Aristotle's Politics

Clarify the relationship of the individual's happiness to that of the state. How can a state be happy? Does aristole think that individual's intrests should be subservient with the state's?

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"Aristotle conceived happiness not primarily as an exercise of virtue in private or with friends, but as the exercise of virtue in governing an ideal state. The best states are knit together so tightly that the interests of one person are the same as the interests of all. Hence, a person who acts for his or her own good must also act for the good of all fellow citizens. It follows that discussions of Aristotle’s altruism and egoism are misconceived." (1)

Aristotle's Virtues

1) Courage- a disposition toward a particular behavior in battle: "Properly (kurios) the courageous man might be said to be fearless of noble death and all that suddenly brings death, most especially in war" (N.E. III.6.1115a32-34). States, not individuals, go to war; so only people who live in or act with states could be properly courageous. Likewise, Aristotle declares that political justice or, apparently equivalently, simple justice is "found in a life lived in an association for the sake of self-sufficiency"

2)Wisdom- Aristotle ascribes this virtue to those like Pericles who manage households and are statesmen, for they understand what is good for themselves and for humankind (VI.5.1140b7-11). Insofar as they have practical wisdom, they also possess all moral virtues (VI.13). There is an interesting, albeit brief, comparison of the practical wisdom of the statesman with that which a private individual might possess in VI.8. The practical wisdom that enables a Pericles to decide what is best for a state is but one type of practical wisdom; other species enable one to decide what is best for oneself, for a household, or for litigants in a legal case (8.1141b29-33).

3) Aristotle's conclusion is that the best state is an aristocracy or monarchy, and the choice between these two depends on the character of its citizens. Where there is only person of truly outstanding abilities, he ought to rule as king (13.1284b25-34); where there are many, an aristocracy is preferable (15.1286b3-7).(11) In short, the moral qualities of the citizens determine which constitution is best for any state. At issue is not which constitution will best govern and provide for the needs of its citizens but which will allow its citizens the opportunity to realize the greatest virtue. Rule is an honor that ought to be distributed to people who merit it(12) and an opportunity for them to exercise virtue. It is, thus, clear that Aristotle conceives of political activity as the exercise of virtue.

4)citizens and rulers share some virtues, the two groups need not possess the same forms of each virtue. Insofar as the citizens' virtues are directed by true belief, they are derivative forms of the proper virtues guided by practical wisdom. (An indication of the status of the citizen's virtue is Aristotle's comparison of the citizen's courage with that of women [1277b21-22], for women clearly do not possess courage in the proper sense.)

These citations should help you out. As you can see, Aristotle believes the interests of the state ARE the interests of the individual.