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[1325a] [1] that is one that is well governed, in as much as it is conceivable that a state might be carried on somewhere in isolation, enjoying good laws, and in such a state the system of the constitution will not be framed for the purpose of war or of overpowering its enemies—for we are to suppose everything to do with war to be excluded. It is evident therefore that while all military pursuits are to be deemed honorable, they are not so as being the ultimate end of all things but as means to that end. And it is the business of the good lawgiver to study how a state, a race of men or any other community is to partake of the good life and the happiness possible for them. Some however of the regulations laid down will vary; and in case there exist any neighbor peoples, it is the business of the legislative art to consider what sort of exercises should be practised in relation to what sort of neighbors or how the state is to adopt the regulations that are suitable in relation to each.

But this question of the proper end for the best constitutions to aim at may receive its due consideration later.1

We turn to those who, while agreeing that the life of virtue is the most desirable, differ about the way in which that life should be pursued. Some disapprove of holding office in the state, thinking that the life of the free man [20] is different from the life of politics and is the most desirable of any; whereas others think the political life the best life, for they argue that it is impossible for the man who does nothing to do well, and doing well and happiness are the same thing.2 To these two parties we must reply that both are partly right and partly wrong. The former are right in saying that the life of the free man is better than the life of mastership, for this is true—there is nothing specially dignified in employing a slave, as a slave, for giving orders about menial duties has in it nothing of nobility; yet to think that all government is exercising the authority of a master is a mistake, for there is as wide a difference between ruling free men and ruling slaves as there is between the natural freeman and the natural slave themselves. But these things have been adequately decided in the first discourses.3 But to praise inaction more highly than action is an error, for happiness is an activity, and further the actions of the just and temperate have in them the realization of much that is noble. Yet on the strength of these decisions somebody might perhaps suppose that the highest good is to be the master of the world, since thus one would have the power to compass the greatest number and the noblest kind of actions, and therefore it is not the duty of the man that is capable of ruling to surrender office to his neighbor, but rather to take it from him, and no account must be taken by father of sons nor by sons of father nor in general by one friend of another, and no heed must be paid to them in comparison with this; for the best thing is the most to be desired, and to do well is the best thing. Now this statement is perhaps true

1 See 13, 14.

2 On the ambiguous use of ‘do well’ see 1323b 32 n.

3 i.e. Book 1.

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