Essay on Aristotle’s Views on Politics and Ethics

If one would like to put Aristotle’s point, one would say that as it is part of human nature to seek happiness, it is also a part of human nature to live in communities; we are social animals, and the state is a development from the family through the village community, an off-shoot of the family; formed originally for the satisfaction of natural wants, state exists for moral ends and for the promotion of the family, formed originally for the satisfaction of natural wants, state exists for moral ends and for the promotion of the higher life; the state is a genuine moral organisation for advancing the development of human beings.

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle clearly says: “We regard the object of politics as supreme which is the attainment of a good and honourable life of the members of the community.” Ethics guide his political theory, seeking the co-relation of political and ethical life. His Nicomachean Ethics is an inspiration to his Politics:

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i. For Aristotle, the state is not merely a political community; it is at the same time a government, a school, an ethics, and culture. It is what expresses man’s whole life; gives man a good life which, in turn, means a moral and ethical living.

ii. In his Nicomachean Ethics, he describes the moral qualities a man should possess. In Politics as well, he points out the qualities of a citizen; a good man can only be a good citizen. As in a good man, so in a good citizen there ought to be qualities such as cooperation, tolerance, self-control, qualities which Aristotle says, are imbibed by practice. Thus practice helps attain qualities and politics helps achieve ethical ends.

iii. Ethics and politics are so closely related that it is through politics, Aristotle asserts, that we see ethical life. As politics, he continues is a science of practice and as through our activities we seek the achievement of moral virtues, it is, he concluded, in our own hands to adopt good or bad virtues. Through our efforts we can attain qualities and leave what is not virtuous.

iv. Aristotle’s basis of political theory is his ethics. In his work on ethics, he says emphatically that man is different from animal in so far as he is more active and more rational than animals. It is through his rationality, the element of reason in him, that man does what is in his interest or is in the interest of the community of which he is a part; he seeks what is good for him and for his fellow-beings. Men, Aristotle holds the view, and not animals, have had lessons of ethics.

v. Aristotle’s political theory is intimately related to his ethical theory. His theory of justice, for example, is ethical-oriented. For Aristotle, justice is virtue, a complete virtue, morality personified and ail that is good. This is his notion of justice in his Nicomachean Ethics.

In his Politics, the view about justice is distributive linked to the notion of proportionate equality which for Aristotle meant to treat equals equally, and unequal’s, unequally. Ethics is not only a basis for his political theory; it is its escort on inspiration as well. Nowhere in the discussion of his political ideas does Aristotle say anything which is not ethical.

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