previous next
[1276b] [1] For inasmuch as a state is a kind of partnership, and is in fact a partnership of citizens in a government, when the form of the government has been altered and is different it would appear to follow that the state is no longer the same state, just as we say that a chorus which on one occasion acts a comedy and on another a tragedy is a different chorus although it is often composed of the same persons, and similarly with any other common whole or composite structure we say it is different if the form of its structure is different—for instance a musical tune consisting of the same notes we call a different tune if at one time it is played in the Dorian mode and at another in the Phrygian. Therefore if this is the case, it is clear that we must speak of a state as being the same state chiefly with regard to its constitution; and it is possible for it to be called by the same or by a different designation both when its inhabitants are the same and when they are entirely different persons. But whether a state is or is not bound in justice to discharge its engagements when it has changed to a different constitution, is another subject.

The next thing to consider after what has now been said is the question whether we are to hold that the goodness of a good man is the same as that of a good citizen, or not the same. However, if this point really is to receive investigation, we must first ascertain in some general outline what constitutes the excellence of a citizen. [20] Now a citizen we pronounced to be one sort of partner in a community, as is a sailor. And although sailors differ from each other in function—one is an oarsman, another helmsman, another look-out man, and another has some other similar special designation—and so clearly the most exact definition of their excellence will be special to each, yet there will also be a common definition of excellence that will apply alike to all of them; for security in navigation is the business of them all, since each of the sailors aims at that. Similarly therefore with the citizens, although they are dissimilar from one another, their business is the security of their community, and this community is the constitution, so that the goodness of a citizen must necessarily be relative to the constitution of the state. If therefore there are various forms of constitution, it is clear that there cannot be one single goodness which is the perfect goodness of the good citizen; but when we speak of a good man we mean that he possesses one single goodness, perfect goodness. Hence it is manifestly possible to be a good citizen without possessing the goodness that constitutes a good man. Moreover it is also feasible to pursue the same topic by raising the question in another manner in relation to the best form of constitution. If it is impossible1 for a state to consist entirely of good men, and if it is necessary for each person to perform well the work of his position, and to do this springs from goodness, then because it is impossible for all the citizens to be alike,

1 Perhaps the Greek should be altered to give ‘possible’. If we emend the text with Bernays to εἰ γὰρ δύνατον ἐξ ἁπάντων σπουδαίων ὄντων εἶναι πόλιν, the sense is: assuming the possibility of a perfect state, with all its factors the best of their kind, this means that all the population will be good citizens, not that they will all be perfect specimens of the human race, because the state needs citizens of the working classes, etc., and these cannot in the nature of things be perfect human beings

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (1957)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: