Sample Political Science Paper on “Aristotle politics” Summary

“Aristotle politics” Summary

Aristotle’s Politics (2000) initiates with a number of general claims and thoughts on the society of his age. Through his volume, he attempts to grasp the overall need of being human and asserts that the idea of attaining a good gives a purpose to a society and causes action. He also makes a claim on the sovereignty of entities noting that although different components of the society are meant for different purposes, they eventually come together to form a complete , absolute form – the city or a polis ( refer). Having made such claims, Aristotle spends the rest of the book providing support to his assertions and provides the meaning of a city, citizenship, and a constitution. Book 1 (pg.1028) starts with an intention to record his ideas on the characteristics and the composition of a city, and also to define a city’s overarching purpose. In his book, Aristotle does not profess his ideas but simply notes them as his observations of society.

He describes a polis as an entity that emerges over time and puts forward some ideas regarding its characteristics. He defines the city as an association or a partnership of men and avows that it is the most sovereign amalgamation of all such partnerships. He believes that associations eventually seek some common good, and a city– which is a collective of all such associations – thus seeks the most unitary good (pg.1028). A city is a kind of a unity but such unity is derived from a multitude. The ultimate good can be described as providing virtues and happiness to the citizens, and it thus becomes the key purpose of a city. He then proceeds to describe the two most fundamental associations in the city– the household and the village. A household primarily consists of partnerships between a man and his wife, a master and a slave, and of a parent with their children (pg.1029).

The relationship between a master and a slave according to Aristotle is such that each needs the other for their sustenance and therefore beneficial to both. He believed that those men who are incompatible to work without orders and incapable of governing their lives , should be used for labor. On the other hand , the labor from a slave ultimately brings the master wealth and time for other activities like participating in the government or intellectual growth. This observation ties back to his claim that actions are performed for the sake of achieving good for all. The association between a man and a wife leads to marital bliss, while the relationship between man and a slave is beneficial to both parties involved (pg.1029). Both these associations help in sustaining the fundamentals of the city.. A village is formed due to the eventual partnership between many households. In the end, a city is an amalgamation of many villages, making it self-sufficient and catering to the needs of both its existence and the people residing within it.

A man residing within a polis is thus a political animal and the city belongs to each association which are derived naturally. A city is therefore a natural product and not an artificial creation. If a man is living outside the city, he is deemed to be lawless and going against his own nature. To Aristotle, the city seeks precedence as it the whole , while man and his associations are the parts it is made up of (pg.1029). The destruction of a city would render all the primary associations futile, just like parts of a body are futile without the whole body functioning properly (refer). After the city, Aristotle investigates the meaning of being a citizen. For Aristotle, citizenship is an activity. His purpose of inquiry into citizenship is to simply determine who is a citizen and who is not. He proposes that one should be considered a citizen of a polis only if they actively participate in the government or hold office (pg.1030).

 

Aristotle in Book III asks an important question on “whether the virtue of an excellent citizen (politai) and a good man should be considered the same?” (pg.1030). Not all men will be similar by virtue, deed, and qualities. To describe what a good citizen is, Aristotle first describes types of regimes. An ideal regime is one that educates its citizens to follow its principles, virtue, and characteristics. Thus, if a citizen’s activity contributes in upholding the virtues and goals of the city, he is to be considered a good citizen. This idea connects back to promoting good which causes action should be considered, in calling a man a good citizen. The next question which automatically follows is which rules and principles of the city is a citizen bound to? To discuss this, Aristotle introduces the idea of a constitution (pg.1032). Moreover, various types of cities render different constitutions. A city under an oligarchy or tyranny will have a constitution different from a city under democracy, thus offering different citizens. A right constitution will be interested in the general welfare and prosperity of its citizens while a wrong constitution will do the contrary (pg.1034).

Aristotle’s Politics provides his readers with the key determinants of a social association and those of being an individual. Each action in the city is performed to bring goodness. The final cause for all the components of a city is to bring the most virtuous results. A potential critique of Aristotle’s observations lies in the fact that some of his claims may not be relevant to the modern world. Slavery is assumed to be beneficial for both parties, given that both the master and the slave are virtuous. However, we know that in modern times, slavery was not an act carried out by honest people and was an exploitative and inhumane act. He believes that a good citizen is one who follows the constitution of the city. As the book is mostly his observations regarding the city of Athens, it won’t be wrong to consider Athens as a nearly perfect city – something that the readers cannot relate to in the 21st century.

 

 

Reference

Young, C. M. (2000). Aristotle: Politics, books I and II. The Philosophical Review109(1), 87-87.