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VCU POLI 107 - Aristotle

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POLI 107 1st Edition Lecture 4Aristotle:- Sought knowledge of the entirety of politics: the relative and absolute good, as well as inferior or even bad- His published works are taken from lectures collected from his school, the Lyceum- The Politics is his most significant work of poli sci- Aristotle wanted to establish a new poli sci that covers both the ideal and actualAristotle vs. Plato:- Key difference: Aristotle’s focus on the actual world vs. Plato’s focus on the ideal- Both viewed the polis as an educative institution designed to make its people good- Both associated virtue with knowledge and the study of virtue is the beating heart of political theory- Aristotle objects to Plato’s radicalism and speculation… poli sci should be based on facts- Aristotle critiques Plato’s Forms based upon a ‘doctrine of substance’- Aristotle also believed the morality cannot be taught as pure ideas- Important point of departure: knowledge of the good is not simply learned but also derived from experienceo Experience is the primary source of the most valuable knowledge one can achieve(practical knowledge) b/c it is in the material realm that we make morally meaningful choicesAristotle’s Teleology:- Teleology = an explanation of something based upon the ends it serves- Aristotle derives his teleology from natureo In life, all things progress through stages, including the human soul- We achieve excellence and experience the supreme Good through the soul- Aristotle is chiefly concerned with the natural development of the soul… how we can become virtuous people- i.e. acorn to tree = baby to adult- Our development into virtuous people is not automatic- We must seize opportunities to learn what it is to be Good and then be Good- Nature has given us reason, which is the basis for our moral agencyo We are capable of making morally meaningful choices- This challenge involves translating our natural disposition toward being Good into actually being Good… most of us will struggle… unless we live in a properly governed polis- Aristotle believes a virtuous life depends upon careful conditioning and habituationo This is a natural function the polis may fulfill- In this way, the polis represents a vital stage in our natural human development Why the Polis?- Humans are naturally social beings- Social interaction facilitates self-sufficiency - The polis is a key source of moral values, chief among them justiceWhy Political Science?- Study of poli sci is primarily concerned with understanding our natural development into the highest form of human association: the polis (city)- Application of poli sci will help us build better cities so as to achieve our natural ends (and be happy and complete people)Aristotle’s Science of the Polis:- Aristotle does not seek a universal definition- Instead, he observes patterns and identifies types- Two general types of constitutions:o True (pure), law-abidingo Perverted, despotic- Typology of six forms:o True: adhere to the law, allow the function and thereby enable citizens to live better lives Monarchy- Best of the pure forms, though monarchies are also unstable Aristocracy Moderate democracy (polity)o Perverted: subordinate law to the regime Tyranny Oligarchy Extreme democracy (mob-rule)o Best practicable constitution is the mixed form, combining elements of democracy and oligarchy Mixed constitution brings together superior administration and popular power Mixed constitutions are unstable if the distribution of wealth is unbalanced Best conditions for a mixed constitution consists of a large middle class, which balances the interests of the poor and the richAristotle’s Art of the Statesman:- The art of the statesman is the highest of human arts- Statesman must draw upon convention and common sense- Statesmen oversee the functioning of the city- Statesmen are beholden to the law, and must be intimately knowledgeable of itAristotle & Law:- Law is a necessary component of sound, effective govt- Law prevents arbitrary rule- Law is a highly effective mean to communicate a society’s good practices- Law entails the accumulated wisdom of a people- Studying law facilitates the pursuit of virtue and happinessKey Observations:- The City is essential to the happiness of the individual- Political theory is a practical science to be applied to the real world- Humans are naturally disposed towards excellence- Though we may struggle, we retain the potential to achieve ito The City is crucial toward this endAristotle’s Politics:- CF, 107o What do you recall about his ‘scientific conclusions’ regarding the ‘process of growth’ involving the polis?o What are the two necessary components?- CF, 108o What is the essential quality of the ‘ruling element’?- CF 108,109o Aristotle relates the three stages, or forms of association that culminate in the polis. Do you recall what these are?- CF 109 “It is evident that the polis… or a being higher than man.”o Those who live w/o the polis is either a beast or god. The former cannot appreciate what it takes to be happy; the latter could achieve happiness through divine powero Since humans are neither, we must embrace the polis to satisfy our natural ends- CF, 117 “ A natural impulse is thus… each of us individually”o All people have a shared interest in the Good Lifeo At a minimum, we are naturally compelled to seek each other out even if it gives us nothing in return- CF, 120 “In all states there may be… lead of reason.”o There is a valued role for reasoned discussions in politicso The rich and poor tend to strike biased positions relative to the proper aims of the stateo Reason is vital to good


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