Aristotle's Politics

Classics of Social and Political Thought (Aristotle's 'Politics'): Who Should Rule the City?

Aristotle contends that the good man is dissimilar to the good citizen in ways he goes a great length to illustrate. He distinguishes the two for the purpose of facilitating his later arguments concerning the appropriate allocation of sovereignty to the rightful ruler, who he subsequently claims is the good man who excels all others in each and every aspect. Aristotle's distinction further prompts the notion that he advocates a monarchial form of constitution, for the rule of a single good man is equivalent to a constitution of kingship. This can be derived through the following reasoning. Aristotle is convinced that the good citizen can so be defined only in relation to the constitution he is an element of: 'The excellence of the citizen must be an excellence relative to the constitution (1276b16).' The good man on the other hand, 'is a man so called in virtue of a single absolute excellence (1276b16).' He further asserts that the good citizen 'must possess the knowledge and capacity requisite for ruling as well as for being ruledÖa good man will also need both (1277b7~1277b16).' From these conclusions of Aristotle, it is evident that the good man and the good citizen differ in the manner of their...

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