Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Aristotle on Politics and Good Life

The modernist notion that the politicians should keep aloof from the issues of morality and good life is antithetical to the ancient notion of politics—Aristotle says that the aim of politics is to create opportunities for good life (a life of virtue) in the city-state. In Book 3 of Politics, he writes: “Any polis which is truly so called, and is not merely one in name, must devote itself to the end of encouraging goodness.” I believe, Aristotle is right—a good life is possible only in a nation which is home to people of good character; so the focus of state has to be on building character. “Before we can [investigate] the nature of an ideal constitution,” Aristotle writes in Book I of Politics, “it is necessary for us first to determine the nature of the most desirable way of life. As long as that is obscure, the nature of the ideal constitution must also remain obscure.” Thus, for Aristotle, the purpose of politics is cultivation of virtue (good character), and the purpose of the constitution is to sustain a desirable way of life. The conception of good life is aligned to the conception of justice.

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