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[1278b] [1] Is the goodness that makes a good man to be deemed the same as that which makes a worthy citizen, or different? is now clear from what has been said in one form of state the good man and the good citizen are the same, but in another they are different, and also in the former case it is not every citizen but only the statesman, the man who controls or is competent to control, singly or with colleagues, the administration of the commonwealth, that is essentially also a good man.

And since these points have been determined, the next question to be considered is whether we are to lay it down that there is only one form of constitution or several, and if several, what they are and how many and what are the differences between them. Now a constitution is the ordering of a state in respect of its various magistracies, and especially the magistracy that is supreme over all matters. For the government is everywhere supreme over the state and the constitution is the government. I mean that in democratic states for example the people are supreme, but in oligarchies on the contrary the few are; and we say that they have a different constitution. And we shall use the same language about the other forms of government also.

We have therefore to determine first the fundamental points, what is the object for which a state exists and how many different kinds of system there are for governing mankind and for controlling the common life.

Now it has been said in our first discourses,1 in which we determined the principles concerning household management and the control of slaves, that man is by nature a political animal; [20] and so even when men have no need of assistance from each other they none the less desire to live together. At the same time they are also brought together by common interest, so far as each achieves a share of the good life. The good life then is the chief aim of society, both collectively for all its members and individually; but they also come together and maintain the political partnership for the sake of life merely, for doubtless there is some element of value contained even in the mere state of being alive, provided that there is not too great an excess on the side of the hardships of life, and it is clear that the mass of mankind cling to life at the cost of enduring much suffering, which shows that life contains some measure of well-being and of sweetness in its essential nature.

And again, the several recognized varieties of government can easily be defined; in fact we frequently discuss them in our external discourses.2 The authority of a master over a slave, although in truth when both master and slave are designed by nature for their positions their interests are the same, nevertheless governs in the greater degree with a view to the interest of the master, but incidentally with a view to that of the slave, for if the slave deteriorates the position of the master cannot be saved from injury. Authority over children and wife [and over the whole household, which we call the art of household management3] is exercised either in the interest of those ruled or for some common interest of both parties,—essentially, in the interest of the ruled, as we see that the other arts also,

1 1253a 1 ff.

2 Mentioned at 1323a 22 (and also six times in other books); they are there appealed to for the tripartite classification of foods which in Aristot. Nic. Eth.1098b 12 is ascribed to ‘current opinion of long standing and generally accepted by students of philosophy.’ The term may there predenote doctrines not peculiar to the Peripatetic school.

3 Aristotle can hardly have written this clause, as it includes mastership over slaves.

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hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • William Watson Goodwin, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, Chapter III
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1098b
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