COMMENTARY ON ARISTOTLE’S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS: BOOK I, 2
(For the nature of the sections see the “General Introduction”, here.)
Abbreviations: Ar. = Aristotle, AQ= Aquinas, NE = Nicomachean Ethics, EE= Eudemian Ethics
“If, therefore, there is some end of our actions that we wish for on account of itself, the rest being things we wish for on account of this end, and if we do not choose all things on account of something else —for in this way the process will go on infinitely such that the longing involved is empty and pointless — clearly this would be the good, that is, the best. And with a view to our life, then, is not the knowledge of this good of great weight, and would we not, like archers in possession of a target, better hit on what is needed? If this is so, then one must try to grasp, in outline at least, whatever it is and to which of the sciences or capacities it belongs.
But it might be held to belong to the most authoritative and most architectonic one, and such appears to be the political art. For it ordains what sciences there must be in cites and what kinds each person in turn must learn and to what point. We also see that even the most honoured capacities —-for example, generalship, household management, rhetoric—- fall under the political art. Because it makes us of the remaining sciences and, further, because it legislates what one ought to do and what to abstain from, its end would encompass those of the others, with the result that this would be the human good. For even if this is the same thing for an individual and a city, to secure and preserve the good of the city appears to be something greater and more complete: the good of the individual by himself is certainly desirable enough, but that of the nation and of cities is nobler and more divine.
The inquiry, then, aims at these things, since it is a sort of political inquiry. ” (NE, 1094a18-1094b11; Aristotle´s Nicomachean Ethics, Bartlett, Robert, and Collins, Susan; University of Chicago, Chicago, 2011)
I. PRIVATE PUZZLES
1) Why does Ar. begin once again with a conditional if-sentence? Is HE unsure of himself? Or rather, does he wish to make US open to the possibilities? Does he wish to allow us to think for ourselves? And, why exactly does he offer two —and only two— choices? Why does he present us with an either/or predicament? Why is it EITHER a Summum bonum OR a pointless longing for the unattainable? For it is clear, isn´t it, that modern thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke and Montesquieu actually come up with a RADICALLY different strategy? Isn’t their/our modern strategy one which ALLLEGEDLY, does away with the either/or predicament? For instance, isn´t it clear that Hobbes , rather than positing a SUMMUM bonum puts forth as the basis of all political philosophy what could be called a MINIMUM bonum, namely, self-preservation/security? But if we are the heirs of such an INNOVATIVE and challenging reduction by the early moderns, HOW to even SEE the radically different and challenging nature of Ar.’s stark choice? Or put another way, has modernity really done anyway with the ALL/NOTHING dilemma posited by Aristotle? Are OUR longings, leading us ANYWHERE; are OUR ends worthy of us? For we must recall what has been said of modernity’s solution as a “joyless quest for joy”, mustn’t we? At the cost of being imprudent, wouldn’t we wish either tragedy OR happiness, rather than an obfuscating “appearance” of impoverished and spiritually barren secure living? Isn’t this exactly why Ar. promptly qualifies himself by saying that we are speaking not simple of the good, but THE BEST simply?
2) But much more radically speaking, what exactly is the longing nature of human beings ALL ABOUT? How is this longing going to play out as we move along the paths of the NE? What exactly is this Summum bonum for which we all search and which, allegedly, may bring an “end” to such needful longings? And what to do with Locke’s description of our motivation as simply being one in which NO Summum bonums appear, but rather sets of pleasures and pains we seek or avoid? But, what if this longing were to turn out to involve our longing for a certain kind of immortality, of eternity? What is the nature of such eternity, of such desire for immortality? And in this regard, isn’t it the case that, as modern, Machiavelli ALSO did NOT see the need for positing any superior or more architectonic end than that of FAME? And don’t the Federalists in the Constitutional debates to a large extent AGREE with him? (See SECTION IV below) But as we said in our previous commentaries, wouldn’t it be odd to long to be famous for the WRONG reasons?
3) And doesn’t Ar. early on tell us very clearly that this is ALL a question of the kind of life we ACTUALLY lead? But then again, how exactly are we to connect KNOWING about this good (if there is such a overarching good, and if it DOES have such weight) with actually DOING/ACTING/MAKING in our everyday lives? For couldn’t it happen that perhaps the greatest good might turn out to be of such a radically different nature that all acting, doing and making in our everyday moral concerns, might come to be cast as secondary? Or put another way, what if SOME of us, as archers, were pointing to a target we cannot even see at the start? Will engaging the NE make it visible for some of us? To whom? To which of Ar.’s DUAL audience? And, what if precisely such longing is part of the reason we fail to see? How would our longing be thus transformed? Would it even remain? Further, what is it about the example of archery that makes it attractive to Ar.’s audience? I mean, couldn’t we just substitute it for a revolver, or even a machine gun? But, isn’t archery a very demanding SKILL (so much so that it is still part of the Olympics)? Isn’t it true that just about ANYONE can fire a gun at ANY target? What is it about the TECHNOLOGICAL achievement of gunnery that DOES AWAY with the nobility of ARCHERY? And, what is it about archery that is SO different from hand-to-hand fighting skills? Are we seeking a certain distance from the actual fight?
4) And crucially connected to our previous commentary on Ethics I,1: why does Ar. ONCE AGAIN waver between saying what exactly it is that hits upon this target? Why does he say it is a science OR a capacity? Isn’t he once again making us see the highly complex relation between KNOWING and having a CAPACITY that can be activated? Is it actually a science that can activate the capacity (dunamis) and release its energy? But isn’t the ethical inquiry to proceed in OUTLINE? Which exactly is the SCIENCE of outlines? And wouldn’t it be EXTREMELY odd to think that the PRACTICAL SCIENCES are, in the end, under the MASTERY of the speculative/theoretical ones? Wouldn’t it be odd to think that one becomes good/noble/moral at the Lyceum? Or, going back to our previous commentaries, wouldn’t a certain part of Ar.’s audience —that of the serious citizens—- see this submission with radical suspicion? Isn’t this why General Laches protests so much against General Nicias in the Platonic dialogue which bears HIS name? And, isn’t Nicias’s fate –—and the defeat of Athens— in Sicily quite relevant in this regard? And to find a certain parallel in areas beyond the humanities, isn’t it clear that famous business professors such as Mintzberg actually see clearly these dilemmas when they argue that it is EXTREMELY difficult to categorize what MANAGING actually is all about? Isn’t this why they argue that MANAGING is a science and an art and a capacity and an activity and a kind of knowing? And isn’t managing a KIND of leading? Or put another way, aren’t business schools quite unaware of these Aristotelian puzzles, and likewise of the very history of the economic goods which they claim hold Ar.’s privileged position as being THE BEST?
5) Besides, why say of the political, that it SEEMS/IS HELD TO BE/APPEARS “the most authoritative and most architectonic”? Are we to believe, as some claim —-like Arendt—- that Ar. simply affirms, rather then puzzle over his well-known phrase ¨humans are by nature political animals”? What exactly holds Ar. back? Is it because it will take a long experiential journey to see a NEW target? Or, put in contrast to the modern conception of political things: Is he not preparing us for a certain anti-modern reconsideration of the position of the political within the whole? And crucially, what to make of the fact, that the feminine singular adjective politikēis used, WITHOUT specifying its noun? Is it simply because these are Ar.’s lecture notes and he seemingly forgot to add the corresponding noun; be it science, art or capacity? Or rather, is Ar. trying to have us remain FLEXIBLE as to what the political —and in particular the ethical in relation to the political—– is actually all about? And, as we shall point out, why is AQ. so apparently oblivious to these Aristotelian signs of flexibility? And isn’t this shown by the very fact that Ar. goes on in BOOK I subsection 3 to emphasize the FLEXIBLE nature of inquiry itself? And quite problematically, indeed, what is it exactly that we ACTUALLY TEACH in universities: is it POLITICAL SCIENCE, or is it POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, or another? And, does it not make a WORLD of difference? And if all goods are hierarchically related, which is THE BEST of the two (or more)? For I can ascertain, as a fact, that my degree says political SCIENCE.
6) And what to make of his 1st argument in this regard, namely that the political “ordains what sciences there must be in cites and what kinds each person in turn must learn and to what point.”. Can we think of actual current examples which DO in fact prove that Ar.’s hypothetical claim is still alive today?Wouldn’t the case of the development, creation and USE of nuclear weapons be the prime example for us technologically geared moderns? For as much as multinationals might wish to transcend the political through the economic, the joke which has a CEO asking why exactly companies cannot own nuclear weapons clearly reveals Ar.’s hierarchy, doesn’t it? And, of course, that we seek NOT to allow Iran (or our disconcerting Venezuelan neighbours) to have nuclear capabilities moves in the very same direction, does it not? But, in our liberal individualist and permissive societies, can we honestly, seriously say, that the political determines what an individual must learn and to what point? Certainly, it is not all that difficult to find some examples, isn’t it? Wouldn’t the fact that the Province of Québéc in Canada BY LAW —-famous and repeatedly challenged Bill 101—- forces any new immigrant to place his children SOLELY in French schools such an example? Or couldn’t one just recall that it is a political fact that military service in Colombia IS OBLIGATORY? Isn’t the Colombian individual called upon even to be prepared to DIE for his/her country? And not only that, but that Colombians in the health sciences MUST provide a year of social service before graduating? And isn’t it quite revealing that those Canadians in the Health Sciences who hear of such obligatory measures by other countries react quite SURPRISED? “How can a political government have so much power!”, don’t THEY seem to think? For it is clear that we speak of the REPUBLIC of Colombia; but NOT of the Republic of Canada! And couldn’t one think of many religious examples as well? But is it not also true, we are a LONG way from what Rousseau actually describes as being the nature of the polis in Greece and ITS direct role on the citizens lives, aren’t we? (See Rousseau in his On the Government of Poland, below SECTION IV )
7) And what to make of the 1st part of Ar.’s 2nd argument in this regard, namely that “We also see that even the most honoured capacities —-for example, generalship, household management, rhetoric—- fall under the political art.” What are we to say of these three “most honoured capacities”? Of course, generalship does —usually– fall under the political, doesn’t it? I mean, Lincoln and Roosevelt call the shots, don’t they? But then again, don’t Stalin and Hitler, too? For precisely when it does not, the political ceases to exist and a coup d’etat appears, doesn’t it? And recalling our previous commentaries, doesn’t one regard General Hooker as insolent by leaving PRESIDENT Lincoln ––albeit not so famous yet—- waiting downstairs (!) in the General’s house to convene with him at a later time? And tour modern private sphere, that of “household management”, is itself guided by the political, is it not? Isn’t it obvious that it is very dangerous/illegal to have more than one baby in China? But, we ask, couldn’t Ar. imagine situations such as those of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, in which the family and the political seem to not get along so honourably? Who calls the shots THEN? MUST one remain with one’s family BEHIND the Berlin Wall/Tibetan “Wall”? Must one patiently await the government’s decision to LIBERATE one’s kidnapped relatives in Colombia? And moving towards the third honoured capacity, namely, rhetoric: WHY does Ar. introduce it so SUDDENLY? Is he letting us know more clearly that some of his previous points can only be adequately understood UNLESS one understands the nature and the type of argumentation found in rhetorical arguments/speeches? Isn’t this why he so prudently constantly refers to “what is held to be the case”? But then again, how is Ar. so certain that rhetoric in particular is “such an honoured capacity”? What would Ar. make of our modern general disregard, suspicion and dishonour of rhetorical skills? Would we have to become AVID and SERIOUS readers of Thucydides/Lincoln/Churchill once again to learn what political speeches are ALL about? And moving ahead, what is exactly the relation between HONORING a science and USING it? How can the using of something not end up DISHONORING what is being used? For surely, it is evident —-as we expressed in our last commentary—— that Hitler if fact USED his Generals, but in doing so he dishonoured them as well (specially when looses accumulated); and to dishonour the likes of Rommel, that is no easy feat.
8) And what to make of the 2nd part of his 2nd argument in this regard, namely that “further, because it legislates what one ought to do and what to abstain from, its end would encompass those of the others, with the result that this would be the human good”. Isn’t the appearance of legislation, the law and what is just , of crucial relevance to what exactly we mean by being and understanding the ethical? But how will our inquiry proceed? Will it simply accept justice as rather unproblematic; as THE peak and shining star? Will it consider the virtues SOLELY in terms of the good for the community, and not in relation to the individual itself? But wouldn’t moderns see this with rather suspicious eyes, for what exactly is a city BESIDES the flourishing of the individuals who make it up? Isn-t this the MAIN purpose of modern politics, to guarantee our safety? And don’t the previous examples seem to confirm what Ar. says? But if not enough one could add: isn’t it clear that in Bogotá the LAW tells us we cannot take our cars out WHENEVER WE WISH! For there is “pico y placa”; and surely Torontonians cannot even imagine such a reality, can they? And surely in Bogotá the LAW tells us every Sunday main streets are CLOSED for bikes in our ciclovías until exactly 2 pm; quite unimaginable to Torontonians, isn’t it? For aren’t we here in Bogota’s CLEAR about certain hierarchies in a way in which North-American cities are NOT (even if our developing cities remain unclear in many others?)
9) Questions which lead us towards the final consideration, in that for Ar. “to secure and preserve the good of the city appears to be something greater and more complete: the good of the individual by himself is certainly desirable enough, but that of the nation and of cities is nobler and more divine.” Why emphasize the appears? What exactly is going to be the relation between the individual and the city to which he belongs? That is to say, is the GOOD citizen identical to the GOOD HUMAN SIMPLY? And why exactly is it for ME much greater and more complete to secure and preserve the city? For if as Hobbes holds the city gives me, SIMPLY security and self-preservation, why exactly am I supposed to give my life for the city when it can actually not preserve me any longer? And, moreover why exactly does Ar introduce the question of the divine SPECIFICALLY linked to the question of nations and cities? Is Ar. letting us know, on the one hand by using the word nations and not only that of the Greek polis, that he is thinking BEYOND the Greek polis towards a much more fundamental and universal understanding of things (so that those interpreters of Ar. who see him as being caught within his Greek imaginary do not do justice to his vision)? But on the other hand, and MUCH more importantly, what exactly is more noble and DIVINE about the city? Is it MORE NOBLE because the city actually provides the occasion for my developing and exercising nobility (for those who die in war WILL be remembered)? And further is the city MORE DIVINE because it represents the occasion for the appearance of the Gods? And what if the LAW is provided by the Gods as Plato reflects upon in The Laws? And very importantly for leading a life, what if there as many gods as their are cities? And ultimately, are we indeed speaking of the HUMAN good —as Ar. Pointed out above—- or rather of a GOOD beyond the human good, a DIVINE good. For how is the political to be the architectonic and most authoritative if there are Gods which actually support and even PROVIDE the laws for said cities?
10) And finally why exactly does Ar. end this subsection by saying NOT that it IS a political inquiry, but rather that it is a KIND of political inquiry? Why qualify it by using a KIND? Where is he leading us? Will the political turn out NOT to call the most fundamental shots? But then who/what does? Or is it that the inquiry will move for a part of his audience beyond the desire to “call the shots”, towards trying to hit/get clear on an altogether new target?
1) The either/or predicament regarding the greatest good
So if it is the case that there is an end we wish on account of itself and for no other end, then this would be what we are looking for in our inquiry. For if it is not the case (and, for now, it MAY be the case), then our longing will be empty and pointless. Now, leaving aside the issue of whether in fact we are condemned to Ar.’s separation of an either/or dilemma (for instance, it is clear that Hobbes, rather than positing a SUMMUM bonum puts forth as the basis of all political philosophy what could be called a MINIMUM bonum, namely, self-preservation/security: “The Right of Nature ….. ”Leviathan, Part I, Chapter XIV: Hackett, p. 79; see section IV below), then clearly if such an end exists it would be that end which would make of life something that has a certain excellence. And, beyond the text, given that the NE precisely is a text on moral upbringing and development within and by the political community, it would not be strange to see Ar.’s struggling further on with the idea that one ought to consider the moral virtues AS THE PRIME candidate for such an overarching end. Moreover, as Ar. goes on to say, if the point is our LIVES, then surely knowing which exactly this end is, would allow us to actually direct or redirect our lives as a whole towards IT. For surely, if such a target does exist, and if it does make the WHOLE difference in our lives, then surely KNOWING what it is must be a central step in our heading in the RIGHT direction. For if we know nothing of it; how are we to come to realize we have in fact hit upon it, or at the very least, that we are are moving towards it? But Ar. seems to caution us, our path has NO ready made answers, rather it can only be shown in outline; and perhaps each one of us, must fill in the details as one moves along.
2) THE candidate: The political art (or science?)
And that there SEEMS to be such a candidate Ar. proceeds to argue is HELD to be the case. It appears that such an end turns out, at least initially, to be that of the political art. For precisely the political seems to be held by many to be the art/science which actually “calls the shots” both in terms of the knowledge a society will accept and foster, as well as the kind of individuals that such a political society will form by way of its civic education. Thus the political is “the most authoritative and most architectonic”. But leaving aside the fact that Ar. uses the feminine singular adjective politikē, WITHOUT specifying its noun —–be it a science, an art or a capacity; perhaps Ar. intention is to have us remain FLEXIBLE as to what the political, and in particular the ethical in relation to the political, is actually all about——Ar. proceeds to argue for this CANDIDATE by way of two core arguments.
The first, namely that the political“ordains what sciences there must be in cites and what kinds each person in turn must learn and to what point.”. This can be shown by thinking of the relevant examples which each society provides, a political society whose aim is precisely to order the actual make up of its citizens and of its citizens’ activities. Leaving aside the question as to whether early modern political philosophers found ANOTHER way of understand the role of the political, still it is true in our own age that what Ar. tells us is held to be the case, and in practical cases IS actually the case. The case of the development, creation and USE of nuclear weapons is the prime example for us technologically-geared modern. For as much as multinationals might wish to transcend the political through the economic, the joke which has a CEO asking why exactly companies cannot own nuclear weapons clearly reveals Ar.’s hierarchy. The political ordains the nuclear; if it hadn’t until now, a nuclear holocaust could have already occurred. Goggle CANNOT own nuclear weapons. And certainly, it is not all that difficult to find some examples of the second point, namely the education of the person. The fact that the Province of Québéc in Canada BY LAW —-famous and repeatedly challenged Bill 101—- forces any new immigrant to place his children SOLELY in French schools is such an example. Or, one could just recall that it is a political fact that military service in Colombia IS OBLIGATORY. Isn’t the Colombian individual called upon even to be prepared to DIE for his/her country? And not only that, but Colombians in the health sciences MUST provide a year of social service before graduating; thus showing the TYPE of citizen Colombia wishes to generate as the Republic that it is.
Ar. proceeds to argue his position with a second argument consisting of two parts. In the 1st part Ar. argues that “We also see that even the most honoured capacities —-for example, generalship, household management, rhetoric—- fall under the political art.” What are we to say of these three “most honoured capacities”? Of course, generalship does —usually– fall under the political: for surely Lincoln, Churchill and Roosevelt called the shots, not Grant, Montgomery or Patton. And as regards “household management”, it is obvious that it is very dangerous/illegal to have more than one baby in China. And moving towards the third honoured capacity, namely, rhetoric (which one could ask: WHY does Ar. introduce it so SUDDENLY?), and leaving aside our modern general disregard, suspicion and dishonour of rhetorical skills (specially in universities), still it is the political that guides the rhetorical and not the other way around. For demagogues there may be many; but demagogues in power less so.
And finally, in the 2nd part of his 2nd argument Ar. tells us “further, because it legislates what one ought to do and what to abstain from, its end would encompass those of the others, with the result that this would be the human good”. The appearance of legislation, the law and what is just is of crucial relevance to what exactly we mean by being and understanding the ethical. But how will our inquiry proceed? Will it simply accept justice as rather unproblematic; as THE peak and shining star? Will it consider the virtues SOLELY in terms of the good for the community, and not in relation to the individual itself? And other examples which seem to confirm what Ar. says are again available to us: it is clear that in Bogotá the LAW tells us we cannot take our cars out WHENEVER WE WISH; for there is “pico y placa”. And surely in Bogotá the LAW tells us every Sunday main streets are CLOSED for bikes in our ciclovías until exactly 2 pm. And such legislation is esteemed to be enacted and followed because it points towards the human good. It is clear that communal exercise is good for us as citizens and as individuals.
3) The individual and the cities
Finally Ar. confirms the view that the city takes ontological and temporal precedence over the individual by reaffirming that the political is held to be that architectonic, most complete, most authoritative and best end. For it appears that the security and the preservation of the good of the city is NOBLER and MORE divine than that of the individual (the use of the comparative implying that the security and preservation of the individual IS noble and divine as well, but to a different extent). Now, leaving aside the question as to why exactly the city’s appearance brings with it the first mention in the NE of the divine (in contrast to the EE where the divine makes a very early appearance), still it is the case, for Ar. that his audience will readily comprehend and accept this rhetorically defended argumentation. BUT, it is perhaps Rousseau who can BETTER shake us from our modern conceptions, who can best allow us to try to understand what is involved in Ar. claims and his rhetorical address to the audience he, as teacher, is speaking to:
“When one reads ancient history, one believes oneself transported into another universe and among other beings ,,,,
I cast my eye on the modern nations: I see there many makers of laws and not a single legislator ….
The same spirit guided all the ancient Legislators in their institutions. All sought bonds that would tie the Citizens to the fatherland and to one another; and they found those bonds in unique customs, in religious ceremonies that by their nature were always exclusive and national (see the end of my Social Contract), in games that emphatically brought the citizenry together, in exercises that augmented, along with the citizens vigour and strength, its pride and self-esteem, in spectacles that, recalling to them the history of their ancestors, their misfortunes, their virtues their victories, spoke to their hearts and inflamed them with a lively emulation and attached them strongly to that fatherland which had never ceased to preoccupy them. ….. If the moderns have laws, they have as their only goal teaching obedience to masters, not picking pockets, and spending enormous sums of money on public swindles. If they have their customs, they teach the knowledge of amusing the laziness of pretty women, and walking with the grace of such. …. Is it any wonder that such dissimilar ways of life produce such different effects, and that the moderns cannot find in themselves anything at all of the strength of soul which inspired everything among the ancients?” (my emphasis: Rousseau, Sur le gouvernenement de Pologne, GF Flammarion, p. 166-169; Translation Pangle.)
The reading of Ar. thus confronts these dissimilar ways of life, and it seems to involve certain complex choices foreign to us as moderns.
We conclude then that Ar. has put forward in BOOK I, Subsection 2: 1) the requirement of an either/or option which points us in the direction of an ultimate good; 2) that the most likely candidate, the most noble and revered candidate for such a target appears to be that of the political art/science; and, 3) that this is confirmed as well by the hierarchical relation between the individual and the city, the individual being understood as secondary to the well-being of the community to which he /she belongs. So it seems, the inquiry regarding THIS political art, and the type of education it fosters will be a core part of the strategic argument of the NE.
III. PUZZLES REGARDING COMMENTARY BY AQUINAS
1) Why does one have the troubling feeling AQ. does not emphasize the many “ifs” and “buts” and “appears” throughout Ar.’s argument? Why does AQ. rather argue continuously that Ar. PROVES many of his points? (19) What is it about the Catholic way of approaching Aristotle that closes off this flexibility?
2) What to make of AQ. mention of the 1st Mover and a natural order in (21)? Why does Ar. Not only not see the need to mention any 1st Mover, but rather —in contrast to the Bible— FIRST mention the political and THEN, through it, the possibility of the Gods by speaking of the preservation of the city as MORE divine? But isn’t the political, on the contrary, the very source of DISOBEDIENCE to God in the Bible (Sodom, Babel)? (See point 7 below)
3) Why does AQ. so emphatically differentiate between speculative vs. practical sciences in (24), when Ar. is so reticent to actually argue this way; recall his not even providing a specific non for the adjective politikē? And linked to the issue of Ar.’s audience, isn’t the interpretative move by AQ. Actually wishing to SEPARATE both of Ar.’s audiences: one dedicated to the theoretical part, one to the practical side of things? But isn’t this exactly what Ar. Is TRYING TO AVOID? And fundamentally, isn’t this exactly why he in fact has to be so PRUDENT as regards the very process of his argument and the TYPES of rhetorical arguments defended and USED? Wouldn’t the Lyceum have a VERY different nature than AQ.’s UNIVERSITY in Paris, of which OUR Universities are FUNDAMENTAL heirs? If so, what would OUR Universities be seriously missing?
4) And linked to the above, why exactly does AQ. tells us that Ar. CONCLUDES that the political IS the good of man, the supreme end of human things, when actually Ar. solely mentions that it is HELD TO BE SO? (29) Or put another way, what is SO different from Thomas More’s relation to the Greeks and his ironical posture towards the political in his short and beautiful Utopia? What is it about More’s kind of writing that one is tempted to say actually GETS what classical republicanism is all about? Not to mention, of course, his very death at the hands OF the political (in contrast to AQ.)?
5) What is the purpose of AQ.’s mentioning that Ar.’s argument of the preeminence of the city over the individual is supported by the fact that it shows “greater likeness to God who is the ultimate cause of all good”? But, is Ar. speaking of such a monotheistic God to his audience, or rather is he trying his best to safeguard the religious beliefs of his audience, a pagan audience, from the possible dangers that philosophical discourse represents to the very health of a STRONG republican spirit and the role the Gods play in such a politically empowered order? Put another way, wouldn’t it be rather odd to hear Ar. Speak of something like the story of Babel?
6) And finally, but much more dramatically: what to make of AQ´s kind of final appendix with its radically un-Aristotelian tenor and which must be quoted it full to be appreciated and puzzled over:
“But we should note that he says political science is the most important, not simply, but in that division of practical sciences, which are connected with human things, the ultimate end of which political science considers. The ultimate end of the whole universe is considered in theology which is the most important without qualification.”
Why doesn’t Ar. Even come close to saying something of this sort? And therefore, can we get to Ar. via AQ. by way of such additions?
7) And with reference to the Bible, isn’t it clear that political is from the start seen as the SOURCE of the separation from the divine justice of God? Isn’t Cain the first founder? Isn’t this exactly why Sodom MUST be destroyed?:
“Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven and He overthrew those cities and all the valley and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground” (Bible, Genesis, 19: 24,25)
For it is clear, Sodom has even contaminated the nature upon which it lay!
8) Finally, for a more precise contrast between the Aristotelian view of things and the biblical understanding of the whole one can turn to Pangle’s Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham where he writes regarding the Aristotelian subordination of the family to the polis:
“The full significance of this aspect of the Creation account —what is thus disregarded or demoted—becomes evident only when we place in juxtaposition the dramatically different conception of human sociability found in the classical philosophers … According to Aristotle’s lapidary formulation “The human is by nature a political animal”. In saying this, Aristotle indicates, he has in mind above all the participatory republican city as the focus of the fulfillment of the human capacity for self-government through collective deliberation issuing in the rule of man-made law. …… The family precedes and perdures within, the city or civic association. But the economic security and the spiritual maturity of reason at which the family and its members aim ultimately can be fulfilled only when the family, like the individual, exists as a part the greater whole that is the city under human law.” (Pangle, PPGA, pp. 60-61)
IV. FLEXIBLE SECTION
1) For Machiavelli’s powerful critique of any Summum bonum one can look at The Prince, Chapter XV:
“But because I want to write what will be useful to anyone who understands, it seems better to me to concentrate on what really happens rather than on theories or speculations. For many have imagined republics and principalities that have never been seen or known to exist. However, how men live is so different from how they should live that a ruler who does not do what is generally done, but persists in doing what ought to be done, will undermine his power, rather than maintain it.” (Cambridge, p. 54)
For Hobbes reaction to any Summum bonum one can look at Leviathan, Part I, Chapter XIV:
“The Right of Nature … is the liberty each man hath to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation of his own nature, that is to say, of his own life, and consequently of doing anything which, in his own judgement and reason, he shall conceive to be the aptest means thereunto.” (Hackett, p. 79)
For Locke one can look at his Two Treatises of Government, Second Treatise, Chapter XI,:
“The great end of men’s entering into society being the enjoyment of their properties in peace and safety, and the great instrument and means of that being the laws established in that society, the first and fundamental positive law of all commonwealths is the establishing of the legislative power; as the first and fundamental natural law which is to govern even the legislative itself is the preservation of the society and, as far as will consist in the public good, of every person in it.” (Hafner, p. 188)
For Montesquieu one can look at The Spirit of the Laws, Part II, Chapter 2:
“political liberty consists in security or, at least, in the opinion one has on one’s security” (Cambridge, p. 188)
2) Finally, for Rousseau’s CONTRASTING views to Hobbes and Locke, one can look at his reaffirmation of the nature of classical republicanism in the Greek Polis, in his Sur le gouvernenement de Pologne:
“When one reads ancient history, one believes oneself transported into another universe and among other beings ,,,,
I cast my eye on the modern nations: I see there many makers of laws and not a single legislator ….
The same spirit guided all the ancient Legislators in their institutions. All sought bonds that would tie the Citizens to the fatherland and to one another; and they found those bonds in unique customs, in religious ceremonies that by their nature were always exclusive and national (see the end of my Social Contract), in games that emphatically brought the citizenry together, in exercises that augmented, along with the citizens vigour and strength, its pride and self-esteem, in spectacles that, recalling to them the history of their ancestors, their misfortunes, their virtues their victories, spoke to their hearts and inflamed them with a lively emulation and attached them strongly to that fatherland which had never ceased to preoccupy them. ….. If the moderns have laws, they have as their only goal teaching obedience to masters, not picking pockets, and spending enormous sums of money on public swindles. If they have their customs, they teach the knowledge of amusing the laziness of pretty women, and walking with the grace of such. …. Is it any wonder that such dissimilar ways of life produce such different effects, and that the moderns cannot find in themselves anything at all of the strength of soul which inspired everything among the ancients?” (my emphasis: GF Flammarion, p. 166-169; Translation Pangle.)
3)For the role of sumptuary laws and democracy as another example of how the political is in fact an architectonic art, see Montesquieu’s TSotL, Part I, Chapter, 2:
“So far as luxury is established in a republic, so far does the spirit turn to the interest of the individual. For people who have to have nothing but the necessities, there is left to desire only the glory of the homeland and one’s own glory. But a soul corrupted by luxury has many other desires; soon it becomes the enemy of the laws that hamper it. When those in the garrison at Rhegium became familiar with luxury, they slaughtered the town-‘s inhabitants.” (Cambridge, p. 98)
4) For the Federalists attack on the nature of ancient Republicanism and its instability see, The Federalists Papers, No. 9:
“It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually agitated, and at the rapid successions of revolutions by which they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy” (Signet, p. 9)
V. IMPORTANT GREEK TERMS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE
|τέλος||technical art or craft|
|ἄπειρον||unlimited, without end|
|τὸ ἄριστον||the best|
|ἢ δυνάμεων||capacity (cf. energeia)|
|μάλιστα ἀρχιτεκτονικῆς||most architectonic|
|ἡ πολιτικὴ||political (ADJECTVE political; SEE NOTE 9, Bartlett.)|
|τἀνθρώπινον ἀγαθόν||human good|
|θειότερον||of or from the gods|
VI. NICOMACHEAN ETHICS, GREEK, BOOK I, 2; text at Perseus (based on Bywater)
εἰ δή τι τέλος ἐστὶ τῶν πρακτῶν ὃ δι᾽ αὑτὸ βουλόμεθα, τἆλλα δὲ διὰ τοῦτο, καὶ μὴ πάντα δι᾽ ἕτερον αἱρούμεθα （πρόεισι γὰρ οὕτω γ᾽ εἰς ἄπειρον, ὥστ᾽ εἶναι κενὴν καὶ ματαίαν τὴν ὄρεξιν）, δῆλον ὡς τοῦτ᾽ ἂν εἴη τἀγαθὸν καὶ τὸ ἄριστον. ἆρ᾽ οὖν καὶ πρὸς τὸν βίον ἡ γνῶσις αὐτοῦ μεγάλην ἔχει ῥοπήν, καὶ καθάπερ τοξόται σκοπὸν ἔχοντες μᾶλλον ἂν τυγχάνοιμεν τοῦ δέοντος; εἰ δ᾽ οὕτω, πειρατέον τύπῳ γε περιλαβεῖν αὐτὸ τί ποτ᾽ ἐστὶ καὶ τίνος τῶν ἐπιστημῶν ἢ δυνάμεων. δόξειε δ᾽ ἂν τῆς κυριωτάτης καὶ μάλιστα ἀρχιτεκτονικῆς. τοιαύτη δ᾽ ἡ πολιτικὴ φαίνεται: τίνας γὰρ εἶναι χρεὼν τῶν ἐπιστημῶν ἐν ταῖς πόλεσι, καὶ ποίας ἑκάστους μανθάνειν καὶ μέχρι τίνος, αὕτη διατάσσει: ὁρῶμεν δὲ καὶ τὰς ἐντιμοτάτας τῶν δυνάμεων ὑπὸ ταύτην οὔσας, οἷον στρατηγικὴν οἰκονομικὴν ῥητορικήν: χρωμένης δὲ ταύτης ταῖς λοιπαῖς πρακτικαῖς τῶν ἐπιστημῶν, ἔτι δὲ νομοθετούσης τί δεῖ πράττειν καὶ τίνων ἀπέχεσθαι, τὸ ταύτης τέλος περιέχοι ἂν τὰ τῶν ἄλλων, ὥστε τοῦτ᾽ ἂν εἴη τἀνθρώπινον ἀγαθόν. εἰ γὰρ καὶ ταὐτόν ἐστιν ἑνὶ καὶ πόλει, μεῖζόν γε καὶ τελειότερον τὸ τῆς πόλεως φαίνεται καὶ λαβεῖν καὶ σῴζειν: ἀγαπητὸν μὲν γὰρ καὶ ἑνὶ μόνῳ, κάλλιον δὲ καὶ θειότερον ἔθνει καὶ πόλεσιν. ἡ μὲν οὖν μέθοδος τούτων ἐφίεται, πολιτική τις οὖσα.