Aristotle's Politics

The Best Regime

What is the best regime? Building from his discussion of happiness, virtue, and the good life in Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle answers this question elaborately in his later text, The Politics. In his elaboration, Aristotle investigates numerous regimes, looking particularly at what claims bring them about and what eventually leads to their downfall. Nonetheless, Aristotle's analysis is consistent with his work in The Ethics, and so the highest focus, or aim, remains virtue. Unfortunately, a regime with such a pure focus has never existed; instead it has been stymied by factional conflicts among those who make up the city, and the differing views of justice and inequality that result. Thus Aristotle's answer is twofold: his immediate answer points to those regimes that focus on virtue foremost; at a more practical level, however, he identifies the best regime as one that acknowledges other focuses, such as on wealth and freedom, in addition to the highest focus on virtue. This latter regime is still an aspiration though, and in fact Aristotle admits that it occurs only infrequently. To help realize the best regime in practice then, Aristotle also discusses by what means it may come into being, as well as what aids the...

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