Citizens and Statesmen: A Study of Aristotle's Politics

By Mary P. Nichols | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
FINDING A PLACE FOR BEAST AND GOD

(Book III of the Politics)

In Book III of the Politics Aristotle presents the core of his political science. There he defines citizenship, identifies the good man with a certain kind of good citizen, classifies regimes into six forms, discusses the rule of law, and evaluates different claims to rule, including majority rule and the rule of the one best individual. Having explored the subpolitical origins of the city in Book I, and analyzed in Book II the best proposals about politics and the regimes with the best reputations, Aristotle has prepared the way for presenting his own understanding of the political community. Books I and II of the Politics reveal the dual origin of politics in physical necessity and thought. In Book III Aristotle incorporates into the city the human beings most closely identified with these origins, the many, who provide the physical might necessary for the city's preservation (1279b1-4), and the person of outstanding virtue, the "god among human beings" (1284a10-11), whose virtue is so great that it surpasses that of all the other members of the city considered together. The city must make citizens of both the many and the one, just as it is rooted in both body and soul and aims at both living and living well.

If the many and the one are to be citizens, however, there can be no radical difference between them, since justice and friendship, necessary for political community, can exist only among commensurable human beings ( NE, 1161a32-34). In uniting the many and the one in political friendship Aristotle must therefore demonstrate their similarity. He shows, in the first place, that the contribution of the many transcends body, for their rule can be justified on the basis of their moral and intellectual virtue. 1 Only because of their capacity for virtue is their participation in political rule possible. In the second place,

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Citizens and Statesmen: A Study of Aristotle's Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Citizens and Statesmen - A Study of Aristotle's Politics *
  • Contents *
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Origins of the City 13
  • Chapter 2 - Finding a Place for Beast and God 53
  • Chapter 3 - Turning Regimes into Polities 85
  • Chapter 4 - The Best Regime and the Limits of Politics 125
  • Chapter 5 - Citizens, Statesmen, and Modern Political Theory 169
  • Endnotes 177
  • Works Frequently Cited 223
  • Index 227
  • About the Author *
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