[1252a] [1]

Every state is as we see a sort of partnership,1 and every partnership is formed with a view to some good (since all the actions of all mankind are done with a view to what they think to be good). It is therefore evident that, while all partnerships aim at some good the partnership that is the most supreme of all and includes all the others does so most of all, and aims at the most supreme of all goods; and this is the partnership entitled the state, the political association. Those then who think that the natures of the statesman, the royal ruler, the head of an estate2 and the master of a family are the same, are mistaken (they imagine that the difference between these various forms of authority is one of greater and smaller numbers, not a difference in the kind—that is, that the ruler over a few people is a master, over more the head of an estate, over more still a statesman or royal ruler, as if there were no difference between a large household and a small city; and also as to the statesman and the royal ruler, they think that one who governs as sole head is royal, and one who, while the government follows the principles of the science of royalty, takes turns to govern and be governed is a statesman; but these views are not true). And a proof that these people are mistaken will appear if we examine the question in accordance with our regular method of investigation. In every other matter it is necessary to analyze the composite whole down to its uncompounded elements (for these are the smallest [20] parts of the whole); so too with the state, by examining the elements of which it is composed we shall better discern in relation to these different kinds of rulers what is the difference between them, and whether it is possible to obtain any scientific precision in regard to the various statements made above.

In this subject as in others the best method of investigation is to study things in the process of development from the beginning. The first coupling together of persons then to which necessity gives rise is that between those who are unable to exist without one another: for instance the union of female and male for the continuance of the species (and this not of deliberate purpose, but with man as with the other animals and with plants there is a natural instinct to desire to leave behind one another being of the same sort as oneself); and the union of natural ruler and natural subject for the sake of security (for he that can foresee with his mind is naturally ruler and naturally master, and he that can do these things3 with his body is subject and naturally a slave; so that master and slave have the same interest).

1 The Greek word had not acquired a specially political connotation as the English word ‘community’ has.

2 οἰκονόμος denoting a higher grade than δεσπότης is unusual. For their ordinary use see 2.1 fin.

3 A probable emendation gives ‘that can carry out labor.’

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