some individuals to rule, they should only be guardians & ministers of the law.
      • There has to be magistrates when there are cases where the law is unable to determine – but can a man do that?
      • The law trains officers for this purpose & appoints them to determine things left undecided by the law & to use their best judgment. It allows them to make any amendment to existing laws.
        • When you have the law determine things is to ask that God & Reason alone to rule. When you have a man to rule it adds an element of the beast. Law is reason unaffected by desire.
        • In seeking for justice men seek for the mean or neutral, because the law is the mean. Customary laws have more weight & relate to more important matters than written laws. A man maybe a safer ruler than written law but not safer than an unwritten law.
      • It’s not easy for one man to superintend many thing. He has to appoint subordinates.
        • A good man has a right to rule because he’s better but 2 good men are better than one.
        • There are magistrates who have authority to decide things that the law can’t because no one doubts the law wants the best man to decide & command when he must.
        • Some things can & some things can’t be determined by the law & this fact is at the base of the question if the best law or best man should rule.
          • Deliberation can’t be written into law. The best ruler would be trained well by judges. But it’s clear that having more good men is better than fewer. They can help the ruler if the government is a monarchy. This is a form of friendship & that implies equality & that undermines the idea of one man ruling.

Ch. 17

  • This will be true in some cases & not in others.
    • There’s by nature both justice & an advantage appropriate to a master, another to kingly rule & another to constitutional rule.
    • But not is appropriate to tyranny or any perverted form of government because they’re contrary to nature.
      • It’s manifest that, where men are alike & equal, that it’s neither expedient or just for one man to be lord of all. With or without law but having him in place of the law.
      • Neither a good man can be lord over good men, nor a bad man over bad men – even if he excels in virtue.
      • We must determine what natures are suited for government by a king, aristocracy or constitutional government.
    • A people who are naturally capable of creating a superior in the virtue needed for political rule fit for kingly government & a people submitting to be ruled as freemen whose virtue for an aristocracy. People suited for constitutional freedom amongst those who have the ability to rule & obey in turn by a law that gives office based on merit.
      • When a whole family or an individual is so preeminent, then it’s just that they should be the royal family or king of the nation.
      • To give them authority is agreeable to justice.
      • It would not be right to kill or ostracize or exile such a person or require that he should turn in being governed. The whole is naturally superior to the part & he who has this preeminence is larger. The only alternative is that he should have the supreme power & mankind should obey him, not in turn but always.

Ch. 18

  • There are 3 true forms of government & the best must be administered by the best, either one man or a whole family, many persons, excelling others in virtue – both rulers & subjects are fit to rule.
    • The same means through which a man becomes truly good, he will frame a state to be ruled by an aristocracy or a king & the same education, the same habits will be found to make a good man & a man fit to be a statesman or king.

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