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Indeed, Aristotle devotes two of the four remaining books of the
Ethics to a discussion of friendship, a mere sketch of which shows that
this question remains fully in play. For friendship is a community that
is so cherished a good that “no one would choose to live without friends,
even if he had all the rest of the goods” (NE 1155a5“6; my emphasis).
At its best, moreover, friendship would seem not only conducive to the
pursuit of wisdom but to promise a perfect common good or “justice in
the fullest sense” that legislators seek to emulate in instilling a common
vision of the good (homonoia) in citizens (NE 1155a22“8). In such a
community of friends, therefore, justice and wisdom would appear to
be potentially coherent. On the other hand, in contrast to the political
community, the primary question for friendship is not whether its end
or activities are just “ done with a view to another™s good “ but whether
they accord with the true health and happiness of a human being.7
As such, friendship can be grounded in “self-love,” the good human
being will seek as his true friends only those who are truly good for him,
and, in the end, Aristotle will not hold the “wise man™s” essential self-
suf¬ciency “ the fact that he is “able to contemplate even by himself ” “
against him but, to the contrary, will count this self-suf¬ciency as a
mark of his superior virtue (NE 1168b28“34, 1169a3“6, 1172a8“14,
1177a27“b1).8

6 Compare, for example, Tessitore, Reading Aristotle™s “Ethics,” p. 50, and Smith, Revaluing
Ethics, pp. 272“84.
7 Even for Smith, who treats friendship as a model or “analogy” for the just political
community and the good life, the aim is ¬nally one™s own ¬‚ourishing: “practically wise
activity entails . . . viewing other people as necessary for one™s own happiness because
they help one both know oneself and acquire the qualities such as wisdom that make
¬‚ourishing possible” (Revaluing Ethics, pp. 265“6); moreover, “contemplation “ the
activity associated with philosophy “ is most practical because it is most in our interest”
(p. 245).
8 There is growing interest in Aristotle™s treatment of friendship, a sign of its signi¬-
cance in his political philosophy and for ethics and politics generally. See Lorraine
Smith Pangle, Aristotle and the Philosophy of Friendship (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer-
sity Press, 2003); Michael Pakaluk™s commentary on Books VIII and IX of the Nico-
machean Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998); A. W. Price, Love and Friendship
The Problem of Prudence 97

The ¬nal books of the Ethics thus grapple with the question that
is most serious for Aristotle and at the heart of civic education and
virtue: the question of the best way of life. The account of the virtues
makes clear that a complete consideration of this question requires an
examination of the political community™s highest and noblest peda-
gogic aims. By undertaking this examination, we come to see both why
the question of the best life is central to politics and why the full exam-
ination of this question is necessarily bound up with an investigation
of justice and wisdom. Aristotle is more explicit in the Ethics than he
is in the Politics that the philosophic or contemplative life is the best
life for a human being. His investigation of moral virtue “ the virtue at
which the political community™s education aims “ presents the initial
justi¬cation for the continued investigation of the good in the Ethics,
but it would require a systematic examination of Books VI through X
of the Ethics to illuminate the full grounds for and signi¬cance of the
work™s ¬nal conclusion concerning the best life.
By thinking through the demands of good action, nonetheless, we
understand better the political community™s relation not only to wis-
dom but to moral virtue itself. For even if the political community
is not perfectly self-suf¬cient as an educator, it remains, in a crucial
sense, the home of the human good. Aristotle echoes the opening
claims of his Ethics regarding the political community™s authoritative
power in the introduction to his Politics. He also links the two works
with his ¬nal statement in the Ethics that the next step is to undertake
an examination of legislation and of the regime in general “so that,
as best as we are able, we may complete our philosophy of human
affairs” (NE 1181b14“15). As he introduces this transition to the sub-
ject matter of the Politics, Aristotle recalls his earlier observation that
in the current inquiry, we are seeking not theoretical but practical
knowledge: “not to contemplate and understand each thing, but to

in Plato and Aristotle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989); Suzanne Stern-Gillet,
Aristotle™s Philosophy of Friendship (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995);
Paul Schollmeier, Other Selves: Aristotle on Personal and Political Friendship (Albany: State
University of New York Press, 1994); and David Konstan, Friendship in the Classical World
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). In different ways, Smith and Frank
use aspects of Aristotle™s treatment of friendship to model a just community, and both
¬nd support for forms of pluralism (see Smith, Revaluing Ethics, ch. 8 and Frank, A
Democracy of Distinction: Aristotle and the Work of Politics [Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 2005], ch. 5).
Prudence, the Good Citizen, and the Good Life
98

do it . . . for, surely concerning virtue, it is not suf¬cient to know it but
one must try to possess and use it” (NE 1179a35“b3; cf. 1103b26“30).
At the forefront of Aristotle™s consideration and turn to the Politics,
then, is again the problem of how we are to become good and act
well. Having now an adequate “outline” of the best life, the virtues,
friendship, and pleasure, we must complete our inquiry by examining
not simply legislation but also the source of legislation, the regime.


education, law, and compulsion
It is in the context of the practical problem of legislation that the
concluding chapter of the Ethics returns to the question of education
and law.9 For we know that the highest pedagogic aim of the political
community, moral virtue, entails the habituation of the desires and
longings, and that the law is said to be the voice of command con-
cerning this habituation. With regard to education, Aristotle points
¬rst to certain necessities: Because reason or speeches (logoi) alone
are insuf¬cient in making people good (epieike¯s, equitable), law is
required as a form of constraint. More precisely, speeches have the
power to persuade only those who are already well disposed “ those who
are “liberal,” “well-born,” and lovers of the noble “ and the same
speeches have no power over those who “by nature obey not out of
awe [aidos] but out of fear” and “are swayed not by shame but by
punishments” (NE 1179b7“9). Some human beings can be brought
to virtue if they receive the proper training from youth on. Indeed,
such training is absolutely necessary for the young, whose inborn love
of pleasure requires checking and pruning lest it overrun their rea-
son, and whose nurture and pursuits must therefore be “arranged
by the laws” (NE 1119b7“11, 1179b32“5). For others, law is required


9 Of this ¬nal chapter of the Nicomachean Ethics, Bod´ us writes, “Two thousand years

of scholarship have not exhausted this chapter™s richness” (The Political Dimensions of
Aristotle™s “Ethics,” p. 47). As the transition to Aristotle™s treatment of politics in the
obvious sense, this chapter underlines the practical matters connected with virtue,
in particular, the obstacles to its acquisition, but as Bod´ us indicates, such concerns

raise the kinds of dif¬cult questions that Plato addresses in his Laws and Meno regard-
ing the limits of reason and the teachability of virtue (pp. 48“57). See also Stewart,
Notes on the “Nicomachean Ethics” of Aristotle, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1892),
II.466“7.
Education, Law, and Compulsion 99

with a view to deterrence or coercion simply: Because most people are
obedient only through compulsion, they are moved not by arguments
or by the noble, but by punishment alone; there are those, in fact, who
are so “incurable” that the laws cannot educate or retrain them, and
they must therefore be “banished” (NE 1180a5“10).
It seems a sober realism on Aristotle™s part that now presents the law
less in terms of its highest aims and more in terms of its deterrent force
and remedial effect. His presentation contrasts with his careful avoid-
ance of the question of coercion and punishment in the discussion of
justice. If the controlling metaphor in his discussion of corrective or
retributive justice is mathematics “ the calculation involved in restoring
an aggrieved party to “equality” “ Aristotle now speaks more bluntly
of punishments and penalties and, in general, of the application of
pain as a form of chastisement or remedy. Although the law is “drawn
from a certain prudence and intelligence,” it must have “compulsive
power” if it is to oppose effectively the “impulses” (hormai) of the many
(NE 1180a21“2). As a common concern, then, the law comes to sight
in light of the need for coercion. To be sure, in being drawn from a
certain prudence and intelligence, the law wishes to use its compul-
sive power in the service of right reason, and because “the law is not
oppressive when it commands what is equitable,” it attracts less enmity
than does the command of a single human being (NE 1180a22“4).
Yet, even though the laws are “speeches,” they are speeches that must
carry a big stick.
Aristotle acknowledges that most political communities badly
neglect nurture and education as a common concern. For most are
“utterly careless” and even re¬‚ect a kind of barbarism, “each man living
as he wishes, like the Cyclops laying down what is right for his children
and wife” (NE 1180a26“9; cf. Pol. 1253a22“3). In the light of this actual
experience, Aristotle is led to consider education as a private matter,
saying that in most cities, those who care to bring their children or
friends to virtue must do so, as well as they can, in their capacity as
parents and friends. Yet moral education can never be a wholly private
affair. The obvious dif¬culty, for both political communities and pri-
vate educators, is that in pertaining to our associations and common
relations, such education ultimately falls under the purview of justice
and the law. It matters not, Aristotle observes, whether the laws are writ-
ten or unwritten, or whether they educate one person or many; they
Prudence, the Good Citizen, and the Good Life
100

necessarily superintend the common concerns connected with virtue.
For this reason, among others, there is no way to evade the in¬‚uence
of the laws and, more fundamentally, the regime. To be truly effective,
the one who cares about education would have to become a lawgiver
(NE 1180a32“b2).10
In a concession to private education, however, Aristotle allows that it
has two advantages: It can command obedience on the basis of “affec-
tion” and “kinship,” and it can take account of what is ¬tting with
regard to each individual (NE 1180b2“14). By contrast, the law may
not attract enmity, but neither does it inspire love, and by its very
nature, law speaks only to what is general or “for the most part,” and
not to the individual or to particular circumstances. This latter fact
leads Aristotle to consider whether there is a science that pertains to
education or whether one can learn all one needs to know by way of
experience alone, without rising to the level of general principles and
so science. Yet he quickly, if tentatively, dismisses the latter idea: If it
is through the laws that human beings become good, then one must
proceed to the general principle and comprehend this as far as pos-
sible (NE 1180b20“5). If, in fact, we become good through law, then
regardless of the advantages of private education or its necessity, we
must still undertake an examination of law. We must investigate the
possibility of a science of law.
Accordingly, Aristotle™s consideration of education and law returns
him to the question raised at the beginning of the Ethics: What is the
capacity, art, or science that superintends the human good? But he
now reformulates the question: From what or how, he asks, does one
become a lawgiver if not through the political art (politik¯, NE 1180b28“
e
30)? This question proves immediately complicated. While law is the
“product” of the political art, politics itself contrasts with other arts and
sciences in presenting a dichotomy between its actual practitioners, the

10 In part for this reason, Richard Bod´ us understands Aristotle™s ethics as having as

its primary purpose “the instruction of the lawgiver.” He argues, “for Aristotle, as
for Plato, legislation is the tool required for the realization of the ends pursued
by life in the city, that is, not only political life but life in general as lived in the
framework constituted by the political organization. . . . Put into perspective in this
way, Aristotelian ethics, far from describing an individual ethics alien to politics,
presents, on the contrary, the essential body of learning with which the lawgiver
must fortify himself when legislating” (The Political Dimensions of Aristotle™s “Ethics,”
p. 123).
Education, Law, and Compulsion 101

politicians, who practice politics but seem incapable of transmitting
their capacity, and the “knowers” or the Sophists, who do not practice
politics but profess to transmit its art or science. Aristotle is critical
of both groups. Although the politicians would seem to know what
they are doing on the basis of a “certain power and experience rather
than thought,” they nevertheless prove incapable of transmitting their
capacity even to their own sons and friends, and thereby of supply-
ing their community with this very great good (NE 1180b35“1181a9).
The Sophists classify politics with rhetoric or some inferior art, and
in wrongly supposing that one can legislate simply “by collecting the
well-regarded laws,” they neglect the fact that the very selection of the
best laws involves “an act of understanding” “ that “to judge correctly
is a great thing,” which requires knowing both what is noble and what
suits a particular circumstance or individual (NE 1181a12“18). Conse-
quently, neither the politicians, who practice the political things, nor
the Sophists, who profess to teach them, possess that art or science by
which one becomes a legislator.
In light of these dif¬culties, Aristotle concludes the Ethics by
suggesting that it is necessary to begin again (NE 1181b24). We seek
what has not yet been discovered, if indeed it exists: a political science.
The completion of our philosophy of human affairs is undertaken
in recognition of the complex nature of such an undertaking, which
involves the apprehension of general principles as well as of particulars
that can be known only on the basis of experience and may be covered
by no general principle. Moreover, Aristotle™s treatment of education
and law has indicated that, compared with his investigation of the
good in the Ethics, this new beginning and the political science at
which it aims are not primarily concerned with the question of the best
simply, and so with a peak or possibility that may be in a crucial respect
beyond the law. Rather, from an awareness of the necessities, peda-
gogic and otherwise, that impinge upon political life, the investigation
of the Politics seeks to discover the education that is “in common.” A
complete understanding of citizenship and especially of the education
that the law, well or badly, supplies requires a study of politics from the
ground up.
At the end of the Ethics, Aristotle offers an outline of this study
that corresponds loosely to the plan of his Politics (NE 1181b15“23).
Yet, he opens the Politics with an issue not included in this plan: the
Prudence, the Good Citizen, and the Good Life
102

naturalness of the city or political community.11 Although he intro-
duces this issue in connection with the question of the good, the natu-
ralness of the city ¬nally proves bound up with the necessary existence
of law “ with “adjudication” (dik¯ ) and justice (dikaiosyn¯ ) “ and thus
e e
with the arrangement of the political community understood as the
“regime.”


the political community as natural end
Aristotle begins his Politics by appealing to evidence we can “see” “
that seems self-evident: Every community or partnership (koinonia) is
constituted “for the sake of some good.” He quickly posits that the city
(polis), understood as the political community, is the one that aims
at the most authoritative good and embraces all other associations
(Pol. 1252a1“7). This supposition immediately calls to the fore a dif-
¬culty: What is the nature of a city™s authority or rule? Some people
suppose that there is no essential difference among political expertise,
the expertise of a king, household management, and mastery. Or they
suppose that the only signi¬cant difference among them is the num-
ber of those ruled in each case, and therefore that there is no essential
difference between a “great household” and a small city or between
a king and a political man (Pol. 1252a7“17). Aristotle rejects this

11 Simpson offers a helpful overview of the commentary on this plan (A Philosophical
Commentary on the “Politics” of Aristotle [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1998], pp. 11“14). As for the inclusion of Book I of the Politics, he observes,
“The topic of investigation for the Politics (as the last chapter of the Ethics has just
shown) is legislation and regimes. But what legislation legislates and what regimes
arrange is the city. . . . Consequently the city must be the focus of the present study
since it is the object of both legislation and regimes (see 3.1.1274b32“38)” (p. 14).
See also Aquinas, Commentary on the “Nicomachean Ethics,” 2 vols., trans. C. I. Litzinger
[Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1964], II.2180, who treats the ¬rst book of the
Politics as a “connecting link”: “he [Aristotle] sets down in the ¬rst book certain
principles from which he says we must begin. This will serve as a connecting link
with the work on the Politics and as a conclusion to the whole work of the Ethics.” But
compare Vander Waerdt™s objections: “It is generally agreed that the outline at EN
1182b12“24 does not introduce the extant Politics. It alludes only to books ii (b15“
17), v“vi (b17“20; cf. 1289b23“26, 1301a19“25, 1316b31“36) and vii“viii (b20“21).
Moreover, the further investigation of how each of the regimes is ordered and what
laws and customs it uses (b22) is absent from our Politics” (“The Political Intention of
Aristotle™s Moral Philosophy,” [Ancient Philosophy 5 (Spring 1985)], p. 80). Simpson™s
argument in favor of reordering the books of the Politics “ placing Books VII and
VIII after III and before IV, V, and VI “ offers some response to Vander Waerdt™s
objections (see pp. xvii“xx and p. 10, n. 10).
The Political Community as Natural End 103

view “ it is neither nobly said nor true “ and he indicates that the
grounds of his rejection will become clear to those who proceed using
the “usual method.” The usual method is to break a compound whole,
such as the city, into its constituent parts.12 Proceeding in this way
will allow us to see how the types of rule differ from one another and
whether there is an art or expertise that can be acquired concerning
each (Pol. 1252a17“22).
In investigating the political community, and the view of those who
deny a fundamental distinction between mastery and political rule,
then, Aristotle proceeds as if seeing the political community develop
“naturally from the beginning” (Pol. 1252a24).13 The elementary asso-
ciations “ the associations without which each partner cannot exist “
are two. The ¬rst is the union of male and female, who come together
not through choice but through the natural striving imbued in all
animals and plants to procreate and so “to leave another like one-
self.” The second is the association of ruler and ruled, whose common
advantage, preservation, is achieved by the foresight of the former
and the labor of the latter (Pol. 1252a26“b1).14 From these two “com-
munities” begins the evolution to the city, ¬rst from the household,
which is “constituted in accord with nature” for the sake of satisfying
“daily needs” or mere life, then to the village, which is a natural out-
growth of our desire not simply for mere life but for living well. But the
evolution of human communities goes beyond the household and the


12 See again Scho¬eld™s discussion of method in Saving the City: Philosopher-Kings and
Other Classical Paradigms [New York: Routledge, 1999), pp. 118“22.
13 For a thorough analysis of Aristotle™s treatment of the naturalness of the city in Book I,
chs. 1 and 2, see Wayne H. Ambler, “Aristotle™s Understanding of the Naturalness of
the City” Review of Politics 47 (Winter 1985): 163“85. As Ambler points out, Aristotle™s
contention about the naturalness of the city would have been a challenge to both the
orthodox (pious) view and the Sophistic view (pp. 163“4). Ambler goes on to show,
however, that Aristotle presents a complicated challenge to his own initial assertions
concerning the naturalness of the city. Frank offers a far-reaching argument regard-
ing Aristotle™s view of nature, especially its mutability, and the naturalness of the city
in ch. 1 of Democracy of Distinction.
14 Ambler notes, “The simplicity and abstractness of the ¬rst two associations thus serve
this general purpose: they are examples of associations which are natural without
quali¬cation. They establish a standard of what a natural association is, or at least of
what one kind of natural association is” (“Aristotle™s Understanding of the Natural-
ness of the City,” pp. 167“8). But Aristotle offers a specious ground for the “natural-
ness” of these ¬rst two associations “ that each partner could not exist without the
other. At least in the literal sense, this is true in neither case. Nevertheless, Ambler is
correct in suggesting that Aristotle holds up these associations as models of a kind.
Prudence, the Good Citizen, and the Good Life
104

village because the fully self-suf¬cient association with respect to living
well is the city or polis, the properly constituted political community.
The city is a “termination point of full self-suf¬ciency,” which, as the
completion of an evolution from the ¬rst communities, would appear
to be wholly natural (Pol. 1252b27“9).
In the course of this evolutionary tale, however, Aristotle indicates
some doubt concerning the original claim that the ¬rst associations are
themselves wholly natural; indeed, the household itself must be “con-
stituted” and the Cyclops must “lay down” a law for his wife and children
(Pol. 1252b12“13, 22“3). Moreover, Aristotle points up the inadequacy
of the evolutionary account by treating more fully the question of the
city as an end. Human beings, properly speaking, are in need of the
city and incomplete outside of it, and the city is self-suf¬cient and nat-
ural as the community that completes or perfects the human being.
But what this completion consists in “ in what sense a human being
is, in Aristotle™s famous phrase, “by nature a political animal” “ needs
much clari¬cation. As he indicates, since bees and any of the herd
animals would appear also to belong to communities, there may seem
to be little difference between a herd, a hive, and a city. In the face
of this dif¬culty, he proposes that the distinctive aspect of a human
community is connected with our capacity for speech. For all animals
can make their “perception” of the pleasant and the painful known
through the voice, but speech, which belongs to human beings alone,
can make clear the “advantageous and the harmful, and so also the
just and the unjust.” Through speech, human beings are capable of
more than the perception of pleasant and painful “ “they alone have
perception of the good and the bad, and the just and the unjust, and
the rest.” It is a “community of this sort,” Aristotle insists, that “makes
a household and a city” (Pol. 1253a1“2, 7“18).15


15 In parsing this passage of the Politics in his Finding the Mean: Theory and Practice
in Aristotelian Political Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990),
Stephen Salkever ¬rst emphasizes the role of logos and interest: “Human beings are
unique in having the capacity to perceive what is best for them (˜living well™) and
to order their lives according to that perception rather than responding to each
moment as if it were a new world. Justice is such an ordering, and it is like politics
neither simply natural nor desirable in itself, but desirable only as a way in which
˜living well™ or simply ˜our interest™ can be brought into being” (p. 75). But then
Salkever acknowledges the role of law: “The sense in which we are political animals
can now be formulated in this way: Human beings are uniquely capable of, and
uniquely in need of, a reasonable perception of their interest, and such a perception
The Political Community as Natural End 105

If Aristotle™s ¬rst outline of the city™s development suggests that
the city is natural in being the termination point of a natural evolu-
tion from the original associations, the incompleteness of this outline
alone sheds doubt on its conclusion. Nevertheless, the discussion pre-
pares the ground for the claim that the city is naturally more than an
aggregation of individuals or even families “ that it is, rather, a whole
of which human beings are the “parts.”16 As such a whole, he insists,
the city is necessarily prior to each of its members, and it de¬nes the
function and power of each in accord with his or her contribution to
the whole. In making this argument, Aristotle speaks from the per-
spective of the political community: The city may be the termination
point of an evolution driven by the human desire to live well “ in this
sense, “every city is natural” (Pol. 1253b30“1) “ yet the highest end
proves to be not the good life of any single individual, but the good of
the city as a whole. It is in speaking from this perspective that Aristotle
introduces the consideration of justice and argues that the good of
the city and that of the individual coincide in the way of life that the
political authority establishes through law (nomos) and adjudication
(dik¯ ) (Pol. 1253a30“4).17 That law and adjudication are necessary
e


(and therefore a good life) is somehow dependent upon the presence of nomoi ”
(p. 77). This dependence on nomos, however, cannot be captured wholly by an appeal
to interest. Moreover, while most commentators point to the capacity of speech to
bring human beings together, it is equally important to see that speech has also the
capacity to divide us. Speaking of the “double-edged faculty of speech,” Paul Rahe
observes, “According to the peripatetic philosopher, logos serves initially to clarify the
advantageous and the harmful; only thereafter and ˜as a consequence (h¯ste)™ of this
o
essentially private concern is the faculty of rational speech applied to the just and
the unjust as well” (Paul H. Rahe, Republics Ancient and Modern: The Ancien R´gime in
e
Classical Greece [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994], p. 42; see also
pp. 21, 209, 215).
16 As Ambler observes, the ¬rst argument regarding the naturalness of the city “implies
that man should serve the city, for it is a superior natural being of which he turns
out to be a part, while the second [argument regarding the naturalness of the city]
indicates that it is the city™s responsibility to bring man to his natural end” (“Aristotle™s
Understanding of the Naturalness of the City,” p. 170). By the account at the end
of I.2, however, this “natural end” is justice, which, as the Nicomachean Ethics has
underlined, is “another™s good.”
17 Arguing against Arendt™s version of Aristotle, Catherine Zuckert observes: “Although
it is true that the Politics begins by showing that the polis does not emerge until or
unless the necessities of life are provided by the oikos, it is not true, as Arendt claims,
that the polis is characterized by a sharp distinction between public and private. On
the contrary, Aristotle shows that the regime (politeia) shapes and so infuses all aspects
of private life, especially the family” (Catherine H. Zuckert, “Aristotle on the Limits
and Satisfactions of Political Life,” Interpretation 11 [May 1983], p. 186).
Prudence, the Good Citizen, and the Good Life
106

for our preservation alone, not to say our full ¬‚ourishing, is evidenced
by the fact that in their absence, human beings are “without virtue,”
and so “most unholy and savage” and “the worst with respect to sex and
eating” (Pol. 1253a35“6). Through law and adjudication, the political
community becomes educator, and justice (dikaiosyne) emerges as the
de¬nitive virtue of a human being (Pol. 1253a37“8).18
But justice is, as Aristotle observes, a “political thing”: “adjudication
is an arrangement of the political community, and justice is a judgment
concerning the just” (Pol. 1253a37“9). A political community, strictly
speaking, entails an “arrangement” of of¬ces and powers “ a regime “
that re¬‚ects its view of justice. It is this arrangement, therefore, that
is prior to every part, individuals and associations alike, and de¬nes
the function and power of each. As such an arrangement, moreover,
each political community represents an answer to the question that the
family and village settle naturally on the basis of kinship and age: the
question of who should rule. The political community, by contrast,
cannot take for granted the claims of age, or even wisdom, and it
cannot rely on the ties of kinship. When it comes to ruling, it must
adjudicate or decide among various claims and determine the best or
most authoritative one.
We thus begin to see the outlines of Aristotle™s answer to those who
assert that there is no distinction between political rule and simple
mastery, for distinctively political rule requires an arrangement and a
judgment concerning the just. The city is prior to all its parts in this
regard, and even the household, which may seem natural, is ultimately


18 One sees the concerns of the ¬nal chapter of the Nicomachean Ethics “ education
and compulsion “ come together also at end of ch. 2 of the Politics. Paul Rahe
observes: “Though much may separate Plato from Aristotle, on this fundamental
point they were agreed: To understand the ancient Greek polis, one must be willing to
entertain two propositions “ that the political regime (politeia), rather than economic
or environmental conditions, is the chief determinant of what one acute, ancient
observer called ˜the one way of life of a whole polis™ and another dubbed ˜the city™s
soul,™ and that education in the broadest and most comprehensive sense (paideia) is
more important than anything else in deciding the character of the regime” (Republics
Ancient and Modern, p. 10). Nevertheless, as Rahe adds, “The ancients were by no
means na¨ve. . . . Though they insisted on the primacy of paideia, they recognized that
±
there is a strong case to be made for institutional balances and checks; and though
they made a point of judging human affairs from the perspective of the best regime,
they conceded that, in politics, one must nearly always settle for the lesser evil”
(pp. 10“11).
The Political Community as Natural End 107

constituted in accord with the view of justice of the city; indeed, the
gods themselves prove to be made in the city™s image (Pol. 1252b24“7).
From this point of view, Aristotle™s “natural beginning” is a bit of a red
herring: The city presents its justice as the natural completion of a
human being, yet the city is not simply natural in one respect: It must
be constituted.19 For this reason, when Aristotle returns to the question
of the city in Book III of the Politics, he begins from the “citizen” as its
most elementary part.20
If, in fact, citizens achieve their completion or perfection as human
beings through obedience to law and justice, then the one who ¬rst
constituted the political community is clearly “the cause of the great-
est goods” (Pol. 1253a30“1). As it is now presented, this good or per-
fection is inseparable from the preservation and perpetuation of the
political community that is its cause and the highest object of our rev-
erence. Insofar as Aristotle™s introduction to the Politics points to a best
life for the individual, then, it points to a life of action consistent with

19 See Nichols, Citizens and Statesmen: A Study of Aristotle™s “Politics” [Savage, HD:
Rowman & Little¬eld, Publishers, 1992), p. 18: “If the city has two ends, must it
not also have two beginnings? The city is indeed a strange being, for it has a second
beginning, and yet its second beginning cannot be simply a beginning, for its ¬rst
beginning continues in part to de¬ne its end. Like human beings themselves, who
are unlike other parts of nature, the city both goes beyond its origins and remains
limited by them.”
20 In Nature, Justice, and Rights in Aristotle™s “Politics” (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995),
Fred Miller makes what Malcolm Scho¬eld rightly calls an “heroic attempt to make
the concept of rights central to Aristotle™s political philosophy” (Scho¬eld, Saving the
City, p. 141). Miller™s argument has several important premises, among which are the
following: (1) “When the polis is in a natural condition, it is governed according to
natural justice and its citizens possess rights ˜based on nature™ (kata phusin)” and (2)
“rights have a central place in Aristotle™s politics because he understands justice as the
virtue permitting co-operation for mutual advantage. As a co-operative association a
just polis must recognize the claims of each of its contributing members. To recognize
˜rights™ in Aristotle is to acknowledge the respect for individuality which is a central
theme of his political theory” (p. 17). Miller concedes that Aristotle has no robust
notion of rights as derivative from man™s natural or “prepolitical” state “ such as
in Hobbes or Locke “ but the preceding premises raise two questions: (1) what is
Aristotle™s understanding of “natural justice”? and does it support a conception of
rights?, and (2) is “the respect for individuality” indeed a central theme of Aristotle™s
political theory? Acknowledging that Aristotle™s discussion of natural justice “suffers
from a high degree of abstractness” (p. 75), Miller seems ¬nally to de¬ne natural
justice and rights in terms of each other; see especially his summary of his four main
premises on pp. 137“8. See also Schol¬eld™s criticisms in Saving the City, pp. 141“59,
and John M. Cooper, “Justice and Rights in Aristotle™s Politics,” Review of Metaphysics
49 (June 1996): 859“72.
Prudence, the Good Citizen, and the Good Life
108

justice and in service to the community™s preservation and perpetu-
ation, not to say its very founding.21 The education provided by the
political community accordingly presents the virtue of a citizen, and
particularly of a ruler, as the most complete human virtue, and this
is the perspective from which Aristotle begins when he takes up the
de¬nition of the citizen in Book III.
Yet, as the Nicomachean Ethics shows, the question of the best or most
choiceworthy life is more complicated than Aristotle here suggests.
Consequently, when he returns to the question of the choiceworthy
life in his introduction to the best regime, he recasts the question in
such a way as to give the political perspective its due without wholly
conceding its position. By doing so, he is able to underscore the polit-
ical community™s own necessary commitment to law and justice, but
also the limits and dangers in elevating the activity of citizenship as the
highest activity of a human being. Before turning to Aristotle™s analysis
of citizenship and law in Book III, therefore, we can gain a fuller sense
of the issues at stake in this analysis and the limits placed upon it by
turning ¬rst to his treatment of the best life in his introduction to the
best regime.


recasting the question of the good life
Aristotle begins Book VII of the Politics by insisting that the investi-
gation of the best regime requires ¬rst an investigation of the most
choiceworthy life (Pol. 1323a14“17). His early examination of this
question in the Nicomachean Ethics, undertaken in acknowledgment
of the political community™s priority as educator and architect of the
human good, posits that the best life is the one in accord with moral
virtue, at the peak of which is the activity of ruling. In his introduction
to the Politics, Aristotle similarly indicates that this life is constituted

21 Simpson argues that “the city is the human beings who together compose it
(3.1.1274b41)” and “the regime is the way human beings arrange themselves so
as to live together well (4(7).8.1328a35“b2)” (Philosophical Commentary, p. 25). But
these suggestions need to be established and, on the face of it, assume that the city
as a whole does not have a good beyond the good of each of its aggregate parts. In
short, these suggestions assume, as Simpson seems to proceed to argue, that justice
is, in the best case at least, perfectly equivalent with the good of the individual, a
question of no little dispute (see pp. 25“7).
Recasting the Question of the Good Life 109

by the city in accord with adjudication and justice and with a view to
the city™s own founding and perpetuation. But as he approaches the
study of the best regime, it proves necessary to confront the question
of the end at which the city as a whole aims and whether, indeed, there
is an end higher than the city itself. In returning to a discussion of the
most choiceworthy life in the context of the best regime, Aristotle pro-
poses that the city does not order the highest end but is ordered by
it, and therefore that each individual and the city as a whole must be
“organized” with a view to the “better aim” (Pol. 1324b33“5). Yet the
immediate dif¬culty is not simply that the most choiceworthy life is
in dispute, but that this life, whatever it may be, may not be the same
for all in common and for each individual. Aristotle™s effort to sort
through these matters begins to clarify the limits of an inquiry into the
best life in connection with the city and the regime.
Aristotle seeks ¬rst to establish that the choiceworthy life, properly
understood, is the one in accord with virtue.22 Beginning from the
tripartite division of goods outlined in the Ethics “ external goods,
goods of the body, and those of the soul “ he argues that while all
these goods belong to a truly blessed life, the goods of the soul or the
virtues are most essential. His opening appeal is to the utility of virtue:
No one could live well who “is afraid of the ¬‚ies buzzing around him,
abstains from none of the excesses when he desires to eat and drink,
destroys his dearest friends for the sake of a pittance, and likewise con-
cerning thought, is as senseless and deceived as a child or madman”
(Pol. 1323a27“34). Moreover, the “facts” seem to support this claim,


22 Aristotle includes in his consideration of the best life some propositions of the “exo-
teric speeches,” which he considers “adequate” for his purpose (Pol. 1323a21“3),
and there is debate over the meaning of the reference. See Newman, who ques-
tions whether Aristotle refers even to speeches of his own, though he suspects that
he does (The “Politics” of Aristotle, 4 vols. [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1902],
III.308), as well as Lord, who inclines to J. Bernays™s view that the reference is to one
of Aristotle™s lost dialogues (Education and Culture in the Political Thought of Aristotle
[Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983], p. 181), and Simpson, who emphasizes
that such “external” discourses would be more popular in character (Philosophical
Commentary, p. 197). The simplest point seems to be that Aristotle does not under-
take a systematic treatment of the question of the best life but one adequate to his
immediate purpose, which is to establish agreement about the most choiceworthy
life for all. See also Bod´ us, who undertakes a longer discussion of the meaning and

history of “exoteric” and “esoteric” works (The Political Dimensions of Aristotle™s “Ethics,”
pp. 88“92).
Prudence, the Good Citizen, and the Good Life
110

inasmuch as we see that “people do not gain and preserve the virtues
by way of external things, but the latter by the former” (Pol. 1323a38“
41). This appeal to the utility of virtue, however, proves inadequate.
From the utilitarian point of view, that is, the virtues “ Aristotle men-
tions courage, moderation, justice, and prudence “ may be necessary,
but they are not ends or goods in their own right. Some other good “
wealth or power, for example “ is the higher end.23 In short, the utili-
tarian argument may be the most common or accessible, but we cannot
establish its adequacy or truth if we do not know what the good life
consists in: whether it consists in the actions of virtue for their own
sake, or simply requires virtue as a means to those things that people
typically desire “without limit,” namely, wealth, material goods, power,
and repute (Pol. 1323a36“8).
In moving toward the view that virtue is good in itself and the end of
the best life, Aristotle offers a somewhat more subtle argument, which
he prefaces with an apology for having raised utilitarian considera-
tions in the ¬rst place: The argument from utility cannot resolve the
question of the best life because the highest end has to do not with
“the useful,” but with “the noble” (Pol. 1323b11“12). Accordingly, we
must determine what is most “honorable” in the threefold division of
goods and the end that orders our choices. Regarding this ranking,
Aristotle supposes that the soul is “more honorable than both a pos-
session and the body” (Pol. 1323b16“17). If this is the correct view “
and he presents it in conditional terms “ then the end at which the
city ought to aim is the good arrangement of the soul. In support of
this conclusion, Aristotle makes two more appeals. He looks ¬rst to
“the god” as a “witness” since the god is “happy and blessed not on
account of the external goods but on account of himself and in being
a certain sort with respect to his nature” (Pol. 1323b23“6). Second, he
appeals to the sense that happiness must be distinguished from good
fortune and suggests that because justice and prudence, unlike exter-
nal goods, are not subject to chance, they are more to be identi¬ed
with happiness (Pol. 1323b26“9; cf. NE 1100a35“b4, b11“22). By this
account, the case for virtue relies on opinions about the soul, the god,


23 As Newman points out, Aristotle later notes that “external goods are the gift of for-
tune” (Pol. 1323b27), further undermining the argument from utility (The “Politics”
of Aristotle, III.312).
Recasting the Question of the Good Life 111

and happiness “ opinions that are not argued for but clearly frame the
consideration of the best life as a concern of the best regime.
Nevertheless, Aristotle seems satis¬ed for the moment that the ¬rst
question “ the most choiceworthy life for the individual “ is settled,
and he takes up the second question: whether this life is the same for
the city. He offers several prefatory statements. The happy city is the
one that is best and acts nobly since it is “impossible for the one who
does not do the noble things to act nobly” (Pol. 1323b31“2). Although
this apparent tautology raises the question of whether the city “acts”
in the same way that an individual does, Aristotle presses forward with
his argument by insisting also on the identity of the city™s virtues with
those of the individual. Because the “courage, justice, and prudence
of the city have the same power and form [or shape, morph¯ ] as those
e
shared by human beings who are called just, prudent, and moderate,”
the best life “ the one “so furnished with virtue as to share in the
actions that accord with virtue” “ is the same for each and for all in
common (Pol. 1323b29“36). Acknowledging that there are those who
dispute this conclusion, Aristotle promises to address their objections
later (Pol. 1324a2“4).
It may come as a surprise, therefore, that he continues his consid-
eration of the identity of the happiness of a human being and the city,
though he asks a slightly different and more limited question: whether
“it is necessary” to assert this identity. For an answer, he highlights the
agreement by “everyone,” or, at least, all those who ascribe living well
to wealth, tyrannical power, or virtue, that the best life is the same for
individual and city. On the basis of this consensus, he claims that the
identity of the individual™s happiness and that of the city is settled, not-
ing that those who approve virtue as the end of the good life assert also
that the happy city is the “morally serious” one (Pol. 1324a12“13). It is
these proponents of virtue and the morally serious city that Aristotle
now addresses. In particular, he arbitrates a debate within the camp of
virtue lovers by way of which he arrives at the radical view that the best
city is the one whose “actions” are “complete in themselves” “ actions
that he describes as “theoretical studies [theoriai] and ways of thinking
[diano¯seis] that are for their own sake” (Pol. 1325b16“23).
e
Among the champions of virtue and the morally serious city, there
are two matters of disagreement. The ¬rst concerns the character of
the virtuous life: Is the more choiceworthy the life in which one lives
Prudence, the Good Citizen, and the Good Life
112

as a “fellow citizen” and “shares in the city,” or the life of a “stranger”
and of one who is separated from the political community? Second,
regardless of this distinction, which regime and disposition of the city
“ought to be regarded as best” (Pol. 1324a14“19)? This latter ques-
tion in particular is the “task of political thought and contempla-
tion” and the focus of the “present inquiry,” whereas the question
of the choiceworthy life is a secondary or subordinate task (parergon)
(Pol. 1324a19“23).
Yet Aristotle immediately takes up the secondary question of the
choiceworthy life. The dispute over this question begins from a fun-
damental agreement that the best regime is the arrangement under
which anyone would act well and live blessedly and that the life of
virtue is the best life. Nevertheless, as their disagreement has already
indicated, those who hold this position then dispute whether the most
choiceworthy way of life is the “political” and “active” one or the one
that is “released from all external things.” The latter way of life is a “cer-
tain theoretical one, which some assert belongs to philosophy alone.”
Evidently, there are “pretty much” only these two lives as choices for
those who are “the most ambitious [philotimotatoi, lit. “greatest lovers of
honor”] with a view to virtue,” and Aristotle con¬rms that he himself
means by these lives the political and the philosophic (Pol. 1324a25“
32). Thus, although he had sought to drop the question of which life
is best for the individual simply, or to relegate it to a subordinate place
in the inquiry, Aristotle proves unable to do so.
Indeed, the question of the best life and its relation to the city
is at the forefront of the debate between those who otherwise agree
that the best city is the morally serious one. The immediately curious
fact is that while they champion the morally serious city as best, those
who argue that the most choiceworthy life is a certain theoretical one
reject political action as a good altogether. For they contend not only
that despotic rule over one™s neighbors is necessarily accompanied
by the “greatest injustice,” but that even political rule, while just, is
an “impediment to one™s own well-being” (Pol. 1324a35“7). On the
other side, those who choose the political life insist that this life is
“the only one for a man [an¯r]” and that there are no virtuous actions
e
that belong more to the individual or private life than to the life of
the city in common. Despite their own approval of the morally seri-
ous city, however, this second group™s argument leads ¬nally to the
claim that mastery and the tyrannical regime is the “only happy one”
Recasting the Question of the Good Life 113

(Pol. 1324a37“b3) “ a claim that ¬nds support in the experience of
actual regimes, among which “the standard [horos] of both the laws
and the regime” is the exercise of mastery over their neighbors (Pol.
1324b3“5). Whereas the laws among most peoples are a confused
“heap,” the regimes that possess some organization all aim at domi-
nation, and their laws and customs, which encourage prowess in war,
are directed toward the virtue of courage in particular. Aristotle offers
examples of several peoples, Greek and non-Greek, whose distinct
practices are nonetheless alike in honoring the courageous in war
against their enemies (Pol. 1324b5“11). Thus, some of those who are
ambitious regarding virtue accord with the usual practice in pursuing
conquest and domination, whereas others of this same camp disdain
this practice and reject the active and political life, even when it is just,
as truly choiceworthy.
In considering the views of these two groups, Aristotle begins by
questioning whether the usual practice presents the full picture, not-
ing that “it might seem very strange” that the task of political expertise
is to acquire mastery over “those nearby, both those who wish it and
those who do not.” In this context, he recalls the claim that political
expertise and lawgiving are intertwined: How could conquest belong
to political expertise when it is not even lawful (Pol. 1324b22“7)?
Although the unique character of political science has already been
noted, Aristotle here points to the example of the “other sciences,”
such as medicine and piloting, whose proper expertise does not con-
sist in either persuading or compelling their patients or passengers to
accept their rule, but in bringing them to health or safety. It is true
that “the many” identify political expertise with mastery, even as they
reject the idea that they themselves ought to suffer what is not just or
advantageous. But if there is by nature “that which is suited to being
mastered and that which is not,” this fact alone requires that one not
seek “to master everyone.” Aristotle has recourse to a rather chilling
example to make his point: One ought not to hunt human beings
with a view to making them one™s feast or sacri¬ce, but only those
creatures “ wild edible animals “ that are by nature suited to this end
(Pol. 1324b29“41).
Moreover, he also hypothesizes, “if it were indeed possible for a
city to be settled by itself somewhere,” it would not be arranged with
a view to war or the conquest of neighbors, since neither possibility
would exist. If such a city were to establish “morally serious laws,”
Prudence, the Good Citizen, and the Good Life
114

then, it would be “nobly governed” (Pol. 1324b41“1325a3). Barring
the problem of civil war, a city settled in such fortuitous circumstances
would be free to aim at an end higher than war, and although Aristotle
indicates that all the concerns connected with war are to be regarded
as noble, he insists that they are not the highest. The highest end for a
city, a family, and every community is “the good life and the happiness
that is possible for them” (Pol. 1325a5“10). While a lawgiver must
take account of the problem of war, this sad necessity ought not to be
confused with the political community™s best aim.
If war or conquest is not the highest end of the city, how does one
settle the debate between the two sides who are ambitious with a view
to virtue but clearly differ with regard to its use or practice? Those
who reject the holding of political of¬ces as the proper practice of a
virtuous life believe that “the life of a free person is something other
than that of a political expert.” By contrast, their opponents insist that
“it is impossible for the one who does not act to act well, and that good
action is happiness” (Pol. 1325a18“23). The debate turns, accordingly,
on the relation between virtue and action.
On the one side, Aristotle agrees that the life of a free man is better
than that of a master because “there is nothing holy in using a slave
as a slave” and “command with respect to the necessary things in no
way shares in the noble” (Pol. 1325a25“6). But he seems willing to go
only this far in favor of the side that rejects the active life, in the ¬rst
place because he rejects the idea that all rule is identical with mas-
tery. Referring to his treatment of master and slave in Book I of the
Politics, he suggests that just as there is a distance between a master and
a slave, so there must be a distance between the rule over free men
and the rule over slaves. More importantly, he agrees with those who
insist that “happiness is a certain action” and that the ends connected
with actions of justice and moderation involve many noble things
(Pol. 1325a32“4). Nevertheless, as the proponents of this position
acknowledge, this argument without quali¬cation leads to the conclu-
sion that tyranny or “to rule over all” is best, for only in such a case does
one have “authority over the greatest number and noblest of actions”
(Pol. 1325a34“7). But, as Aristotle proceeds to show, those who cham-
pion the political life err most grievously in this matter. For by their own
account, their happiness consists in the actions of virtue, yet signi¬-
cant deviations from virtue would be entailed in the transgressions of
Recasting the Question of the Good Life 115

nobility and justice involved in conquest.24 Particularly among those
who are “similar” and “equal,” absolute rule, as opposed to ruling and
being ruled in turn, is “against nature” (Pol. 1325b3“10). As for the
one who has both superiority in virtue and the power to practice the
best things, Aristotle observes that it is noble for others to follow such
a person and just to obey him (Pol. 1325b10“12). Yet, even in such a
case, one requires not only virtue but also the power to act “ one may
possess the virtue appropriate to ruling but meet resistance that must
be put down.
The education to virtue that places the political community and the
life connected with it in the place of highest reverence also assumes
that the greatest and noblest of actions belong to the statesman or
ruler. Nevertheless, Aristotle now shows, these actions are not simply
available to the one who seeks and may even deserve to undertake
them. In the absence of a revolution to a kind of permanent kingship,
citizenship in a regime and therefore under the law always involves
ruling and being ruled in turn. Only perhaps in a situation in which
the law has broken down and must be reconstituted might it be possible
for the most ambitious regarding virtue to achieve their aims. When
the law is primary and preeminent, however, a ruler is properly under
the law and a guardian of it.
The dif¬culty Aristotle thus illuminates is that especially for those
who love virtue and seek its activity as best, such a subordination to law
is never wholly satisfactory. Moreover, the education supplied by the
political community in no way resolves “ indeed, it creates “ the ten-
sion between the demands of citizenship and the greatest aims of the
virtuous. As Aristotle suggests in his discussion of citizen virtue in Book
III of the Politics, it is perhaps because the virtue of the ruler and that
of the citizen are not the same that “Jason said he was hungry except
when he was tyrant” (Pol. 1277a23“5), and the portrait of magnanimity
in the Ethics shows that in the absence of fortuitous circumstances, the


24 It is important to see that this argument is framed in the terms set by the proponents of
the active life, since Aristotle shows that their own understanding of virtue establishes
the limit of the argument in favor of this life. Cf. Darrell Dobbs™s suggestion that this
argument is the “philosopher™s,” a claim that he uses to attack the view that Aristotle
is willing to tolerate slavery under certain conditions (Dobbs, “Natural Right and
the Problem of Aristotle™s Defense of Slavery,” Journal of Politics 56 [February 1994],
p. 70.)
Prudence, the Good Citizen, and the Good Life
116

love of virtue that distinguishes the morally serious human being leads
not to activity but to inaction and idleness. Without the aid of fortune,
it seems, the one who longs for noble action must either undertake
conquest or become idle, and whereas the former action would con-
stitute a stain upon his virtue, the alternative, idleness, is hardly the
measure of a happy life.
Aristotle nonetheless insists that if the considerations he has laid
out are “nobly said” and “happiness is assumed to be good action,”
then the active life is indeed the best life in common for the whole city
and for each (Pol. 1325b14“16). How, then, is the political commu-
nity to confront the dif¬culty created by its own education to virtue?
Aristotle™s solution is neither to lower the aim of this education “ hap-
piness understood as the virtue of the human being “ nor to insist on
the absolute or inviolable character of the law. Rather, he suggests,
the problem presented by this education points in the direction of a
more fundamental fact about human nature: As a part of the human
quest for happiness, the longing for virtue involves the desire for self-
suf¬ciency. It is on these grounds, and by way of a consideration of
human action itself, that Aristotle suggests the radical view with which
he concludes the argument between those who prefer the active and
political life and those who prefer a certain theoretical one or philos-
ophy. For he reinterprets action and the active way of life to include
thought “ study and thinking that are “complete in themselves” and
“for their own sake” “ and suggests that the political community may
be organized so that its highest aim is action understood in this sense
(Pol. 1325b16“23).
The education Aristotle lays out in his account of the best regime
presents this possibility in the form of a life of leisure in which the
arts and music ¬gure most prominently. This life is neither wholly
political nor wholly philosophic “ neither wholly devoted to the city
nor separated from it.25 Rather, as a middle ground between the two,

25 In my analysis of the debate that Aristotle adjudicates, I emphasize the dif¬culties
and impasses that each side confronts, and therefore especially the problems that
the education of the best regime poses. More must be said about the character of
the life at which this education aims. I take up this question more fully in Chapter 6,
but for different views on the character of this life, and especially its connection
with philosophy, compare Simpson, Philosophical Commentary, pp. 206“10, 237“43
and Bod´ us, The Political Dimensions of Aristotle™s “Ethics, ch. 2 with Lord, Education
e¨ ”
and Culture in the Political Thought of Aristotle (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press,
1983), pp. 188“92, P. A. Vander Waerdt, “Philosophy and Kingship in Aristotle™s Best
Recasting the Question of the Good Life 117

it manages to preserve the political community as a community of
free persons under the law and to redirect those most ambitious with
respect to virtue to higher and more self-suf¬cient actions than those to
which the political community on its own terms would point. Aristotle™s
program of education in the best regime, accordingly, is a solution to
a problem.
We see, moreover, the complementarity of his Nicomachean Ethics
and Politics, for the full investigation of the good requires the study
Aristotle undertakes in the Ethics, especially his accounts of prudence,
friendship, pleasure, the contemplative life, and happiness. Aristotle™s
brief mention of philosophy as one of the virtues of the best regime may
well hold out the life of wisdom as a possibility other than tyranny for
some of those who long to exercise their virtue (Pol. 1334a22“5), but
in the Politics we see most clearly the necessities and limits that shape
political life even within the best regime. We can therefore appreciate
better the practical and theoretical signi¬cance of the life of leisure as
the political expression of the life Aristotle himself calls best.
As the highest in Aristotle™s ranking of lives, the life of wisdom is
in some tension with the rule of law, not least because the law cannot
wholly tolerate a competitor to its authority as right reason. Aristotle™s
careful treatment of law and justice in the Nicomachean Ethics “ the deft-
ness with which he de¬‚ects the Thrasymachean attack on justice and
his accounts of natural justice and equity, for example “ is matched by
a similar discretion in his Politics. Nevertheless, it is clear that however
necessary law is for political stability and moral education, it is not
simply wise and must ¬nd its place within a broader horizon than the
political community can supply. The law must be open to guidance
even as it guards against the usurpation of its authority. In this respect,
Aristotle™s treatment of the best regime is both radical and sober; it
does justice to the highest aim of political life while tempering the
hopes of those devoted to this aim.
Our understanding of the education of the good citizen and espe-
cially the status of law in this education is further deepened by
Aristotle™s treatment of the citizen in Book III of his Politics. For in
Book III, Aristotle not only undertakes to identify or de¬ne the citizen,


Regime,” Phronesis: A Journal of Ancient Philosophy 30(3) (1983), pp. 255”64; and
Bartlett, “The ˜Realism™ of Classical Political Science,” American Journal of Political
Science 38 (May 1994), pp. 382“4, 393“5.
Prudence, the Good Citizen, and the Good Life
118

but also explores the fundamental political question: Who should rule?
To address this latter question, he must ¬nally arbitrate the dispute
regarding merit, which he mentions in his account of distributive
justice in the Ethics, only to put it aside. The dif¬culties involved in
arbitrating this dispute underline its explosive character “ its connec-
tion with the deepest concerns of justice “ and, accordingly, the need
for the extraordinary evenhandedness with which Aristotle treats all
the claims to rule. These dif¬culties eventually point also to another
crucial political question: whether it is better, or more advantageous,
for the best man or the best laws to rule. In coming to a clearer under-
standing of this question, especially of its signi¬cance for the demands
of law upon citizens and the limits of those demands, we are better pre-
pared to appreciate the ¬ne line Aristotle will ultimately draw between
our necessary obedience to law and our freedom from it.
5

Citizenship and the Limits of Law




the identity of the citizen
Aristotle™s consideration of the dispute over rule is preceded and made
necessary by the problem with which he introduces Book III and
presents ¬rst as a practical and legal matter: the problem of the city™s
identity (Pol. 1274b32“4). He indicates that he will proceed by dividing
the city, a composite whole, into its component parts (Pol. 1274b38“41;
cf. 1252a17“20). This is formally the procedure he employed at the
beginning of the Politics when he divided the political community into
the natural associations that form for the sake of some good and then
established the city as the natural whole that completes the human
quest for the good. In Book III, by contrast, Aristotle begins from a
part of the city whose identity is an object of dispute: the citizen.1 By


1 The use of the same method but different elements in analyzing the city already
suggests that the question of its identity cannot be resolved deductively (cf. Scho¬eld,
Saving the City: Philosopher-Kings and Other Classical Paradigms [New York: Routledge,
1999], pp. 118“22) or rest on apparently “self-evident” premises (cf. the beginning
of the Politics); the resolution of the question, rather, requires the arbitration of this
dispute. Simpson offers a way of reconciling Books I and III, which are considered
by some commentators to evidence Aristotle™s confusion regarding the “parts” of the
city. Simpson suggests, in short, “The city . . . comes to be out of households, but it is a
multitude of citizens” (A Philosophical Commentary on the “Politics” of Aristotle [Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998], pp. 133“4; emphasis in text). He goes
on to argue that the arguments of Books I and III clarify the sense in which the city
is prior to the individual and the citizen to the city: “the city . . . is prior as the whole
to the parts that it perfects, but the citizens are prior as the parts to the whole that

119
Citizenship and the Limits of Law
120

Book III, the question of the political community has become a part
of a larger investigation of the regime, and Aristotle is considering the
city not as a natural whole but ¬rst and foremost as an arrangement of
of¬ces having an authoritative ruling element and directed toward
the end established by that element (Pol. 1274b36“8, 1279a25“7,
1289a15“18). In this context, the city acquires its identity, as does
the citizen, through the institution of a particular regime, and the
identity of the city becomes most obviously a question when it must be
constituted “ when it is founded or undergoes a revolution.
In de¬ning the citizen, Aristotle confronts the immediate dif¬culty
that just as in times of crisis and revolution, people dispute whether it
was the city that acted, or the oligarchs or tyrant, so they argue over
“whom one ought to call a citizen, and what a citizen is” (Pol. 1275a1“2;
cf. 1274b23“6). As the disagreements regarding distributive justice
and rule will illustrate, whom one ought to call a citizen may differ
from what a citizen is in practice. Although the identi¬cation of a
citizen varies across regimes, Aristotle ¬rst seeks a generic de¬nition.
That there exist common criteria is suggested by the fact that ordi-
nary usage typically rules out certain possibilities: Aliens, slaves, and
children are not considered citizens in the full sense; nor does being
subject to adjudication and law make one a citizen. Rather, the “citizen
in the unquali¬ed sense is de¬ned by nothing so much as by sharing in
judgment and rule” (Pol. 1275a22“3). In fact, the consensus that citi-
zenship involves sharing in rule anchors the dispute over the identity
of the citizen, for this dispute concerns the different principles of merit
that regimes employ in identifying those entitled to share in rule.2
As a consequence, when this generic de¬nition is given substance,
we see that it describes most broadly democratic citizenship since the


they de¬ne. Individuals as individuals thus exist for the city (since it perfects them),
but the city subsists in the individuals as citizens (since it is them)” (p. 134; emphasis
in text). Yet, it must be added “ and is added by the considerations of Book III “ that
the regime is prior to both city and citizen.
2 Following Grote, Newman distinguishes between “wholes” that are mere aggregates
of their parts “ “aggregates like a heap” “ and those that possess an “essence” or
“First Cause” of their own and are more than their constituent elements “ “aggregates
like a syllable (organic or formal)” (The “Politics” of Aristotle, 4 vols. [Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1902], III.131). If, in Book I, Aristotle attempts to present the city
as a natural whole in this latter regard, in Book III he underscores the conventional
character of the city™s “essence” or, more simply, de¬nition.
The Identity of the Citizen 121

other regimes reserve the of¬ces involving deliberation and rule for
progressively fewer numbers, and in some cases have no recognized
assembly or demos (Pol. 1275b7“8).3 The de¬nition may therefore
apply across regimes but only by abstracting from more signi¬cant
differences.4 Aristotle concludes, nevertheless, by identifying the city
as a “multitude” of those who share in the of¬ce of deliberation and “
a multitude that is “adequate with a view to a self-suf¬cient life”
(Pol. 1275b18“21). How the requirements of the city™s self-suf¬ciency
bear on citizenship remains to be considered. In particular, it is not
yet clear whether those who perform the functions necessary to the
city™s existence and those who perform the functions belonging to its
highest end or purpose have equal claim to rule.
By drawing out the component of of¬ce-holding or rule in citi-
zenship, however, Aristotle con¬rms the crucial role of the regime in
de¬ning a citizen and therefore the necessity of an agreement con-
cerning who should rule. Accordingly, he underscores the seemingly
conventional as opposed to natural character of citizenship. In prac-
tice or standard usage, he acknowledges, a citizen is de¬ned as one
born of citizen parents, but this emphasis on the natural principle of
birth obscures the basic “agreement” regarding rule required at every
political community™s founding. With respect to the view that citizens
are made and not born, Aristotle concurs with the sophist Gorgias™s
witticism that “just as mortars are made by mortar-makers, so also
Lariseaeans are made by craftsmen, for some are Larisa-makers” (Pol.
1275b26“30). The institution of citizenship by the “¬rst households”


3 Curtis Johnson argues that Aristotle™s ¬rst de¬nition or “¬rst revised de¬nition” “ “one
who shares in indeterminate of¬ce” “ is the one that is most applicable to democra-
cies. This de¬nition is then revised, he suggests, to become “he who enjoys the right
of sharing in deliberative and judicial of¬ce” or “authority” because public juries and
popular assemblies (“indeterminate of¬ces”) are not present everywhere: “This def-
inition is obviously superior to the earlier ones, for it succeeds, as they do not, in
making citizenship dependent upon a universal element in constitutions, a certain
kind of authority rather than a certain kind of of¬ce” (see Curtis Johnson, “Who Is
Aristotle™s Citizen?,” Phronesis: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy 29(1) (1984), 73“9.
4 See again Johnson, “Who Is Aristotle™s Citizen?”: “Different states have different con-
stitutions, some nearer, some further removed from the best. And, as constitutions
differ, so too do the citizens within them. One must, therefore, not only show who cit-
izens are ˜in the absolute sense™; one must also take account of the variety of practices
found in different states and how the dif¬culties raised by these various practices can
themselves be resolved by reference to the ideal de¬nition” (p. 81).
Citizenship and the Limits of Law
122

or “founders” may seem to have a natural beginning, but the conven-
tional and controversial character of citizenship clearly emerges in a
time of regime change, when those who were not citizens are made
citizens; Aristotle offers as an example Cleisthenes™ reforms after the
fall of the tyrants in Athens.5
The dispute in such cases centers on the question of justice “ peo-
ple disagree “not about who is a citizen, but whether one is a citizen
justly or unjustly” “ and therefore seeks to establish the just grounds of
citizenship: “supposing that ˜unjust™ and ˜false™ have the same power,”
is one who is not a citizen justly truly a citizen (Pol. 1275b37“1276a2)?
In confronting this question, however, Aristotle simply reasserts the
distinction typically made in practice between the requirements of jus-
tice and the identity of the citizen, and he thus insists that the citizen is
de¬ned “by a certain of¬ce,” whether the of¬ce is held justly or unjustly
(Pol. 1276a3“4). For all practical purposes, this argument holds, since
we see that in fact some rule, even if unjustly. Consistent with such pur-
poses, Aristotle tries to drop the question of justice. Yet this is a move
that becomes less tenable as his investigation continues. The effort to
¬nd a generic de¬nition of a citizen simply underscores the signi¬-
cance of the dispute regarding distributive justice, which Aristotle will
eventually have to address.6


citizenship, revolution, and the regime
Having raised the problem of justice, Aristotle returns to the original
question: “when the city acted and when it did not” (Pol. 1276a8“9).

5 Harvey Mans¬eld offers this quali¬cation: “He [Aristotle] does not merely adopt the
perspective of the sophisticated Gorgias; he tries to combine the citizen™s perspec-
tive with it in order to show how the citizen is both conventional and natural. The
citizen is in part conventional as the product of his city; he has been ˜socialized,™ as
we say. But he is also a contributor to the city. He brings his natural capacities to the
city, and moreover, his unsophisticated belief that his city is natural is not altogether
wrong according to Aristotle, because it contains a greater truth about the citizen™s
responsibility which the sophisticated perspective hides from view” (Harvey C. Mans-
¬eld, Responsible Citizenship Ancient and Modern [Eugene: University of Oregon Books,
1994], p. 7).
6 As Johnson notes, “It is thus by means of this ˜dif¬culty™ about the rightful claims
of citizenship that Aristotle connects the discussion of citizenship with the rest of
Book III . . . the identity of the state is thus really a question about the rightfulness of
political rule” (“Who Is Aristotle™s Citizen?,” p. 82).
Citizenship, Revolution, and the Regime 123

In times of revolution, when disputes arise over whether, for exam-
ple, the city is obligated to honor contracts entered into by a former
ruler, the question of the city™s identity needs to be settled. Although
he ¬rst frames this question in terms of justice “ one may disavow the
actions of those regimes that exist by mastery and not for the sake of
the common advantage “ Aristotle notes only that on these grounds,
one could as easily disavow the actions of a democracy as those of
an oligarchy or tyrant. Instead of pursuing this distinction between
mastery and the common advantage, then, he presents the path to
resolving the problem of the city™s identity as “somehow” conformable
to a theoretical puzzle: what makes the city “the same and not the
same” (Pol. 1276a17“19)? By proceeding in this way, Aristotle would
appear to avoid the controversy connected with justice. Although the
adequacy of this tack is ¬nally called into doubt when this contro-
versy returns with a vengeance, his efforts and subsequent failure to
establish a formal de¬nition of the city help to clarify the relation
between the concern for justice and the limits of any de¬nition of the
citizen.
Aristotle approaches the theoretical puzzle by a process of
elimination: By what criteria is a city not properly de¬ned, or what
is not the “cause” (aitia) of the city? Among the possibilities he dis-
misses, the most “super¬cial” are “the place and the human beings”
(Pol. 1276a19“20). For a city may remain a single political entity while
geographically divided, and it may be geographically uni¬ed while
politically disjoined “ indeed, as exempli¬ed by Babylon, this latter
case sheds some light on the relation between political unity and size.7
The “sameness” of the city™s inhabitants also does not provide an ade-
quate ground of identity since human beings come into being and
perish, but the city itself remains. The fact that the place and its inhab-
itants do not suf¬ce as criteria “ that as the “matter” of the city, they
can change and the city remain the same “ points Aristotle back in the
direction of the regime as the cause of the city™s identity: “If indeed
the city is a certain community, and it is a community of citizens in


7 Newman explains with the aid of Herodotus: “Herodotus (I.191) says that owing to
the size of Babylon, when the outer part of it had been taken, the inhabitants of the
center were unaware of the fact and continued to celebrate a festival till they learnt
it” (The “Politics” of Aristotle, III.150).
Citizenship and the Limits of Law
124

a regime, then if the regime becomes other in form and different,
it would seem to be necessary also for the city not to be the same”
(Pol. 1276b1“4). It follows, then, that we can discover what constitutes
the city by looking to the cause of its change, which is its regime. But
we thus return to the problem that a citizen in a democracy differs
from a citizen in an oligarchy, and Aristotle™s attempt to establish the
identity of the citizen by looking to its formal cause is in this regard a
failure. We wish to know, as Aristotle has indicated, not simply who is
a citizen in this formal sense but whom one ought to call a citizen.8
Moreover, as he acknowledges, the generic de¬nition of the citizen
as one who shares in judgment and rule in no way settles the question
of whether it is just to release a city from contracts entered into by
the former regime. This question belongs to “another argument,” and
it remains a legal and practical concern (Pol. 1276b13“15).9 Rather
than turning to the question of justice or to this other argument, how-
ever, Aristotle next examines “whether the virtue of a good man [an¯r e
agathos] ought to be regarded as the same as that of a morally serious
citizen [spoudaios polit¯s]” (Pol. 1276b16“18). That he discusses this
e
question before addressing the dispute over justice already suggests
that his investigation of the virtue of a good man and citizen will be a
partial one. One would expect the virtue of these two to coincide only
in a regime that is just, but the question of the justice of every regime
remains unsettled.


the good citizen and the good man
Aristotle™s investigation of the relation between the virtue of the good
man and that of the morally serious citizen is complex, but the tradi-
tional view of its conclusion is that of W. L. Newman: The virtue of the
good citizen and human being is the same for the ruler in the best

8 For this reason also, contra Simpson, the question of the identity of the city is not yet
resolved (Philosophical Commentary, p. 139, but see his quali¬cation on p. 140).
9 Simpson argues that since Aristotle “understands justice as the common good
(3.12.1282b16“18), his answer would presumably be that previous agreements should
be kept if keeping them would serve the common good” (The “Politics” of Aristotle
[Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997], p. 80). But this suggestion
skirts the question of whether there is a “common good” or for whom the good is
common.
The Good Citizen and the Good Man 125

regime.10 This view tends to overlook Aristotle™s many equivocations
as well as the frame within which the question is discussed. To be sure,
Aristotle ultimately con¬nes his examination of virtue to the capaci-
ties required for ruling, including the virtues of moderation, justice,
and prudence, but he is fully aware of the consequent limits of his
examination. One sign of his awareness is that in speaking of the good
or morally serious man, he uses exclusively the strong sense of man,
an¯r, thus recalling also those virtues explicitly identi¬ed in the Ethics
e
as manly and distinctive of rule: ambition and “correct anger” (NE
1125b8“12; 1126a36“b2). There is no doubt that ruling and its virtues
constitute a peak for human beings in Aristotle™s view, but that they
constitute the highest human peak is borne out neither by his discus-
sion of the virtues in the Nicomachean Ethics nor by his investigation of
the good citizen and morally serious man in the Politics.
Aristotle™s opening effort in this investigation concludes ¬rst in the
negative: There is “not a single virtue for a citizen and a good man” (Pol.
1276b40“1277a1). Yet he leaves open the possibility that the virtue of
the morally serious citizen and man is the same in the case of the ruler,
and he begins from a simple fact. The virtue of a citizen is necessarily
de¬ned in terms of the works or functions (erga) that pertain to the


10 See Newman, The “Politics” of Aristotle, III.155; also John Burnet, The “Ethics” of Aristotle
(London: Methuen & Co., 1900), p. 212 who cites Politics 1276b34 and 1293b5 and
observes that in the kat™ aret¯n politeia, the true aristokrateia, the good man and the good
e
citizen will coincide in the ruler. See also Joachim, Aristotle: The “Nicomachean Ethics”
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951), p. 135; Rackham, trans., Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press [Loeb Classical Library], 1982), p. 266;
Apostle, Aristotle™s “Nicomachean Ethics,” (Grinell, IA: The Peripatetic Press, 1984),
p. 261. Most contemporary students of Aristotle accept the traditional view, even
those who emphasize the many necessities that impinge upon the good individual in
political life. Bernard Yack offers a compelling account of moral con¬‚ict in Aristotle™s
thought but nonetheless concludes: “Aristotle sums up the basis for moral con¬‚ict in
ordinary political life in his famous distinction between the good man and the good
citizen (Pol. 1276b“78b). Only in the best regime will the good man and the good
citizen have exactly the same virtues (Pol. 1278b)” (The Problems of a Political Animal:
Community, Justice, and Con¬‚ict in Aristotelian Political Thought [Berkeley: University of
California Press], p. 262). Thomas Smith details clearly and without compromise
the political limits of the common good, but suggests that in the best case “ when
individuals are properly oriented toward the good “ the problem of the common
good can in principle at least be solved. He supports this suggestion by treating
relationships of philia, the family and friends, as “analogical communities” to the
political community (Revaluing Ethics: Aristotle™s Dialectical Pedagogy [Albany: State
University of New York Press, 2001], ch. 8).
Citizenship and the Limits of Law
126

preservation of the community and regime, “on account of which, it is
necessary for the virtue of a citizen to exist with a view to the regime”
(Pol. 1276b30“1). Given the multiplicity of regimes and of functions
pertaining to the preservation of each, however, it would seem that
the virtue of the morally serious citizen cannot be the same as that
of the good man because it cannot be the single or complete virtue
we attribute to the latter (Pol. 1276b31“4). Proposing another way of
resolving this dif¬culty, Aristotle attends to the case of the best regime,
yet he shows that even in the case of the best regime, the city is formed
from dissimilar things. As analogies of such complex wholes, he points
to a living being, the soul, the household, and property, each of which
is also formed of dissimilar parts: a living being, of the soul and body;
the soul, of reason and longing; the household, of male and female;
property, of master and slave. Just as each of these parts must possess
the virtue appropriate to its function within the whole, so even in the
best regime, each citizen™s perfection is de¬ned in terms of his function
in the city. The proviso of this claim, Aristotle observes, is that the best
regime or morally serious city need not be constituted only of good
men. Indeed, it is unclear whether any city could be constituted of a
single type, a dif¬culty he will confront when he turns ¬nally to the
dispute over rule (Pol. 1277a1“5).11
Having distinguished among the functions of citizens, Aristotle pro-
poses that perhaps for a “certain citizen” “ the one who has the work
of ruling “ virtue is the same unquali¬edly for the good citizen and
man (Pol. 1277a20“3). The argument in favor of this view requires that
another unexamined proposition be true: that the virtues of a good
man are properly de¬ned in terms of the activity of ruling. Suggest-
ing that the education of a ruler is necessarily different from that of a
citizen, because a morally serious ruler is good and prudent, whereas
a citizen is not necessarily prudent, Aristotle notes that the discussion
reveals something additional about education. It reveals in particular
the difference between the education appropriate to a master, which is
concerned with the “necessary things,” and the education appropriate


11 But compare 1332a32“6, where Aristotle argues that the morally serious city is one
in which the citizens who share in the regime are morally serious. Simpson notes
the “con¬‚ict” (Philosophical Commentary, p. 142), as does Newman, The “Politics” of
Aristotle, III.158).
The Good Citizen and the Good Man 127

to a ruler, which is “for himself and for the sake of his own use” and
does not use another as a slave (Pol. 1277a33“6, b2“7). In light of
this distinction, Aristotle further proposes that there is a form of rule,
“political rule,” which exists among those who are “similar in kind and
free,” and which, as such, involves the knowledge and power both to
rule and to be ruled. Insisting that this knowledge and power are the
virtue of the citizen, he adds that they belong also to the good man
(Pol. 1277b14“18).
As it turns out, however, virtue connected with political rule in this
sense has a dual character, which con¬‚icts with Aristotle™s initial insis-
tence that the virtue of a good man is single and complete. As he notes
regarding moderation and justice, there are “forms” of these virtues
“in accord with which one will rule and be ruled,” such that “there
would not be a single virtue for the good one” (Pol. 1277b18“19). But
how is such duality tenable if the virtue of the good man must be single
and complete? And how is a “different form” of moderation or justice
not, in essence, a different virtue?
These dif¬culties become all the more pressing in the case of the
virtue Aristotle identi¬es as distinctive of the ruler, saying that pru-
dence belongs only to a ruler, whereas “true opinion” belongs to a
citizen (Pol. 1277b25“9). By the measure of the former, however, the
latter hardly quali¬es as a virtue (compare Aristotle™s discussion of
shame in NE 1128b10“35). Indeed, the two qualities differ so much
with respect to the crucial criterion, knowledge, that one wonders
how there can be an alternation between them: When one is ruling,
one possesses prudence, and when ruled, only true opinion?12 Hence,

12 Simpson attempts the following resolution: “First, it does not follow from this that the
good man is only a good man when ruling, as if, absurdly, he were to lose prudence
when he left of¬ce. Rather what follows is that the virtue by which he is a good
man will only be the same as the virtue by which he is a good citizen when he is
actually ruling. When he is ruled his virtue as a good citizen will be different, and his
virtue of prudence will not be exercised (at least not in ruling the city)” (Philosophical
Commentary, p. 145). But this resolution leaves three serious problems: (1) the virtue
of the good citizen is not single and complete, (2) the virtue of the good citizen when
ruled is a lesser virtue, and (3) the life of the good citizen when ruled is not a happy
life insofar as he is not exercising his highest virtues. See also Nichols, Citizens and
Statesmen: A Study of Aristotle™s “Politics” (Savage, MD: Rouman & Little¬eld, Publishers,
1992), pp. 60“1, who argues that “Aristotle™s discussion of the case in which the good
citizen and the good man are the same constitutes a rebuke to the one who claims
absolute rule for himself. Aristotle de¬nes human goodness so that he excludes those
Citizenship and the Limits of Law
128

when Aristotle concludes that it is now apparent whether and how
virtue is the same for a good man and a morally serious citizen, we are
left at something of a loss.
Most apparent are the questions that the investigation has failed to
address. Among these is the one central both to Aristotle™s account of
the good in the Nicomachean Ethics and to his discussion of the best
regime in the Politics: What is the best “work” (ergon) or “activity”
(energeia) of a human being? The assumption of the present discus-
sion would appear to be that ruling is this work or activity, but the
dubiousness of this assumption is indicated both by the conclusion of
the Ethics and by Aristotle™s complex treatment of the political life in
his introduction to the best regime in the Politics. Most immediately,
this assumption is called into doubt by dif¬culties in the current inves-
tigation. The best form of rule, Aristotle has suggested, is “political,”
but the distinctive work of political rule “ of “ruling and being ruled in
turn” “ leads to a duality of virtue that fails Aristotle™s earlier test that
the virtue of a good man be single and complete. Moreover, political
rule, properly speaking, involves only work that is free, which Aristotle
has de¬ned as for oneself and for the sake of one™s own use. Yet the
activity of ruling looks above all to the good of another and the commu-
nity (see again Pol. 1276b30“1). The virtues of a ruler, like those of one
who is ruled, are thus de¬ned by their usefulness to the regime, and
Aristotle himself emphasizes the moderation and justice in accord with
which one would rule with a view to the good of one™s fellow freemen
and accept their rule in turn. Even the intellectual virtue of prudence,
which he identi¬es as peculiar to the ruler, must be measured by this
standard: As a ruler of the free, one does not employ another as a
slave, but one™s own action and thought are necessarily circumscribed
by the requirements and needs of “another” and the community in
general.


who act as if they are self-suf¬cient, unable to be ruled along with others, as if they
have no need for moderation or justice” (p. 61). This argument is connected with
the following one: “Human beings are commensurable; justice and friendship can
therefore exist among citizens (NE, 1161a32“34); political rule is the just alternative
to despotism; and law, in spite of its de¬ciencies, is an appropriate political standard”
(p. 61). The connection of these two arguments is crucial in Nichols™s analysis, but
at least two problems remain: whether any regime is wholly just and whether law is

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